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Academic & Professional Books  History & Other Humanities  History of Science & Nature

Kew Observatory & the Evolution of Victorian Science, 1840-1910

By: Lee T Macdonald
336 pages, 11 b/w illustrations
Kew Observatory & the Evolution of Victorian Science, 1840-1910
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  • Kew Observatory & the Evolution of Victorian Science, 1840-1910 ISBN: 9780822945260 Hardback May 2018 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks
Price: £44.99
About this book Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

Kew Observatory was originally built in 1769 for King George III, a keen amateur astronomer, so that he could observe the transit of Venus. By the mid-nineteenth century, it was a world-leading center for four major sciences: geomagnetism, meteorology, solar physics, and standardization. Long before government cutbacks forced its closure in 1980, the observatory was run by both major bodies responsible for the management of science in Britain: first the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and then, from 1871, the Royal Society. Kew Observatory influenced and was influenced by many of the larger developments in the physical sciences during the second half of the nineteenth century, while many of the major figures involved were in some way affiliated with Kew.

Lee T. Macdonald explores the extraordinary story of this important scientific institution as it rose to prominence during the Victorian era. His book offers fresh new insights into key historical issues in nineteenth-century science: the patronage of science; relations between science and government; the evolution of the observatory sciences; and the origins and early years of the National Physical Laboratory, once an extension of Kew and now the largest applied physics organization in the United Kingdom.

Customer Reviews


Lee T. Macdonald is research facilitator at the University of Oxford's Museum of the History of Science, and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. He is the author of How to Observe the Sun Safely.

By: Lee T Macdonald
336 pages, 11 b/w illustrations
Media reviews

"This book offers a major corrective to the current literature as it stands by challenging the idea that the end of the nineteenth century represents a period when state-supported science triumphed over the laissez-faire attitude of the earlier part of the same century. Lee Macdonald provides us with a new perspective, one that enhances not just the richness of the period but also the historical actors involved and, of course, the institution that Kew Observatory was."
– Omar Nasim, author of Observing by Hand: Sketching the Nebulae in the Nineteenth Century

"Macdonald has skillfully combined Kew Observatory's multistranded histories into a single narrative set within a framework of perceptive analysis. Meticulously researched from previously neglected primary sources, this impressive book will be an essential reference for anyone interested in the complex interplay between science and the state during the Victorian period."
– Louise E. Devoy, Curator, Royal Observatory, Greenwich

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