Project: Thomas Young, Secretary of the Board of Longitude: British Science and the State in Regency England
The project will attempt to provide a focused expansion of already existing work on the first half of the nineteenth century concerned with science in culture and the metropolis by looking to the papers of the Board of Longitude and the work and correspondence of Thomas Young. Contemporary issues of standardisation, automation, the increasing pluralisation of science and the state sponsorship of science coalesce around the life of Thomas Young. Young will therefore serve as a window into the period; giving new insight into the complexity of the turbulence of scientific London during 1810s and 1820s.
This will produce a challenging and multifaceted history that will give an account of the period that is made historically plausible by its complexity; historiographically traditional groupings of individuals and institutions will be avoided and only contemporary labels will be used when necessary. Additionally the spaces, confusions and inaccuracies in the current literature and interpretation of Young’s life as a civil servant and role in the scientific metropolis will be pointed out in order to make clear the impact of the Board of Longitude on the structure and hierarchy of the scientific metropolis.
Specific chapters in the project will deal with Young and the Board of Longitude’s involvement with standardisation and precision with regard to the boom in pendulum research in the 1810s and 1820s, the state sponsorship of science and the problem of ‘old corruption’ and the pluralisation of science in this period as relating to both the separation of disciplines and the economic division of labour.