In three contributions to the little-researched subject of the history of science in Ireland, John Wilson Foster looks at neglected episodes in Irish cultural history from mid-Victorian to Edwardian times. He discusses Darwinism in late 19th-century Ireland and its impact on Irish churchmen, with special reference to Darwin's champion John Tyndall, whose famous declaration of materialism in his Presidential Address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Belfast 1874 provoked a vehement response from the leaders of the Protestant as well as Catholic churches. Foster then moves to the Belfast of 1911 and the building and launching of the Titanic, which he sees as the culmination of the engineering genius of Belfast from the mid-19th to early 20th century. In his third essay, Foster looks at the growing interest in Belfast towards the end of the 19th century in amateur scientific fieldwork (for example, botany), encouraged by the values and preoccupations on Victorian culture. The book is based on lectures delivered at NUI Maynooth in the National University of Ireland's Visiting Lectureship series.
Darwin in Ireland - John Tyndall and the Irish churches
a mechanical age
- the culture of "Titanic"
- knowledge in Victorian Belfast.
"Foster's scholarship and excellence makes for elegant reading, which is helped by polite typography."
Books Ireland Oct 2002
"these essays by John Wilson Foster show a remarkable critical agility and discursive expertise. They contain much to relish, and much to ponder."
Times Literary Supplement Jan 2003
"Irish cultural studies gains much from his recoveries."
Irish Studies Review 11 (2) 2003
"an important contribution to Cultural Studies, introducing an original perspective and offering a rigour and clarity that has often been lacking in the field."
Journal of Irish Studies XVIII 2003
"This is a wonderfully absorbing study of long neglected cultural and literary vibrancy and debate."
Irish Economic and Social History 2004
"Foster's excellent book in its learned, intent fashion is a kind of hymn sung ... to his native city and Ulster Protestant culture it generated."
Canadian Journal of Irish Studies Spring 2004