Putting on Airs: Science, Medicine and Polity in the Late Eighteenth-Century
This chapter looks at the members of the Society in a wider context. It demonstrates the importance of the entire group for historians of 18th-century politics, industry, and society, as well as for historians of science. It shows how the membership of the Society reveals the complexity of philosophical connections in the 1780s. The connections among industrialists, experimentalists, and reformers are explored in two ways: by placing the Society amidst the general 18th-century development of coffee-house philosophers and by placing the Society among the many groups who met for ‘improving natural philosophy, by lecture, experiment, and discussion.’ The main nodes of the network revealed by the Society include Edinburgh University and Dr. Joseph Black, London hospitals, Birmingham industry, and the Watts and Wedgwoods.
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