© National Portrait Gallery, London
Sir George Biddell Airy
by Jean-François Artus Click on the links below to find out more
lithograph, 1872 or after
16 7/8 in. x 11 1/4 in. (430 mm x 285 mm) paper size
The (Secret) Ballot Act is passed. By ending open voting in local and general elections, the act reduced the scope for intimidation at hustings, an important step towards democracy. Previously, voters had to mount a platform and announce their choice of candidate to a recording officer, so although most working men had already been enfranchised, employers were able to punish workers who did not vote for their preferred candidate.
Art and science
George Eliot's novel Middlemarch
is published. Exploring the impact of the 1832 Reform Act on provincial England, and charting the changes in class, politics, art and science in the nineteenth-century, Eliot's novel is widely perceived to be one of the best examples of the English realist novel.
The Metaphysical Club is formed in Cambridge, Massachusetts, by William James (brother of author Henry James), Oliver Wendel Holmes Jr, and Charles Sanders Peirce. The group begins to develop the American philosophy of pragmatism, which held that ideas were simply mental constructs that people formed to help them cope with the world, but which did not exist in an ideal realm.