The Net Advance of Physics RETRO:

Poetry and Mathematical Physics in the Long Nineteenth Century

Zwei Männer in Betrachtung des Mondes by Caspar David Friedrich, [ca. 1820].

The Long Nineteenth Century (1750-1925 for the purposes of this website) is often remembered as an age when science (or "Science") conquered older ideologies based in religion and other mystical traditions and, for better and worse, imposed industrial and rational values on the world. There is also another, less familiar way of looking at the period: it was the time when ancient dreams of magic finally became a reality, and the secret wonders of infinite creation were being revealed. Both attitudes were common among artists and poets of the era, but the latter, a kind of pro-scientific strain within Romanticism, seems to have been surprisingly widespread and long-lasting (more so than we had realised when we began this project).

The poets represented on this webpage were all reacting in some way to the science or technology of their time, either positively or negatively. As of this writing, we have listed only a small number of authors, almost all of whom wrote in English, but we hope that the site will eventually become global and comprehensive.

Some of the poets included here held views on a number of subjects (including politics, race, and gender) with which modern readers are likely to disagree violently. We are not endorsing such views. Also, we are aware that the majority of our authors were white and male: this reflects the literature as we have found it. We will be happy to include Nineteenth Century poets from other backgrounds as we are made aware of them.

Persons interested in collaborating on this project are invited to write the editors, Norman Hugh Redington and Karen Rae Keck (REDINGTN at MIT full-stop EDU).

In addition to poetry about physical science and mathematics, we hope to eventually include poetry by notable scientists, regardless of its subject.

A useful online resource overlapping with ours is the History of Science Poetry webpage of Jonathan Vos Post. A necessarily old-fashioned survey of French science-poetry from this period may be found in C.-A. Fusil's La poésie scientifique de 1750 à nos jours [Paris: Scientifica, 1918]. Although not specific to the Nineteenth Century, JoAnne Growney's blog Intersections -- Poetry with Mathematics would likely interest anyone who enjoys this page.

TECHNICAL NOTE: The great majority of the links below are to scanned antique books at the Internet Archive, most of them anthologies. Poems frequently run for several pages; when coming to the apparent end of a poem, turn the page to make sure!

SUBJECT INDEX: Very approximate.


A --- B --- C --- D --- EFG --- H --- IJKL --- MNO --- PQR --- S --- T --- UVWXYZ