What happend with British science from 1870s - 1945?

Feb 2011
British science and its former importance significantly declined in the era. Many nations like USA Germany or the little Hungary outstripped the British science.
One of my history teacher said: The lack of knowledge of higher mathematics in engineering and science caused it. (Britain hadn't world-important mathematician in the Era, and the importance of higher-mathematics was neglected in their universities of technology.

When the self-made-men inventors and slick craftsmen-inventors era unwarrantably declined.
In an era, when the higher logical symbolic thinking and mathematical knowledge became more and more important/determinant in the science....
Aug 2010
Welsh Marches
Actually there was a great expansion in organized scientific research in the UK, centred in the universities, during that period. To take just one example, one only has to think of what was achieved in fundamental research in physics at the Cavendish laborartory in Cambridge, which was founded in 1874 as it happens:
Department of Physics, Cavendish Laboratory - History of the Cavendish
Or to take another example, from the life sciences, from the 1880s Britain became a leading nation in physiological research, after having made only quite limited contributions earlier, making, for instance, fundamental contributions to the study of the nervous system (one only has to think of theachievemnts of Sir Charles Sherrington).

So the premise of the OP is false; what the British were not good at was in exploiting dicoveries in any organized way for industrial purposes, and the British certainly fell behind in fields like engineering, when that passed beyond the swashbuckling stage. So such an argument could be made with regard to applied science.

It is not true that Britain had no mathematicians of international importance in this period; how about G.H.Hardy for instance.


Ad Honorem
Jan 2011
South of the barcodes
Sonar, radar, penicillin, television, splitting the atom, the beginning of gene discovery, inventing the computer, the first jet engine.

Nothing major though, we should have tried harder.