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Mark Hocknull spoke to us last week about the Victorian autodidact George Boole, most famous today as the inventor of Boolean logic and hence – along with fellow nineteenth-century luminary Ada Lovelace – one of the founders of our contemporary digital environment. Mark’s talk centred on Boole’s ‘On the Philosophical Remains of Bishop Grosseteste’, an unidentified, probably mid-Victorian offprint held in the library of the Lincoln Cathedral. Boole’s subject was the great twelfth-century Bishop of Lincoln Robert Grosseteste, who, like Boole himself, was a polymath – both a theologian and a (perhaps practicing) scientist. Boole identifies Grosseteste’s greatest ‘philosophical remains’ as his break away from syllogisms when examining the natural world: his move into a less rigid line of thought or argument in his works. At the same time, though, Boole was entranced that completely different methodologies could produce the same (correct) answer to a particular question, so that the Panglossian optimism that Grosseteste brought to his consideration of the natural world might yield similar results to Boole’s own more rigorously scientific investigations of, for example, lines and angles in the nineteenth century.

Mark Hocknull is Chancellor of Lincoln and Senior Visiting Fellow in the School of History and Heritage at the University of Lincoln, where he teaches history of science.

Image: Roundel woodcut illustration of Robert Grosseteste, from a broadside depicting famous astronomers printed in Zurich in the sixteenth century.

Roundel woodcut illustration of Robert Grosseteste, from a broadside depicting famous astronomers printed in Zurich in the sixteenth century.


Boole colour

Our programme for the autumn term is now confirmed! All meetings will take place at 4.15pm in Room MB1013 of the Minerva Building (previously the Main Admin Building).

1 October: ‘George Boole on Robert Grosseteste’ | Mark Hocknull (History & Heritage)

5 November: Panel – Approaches to Materiality | Jim Cheshire (History & Heritage), Kate Hill (History & Heritage), Hannah Field (English & Journalism)

26 November: ‘Boosterism: Place Promotion and Provincial Newspapers, a Lincoln Case Study’ | Andrew Jackson (Bishop Grosseteste)

Please contact me or Owen if you have any questions. Tea and cake for those who can make it, and – in case you were wondering – the pensive chap at top is George Boole, the illustrious Lincoln-born mathematician who is the subject of Mark’s paper on 1 October.

MRS TENNYSON: 'You know, Mr. Woolner, I'm one of the most un-meddlesome of women; but—when (I'm only asking), when do you begin modelling his halo?'

MRS TENNYSON: ‘You know, Mr. Woolner, I’m one of the most un-meddlesome of women; but—when (I’m only asking), when do you begin modelling his halo?’


This year’s Tennyson Society Annual Lecture will be delivered by Dr Robert Douglas-Fairhurst (Oxford) on the subject ‘At Home with Tennyson’. The lecture will take place on Saturday 14 June at 3p.m. at Bishop Grosseteste.

Robert is a fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford. His last book, Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist, won the 2012 Duff Cooper Prize for biography.

At top, Max Beerbohm’s ‘Woolner at Farringford, 1857′, from Rossetti and His Circle (1922).

On Wednesday the 14th of May, we held a joint session with the Twenty-First Century Research group. Our topic was Neo-Victorianism, and we were fortunate enough to have two excellent scholars come and talk to us about their work.

The first was Professor Angela Thody, who discussed the patterns of similarity between Victorian modes of education and developments in the late twentieth- and early twenty-first centuries. Angela provided us with a quiz at which, humble reader, I must admit that I did very badly. She also regaled us with song, which was a first for the Nineteenth-Century Research group!




Our second speaker was Dr. Benjamin Poore from the University of York. Ben spoke to us about Neo-Victorianism on television, focusing on ‘Sherlock Holmes, Ripper Street, and the Neo-Victorian Detective in Print and on Screen’. Ben discussed the reasons for the popularity of Victorian detective figures today, analysed the complexities of these portrayals, and provided us with a brilliant definition of steampunk as ‘retro-futurism’.


This was the final session of the year, and so we are now looking for suggestions for meetings and events in 2014-2015. If you would like to suggest anything, or to volunteer, please email the organisers at hfield@lincoln.ac.uk and/or oclayton@lincoln.ac.uk.

The University of Lincoln is investing over half a million pounds in new strategic research opportunities, including fully-funded PhD studentships to start in September 2014, and three of the available studentships include active members of the Nineteenth-Century Research Group on the supervisory team.

Professor Lucie Armitt, Dr Rebecca Styler, and Dr Martin Eve (all Humanities) are open to candidates proposing nineteenth-century research topics for the studentship ‘Gothic: Literary Travel and Tourism‘.

Dr Jim Cheshire (Art & Design) and Dr Hannah Field (Humanities) invite book-historical proposals related to the Tennyson Research Centre for ‘Tennyson in His Library: Reading, Writing, and Collecting Books in the Nineteenth Century‘.

Dr Kate Hill (Humanities) and Dr Anna Catalani (Architecture), whose proposed studentship is entitled ‘British Archaeology in the Nineteenth Century: Between Antiquarianism and Science‘, encourage applicants interested in investigating the history of British archaeology in the nineteenth century.

Details of application processes. funding packages, and a full list of studentships here.

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