Illuminating Science: The Lighthouse as Public Good and the Role of the Scientific Expert in Nineteenth- Century British Lighthouse Reform
Conway, Hannah Caroline
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The deprivatization of lighthouse ownership after 1836 in England assigned a value to these structures as a public good and placed their maintenance into state hands. The process of lighthouse reform in mid-nineteenth century Britain focused on consolidation and streamlining of lighthouse management and on developing a systematic approach to experimentation and implementation of the most advanced forms of illumination in both existing and new lighthouses. Debates over lighthouse reform were largely spearheaded through special parliamentary committees in 1834, 1845, and 1861. Examining these committees in depth, this project explores how the process of lighthouse reform provided a platform for Victorian practitioners of science to influence state policy alongside economic and political debates. The role of the lighthouse as a public good created the need for state sponsored programs of research and design when it came to the optical sciences and technologies utilized in their illumination. The process of lighthouse reform from 1834-1861 thus offers insight into the earliest connections between scientific enterprise and state structures as well as how the modern relationship between science and the state developed.