Saturday, 11 November 2017

Read in 2017- 35: The Fairyland of Science

The Fairyland of Science 
Arabella Burton Buckley 

To summarise this book, let me quote you from its introduction: 
"Most of you probably look upon science as a bundle of dry facts, while fairy-land is all that is beautiful, and full of poetry and imagination. But I thoroughly believe myself, and hope to prove to you, that science is full of beautiful pictures, of real poetry, and of wonder-working fairies; and what is more, I promise you they shall be true fairies, whom you will love just as much when you are old and grayheaded as when you are young". 

I have mentioned before that I very much like to alternate my reading between fiction and non-fiction. Especially after an overly sweet romance, I need something more substantial, just as I do not want to live exclusively on chocolate, but enjoy a good bacon buttie or crackers with cheese very much. 

This book was a mixture of both - it was sweet in parts, but substantial enough. Aimed at a young audience and first published in 1879, it basically is a collection of lectures given by the author herself. 
There are 10 lectures, divided into "weeks", which makes me believe they were really held from one week to the next. The lectures seem to have taken place in London, and some of their contents are very England-centered. 

In the wikipedia entry about the author it says that the book "puts her views of science in a children's book setting, much like a mother educating her child." 
To give you an idea of the lectures, some of their titles are "Sunbeams, and the Work They Do", "A Drop of Water on its Travels" and "The Life of a Primrose". 
Experiments were part of most lectures and are described well enough to imagine them being performed in front of you by a Victorian lady in a classroom with wooden desks, equipped with quills and inkpots. 
I am not sure whether this is Arabella Buckley, but this picture came up when I googled her, and in relation with correspondentans of Charles Darwin.

Arabella Buckley lived from 1840 to 1929. She had an unusual life for a woman of those days; first, because she worked with a scientist as his secretary and assistant (by no means a typical occupation back then) and second, because she married at the age of 44 - which in those days was considered rather old. Through her work for Charles Lyell, she was also acquainted with Charles Darwin and exchanged many letters with him. 

I enjoyed reading this book, always keeping in mind the time it was written in, and who it was written for.


  1. Sounds very interesting, think I'll go looking for it.

    1. It was free on Amazon's kindle shop but without illustrations.

  2. This does sound interesting.....I would never have known of it if you had not posted this! I'll check out amazon.

    1. I found it as a free ebook for Kindle, and although there were no illustrations (there are pictures in the physical book), it did not really matter.