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Title: Rulers of opinion : women at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, 1799-1812
Author: Lloyd, Harriet Olivia
ISNI:       0000 0004 7660 2462
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis examines the role of women at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in its first decade and contributes to the field by writing more women into the history of science. Using the method of prosopography, 844 women have been identified as subscribers to the Royal Institution from its founding on 7 March 1799, until 10 April 1812, the date of the last lecture given by the chemist Humphry Davy (1778- 1829). Evidence suggests that around half of Davy's audience at the Royal Institution were women from the upper and middle classes. This female audience was gathered by the Royal Institution's distinguished patronesses, who included Mary Mee, Viscountess Palmerston (1752-1805) and the chemist Elizabeth Anne, Lady Hippisley (1762/3-1843). A further original contribution of this thesis is to explain why women subscribed to the Royal Institution from the audience perspective. First, Linda Colley's concept of the "service élite" is used to explain why an institution that aimed to apply science to the "common purposes of life" appealed to fashionable women like the distinguished patronesses. These women were "rulers of opinion," women who could influence their peers and transform the image of a degenerate ruling class to that of an élite that served the nation. Second, Adeline Johns-Putra's argument that the poet and audience member Eleanor Anne Porden (1795-1825) saw Davy as a "knight of science" is expanded upon to explain Davy's success at the Royal Institution. In the cult of heroism of the Napoleonic era, Davy and his female audience co-constructed a chivalrous chemistry in the lecture theatre. Chivalry meant deference to rank and sex. Thus Davy and his female audience disassociated chemistry from its late eighteenth-century connections with political radicalism.
Supervisor: James, F. A. J. L. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available