‘The progeny of these two “Fellows”’: Robert Willis, William Whewell and the sciences of mechanism, mechanics and machinery in early Victorian Britain

  title={‘The progeny of these two “Fellows”’: Robert Willis, William Whewell and the sciences of mechanism, mechanics and machinery in early Victorian Britain},
  author={Ben Marsden},
  journal={The British Journal for the History of Science},
  pages={401 - 434}
  • B. Marsden
  • Published 1 December 2004
  • Engineering
  • The British Journal for the History of Science
This paper examines Robert Willis's science of ‘mechanism’, its relation to the later mechanics textbooks of William Whewell, and its promotion as the key to appreciating, understanding and contriving machinery in Victorian Britain. Responsive, first, to the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge and later to student audiences at Cambridge, Willis constructed a science of ‘mechanism’ in both words in print and works in practice. With Whewell's sanction in the Philosophy of the Inductive… 

Phases of physics in J. D. Forbes’ Dissertation Sixth for the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1856)

  • Isobel Falconer
  • Education
    History of science; an annual review of literature, research and teaching
  • 2018
James David Forbes’ Encyclopaedia Britannica entry, Dissertation Sixth, is taken as a lens to examine physics as a cognitive, practical, and social enterprise, reflecting a nineteenth-century concern with spirit that cuts across twentieth-century questions about discipline and field.

Building a Monument: Willis, Clark and The Architectural History of the University of Cambridge

In 1872, the ageing and increasingly enfeebled Robert Willis, Jacksonian Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy at the University of Cambridge and pioneering architectural historian (Fig.

‘Applied science’ in nineteenth-century Britain: public discourse and the creation of meaning, 1817–1876

‘Applied science’ has long been a competitor with the concept of technology for the space between theory and praxis. This paper explores how the concept emerged in mid-nineteenth-century Britain

Ranking Rankine: W. J. M. Rankine (1820–72) and the Making of ‘Engineering Science’ Revisited

In this paper my focus is William John Macquom Rankine (1820-72). He has been variously studied: as an advocate of academic engineering;1 as a 'co-founder' of thermodynamics;2 even as the author and

Fundamental Questions and Some New Answers on Philosophical, Contextual and Scientific Whewell: Some Reflections on Recent Whewell Scholarship and the Progress made therein

I William Whewell’s philosophical, historical and scientiac endeavors have in recent years regained scholarly interest: a new facsimile edition of his collected work, edited by Richard Yeo, appeared

Robert Willis's Networks of Knowledge

This essay will employ a mixture of digital and traditional methods to explore the human networks with which Willis can be associated, in order to try to understand the nature of his participation and as context for his contributions and influence to be discussed by other authors.

Ruling the line : learning to draw in the first age of mechanical reproduction

Abstract This dissertation presents a critical study of the development of technical drawing in Britain 1790-1850 in relation to wider visual culture. Technical drawing is often perceived as being

Craft Coaching and the ‘Discerning Eye’ of the Coach

When Victorian and Edwardian coaches used the term ‘science’ they were generally referring to technique or to systematic training regimes, and traditional coaching practices, derived from experience,

Explanations from contemporary quantum theories: some ontological characteristics

Pocetna je pozicija ovoga rada da je znanstveno znanje nepotpuno bez objasnjenja, gdje se razvojem novih teorija to znanje prosiruje i produbljuje



Voluntary Science in Nineteenth Century Cambridge University to the 1850's

  • H. W. Becher
  • Education
    The British Journal for the History of Science
  • 1986
A system for mineralogy of greater applicability than Whewell's, but as Miller advanced the science of mineralogy towards greater generality, the heuristic advantages of Whe well's more limited approach were lost.

Passages from the Life of a Philosopher

The mathematician and engineer Charles Babbage (1791–1871) is best remembered for his 'calculating machines', which are considered the forerunner of modern computers. Over the course of his life he

What is a Liberal Education?

If the authors look closely into the case, they shall see that the objects of a higher education may be divided into three classes, instead of the two familiar ones of liberal and professional, and what they commonly call a liberal education should, I think, have two separate objects.

Engineering science in Glasgow: economy, efficiency and measurement as prime movers in the differentiation of an academic discipline

  • B. Marsden
  • Education
    The British Journal for the History of Science
  • 1992
In what follows I use the term ‘academic engineering’ to describe the teaching of engineering within a university or college of higher education: specifically, this differentiates an institutional

Scientific Instruction and the Advancement of Science.

  • Education
  • 1876
ON Wednesday and Thursday last week two separate deputations from the Council of the British Association waited respectively on Mr. Cross and the Lord President of the Council, the Duke of Richmond

Manufacturing nature: science, technology and Victorian consumer culture

  • I. Morus
  • History
    The British Journal for the History of Science
  • 1996
The public place of science and technology in Britain underwent a dramatic change during the first half of the nineteenth century. At the end of the eighteenth century, natural philosophy was still

419-21; for resonances in Glasgow-centred energy physics see Smith and Wise, op

  • op. cit. (49)

58), p. xix. 116 Wise with Smith

    Moseley's book was bought soon after publication in 1843. Canonical works by Weisbach and Holtzapffel also seem to have been purchased immediately. See ' Books from Compensation Fund No

      Romilly's Cambridge Diary