Quakers in science

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The Religious Society of Friends, commonly known as Quakers, encouraged some values which may have been conducive to encouraging scientific talents. A theory suggested by David Hackett Fischer in his book Albion's Seed indicated early Quakers in the US preferred "practical study" to the more traditional studies of Greek or Latin popular with the elite. Another theory suggests their avoidance of dogma or clergy gave them a greater flexibility in response to science.

Despite those arguments a major factor is agreed to be that the Quakers were initially discouraged or forbidden to go to the major law or humanities schools in Britain due to the Test Act. They also at times faced similar discriminations in the United States, as many of the colonial universities had a Puritan or Anglican orientation. This led them to attend "Godless" institutions or forced them to rely on hands-on scientific experimentation rather than academia.

Because of these issues it has been stated that Quakers are better represented in science than most religions. Some sources, including Pendlehill (Thomas 2000) and Encyclopædia Britannica, indicate that for over two centuries they were overrepresented in the Royal Society. Mention is made of this possibility in studies referenced in religiosity and intelligence and in a book by Arthur Raistrick. Regardless of whether this is still accurate, there have been several noteworthy members of this denomination in science. The following names a few.

Some Quakers in science[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ McGrayne, Sharon Bertsch (January 1, 2001). Nobel Prize Women in Science: Their Lives, Struggles, and Momentous Discoveries: Second Edition. doi:10.17226/10016. ISBN 978-0-309-07270-0 – via www.nap.edu.
  2. ^ "John Dalton". Science History Institute. June 2016. Retrieved March 20, 2018.
  3. ^ Sections 3 and 4 Archived 2008-09-22 at the Wayback Machine, also this Archived November 17, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "Speaking of Faith from American Public Media | Science and Hope". Archived from the original on November 26, 2005. Retrieved November 18, 2005.
  5. ^ "The Ursula Franklin Reader". Archived from the original on July 5, 2008. Retrieved April 12, 2008.
  6. ^ "N.J. Congressman: I beat Watson | the Social - CNET News". Archived from the original on March 26, 2012. Retrieved March 2, 2011.
  7. ^ "Q&A;: The congressman who beat "Watson" on "Jeopardy" - War Room - Salon.com". Archived from the original on March 6, 2011. Retrieved March 2, 2011.
  8. ^ Ltd, Not Panicking. "h2g2 - Luke Howard, the Namer of Clouds - Edited Entry". h2g2.com.
  9. ^ "I was educated mostly at Quaker institutions, in particular Moorestown Friends School and Haverford College." ... "Perhaps related to my Quaker upbringing, I've always valued personal involvement in a difficult task." - from his Nobel autobiographical essay
  10. ^ "Thomas Young". School of Mathematics and Statistics University of St Andrews, Scotland. Retrieved August 30, 2017.

Further reading[edit]

  • Quakers in Science and Industry by Arthur Raistrick. ISBN 1-85072-106-8
  • Thomas, Anne (April 24, 2000), This I Know Experimentally, Spring 2000 Monday Night Lecture Series: Science and Religion, Pendle Hill (published October 6, 2003), archived from the original on May 1, 2006, retrieved June 29, 2009