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A History of the Surrey Institution

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The Surrey Institution, Blackfriars, founded in 1808, was, after the Royal Institution and London Institution, the third establishment in London aimed at fostering and disseminating scientific, technical, and literary knowledge and understanding among a wider public. The Institution offered its proprietors and subscribers the use of an extensive reference library and reading rooms and, most importantly, the opportunity to attend courses of lectures on scientific, technological, and other subjects. Though popular in approach, the lectures conformed to high educational standards and were delivered by recognized authorities in their fields. In the Surrey Institution's celebrated auditorium, the 'Rotunda', there appeared over the years such notable scientists as Accum, Thomson, and Gurney on chemistry, Millington, Mason Good, and Woodward on natural philosophy, Bakewell on geology, and Shaw on natural history; literature was brilliantlyrepresented by Coleridge and Hazlitt. During its relatively brief life-span (1808-23)-cut short by financial stringencies-the Surrey Institution provided access to scientific knowledge and thinking to a wide and appreciative audience. As a meeting place fo scientists and men of business with mercantile and manufacturing interests, it performed an important function in cross-fertilizing and reinforcing ideas on innovation and enterprise against the background of the ongoing Industrial Revolution. The present article attempts to supply a historical account, so far lacking, of the foundation, activities and achievements of this significant Institution of the metropolis.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2000-04-01

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