This is the website of a pilot project to digitise the Proceedings of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (now the British Science Association): the project is conducted by the Research Centre for Literature, Arts, and Science (RCLAS) at the University of Glamorgan, funded by the University Research Investment Scheme, and supported by the British Science Association.
BAAS Online aims to digitise the Proceedings of the British Association, from the publication of the first volume in 1832 (after the British Association’s first meeting in York in 1831) until 1901; thus making freely available, searchable, and browsable – for the first time – the proceedings and reports of one of Victorian Britain’s preeminent scientific and cultural institutions.
The British Association for the Advancement of Science first met in 1831. It aimed to confront and rectify what many saw as the ‘decline of science in England.’ This decline was attributed to numerous factors, including the enduring hegemony of the Royal Society, the marginalisation of regional Societies, and the unprofessional status of scientific practitioners in Britain.
The British Association aimed to nurture a national, and even international, network of scientists, and it accordingly held each annual meeting in a different regional centre in the British Isles.
The British Association debated and interrogated the very heart of Victorian science, its aims, philosophies, methodologies, and professional identities. Indeed, the very term ‘scientist’ was coined at the 1833 meeting of the British Association in Cambridge by the geologist William Whewell.
The British Association promoted inter-disciplinary as well as inter-regional collaboration – as the Irish Astronomer Royal, William Rowan Hamilton, put it, ‘we meet, we speak, we feel together now, that we may afterwards the better think and act and feel alone’ – and its endeavours were a source of fascination and controversy among Britain’s intelligentsia, including writers, politicians, philosophers, and poets. The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge actively participated in the British Association’s early meetings, and the novelist Charles Dickens satirised its grand ambitions by representing it as ‘the Mudfog Association for the Advancement of Everything’.
This pilot website makes available a selection of digitised extracts from the first five years of the British Association’s existence, including Presidential Addresses, Reports, and Transactions from the various internal committees of the association (see ‘About the Proceedings’ for information regarding the standard format and content of the British Association’s Proceedings).
The pilot website forms a precursor to a much more ambitious project: BAAS Online hopes to digitise the Proceedings from 1832 to 1901, and to become a hub for research into the British Association’s place in the history of science, and the association’s cultural influence in the nineteenth century. BAAS Online hopes to facilitate scholarship in this area by appointing doctoral and post-doctoral researchers attached to the project; organising conferences, lectures, and study weekends; proposing a collection of essays; and developing this website into a full and free scholarly resource, containing related articles, bibliographies, links and more. Details of the aims and objectives, methodology, outputs and collaborations in which BAAS Online hopes to engage, can be accessed via the left-hand margin of this pilot website. Examples of the type of interdisciplinary contextual research that BAAS Online hopes to foster can be accessed on this website by clicking on the ‘Contextual Material’ tab that accompanies the PDF files of the digitised articles. These are also accessible via ‘Articles and Research’ on the left margin.
The BAAS Online project is managed by the Research Centre for Literature, Arts, and Science at the University of Glamorgan, whose directors (Prof. Andrew Smith, Prof. Jeff Wallace, and Dr. Martin Willis) and Research Fellow (Dr. Rachel Hewitt) are scholars whose own work engages with the relationship between literature and the history of science.