About the object

Experimental philosophy

This token is an admission ticket to one of Dr Erasmus King’s scientific lectures. What we call science today went by different names in the eighteenth century, including ‘natural -‘ or ‘experimental philosophy’. With a mixture of theatre and scientific explanation, King introduced anatomy, astronomy, electricity, mechanics, physics and chemistry to his audiences. He held lectures at his home in Westminster from 1730 to 1756. He also offered daytime courses for women, which he advertised in his wife’s lace shop.

Science as spectacle

Dr King didn’t just explain scientific concepts, he designed devices to demonstrate them.

One example was a rotating model showing the orbits of the sun, moon and earth. King’s audience would have been amazed, especially because the machine was powered by electricity, still a mysterious novelty.

Scientific lectures and demonstrations became popular forms of entertainment in the eighteenth century. King’s use of electricity was tame compared to some. In one (in)famous example, British researcher Stephen Gray suspended a boy from the ceiling and then passed an electric charge through him so that feathers, metal shavings, and other materials defied gravity and rose up into the boy’s hands.

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