UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies


Mr Nicholson is Proud to Present...

14 March 2011

William Nicholson

From 1797 to 1814 the English polymath William Nicholson published his Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry and the Arts, usually known as Nicholson's Journal.  A talented linguist as well as a skilled experimental chemist, William Nicholson epitomised the spirit of the Enlightenment – and his Journal reflected the range of his interests.  Letters from provincial doctors and clergymen rubbed shoulders with articles penned by some of the most eminent chemists, natural philosophers and industrialists of the day.   And, in a small corner of the STS website, William Nicholson’s egalitarian approach is alive and well in our Virtual Nicholson’s Journal.

Title Page of Nicholson's Journal

Each year students taking HPSC2007: History and Philosophy of Chemistry produce a new volume of the Journal, focusing on a controversy in the history of science.  Past years have examined key debates in the decades during and immediately following Chemical Revolution and this year, for the first time, Virtual Nicholson has travelled forward in time to the great weather forecasting controversy of the 1870s.  How well could scientists understand the Law of Storms?  And was it desirable – or even possible – to forecast impending storms?  Questions like these pre-occupied the first Director of the Meteorological Office Admiral Fitzroy, and they sparked a bitter debate which spanned the globe.

To read how this year’s students responded to issues of vital importance to naval power, navigation and trade in an age of Imperialism, click here.