The zenith age of the Industrial Revolution coincided with the beginnings of the Victorian Ethos. What characterized the Victorian Ethos was an undying passion and curiosity for exploration, for the discovery of the unknown. The figures that embodied this philosophy were the scientist naturalists. And with the great strides in engineering during this fertile period, these scientist naturalists could not have chosen a better period in history to begin their dreams of discovering and exploring the unknown regions across the world. Out of this voyaging came the numerous scientific concepts and ideas that continue to remain relevant in our present day and age.
Due to the vigorous explorations of the scientific field in the Victorian Age, the secrets of the world’s past were brought into light. The American paleontologist Joseph Leidy was the first scientist to uncover a fossilized skeleton of a dinosaur. The continuing research of Joseph Leidy was able to discover scores of extinct species that were previously unheard of till then.
Journeying to the far flung corners of the globe was an obsession unique to the Victorian Age. The explorers Henry Bates and Percy Fawcett embodied this spirit more than anybody else. Henry Bates is world-renowned for being one of the first explorers to successfully voyage into the Amazon Forest. After his expedition, he returned home to England and brought back a stunning catalogued collection of over 14,000 different types of flora and fauna – including a massive assortment of butterflies and some carnivorous pitcher plants, which aroused the curiosity of many Victorians during that era. 8,000 of these species were completely new to science. Meanwhile, Percy Fawcett is legendary for his mad expedition in the South American jungle to find the lost city of “Z”, which was thought to be El Dorado. In 1925, Fawcett and his expedition team, in search of “Z”, vanished without a trace. To this day, no one knows for sure what exactly happened to them.
Sir Richard Owen is best known today for coining the term “dinosauria”, or dinosaur. However, the greatest contribution of Sir Richard Owen to the Victorian era was his dedication to the founding and establishment of the British Museum of Natural History in London. Because the institution was open to everyone, scores of Victorians now had the chance to see first-hand the vast compilation of scientific items important to the fields of botany, paleontology, entomology, zoology, etc.
Probably the most learned man in the Victorian Era, Sir Richard Francis Burton was famed for travelling to the farthest reaches of Asia, Africa, and America. Reported to speak 29 different languages and dialects, Sir Richard Francis Burton was important to the Victorian Era for collecting and bringing back from his travels essential pieces of literature – including the “Arabian Nights” and the “Kama Sutra” – which he then translated into English for the Victorian population.
These scientist naturalists – Joseph Leidy, Henry Bates, Percy Fawcett, Sir Richard Owen, and Sir Richard Francis Burton – were all men molded by their peculiar times, driven by the Victorian Ethos. Without their contributions to their respective fields, our civilization would be less rich and our world would be less open to our curiosity.