“You mean that she is too scientific? So long as she remains the great literary genius that she is, how can she be too scientific? She is simply permeated with the highest culture of the age.” Thus Theodora defends her heroine, George Eliot, in Henry James's wittily ambivalent “Daniel Deronda: A Conversation.” Whether or not it was the highest form of culture, the idea of science is hardly less evident in the Victorian era than the effects of its application. Periodicals and the daily press carried reports on scientific meetings and disputes; Nature, dedicated to science, began publishing in 1869. Scientific societies sprang up or reformed themselves, laid claim to new premises or expanded old ones. Enthusiastic amateurs collected fossils, explored rock pools, and gazed at the stars, or stayed indoors to read such bestsellers as Gideon Mantell's The Wonders of Geology (1838), Charles Kingsley's Glaucus; or, the Wonders of the Shore (1855), and Richard Proctor's Essays on Astronomy (1872). Museums, exhibitions, and demonstrations attracted large audiences, while popular lecture series turned professional men of science like Faraday, Tyndall, and Huxley into public figures.
Meanwhile, the notion of what constitutes science was being revised. Originally a synonym for the state of knowing, by around 1700 “science” had come to denote knowledge acquired by study, and more especially an organized body of knowledge, consisting of defined terms, coherent proofs, and regular laws. It is in this sense that political economy, sociology, anthropology, and psychology would later establish themselves as sciences of human behavior.