Religion and Science in the Eighteenth Century


By J.P. Lethbridge, published 1st March 2003

Much has been said about the clash between religion and science in Victorian times but there has been less research into the relationship between them in the eighteenth century. This article considers three Georgian clergymen who were also notable scientists – the Reverend William Stukeley, the pioneer of scientific field archaeology (1687-1765); the Reverend Gilbert White of Selborne, the natural historian (1720-1793); and the Reverend Stephen Hales, the father of biochemistry (1677-1761). I will look at the conditions which produced these men, i.e. how the church quite literally provided good livings for men who were really scientists rather than clergymen to support their scholarly pursuits; how even a conscientious pastor such as Stephen Hales was left with time on his hands for scientific work; how latitudinarian broad church doctrines encouraged clergymen to be...

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