The British Journal for the History of Science

Research Article

The Scientists' Declaration: Reflexions on Science and Belief in the Wake of Essays and Reviews, 1864–5

W. H. Brocka1 and R. M. Macleoda2

a1 Victorian Studies Centre, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 7RH.

a2 History and Social Studies of Science, University of Sussex, Brighton, Sussex BN1 9QH.

During the decades following the publication of Darwin's Origin of species in 1859, religious belief in England and in particular the Church of England experienced some of the most intense criticism in its history. The early 1860s saw the appearance of Lyell's Evidence of the antiquity of man (1863), Tylor's research on the early history of mankind (1863), Renan's Vie de Jésus (1863), Pius IX's encyclical, Quanta cura, and the accompanying Syllabus errarum, John Henry Newman's Apologia (1864), and Swinburne's notorious Atalanta in Calydon (1865); it was in this period also that Arthur Stanley was appointed Dean of Westminster, and that Bills were introduced in Parliament to amend or repeal the ‘Test Acts’ as they affected universities. They were the years that witnessed Lyell present the case for geology at the British Association at Bath (1864), the first meeting of the X-Club (1864), and the award of the Royal Society's Copley Medal to Charles Darwin. These were the years in which, as Owen Chadwick has put it, ‘the controversy between “science” and “religion” took fire’.