Karmen's Dissertation - Intro

Introduction

 

 The development of Swansea as the prominent urban centre in South Wales during the first half of the nineteenth century is rightly attributed to its established industry and its position as a coastal town, but what is quite often overlooked is the significant role that science and its application in industry played.

An assessment into the relationship that evolved between science and industry in Swansea is essential to understanding how scientific achievement flourished and became established, with a particular emphasis on scientists like John Henry Vivian (1785-1855) whose industrial activities were instrumental in achieving such progress. However, the difficulty of achieving a thorough and practical scientific education in Britain during this period must be noted. An evaluation of the connections between scientific education, research and industry is important to understanding how commercial priorities started to influence scientific progression. Using evidence from primary records such as industrial patents and evidence from industrial archaeology will help evaluate the mutual collaboration between industry and science and the impact this collaboration had on the wider community in Swansea. The negative effects of a thriving industrial and urban economy on the population in Swansea will be investigated in relation to how the application of science was used in attempts to remedy particular local problems of industrial smoke pollution and unregulated sanitation. In understanding how the practical use of science in the first half of the nineteenth century was a key element in progressive industrialisation is to open a window on an age when industrialists were often natural philosophers.

Industry was not the only venue for scientific advancement in Swansea during the first half of the nineteenth century, as certain exceptional individuals pursued their specific areas of research which ranged from geology to physics. An evaluation of the pioneering work in geology by Henry De la Beche (1796-1855) and William Edmond Logan (1798-1875) is important to understand how Swansea was a magnet for scientists and skilled scientific workers who developed a network that went far beyond Wales. The importance of national scientific networks was part of the impetus to establish the British Association for the Advancement of Science. The establishment of the society was recognition of the fundamental change in direction that was taking place nationally of furthering scientific knowledge beyond the confines of established scientific institutions. Was Swansea successful in achieving this aim of advancing scientific knowledge to the community? To answer this question it is important to identify the work and enthusiasm of certain individuals in establishing the Royal Institution of South Wales (RISW) and to assess whether it achieved the goals of its remit. It is relevant to identify the role played by established, influential individuals of Swansea society, notably John Henry Vivian and Lewis Weston Dillwyn and the significant use they made of their contacts. The status and strength of the Swansea’s network of scientists will be discussed including the social aspect of the group. The value of scientific correspondence and natural history collections and the part they played in underpinning scientific networks will be assessed, as well as the connection between collections and museums, with particular reference to Swansea. Can it be said that Swansea had its own established and effective scientific community by the middle of the nineteenth century?

The credentials of the scientists involved in the RISW will be noted in relation to the efforts of Swansea’s most celebrated scientist, William Robert Grove (1811-1896) to give national recognition to the society by bringing the British Association for the Advancement of Science to Swansea in 1848. Grove’s remarkable scientific achievements and his European connections will be discussed as an example of the high standard that had been reached by scientists originating from and living in Swansea. While this week long prestigious event was essentially a scientific forum, it was also enthusiastically welcomed by residents from across Swansea’s social strata. The question of how successful the event was for the societies, its members and for the town of Swansea will be evaluated. How the RISW continued as a society will be reviewed as the increasing specialization of science changed the way that scientists worked and related to each other and interacted with the public. It is of relevance to note how the professionalization of science created a need for higher scientific education which was completely unavailable in Wales in the late nineteenth century. The efforts to remedy this highlighted the failure of industry and commerce to further Swansea’s scientific achievements and to reinforce links between science and industry by establishing a university college.

 Next page, Connecting Science and History, pg. 1