Friday, January 16, 2009

Lunar Society

Though nary a mention of it appeared here, I recently read Enlightenment: Britain and the Creation of the Modern World (Allen Lane History)

I found the British philisophes of the 18th century rather congenial so - as a glancing reference to my trip to Birmingham yesterday - I offer you the Lunar Society.

As does Melvyn:
In the late 18th century, with the ascendant British Empire centred on London, a small group of friends met at a house on the crossroads outside Birmingham and applied their minds to the problems of the age. Between them they managed to launch the Industrial Revolution, discover oxygen, harness the power of steam and pioneer the theory of evolution. They were the Lunar Society, a gathering of free and fertile minds centred on the remarkable quartet of Matthew Boulton, James Watt, Joseph Priestly and Erasmus Darwin. The potter Josiah Wedgwood, another member, summed up the ethos of this group when he said that they were ‘living in an age of miracles in which anything could be achieved’.

But how did the Lunar Society operate? What was the blend of religious dissent, entrepreneurial spirit and intellectual adventure that proved so fertile and how did their discoveries permanently change the shape and character of this country?

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