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Contextual Lecture: Science Since 1817: Attitudes and Achievements

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Science flourished in the nineteenth century and came into full bloom in the twentieth. The currency of chemistry, atoms, had been introduced early in the 1800s, but for almost the whole of that century atoms were regarded as little more than an accounting device; now we can see them. Electricity and magnetism evolved from parlour amusements to drive industry, transport, and communication; their union as electromagnetism set scientists on a profoundly important intellectual path, the continuing pursuit of unification. The theory of natural selection, one of the dramatic insights of the mid nineteenth century, had a profound impact on mankind's attitude to itself, with resonance still today. In this talks Professor Atkins will explore all these paths to enlightenment.

Peter Atkins is former Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Lincoln College. He is a prolific writer of popular chemistry textbooks, including Physical Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, and Molecular Quantum Mechanics. Atkins is also the author of a number of popular science books, including Atkins' Molecules, Galileo's Finger: The Ten Great Ideas of Science and On Being.