Metropolitan Science: Places, Objects and Cultures of Practice and Knowledge in London, 1600-1800 was a collaboration with the Centre for the History of the Sciences, University of Kent, funded by The Leverhulme Trust.
Aiming to produce a new account of the roots and development of a scientific culture in 17th- and 18th-century London, the project explored the question of where and how modern science developed. It expanded the story beyond well-known individuals and an overriding focus on the Royal Society, considering alternative locations and institutional contexts.
The project also traced the linked cultures of scientific knowledge, skill and practice, and the commercial contexts in which they developed, including London’s guilds, professional colleges and trading companies. It aimed to understand these cultures on their own terms, exploring their projection of individual and collective identities and the response of contemporaries.
Key to the project’s methodology was the use of material, visual and spatial approaches to expand the field of view and find new routes into and out of the printed and archival record.
Working between archive and object collections, the project aimed to contribute insight and exemplary case studies to history of science methodology by drawing on curatorial practice, art history and historical geography.
While London’s importance for science at this period has been widely acknowledged, its uniqueness and role in the development of a particular type of scientific culture over the long term has not been sufficiently described or accounted for. The project added to understanding of this culture’s development in the early modern period—revealing it in technical, administrative and commercial as well as learned contexts.
It explored a growing conception of science as trusted, international and open, despite its origins in a range of more closed, local and pragmatic institutional contexts, and asked how perceptions of scientific and technical knowledge and practice fed into, or were changed by, this process.
Centre for the History of the Sciences, University of Kent