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Encyclopedia > Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge

The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, founded in 1826, was a Whiggish London organisation that published inexpensive texts intended to adapt scientific and similarly high-minded material for the rapidly expanding reading public. It was established mainly at the instigation of Lord Brougham with the objects of publishing information to people who were unable to obtain formal teaching, or who preferred self-education. The Society was sometimes mentioned in contemporary sources as SDUK. The oldest surviving photograph, Nicéphore Niépce, circa 1826 1826 (MDCCCXXVI) was a common year starting on Sunday (see link for calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Tuesday of the 12-day-slower Julian calendar). ... The Whigs (with the Tories) are often described as one of two political parties in England and later the United Kingdom from the late 17th to the mid 19th centuries. ... This article is about the capital of England and the United Kingdom. ... Lord Henry Peter Brougham Baron Brougham & Vaux sitting as Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain Henry Peter Brougham, 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux (September 19, 1778 - May 7, 1868) was Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain. ...



SDUK publications were intended for the working class and the middle class, as an antidote to the more radical output of the pauper presses. The society set out to achieve this by acting as an intermediary between authors and publishers by launching several series of publications. It was run by a committee of eminent persons, and had a close association with the newly formed University College London, as well as the numerous provincial Mechanics' Institutes. Its printers included Baldwin & Cradock who was succeeded by Charles Knight. The Society commissioned work and dealt with the printers, and finally distributed the publications. The term working class is used to denote a social class. ... The middle class (or middle classes) comprises a social group once defined by exception as an intermediate social class between the nobility and the peasantry. ... Affiliations: University of London Russell Group LERU EUA ACU Golden Triangle G5 Website: http://www. ... Historically, Mechanics Institutes were educational establishments formed to provide adult education, particularly in technical subjects, to working men. ... Charles Knight (March 15, 1791 - March 9, 1873) was an English publisher and author. ...


While conceived with high ideals the project gradually failed, as subscribers fell away and sale of publications declined. Charles Knight was largely responsible for what success SDUK publications did have; he engaged in extensive promotional campaigns, and worked to improve the readability of the sometimes abstruse material.[1] Nonetheless many of the titles had little interest to readers, though the Penny Magazine at its peak had a circulation of around 200,000 copies a week. The Society eventually wound up in 1848, though some of its works apparently continued to be published. The Penny Magazine, published every Saturday from Mar 31, 1832 to Oct 31, 1835, was aimed at the working class. ...


Library of Useful Knowledge

One significant set of publications by the SDUK was the Library of Useful Knowledge; sold for a sixpence and published biweekly, its books focused on scientific topics. The first volume, an introduction to the series by Brougham, sold over 33,000 copies. However, attempts to reach the working class market were largely unsuccessful; only among the middle class was there sustained interest in popular science texts.[2] Obverses of the 1787 and 1818 sixpence depicting George III. The sixpence, known colloquially as the tanner, was a British pre-decimal coin, worth, as the name indicates, six pence. ...

Like many other works in the new genre of popular scientific narratives—such as the Bridgewater Treatises and Humphry Davy's Consolations in Travel—the books of the Library of Useful Knowledge focused on natural theology and imbued scientific fields with concepts of progress: uniformitarianism in geology, the nebular hypothesis in astronomy, and the scala naturae in the life sciences. According to historian James Secord, such works met a demand for "general concepts and simple laws", and in the process helped establish the authority of professional science and specialised scientific disciplines.[3] Natural theology is the attempt to find evidence of a God or intelligent designer without recourse to any special or supposedly supernatural revelation. ... Sir Humphry Davy, 1st Baronet FRS (17 December 1778 – 29 May 1829) was a British chemist and physicist. ... Natural theology is the knowledge of God accessible to all rational human beings without recourse to any special or supposedly supernatural revelation. ... Uniformitarianism has had two separate meanings, both more prevalent in 19th-century discourse: Within religious philosophy, Uniformitarianism (with a capital U) is the belief that the Universe has existed as it is now for an infinite time and will continue to exist for ever. ... In this artists conception, a planet spins through a clearing in a nearby stars dusty, planet-forming disc In cosmogony, the nebular hypothesis is the most widely accepted model explaining the formation and evolution of the Solar System. ...

Other SDUK publications

  • Maps, primarily in a two-volume set, and prepared to a very high standard
  • Penny Magazine
  • Penny Cyclopaedia
  • British Almanac (and associated Companion)
  • Library of Entertaining Knowledge
  • Farmers Series
  • Working Man's Companion
  • Quarterly Journal of Education
  • Gallery of Portraits
  • Biographical Dictionary

The Penny Magazine, published every Saturday from Mar 31, 1832 to Oct 31, 1835, was aimed at the working class. ... The Penny Cyclopædia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge was a multi-volume encyclopedia edited by George Long and published by Charles Knight alongside the Penny Magazine. ...

In popular culture

References to the Society are rare in the modern era, but within Steampunk culture, it is not entirely uncommon to refer to the Society itself and/or its better-known publications in an attempt to lend Victorian verisimilitude. For the comic book and the anthology, see Steampunk (comics) and Steampunk (anthology). ...

The in-house publishing organ of the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles is called the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Information. The Museum of Jurassic Technology is a museum located at 9341 Venice Boulevard, in the Palms district of Los Angeles. ...


  1. ^ Secord, Victorian Sensation, pp 48-50
  2. ^ Secord, Victorian Sensation, pp 48-50
  3. ^ Secord, Victorian Sensation, pp 55-62; quotation from p 55.
  • Mead T. Cain, 'The Maps of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge: A Publishing History', Imago Mundi, Vol. 46, 1994 (1994), pp. 151-167.
  • Janet Percival, 'The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, 1826-1848: A handlist of the Society's correspondence and papers', The Library of University College London, Occasional Papers, No 5 1978, ISSN 0309 3352
  • James A. Secord. Victorian Sensation: The Extraordinary Publication, Reception, and Secret Authorship of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation. University of Chicago Press, 2000. ISBN 0-226-74410-8
  • University College London has virtually a complete set of publications and numerous letters from authors and readers and other records.

Affiliations: University of London Russell Group LERU EUA ACU Golden Triangle G5 Website: http://www. ...

External links

  • Mathematics I., a volume in the Library of Useful Knowledge digitized by Google Book Search.

See an 1842 map distributed by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge and published by Charles Knight, Central America. II. Including Texas, California, and the northern states of Mexico / J. & C. Walker, sculpt. hosted by the Portal to Texas History. Google Book Search is a tool from Google that searches the full text of books that Google scans and stores in its digital database. ...

  Results from FactBites:
Russia Part lII. / Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (Great Britain) / 1834 (430 words)
Published under the superintendence of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.
Publication Note: The SDUK, as the Society was known, produced inexpensive maps to encourage broad use in education.
Images may be reproduced or transmitted, but not for commercial use.
Newberry Library: Smith Center Virtual Exhibits (438 words)
These indigenous divisions were used as the basis of the land distribution decisions made in the 1840s in accordance with the Great Mahele - the act that allowed for further division of and privatization of communal land.
This map of West Africa was produced by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, whose mission was to make educational materials widely affordable and available.
The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, 1826-1846: A Social and Bibliographical Evaluation.
  More results at FactBites »



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