The future as seen from the past

Two years ago I was invited to talk in London about science and literature. Being someone who lives in the past (at least in a literary sense), I decided to talk about Jules Verne and H.G.Wells, and if possible to bring in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.


It seemed a fairly straightforward sort of thing to be talking about, but in the end, it turned out to be a little more complex than I had imagined.

The Future as Seen from the Past from Hugh Ashton on Vimeo.

Somewhat to my surprise, I discovered that there was one predominant thread of scientific discovery which appeared to run through the writing of the gentlemen whose works I was examining, and it was one which I was not expecting to be the lynchpin of their plots.

Amazingly, we think of the Victorians as being technologically progressive, but the scientific breakthrough that propelled the works I was looking at was a softer science, biology.

Biology, and above all, evolution, was the discipline that in some way triggered and formed a large part of the books that I examined. A very different sort of scientific advance to the one I was expecting.

The whole lecture is available as a free ebook below, in either Kindle (mobi) or general (Kobo, iPad, etc.) formats.

Click on the book cover, and download the file. Follow the usual “sideload” method to read it on your e-reader.

Kindle edition
EPUB edition

Please feel free to leave comments.

PS – the man at the top and I attended the same college (though not, of course, at the same time)