Iwan Morus is a historian of nineteenth century science, technology and medicine. He also has interests in the history of the body and nineteenth-century popular culture. Recent books include When Physics became King (Chicago, 2005), Michael Faraday and the Electrical Century (Icon Books, 2004) and Frankenstein's Children (Princeton, 1998). Forthcoming articles include “‘More the Aspect of Magic than Anything Natural': The Philosophy of Demonstration in Victorian Popular Science” and “Concealing Art: How to Manage the Magic Lantern”. Dr Morus is also on the Editorial Board of the British Journal for the History of Science.
Traditional views of nineteenth century science has viewed it in terms of a largely unproblematic institutional consolidation. More recently, the consensus view of the century as a period of leisurely progress towards scientific professionalization has been decisively broken. In particular the issues of what counted as science at all and what sorts of spaces counted as scientific have been rigorously contested. A variety of new accounts of Victorian science have now emerged, built around new sets of questions concerning science's place in culture and the emergence of new strategies of self-fashioning and legitimation. In this overview I survey promising trends in the cultural history of nineteenth-century science with a view to assessing the possibility of resurrecting a new grand narrative. I suggest in conclusion that the possibility of reconstructing such a big picture as an explicitly political account might be improved by rethinking the category of Victorian science and reorienting our understanding around the French Revolution and its immediate aftermath.