The Derby philosophers

Science and culture in British urban society, 1700–1850

By Paul Elliot

The Derby philosophers

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-7922-1
  • Pages: 304
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: August 2009
  • BIC Category: Mathematics & science / History of science, Humanities / History, History, United Kingdom, Great Britain, History, European history, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Archaeology, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain


The Derby Philosophers focuses upon the activities of a group of Midland intellectuals that included the evolutionist and physician Erasmus Darwin, Rev. Thomas Gisborne the evangelical philosopher and poet, Robert Bage the novelist, Charles Sylvester the chemist and engineer, William George and his son Herbert Spencer, the internationally renowned evolutionist philosopher who coined the phrase 'survival of the fittest', and members of the Wedgwood and Strutt families.

The book explores how, inspired by science and through educational activities, publications and institutions including the famous Derbyshire General Infirmary (1810) and Derby Arboretum (1840), the Derby philosophers strove to promote social, political and urban improvements with national and international consequences. Much more than a parochial history of one intellectual group or town, this book examines science, politics and culture during one of the most turbulent periods of British history, an age of political and industrial revolutions in which the Derby philosophers were closely involved.


List of figures
1 Politics, religion, urban culture and Natural Philosophy, c.1700-1770
2 Natural Philosophy and utility.
3 Joseph Wright, John Whitehurst and Derby philosophical culture c.1760-1783
4 The Derby Philosophical Society.
5 Dissent, politics and Natural Philosophy: the campaigns of the 1780s and 1790s
6 Enlightenment and improvement: The campaign for the enclosure of common lands during the 1790s
7 The Derby Literary and Philosophical Society
8 The Derbyshire General Infirmary
9 Evolution: Erasmus Darwin, William George Spencer and Herbert Spencer.
10 Women and Derby scientific culture, c.1780-1850
11: Civic science and rational recreation: the Derby Mechanic's Institute (1825) and the Derby Arboretum (1840)
Appendix: members of the Derby Philosophical Society (1783-1850) and members of the Derby Literary and Philosophical Society (1908-1816)
Select bibliography


Paul Elliott is Lecturer in Modern History at the University of Derby

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