The Wesley Naturalist

Victorian Methodists, writes Stuart Andrews, carried on the keen interest in scientific subjects that had once been shown by John Wesley.

Stuart Andrews | Published in History Today

John Wesley’s interest in science is well known. Not only did he employ an electrical machine to treat all manner of ailments from gout to toothache, but he published a treatise on electricity, a best-selling medical manual, and a three-volume Compendium of Natural Philosophy1.

It is usually assumed that such scientific interests were little more than a personal hobby - the nearest Wesley ever came to recreation in a notably arduous life - and that the scientific spirit was conspicuously absent from Methodism as a whole.

That is not altogether fair to nineteenth-century Methodism. The Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine in the 1860s concerned itself with subjects so diverse as vegetation on the moon’s surface and the Glasgow water supply, while the late 1880s saw the founding of the Wesley Scientific Society and the publication of its monthly journal, The Wesley Naturalist.

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