Scholarly Societies Project

Society for Philosophical Experiments and Conversations

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Society for Philosophical Experiments and Conversations
Founding of the Society
Year
Authority / Notes
1794
Among eighteenth-century scholarly bodies to adorn themselves with the appellation Society, this one surely deserves a prize for sheer impudence, since it was essentially a course of lectures given over the period of a year or two. It is worth noting, however, that Reuss treated this as an authentic society, and indexed the articles from its Minutes.

According to the Dictionary of National Biography (DNB), v.9, pp.817-818, this so-called Society was a course of lectures given by one person, not a society in the received sense, and its publication, the Minutes, was a syllabus for the course, not a journal that published articles by a number of people. [In fact, none of the articles from the Minutes that we have seen indexed in Reuss is assigned an author's name. This lends some credence to the claim that the Minutes were the creation of one person. The other alternative is that the articles were anonymously authored by several persons; this might not have been surprising a century earlier, but at this late date it would seem very unlikely.]

More particularly, the Dictionary of National Biography (DNB), v.9, pp.817-818 indicates that the prime mover behind this effort was Bryan Higgins, M.D. (1737?-1820), a physician and chemist who was born in Sligo County in Ireland, and who opened a school of practical chemistry in Greek Street, Soho (London area) in July 1774.

At some point, he interrupted his course of lectures for a while, evidently in part at least because of travelling. Then, according to the Dictionary of National Biography (DNB), v.9, p.818,

He resumed his lectures in Greek Street in January 1794, and in 1795 issued an extended syllabus of his course, describing the experiments made as 'Minutes of the Society for Philosophical Experiments and Conversations,' 8vo, London. When, on 14 Dec. 1796, committees were appointed by the House of Assembly, Jamaica, for the improvement of the manufacture of Muscovado sugar and rum, Higgins was engaged to assist them, and he resided at Spanish Town during 1797, 1798, and 1799.

From the above, it would appear that this was certainly unlike the usual scholarly society of the eighteenth century. We have included it in the Scholarly Societies Project because its articles are indexed in Reuss; consequently, persons using the latter index may appreciate some explanation of just what sort of creation this entity was.

As to the founding year, we have adopted the year 1794, since that is the date on which he resumed his lectures in Greek Street, which formed the basis for the Minutes. Since he was out of the country from 1797 to 1799, we have taken the cessation year of this "Society" to be 1796, at latest.

Seat of the Society
City
Authority / Notes
London
England
This location is supported by v.9, pp.817-818 of the Dictionary of National Biography (DNB).
Name of the Society
Dates
Name
Authority
1794 - 1796 Society for Philosophical Experiments and Conversations

We have taken 1794 as the start date, since that is when he resumed his lectures in Greek Street, which were the basis for the Minutes. Since he was out of the country from 1797 to 1799, we have taken the cessation year of this "Society" to be 1796, at latest.

Journals of the Society
Years
Full Journal Title
Abbrev.
Indexed
1795
 
A
Minutes of the Society for Philosophical Experiments and Conversations
[Nat. Lib. Scotland cat.]
Minutes of the Soc. for Philos. Exper.
[Reuss, v.4, p.11]
Minutes of the Soc. for Philos. Experim.
[Reuss, v.3, pp.22, 89]
Minutes of the Soc. for Philos. Experiments
[Reuss, v.3, pp.6, 31, 100]
Minutes of the Soc. for Philosoph. Experiments
[Reuss, v.3, pp.6, 12, 19, 20, 25, 38, 42, 77, 79; v.4, p.260]
Reuss

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