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In the 19th Century, science had gained a great cultural authority. The science developed was shaped by the French and Industrial revolution. Some major transformations in the Victorian period were: the change from natural philosophy and natural history to science. The Victorian age also witnessed some of the most important changed of beliefs about nature and the place of humans in the universe.

Astronomy in Victorian Britain was not funded by the government. For this reason astronomers were mainly wealthy amateurs but founded societies, gave telescopes and built observatories. One of the major theories in the Victorian Era was the nebular hypothesis. The hypothesis was that the ‘swirling patterns’ observed in the heavens were composed of gas and dust condensing into a star. Debris from the outer edge of the nebula would become planets. The theory was made famous because of ‘Views of the architecture of the heavens written from a professor of astronomy. Physics People wanted to find out more about the phenomena’s that were being observed, and in the 19thCentury Victorians looked into a lot of physics research, both in Britain and the continent. Physics also served the commercial military and political needs of expanding industrial nations. At this time, the main areas of studies were: light, heat, electricity and magnetism.

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Botany was one of the most popular nineteenth century sciences. Men, women and children all joined in on the frantic search for plants. The reason why Botany was so popular was because; it was easy, it was cheap, it was religious, it was ladylike and it was healthy.  

Charles Darwin also made a large input into Victorian science. He was an English naturalist, famous for his works on the theories of evolution. His book ‘The origin of species’ did two things. It provided a large amount of evidence that evolution was there and it also proposed a theory to how evolution works. That theory is natural selection which is the key to understanding biology and the diversity of life on earth.

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John Dalton was a chemist from Cumberland who came to Manchester to teach mathematics and natural philosophy. His discoveries were important to the development of atomic theory. He changed the philosophy of chemistry providing the first rudimentary table of atomic weights.

Thomas Graham was also a chemist. He established ‘Grahams Law’ about the diffusion of gasses and is considered to be the ‘father of colloid chemistry’. His work on the composition of meteorites was also important.


A common myth is that Victorian geology was torn between religious traditionalists and geologists.  In fact, many geologists, even before the Victorian era, believed that the Earth was millions of years old and that it was made of different layers. They also believed that the Book of Genesis was irrelevant to the truth. For many Victorians, geology was interesting and the newest science out there. However sometimes it ran into some controversial findings but they were well attested and respected. 

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