Professor Bernard Lightman, Distinguished Research Professor of Humanities at York University, member of the Royal Society of Canada, and President of the History of Science Society, visited University of Chinese Academy of Sciences (UCAS) and brought us an excellent lecture named "Popular Science Periodicals and the Public Sphere After Darwin" at Yanqihu Campus at 7pm of September 20, 2018.
Professor Lightman explained how Darwin's theory of evolution had been gradually accepted in the last 20 years in detail. Since Professor Bernard carefully prepared materials, all the students in the classroom were attracted by his way of narrating those historical stories.
Professor Lightman briefly introduced the contents of the lecture from four aspectsfirst. Then he started the lecture with the founding of Macmillan's Magazine. This magazine was monthly published by Alexander McMillan in Britain from 1859 to 1907. It was one of the low-cost magazines that newly emerged at that time. As the price of the magazine lowered, the number of readers increased and the content of magazine had more diversities, which could accept different viewpoints. The advent of low-cost magazines had provided a new platform for free discussions, and Darwin's theory of evolution was spread among people in such background.
He then talked about the relationship between science and religion, particularly concerning Darwin’s theory of evolution in the 19th century magazines. In Victorian England, it could be troubled if the author was considered as a materialist or an atheist, so the magazine adopted different strategies to deal with the relationship between science and religion such as separating science from religion and regarding them as two independent fields. Some magazines would ask scholars to discuss scientific issues only, trying to avoid religious problems, which to a large extent made scientific researches get rid of the limitation of religions and greatly promoted the development of science. Nature, which enjoys great academic influence today, is founded in this period. From the very beginning, it upheld the fundamental principle: science could be discussed at liberty without any religious issues.
Professor Lightman’s lecture broadens the knowledge of audiences about the collision between science and religion, provoking further thoughts on human society and the future.At the end of the lecture, students raised their hands actively and wanted to communicate with Professor Bernard.
Information of the speaker:Bernard Lightman is Distinguished Research Professor of Humanities at York University, Toronto, Canada, and President of the History of Science Society. Lightman’s research interests include nineteenth century popular science and Victorian scientific naturalism. Among his most recent publications are the edited and co-edited collections Global Spencerism, A companion to the History of Science, and Science Museums in Transition. He is currently working on a biography of John Tyndall and is one of the editors of the John Tyndall Correspondence Project, an international collaborative effort to obtain, digitalize, transcribe, and publish all surviving letters to and from Tyndall.
By Wanqian BAO