Saturday 8th June All-day Conference: John Herschel – the Last Polymath

Join us for a packed day of talks exploring the life and work of Victorian polymath, Sir John Herschel.

Sir John Herschel (1792-1871), son of the astronomer William Herschel and nephew to Caroline Herschel, was the most influential natural philosopher of the Victorian period.

His long career encompassed astronomy, mathematics, physics, geology, chemistry, as well as art, literature, politics, and the invention of photography.

Herschel’s 1831 Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy was the first book in English on the philosophy of science and had a formative influence on a generation of scientists, including Charles Darwin.

If being scientific in Victorian England meant to be as much like John Herschel as possible, this conference will explore what it meant to be John Herschel. This unique day of talks promises to explore all aspects of Herschel’s life from philosophy to art.

A panel of experts will examine the life and learnings of Sir John Herschel (1792 – 1871), the most influential natural philosopher of the Victorian age.

09:30 – 10:00 Welcome and introduction

  • Charles Draper, chairman of the Herschel Society
  • John Herschel’s Enduring Legacy, Stephen Case, Olivet Nazarene University

10:00 – 11:30 Herschel’s Life and Influence

  • A Biographical Sketch, Emily Winterburn, independent scholar
  • Herschel at the Cape, Steve Ruskin, independent scholar
  • Herschel’s Philosophy of Science, Charles Pence, Université Catholique de Louvain

11:45 – 13:15 Herschel’s Natural Philosophy

  • Herschel’s Mathematical Journey, Tony Crilly, Middlesex University, Emeritus
  • Herschel’s Astronomy, Stephen Case, Olivet Nazarene University
  • Herschel’s Geology, Gregory Good, American Institute of Physics, Emeritus

14:00 – 15:30 Herschel’s Methodology

  • Herschel’s Art of Drawing, Omar Nasim, University of Regensburg
  • Herschel’s Photographic Work, Kelley Wilder, De Montfort University
  • Herschel and Scientific Standardization, Edward Gillen, University College, London

15:45 – 17:00 External Perspective and Round Table

  • External Perspective, Mike Edmunds, Vice-president Herschel Society
  • Round table Q & A, all contributors plus Mike Edmunds

17:00 – 17:45 Drinks and Close

Tickets (£18 for members of either BRLSI or Herschel Society, £36 for non-members, proceeds to the BRLSI) are available here.  For those who attend at Queen Square, the tickets include tea, coffee and post-event drinks.