The committee of the BSLS is delighted to announce that Ralph O'Connor's book The Earth on Show: Fossils and the Poetics of Popular Science, 1802-1856 (U of Chicago P, 2007) has been awarded the Society's first book prize. The book is a deeply-researched, ambitious and elegant account of early nineteenth-century literary and scientific writing on geology. It is likely to prove long-lasting and to be informative and stimulating to specialist scholars as well as to a wider readership.
The prize citation for The Earth on Show was written by the President of the BSLS, Professor Dame Gillian Beer:
"Ralph O'Connor's The Earth on Show is at once spectacular and judicious. He demonstrates the ways earth science declared itself to broad audiences during the Victorian period. He does so by exploring the immense variety of visual display, from panoramas to museums to illustrated books and cartoons. Alongside these examples he analyses how writing also can be made to perform discoveries. These two sources of evidence come together in a
richly argued, very readable, and innovative account that shows a new science making itself by making itself known. Chicago University Press has done a brilliant job, and so has the author."
The shortlist for the book prize (see below) was extremely strong: the six books addressed very different topics, demonstrating some of the breadth of this field, but were all based on detailed, wideranging and original research. Congratulations to all six authors, and above all to Ralph O'Connor.