Species, Serpents, Spirits, and Skulls

by Sherrie Lynne Lyons
Albany (NY): State University of New York Press, 2009. 245 pages.

Reviewer A. Bowdoin Van Riper explains, “Lyons’s concern is with subjects from the outer edges of Victorian science: sea serpents, phrenology, spiritualism, and the spiritual dimensions (if any) of human evolution. The boundary between science and non-science was, she persuasively argues, fluid and sharply contested in Victorian Britain, and these subjects were the intellectual fields on which it was contested.” Van Riper particularly appreciated the chapters on evolutionary theory but felt that the introductory and concluding chapters, advancing general points about the nature of science, were less successful.