what's on? calendar

UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies is an interdisciplinary centre for the integrated study of science's history, philosophy, sociology, communication and policy, located in the heart of London. Founded in 1921. Award winning for teaching and research, plus for our public engagement programme. Rated as outstanding by students at every level.

At UCL, the academic mission is paramount. Our ambition is to achieve the highest standards in our teaching and research.

Join us for BSc, MSc, and PhD study.

Staff books include:

Gregory - Plato's Timaeus

MSc: Join us on Open Day

Open Day 14 January 2015

Open Dayspacer

BSc: Seen our campaign? 

Next STS Open Day 04 February 2015

STSUCL wind turbinesspacer

PUS Seminar: 19thC public astronomy

Publication date: Oct 03, 2013 02:08 PM

Start: Nov 27, 2013 04:15 PM
End: Nov 27, 2013 06:00 PM

Location: London School of Economics, STC, room 314

Speaker: Hsiang-Fu Huang, UCL STS


Venue: STC.314, St Clement's, LSE


Speaker: Hsiang-Fu Huang, UCL

Title: Astronomy in Theatreland: lecturing on the universe onstage in the early nineteenth-century Britain

In the early nineteenth century there had been a flourishing marketplace for popular science in Britain. Being influenced by the contemporary show culture, popular science lectures were usually sensational mixtures of instruction and entertainment. Astronomical lectures were no exception. From the newly-growing elite establishments such as the Royal Institution to mechanics’ institutes aiming at the working classes, the sites where astronomical lectures took place had a wide spectrum. In particular, the most intriguing venue for astronomical lecturing was perhaps the theatres. The venture of lecturing on astronomy in the West End theatres reached its heyday during the Regency and early Victorian era. Many private lecturers, such as Deane Franklin Walker (1778-1865), George Bartley (1782-1858) and C. H. Adams (1803-1871), were active on the metropolitan stage and beyond, especially during Lent when the theatres were close for dramatic performances. These lecturers came from diverse backgrounds and professions; many of them enjoyed popularity in the career yet were obscure today. Astronomical lectures on stage often accompanied by illustrative transparencies and large transparent orreries. For the nineteenth-century audience, the amusement these visual aids provided were comparable to those brought by the IMAX facility or planetariums for today’s cinemagoers. The subjects of these astronomical lectures in the theatres reflected an inheritance from eighteenth-century natural philosophy, for Newton’s physical laws and the structure of the Solar System were stressed. The narratives, however, were influenced strongly by the then popular natural theology, often with moral didactics and religious sentiments. In this presentation, I will show a nineteenth-century arena of astronomical popularisation wherein the popularisers were beyond the circle of professional astronomers.

About the Seminar Series

The London PUS seminar is an interdisciplinary intercollegiate seminar concerned with the broad range of topics that fall under the headings of public understanding of science, public engagement with science, science communication, and science-in-society.  It has been run jointly between LSE and UCL since 1993 and is open to all. Our participants predominantly come from a wide range of academic disciplines, and the science policy and science communication/public engagement communities. It is currently supported by the Public Understanding of Science journal published by SAGE and the Department of Science and Technology Studies, UCL.

Page last modified on 03 oct 13 14:07 by Jo E Pearson

UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS)
0207 679 1328 office | +44 207 679 1328 international
sts@ucl.ac.uk | www.ucl.ac.uk/sts | @stsucl
postal address:  Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT | United Kingdom
street address: 22 Gordon Square, London, WC1E 6BT | maps