Geographies of Science and Religion: Catholics, the British Association and Repeal Agitation in Cork (1843)

Ciaran Toal


This paper examines the first and only visit to Cork, Ireland, in 1843 of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS). Although meetings were supposed to be free from political and religious concerns, this was far from the case in Cork: rumours of repeal agitation, partisan political-religious commentary from the visiting members, or even hints of a connection between the BAAS and the local campaign for a secular Queen’s College, helped to tarnish the Association’s reputation, and render the meeting a disaster. This paper sheds light on an important episode in the Association’s history. It also builds on recent work in historical geography, which is sensitive to the role that place and particular social spaces play in mediating science-religion relations. The paper also advances a number of arguments. First, Associational science and its related activities were always ‘geographically contingent’, and the towns and cities in which the BAAS met played a key role in shaping proceedings and, in turn, how science-religion relations were discussed or contested. Second, the Association’s claim to impartiality had a geography, and in unfamiliar Cork, away from the comfortable confines of Oxford or Edinburgh, it is clear that what the leaders considered as objective, was really tainted by liberal Anglicanism.

Full Text:






  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright © Geographical Society of Ireland | Home | Contact us | ISSN: 0075-0778 (Print), 1939-4055 (Online) | Last Update: November 10, 2021