Catholics, Science and Civic Culture in Victorian Belfast

Diarmid A. Finnegan, Jonathan Jeffrey Wright

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    The connections between science and civic culture in the Victorian period have been extensively, and intensively, investigated over the past several decades. Limited attention, however, has been paid to Irish urban contexts. Roman Catholic attitudes towards science in the nineteenth century have also been neglected beyond a rather restricted set of thinkers and topics. This paper is offered as a contribution to addressing these lacunae, and examines in detail the complexities involved in Catholic engagement with science in Victorian Belfast. The political and civic geographies of Catholic involvement in scientific discussions in a divided town are uncovered through an examination of five episodes in the unfolding history of Belfast's intellectual culture. The paper stresses the importance of attending to the particularities of local politics and scientific debate for understanding the complex realities of Catholic appropriations of science in a period and urban context profoundly shaped by competing political and religious factions. It also reflects more generally on how the Belfast story supplements and challenges scholarship on the historical relations between Catholicism and science.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)261-287
    Number of pages27
    JournalBritish Journal for the History of Science
    Issue number2
    Early online date01 Aug 2014
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015


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