Dr Geoffrey Belknap explores ways in which members of the public can produce knowledge and participate in research
The questions of how, by whom and where science was done in the Victorian period – the century which brought us ‘modern’ science – is never going to offer straightforward answers. Science, and scientific authority was produced and reproduced everywhere – the lab, the home, the field, and institutions big and small. It was recorded in notebooks, developed on photographic plates, and published in letters, books and newspapers. With a widespread culture of collecting, experimentation, and observation – mediated through sources such as the 19th century periodical – who counted as a scientist in the Victorian period was up for grabs.
These are the questions that historians working in the English departments here at Leicester and Oxford University – and partnered with the Natural History Museum, Royal College of Surgeons and Royal Society on the AHRC funded project Constructing Scientific Communities: Citizen Science in the 19th and 21st Centuries (ConSciCom) are trying to address. In order to think about who exactly could do Victorian science – and what the boundaries of their participation were – we are looking at the single most important site of production and reproduction of debate, observation and experimentation in the period: the scientific periodical.