Making Waves: Oliver Lodge and the Cultures of Science, 1875-1940

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: School of English

Abstract

Interdisciplinarity, particularly between the arts and the sciences, is notoriosly difficult to achieve. This project takes one particular historical case study in order to understand disciplinary difference at a crucial moment in the past. Oliver Lodge (1851-1940) was a key figure in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century culture. Today, however, he remains relatively neglected, largely because of the apparent contradictions between different aspects of his career. This research network uses these contradictions as a starting point to consider the role of the disciplines in shaping knowledge. Taking Lodge as a case study allows us to understand the place of science in his period and to learn how disciplinary boundaries continue to structure research and knowledge today.

Lodge has much to teach us about the place of science in culture because, in his life and career, he transcended many of the boundaries we imagine structure the cultural status of science. A pioneer of wireless telegraphy, Lodge was an internationally-acclaimed physicist and engineer, equally at home in laboratory and workshop. Alongside his commercial interests Lodge carved out a career in the new Victorian universities, becoming the first professor of physics at the University of Liverpool and then Principal of the University of Birmingham after its move to Edgbaston. Not only did Lodge help science consolidate its place at the heart of the university, but he also saw the institutionalisation of the differences between scientific disciplines. A prolific writer, speaker and, later in his life, broadcaster, Lodge was widely known as a populariser of science and commentator on current affairs. Yet in the latter part of his life, Lodge became a famous spiritualist, carrying out psychical investigations alongside his scientific research and publishing a besteller, Raymond (1916), detailing encounters with his son killed in the trenches. Focusing on Lodge can help us understand the differences between science and the arts and humanities; the place of faith and the imagination in scientific practice; and the role of the arts and humanities in popularising science.

To understand a career such as Lodge's, it is necessary to take an interdsciplinary approach. The project is designed to bring together a range of scholars, archivists and museum professionals at four workshops, each focusing on a particular aspect of Lodge's career. The first will consider the place of science in the new Victorian universities; the second the many ways that signalling though space was understood in the period; the third Lodge's physics and engineering and the supposed differences between pure and applied science; the fourth scientific lives more generally, investigating different tools and methodological approaches for the study of historical scientific figures. The project will maintain a blog, enabling conversation to continue between workshops and extend the network beyond the immediate participants; it will include a public demonstration of Victorian popular science, exploring the way in which scientific ideas were communicated in the past; lastly, it will publish an edited collection, producing the first scholarly book on Lodge to bring together the various aspects of his life and career.

In 1913 Lodge gave the Presidential Address at the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Birmingham. Lodge's talk was on the continuity of the physical universe in the face of relativity, but Lodge - physicist and engineer; scientist and spiritualist; entrepreneur and civic leader - was himself an exemplary demonstration of continuity. A century later, this research network will reappraise Lodge's career, tracing the connections that structured scientific practice over Lodge's lifetime and so learning how the disciplines might be restructured today.

Planned Impact

The project is designed to reach partners beyond the academy while also engaging the wider public. It will have impact on the following groups:

Museum professionals. John Liffen, Curator of Communications at the Science Museum, will be part of the advisory board and participate in the workshops. The impact on heritage professionals will be in the form of knowledge exchange between the staff of the Museum and scholars from all the disciplines involved in the project. The project will lead to increased use of the Museum's collections, this research adding value to the services the Museum porvides. Working with the project will impact on the Museum's interpretation strategy, particularly with regards to the new communication galleries opening in 2014 which feature Lodge. Therefore, the project will ultimately have an impact on the Science Museum's visitors (currently around 3 million a year).

Archivists. The impact on archivists will also be in the form of knowledge exchange between archivists and scholars from various disciplines. Archivists at the Universities of Birmingham and Liverpool will be involved in their respective workshops, allowing them to benefit from the expertise of scholars who will in turn benefit from improved knowledge of collections. The project will also include archivists from the Institute of Engineering and Technology. Participation in the Lodge project will help archivists consider Lodge's relevance, and ways in which collections might be used in their outreach activity, by scholars, and the wider public.

Public lectures. Public lectures are planned in Liverpool and Birmingham, the two universities with which Lodge was connected, so that the project can have a direct impact on members of the public. The lectures will highlight Lodge's role in the history of each city, and place his scientific achievement in the context of his civic life. Each lecture will help the wider public engage with the key argument of the project, using Lodge to understand the place of science in culture.

Exhibition. The Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham will curate and host an exhibition on Lodge, drawing on the University's archival material and its collection of historical physics instruments. This activity will lead to knowledge exchange between archivists and scholars and will raise the profile of the University's collections amongst visitors. Although the exhibition will be installed on campus, it will be promoted as part of the University's programme of knowledge exchange.

Popularisation project. Lodge was an important populariser of science. This project will stage a recreation of a Victorian electrical demonstration. The impact on the audience will be fourfold: it will engage them with questions about the role of science in the imagined futures of the Victorians; it will encourage them to reflect on whether those futures came to pass; it will make them consider the roles of science and technology in creating our own futures; and lastly, it will alert them to the ways science is communicated, both in the present and the past. It will also have an impact through the science that it communicates to the audience. Participants will consider the value of recreations and performance as a means of communicating science.

Blog. This will have an impact on the public by providing an accessible commentary on the project. It will be fully embedded within social media, extending the reach of the project beyond the academy. The blog will be edited with a broad audience in mind, contextualising workshop material accordingly. The blog will link the project to previous work on Lodge, especially the previous conference in 1994. By publishing video of this conference (there were talks by Lodge's grandsons), the impact of this earlier activity can be extended while providing an immediate context for the current Lodge project.

Publications

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publication icon
Clarke I (2015) CONSERVATIVE ATTITUDES TO OLD-ESTABLISHED ORGANS: OLIVER LODGE AND PHILOSOPHICAL MAGAZINE. in Notes and records of the Royal Society of London

Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
AH/K006223/1 01/05/2013 31/08/2013 £25,907
AH/K006223/2 Transfer AH/K006223/1 01/09/2013 31/07/2015 £23,861
 
Description The key findings from the project are as follows:

1. The realization of genuine interdisciplinary research into Oliver Lodge. This was achieved through the workshops, which brought together literary scholars, historians, scientists, curators, archivists, historians of science, and media scholars, amongst many others, over the life of the project. The third workshop, in particular, demonstrated the diversity of our audiences. Here, for instance, 42% of those attending said they worked in the sciences or had a scientific background, compared with only 10% from the humanities. The remainder, some 48%, were from outside the academy entirely.

Our publications further demonstrate the interdisciplinarity fostered by the project. The book, currently in preparation, has contributions from literary scholars, historians, historians of science, scientists, media scholars, and a member of the clergy. The project also resulted in a journal article, published in Notes and Records of the Royal Society, which was co-written by a literary scholar and a historian of science.

2. The workshops themselves constitute achievements in their own right. Over the four workshops and extra seminar, we had 25 papers, three lectures, and four roundtables. Together, this represents the most sustained scholarly work on Lodge and his legacy since his death in 1940. The events had a large academic reach, with over 200 people signing up to attend them, and they featured scholars from the United States, Canada, and Italy, amongst others.

3. We significantly boosted both scholarly and public awareness about Lodge and his influence. This can be seen by the numbers attending the workshops, from the contact we have had from the media (see the Impact narrative), and our work with the Lodge family (again, see the Impact narrative). The PI and another network participant published a journal article about Lodge over the course of the project and our book, currently in preparation, with further stimulate academic interest.

The key intellectual goal of the project was to use Lodge's own disciplinary configuration - a physicist, who became known for wireless telegraphy, led one of Britain new universities, and was a famous spiritualist - to interrogate our own. Each of these three achievements, in its own way, demonstrates that interdisciplinary work is necessary to understand the disciplinary conditions of the past, while, at the same time, showing what Lodge has to teach us about the historical relationships between different types of knowledge.
Exploitation Route In raising the awareness of Lodge and his work, we have ensured that the findings of the project will be taken on and used by others. Already scholars who had not previously worked on Lodge are now developing substantial research projects that discuss him or take him as their focus. Our publications, the journal article and the book (in progress) are part of this broader contribution to scholarship and will, in turn, produce scholarly responses in their own right.

The findings might also be taken forward by the museum professionals, curators, and archivists we engaged with over the course of the project. We have good links with archivists at the Universities of Birmingham and Liverpool and with curators at the University of Birmingham and the Science Museum. The exhibitions and public engagement events run as part of the project have had a large reach (around 200 people attended the lectures and engagement events alone) and, from our feedback, have enhanced people's understanding of Lodge, science, popularization and disciplinarity.

Finally, the blog and twitter accounts remain active and will act to coordinate research and activity that results from the network now the funded period of the project has ended. They will be particularly useful as the book comes together and we plan further actviity.
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other

URL http://www.oliverlodge.org/
 
Description The research project had the following impact: 1. Firstly the project successfully worked with the extended Lodge family. Members of the family came along to workshops, learning from the various experts present, and shared what they knew about their relative. This relationship matured, leading to a family reunion to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of Raymond Lodge, at St George's Church Edgbaston on 19 September 2015. The family said that this reunion, which they planned, would not have happened without the project, and they invited the PI, Jim Mussell, to open the occasion with a lecture. There were about fourty people in attendance, a mixture of Lodge descendants and the some of the congregation at St George's. As part of the commemoration, members of the family brought along momentos, archive material and photographs to do with Lodge and the family. The University of Birmingham also brought along some of their archival materials, including some of Raymond Lodge's possessions, on him when killed at Ypres. 2. The project began to work with members of the psychical community. Lodge was an important figure in the Society for Psychical Research and is still of much interest with the psychical community today. Members of the community (the librarian at the College of Psychic Studies and the editor of Psychic News) attended the second workshop, 'Wireless: Oliver Lodge, Science, and Spiritualism' at the Royal Society on 24 April 2014 and again at the final (extra) seminar, Oliver Lodge: Science, Pogress, and the Public at the Science Museum 8 July 2015. There was also a spiritualist presence at the Raymond Lodge commemoration, which was attended by the President of the Spiritualist National Union and Principal of Arthur Findlay College. 3. We worked closely with archivists and curators over the course of the project. Helen Fisher, an archivist at the Cadbury Research Library, curated an exhibition for our first workshop, 'Civic Science: Oliver Lodge, Physics, and the Modern University', at the University of Birmingham 9 November 2013. This then became the basis of an exhibition at the Muirhead Tower at the University of Birmingham, called 'Civic Science: Oliver Lodge and Birmingham', which ran 3 February until 18 May 2015. A similar exhibition was hosted at the University of Liverpool for delegates, of whom 38% were from outside the academy, which consisted of Lodge manuscript material from the University's collections. A number museum professionals came to our workshops to learn more about Lodge and his significance for their collections. The Honorary Curator of Physics from the University of Birmingham, Robert Whitworth, attended the first two of our events. A representative of Birmingham Museums Trust, Nazia Ali, also came to two. Finally, Robert Budd, curator at the Science Museum, attended the workshops and spoke at (and hosted) the final (extra) seminar, at the Science Museum, on the 8 July 2015. 4. Our public engagement activities also had impact. Of the 34 responses we received about the Victorian Science Spectacular, after the first workshop on 9 November 2013, 33 agreed or strongly agreed the performance helped them understand how science was performed in the c19th century and the same number again agreed or strongly agreed that it helped them learn more about c19th science. The two public lectures, at Birmingham and Leeds, each attracted good audiences, around 50 each. At the first, given by Graeme Gooday at Leeds Art Gallery after the fourth workshop on 6 March 2015, 32% of attendees said they were from outside the academy and all agreed or strongly agreed that they left knowing more about Lodge's life and legacy, more about life-writing, and more about science and life-writing. Unfortunately we don't have data for the second, the Cadbury Research Library Annual Lecture at the University of Birmingham, given by James Mussell on 16 March 2015. We also had a third public lecture, which was not planned as part of the project, also given by James Mussell at the Raymond Lodge commemoration (see above), which reached an audience of about 40, all of whom were from outside the academy. Finally, the use of alumni networks at the University of Liverpool meant that the third workshop, 'Science, Pure and Applied: Oliver Lodge, Physics, and Engineering', on 31 October 2014, attracted a number of interested members of the public. Of the 14 who stated they were outside the academy (48% of those there), all agreed or strongly agreed that they knew more about Lodge's contributions to science and engineering; more about distinctions between pure and applied science; and more about Lodge and Liverpool. 5. During the course of the project, we were contacted by the BBC journalist Samira Ahmed who was thinking about pitching a BBC Radio 3 documentary about Oliver Lodge. This led to the PI. Dr James Mussell contributing to a discussion on the Radio 4 programme Inside Science, broadcast 26 January 2017. Mussell, along with two other network participants, Professor David Hendy and Professor Christine Ferguson, also took part in a public event at the Royal Institution, chaired by Ahmend, called Spirits in the Ether on 1 February 2017.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Cadbury Research Library 
Organisation University of Birmingham
Department Cadbury Research Library
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The project organized a workshop held at the University of Birmingham, where the Cadbury Research Library are based, called Civic Science: Oliver Lodge, Physics, and the Modern University. As part of the workshop, we arranged a visit to the Library, where an exhibition of Lodge materials was displayed. This collaboration led to a full exhibition of Lodge material, 'Civic Science: Oliver Lodge and the Modern University', in the Cadbury Research Library exhibition space in the Muirhead Tower from 3 February until 18 May 2015. The PI from the project, Jim Mussell, gave the Cadbury Research Library Annual Lecture on 16 March 2015.
Collaborator Contribution The Cadbury Research Library arranged an exhibition of Lodge materials from the archive, allowing a range of scholars to view the collections. These were later scanned and put on Flickr, an important resource for studying Lodge and the early history of the University of Birmingham. As a result of this collaboration, the Cadbury Research Library organized a subsequent exhibition, Civic Science: Oliver Lodge and the Modern University, which ran from 3 February until 18 May 2015. They also invited the PI from the project, Jim Mussell, to give the Cadbury Research Library Annual Lecture.
Impact Exhibition at Civic Science: Oliver Lodge, Physics, and the Modern University 9 November 2013 Contribution to Cadbury Research Library Flickr stream Exhibition in the Muirhead Tower, University of Birmingham, Civic Science: Oliver Lodge and the Modern University 3 February - 18 May 2015 Public Lecture, Civic Science / Civic Life: Oliver Lodge and Birmingham, 16 March 2015
Start Year 2014
 
Description Science Museum, London 
Organisation Science Museum Group
Department The Science Museum
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We held a seminar at the Science Museum to discuss Oliver Lodge, science, and popularization. The event featured two speakers, from University of Oxford and the Science Museum.
Collaborator Contribution The Science Museum hosted the event and provided one of the speakers.
Impact Seminar entitled 'Oliver Lodge: Science, Progress, and the Public' featuring two speakers and discussion, held on the 8 July 2015. It attracted a diverse audience, including historians of science, literary scholars, and representatives of the psychical community.
Start Year 2015
 
Description University of Liverpool 
Organisation University of Liverpool
Department Department of Physics
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The project celebrated one of the University's famous former employees and served as an anniversary of a previous event, Radio Begins in 1894, organized by one of the network participants in 1994 to mark 100 years since Lodge's demonstration of the propagation of electromagnetic waves. We organized a workshop that featured a number of participants, two from the United States and one from Italy, who discussed Lodge's influence on science and technology, as well as considering the historical definitions of pure and applied science.
Collaborator Contribution The Department of Physics at the University of Liverpool hosted us in the Victorian Museum and Art Gallery. Special Collections at the University of Liverpool organized an exhibition of Lodge material.
Impact Workshop 3, 'Science, Pure and Applied: Oliver Lodge, Physics and Engineering', Victoria Art Gallery and Museum, 31 October 2014. This workshop was interdisciplinary, featuring speakers from history of science and history, discussing with an audience made up of scientists (42%), those from the humanities (14%) and beyond the academy (44%).
Start Year 2014
 
Description Appearance on Inside Science 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The PI of the project, Dr James Mussell, took part in a discussion with Samira Ahmed (Radio 4; BBC One) for a segment on the regular Radio 4 programme Inside Science. The discussion was about Oliver Lodge's belief in spiritualism, its relationship to his science, and the place of occult beliefs in scientific culture more broadly.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0890kmm
 
Description Project website and twitter feed 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We have maintained a blog and twitter feed throughout the project. The blog was the main means through which we made contact with a number of key audiences, including the psychical community, the wider Lodge family, and the interested public more broadly. The twitter feed had over 500 uses of the Lodge hashtag.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014,2015,2016
URL http://www.oliverlodge.org/
 
Description Public Lecture, Leeds Art Gallery, 6 March 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This was a public lecture, to an audience of about 60, given by Professor Graeme Gooday and entitled 'Why Did Scientists Come to Write Autobiographies?'. 32% of attendees said they were from outside the academy and all agreed or strongly agreed that they left knowing more about Lodge's life and legacy, more about life-writing, and more about science and life-writing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.oliverlodge.org/public-lecture-1-leeds-why-did-scientists-come-to-write-autobiographies/
 
Description Public Lecture, St George's Church, Edgbaston, 19 September 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This lecture, given by the PI, James Mussell, opened a special day of commemoration for Raymond Lodge, who died in 1915 at Ypres. The audience, around 40 in number, were mainly members of the extended Lodge family, although there were also members of the congregation present too. The lecture was entitled 'Sir Oliver Lodge in Birmingham' and was followed by a Q and A. The PI stayed for the rest of the day's events, including an exhibition of Lodge archive material belonging to the family. The event was prompted by the activities of the project and the members of the family, many of whom knew little about their famous relative, said it would not have taken place without it.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.oliverlodge.org/raymond-a-day-of-commemoration-of-the-lodge-family-and-the-first-world-wa...
 
Description Public Lecture, University of Birmingham, 16 March 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The PI, James Mussell, was invited to give the Cadbury Research Library Annual Lecture as part of the University of Birmingham's Arts and Sciences Festival. This was open to the public, but unfortunately no data was collected about the composition of the audience. The lecture was followed by a Q and A, and then a more informal discussion over coffee. The lecture was entitled 'Civic Life: Oliver Lodge and Birmingham' and was accompanied / responded to an exhibition then on display curated by the Cadbury Research Library called 'Civic Science: Oliver Lodge and Birmingham'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.oliverlodge.org/public-lecture-2-birmingham-civic-life-oliver-lodge-and-birmingham/
 
Description Spirits in the Ether (public discussion) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Spirits in the Ether was a public discussion about spiritualism and science held at the Royal Institution on 1 Feb 2018 and chaired by Samira Ahmed (Radio 4; BBC One). The PI of the project, Dr James Mussell, was one of the speakers, and the panel was made up of two network participants, Professor David Hendy and Professor Christine Ferguson. Each speaker gave a short presentation about Oliver Lodge, the ether, and spiritualism, then we opened it up to questions from the audience. The event attracted a broad audience, including those from different spiritualist communities, from the sciences, and from the wider public. All ages were represented.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.rigb.org/whats-on/events-2017/february/public-spirits-in-the-ether
 
Description Victorian Science Spectacular (Birmingham) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This was a performance of a Victorian Popular Science Demonstration carried out by some of the Project's participants. The performance was itself derived from AHRC-funded research, but for this project, it was intended to round off the first workshop, at the University of Birmingham, as it coincided with its broader themes of scientific education. The audience was about 50, of which 34 filled in feedback sheets. Of the 34 responses we received about the Victorian Science Spectacular, after the first workshop on 9 November 2013, 33 agreed or strongly agreed the performance helped them understand how science was performed in the c19th century and the same number again agreed or strongly agreed that it helped them learn more about c19th science. After the performance there was an opportunity for Q and A with the performers.

The performance was intended to get the audience to think about the history of science, the places where it is and was taught, and the importance of performance and display as pedagogical tools. The Q&A revealed that that the audience engaged with all these themes; something reiterated in the written feedback. 86% strongly agreed with the statement 'This performance helped me understand how science was performed in the c19th century'; and commenters reflected on both how entertaining the p
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.oliverlodge.org/victorian-science-spectacular/