Conscientious workmen or booksellers’ hacks? the professional identities of science writers in the mid‐nineteenth century
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Fyfe, Aileen (2005). Conscientious workmen or booksellers’ hacks? the professional identities of science writers in the mid‐nineteenth century. Isis 96 (2), 192-223
Existing scholarship on the debates over expertise in mid-nineteenth-century Britain has demonstrated the importance of popular writings on the sciences to definitions of scientific authority. Yet while men of science might position themselves in opposition to the stereotype of the merely popular writer, the self-identity of the popular writer remained ambiguous. This essay examines the careers of William Charles Linnaeus Martin (1798-1864) and Thomas Milner (1808-ca. 1883) and places them in the context of others who made their living by writing works on the sciences for the general reader. Martin wrote on zoology and Milner moved between astronomy, geology, and geography. The essay unravels the close but ambivalent relationship between the professions of authorship and of science and highlights writing as another aspect of scientific practice. Both writers were moderately financially successful, but Martin's sense of failure and Milner's satisfaction reflect their contrasting images of their professional identity.