top of page


Glyndŵr Pub

Author: Ronald Rees

258 pp



Heroic Science: Swansea and the Royal Institution of South Wales 1835-1865 by Ronald Rees

This book covers the remarkable three decades when Swansea, as well as leading the Industrial Revolution, weas at the forefront of European scientific investigation. It features the interlinking biographies of scientists, revolving around the great meeting of 1848 at the Royal Institute of South Wales. It is a remarkable piece of history. The British Association for the Advancement of Science chose the venue, despite Swansea then having no rail connections, no university and no medical school. Many of Europe’s greatest scientists, including Michael Faraday, made the arduous journey from London to Bristol by stagecoach and then a six-hour crossing by steam-packet to Swansea. The shorter three-hour crossing to Cardiff meant reaching Swansea by coach. Why did they come to Swansea, to the epicentre of the world of these seven ‘heroes of science’?

Partial Preface by Terry Breverton – ‘This was an exciting time for Wales, when Swansea and Swansea scientists were leaders in the Scientific Revolution spreading across Europe and America. At this time Wales could claim other notable scientists – (mentioned in this text, ‘Britain’s best-known and most able chemist’), Alfred Russel Wallace (‘arguably the real founder of Darwinism’), and the great David Hughes (the first man to transmit and receive radio waves and the pioneer of telephones) – the list is seemingly endless of men who contributed to the advancement of thought and action. William Morgan (1750-1830) the nephew of ‘the most original thinker’Wales has ever known, Dr. Richard Price, even invented the X-Ray, in the presence of Benjamin Franklin, 110 years before Roentgen. Along with inventing the vacuum tube, he was the founding father of modern actuarial science! The parameters of these men knew no bounds. They were living on the edge of discovery.

At this time also, George Parry of Ebbw Vale invented a process that he sold, and which became known as ‘the Bessemer Process’, and the invention of Sidney Gilchrist Thomas and his cousin Percy Gilchrist made the global breakthrough which led to the modern steel industry. Yet this is a relatively unknown and unexplored area of history…’

The scientists included are:

John Henry Vivian FRS 1785-1855, Metallurgist, Mineralogist, Leader of the World Copper Industry

Lewis Weston Dillwyn FRS 1778-1855, Pioneer Botanist, Zoologist, Manufacturer of Fine Porcelain (Swansea China)

John Gwyn Jeffries FRS 1809-1885, the First British Conchologist, Pioneer of Deep-Sea Dredging

Sir Henry de la Beche FRS 1796-1855, Geologist, First President of the Geological Society, Founding Director of the Geological Survey of Great Britain

Sir William Edmund Logan FRS FGS 1798-1875, Geologist, Canada’s Most Acclaimed Scientist, Founding Director of the Geological Survey of Canada

Dr Thomas Wiliams MD FRS 1818-1865, Physician, Polymath, Pioneer of Microbiology

William Robert Grove FRS 1811-1896, Physicist, Jurist, Inventor of the Fuel Cell

bottom of page