, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 365–367 | Cite as

Romantic machinery

John Tresch: The romantic machine: Utopian science and technology after Napoleon. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2012, xviii+449pp, $40.00 HB
  • Robert Fox
Book Review

One of Alfred North Whitehead’s Lowell lectures of 1925 encapsulated a common belief about the relations between science and romanticism. In a chapter on “The romantic reaction” in the published version of the lectures, Whitehead presented science and the romantic spirit as fundamentally at odds (Whitehead 1926, chapter 5). The romantic world view, for Whitehead, had no place for perceptions of nature as an unfeeling law-bound machine. Against the conventional scientific virtues of objectivity, it stressed subjectivity, and against the model of inexorable determinism, it favored one closer to that of an organism, with the potential for growth and change. It is not hard to see the core of truth in Whitehead’s interpretation. When Wordsworth wrote “We murder to dissect,” he was voicing a romantic sensibility that saw the abstraction of science as, at best, scratching the surface of a natural world at once richer and closer to us as human beings than the one handed down by the mechanical...


  1. Holmes, Richard. 2008. The age of wonder. How the romantic generation discovered the beauty and terror of science. London: Harper Press.Google Scholar
  2. Whitehead, Alfred North. 1926. Science and the modern world. Lowell lectures, 1925. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Museum of the History of ScienceOxfordUK

Personalised recommendations