Nineteenth-century natural scientists inhabited an uncertain gendered status. While naturalists were required to possess masculine powers of intellect and detached rationality, connecting with the natural world also drew on a body of more decidedly feminine skills. Thus, patience, empathy and sensitivity were key to naturalists whose appreciation of the world around them was as much aesthetic and feeling as it was scientific and rational.
As this theme will show, the uncertain gendered status of natural science had complex repercussions for men and women alike. In many ways, natural science was a pursuit which defied the binary definitions of ‘opposite sexes’ at the heart of established ‘separate spheres‘ gender ideology. Transgressing the behavioural norms attached to their sex, participation in the rational yet sensorial world of natural science was problematic for men and women alike.
This module is divided into four sections, accessible through the links below:
Allen, G., Charles Darwin: A Biography, (London, 1885). Note, in particular, the link that Allen makes between Darwin’s genius and his “energy”.
Anon., The English Matron: A practical manual for young wives, (London, 1846).
Anon., The English Gentlewoman: A practical manual for young ladies on their entrance to society, (Third edition, London, 1846).
Anon., ‘Hugh Miller: Geologist’, Hogg’s Weekly Instructor, 6 (1851), pp. 81 – 84.
Becker, L. E. B., Botany for Novices: A Short Outline of the Natural System of Classification of Plants, (London, 1864).
Blackwell, A. B., Studies in General Science, (New York, 1869).
Landells, W., True Manhood: its Nature, Foundation and Development, (London, 1861).
Proctor, R. A., Light Science for Leisure Hours, (London, 1871).
Smiles, S., Self-Help: With Illustrations of Character and Conduct, (London, 1855).
Stickney-Ellis, S., The Wives of England: Their Relative Duties, Domestic Influence and Social Obligations, (London, 1843).
Waddy, F., Cartoon portraits and biographical sketches of men of the day: Dr Garrett Anderson, (London, 18783), p. 30.
Davidoff, L. & Hall, C., Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780-1850 (London, 2002).
Endersby, J., ‘Sympathetic Science: Charles Darwin, Joseph Hooker, and the Passions of Victorian Naturalists’, Victorian Studies, Vol. 51, No. 2, Special Issue: Darwin and the Evolution of Victorian Studies (Winter, 2009), pp. 299-320.
Francis, M., ‘The Domestication of the male? Recent Research on Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century British Masculinity’, Historical Journal, 45:3 (2002), pp. 637-52.
Gianquitto, M., ‘’Good Observers of Nature’: American Women and the Scientific Study of the Natural World, 1820 – 1885, (Georgia, 2007).
Harvey, J., Almost a Man of Genius: Clemence Royer, Feminism and Nineteenth-Century Science, (Rutgers, 1997).
Roper, M. & Tosh, J., (eds.), Manful Assertions: Masculinities in Britain since 1800 (London, 1991).
Schteir, A. B. & Lightman, B., (eds.), Figuring it Out: Science, Gender and Visual Culture, (New England, 2006).
Schteir, A. B., Cultivating Women, Cultivating Science: Flora’s Daughters and Botany in England, 1760 – 1860, (John Hopkins University Press, 1996), especially chapter 7, ‘Women and Botany in the Victorian Breakfast Room’.
Shortland, M., (ed.), Hugh Miller and the Controversies of Victorian Science, (Oxford University Press, 1996).
Tosh, J., A Man’s Place: Masculinity and the Middle-Class Home in Victorian Britain, (Bury St Edmunds, 1999).
‘Gentlemanly Politeness and Manly Simplicity in Victorian England’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 12 (2002), pp. 455 – 472.
White, P., Thomas Huxley: Making the ‘Man of Science’, (Cambridge University Press, 2003).