London: Freethought Publishing Co., 1881.
1st Edition. Hardcover. Very Good. Item #003781
8vo (183 x 124 mm). 144 pp., 2 folding lithographed plates. Original publisher's blindstamped red cloth, upper board lettered in black, original yellow endpapers, folding plate in pocket (spine and inner upper hinge repaired, spine ends scuffed, boards soiled and spotted). Even light browning internally, light dust-soiling to title-page and outer margins, occasional minor dump-soiling, one detached plate placed in slip pocket at inner rear board. Provenance: Wigan Public Library (paper label to front pastedown with printed presentation, signed and dated April 1884 by the author; blind stamps to folding plate and title-page, shelf-mark stamp to verso of title-page). Still very good copy. ----
EXCEEDINGLY RARE FIRST AND ONLY EDITION OF THIS EDUCATIONAL MANUAL, SIGNED PRESENTATION COPY. Annie Besant (1847-1933) was a British socialist, theosophist, freemason, women's rights and Home Rule activist, educationist, and campaigner for Indian nationalism. Regarded as a champion of human freedom, she was a prolific author with over three hundred books and pamphlets to her credit. For fifteen years, Besant was a public proponent in England of atheism and scientific materialism. Besant's goal was to provide employment, better living conditions, and proper education for the poor. She published "Light, Heat, and Sound" in 1881 as a part of her effort to popularize science and to make it more accessible to the general public, particularly to women. At the time, there were very few opportunities for women to study science, and the subject was largely considered to be the domain of men. Besant believed that everyone, regardless of gender or social status, should have the opportunity to learn about science and its applications in everyday life. She saw the book as a way to provide an introduction to the basic principles of physics in a clear and understandable manner. In addition to her advocacy for science education, Besant was also interested in exploring the spiritual aspects of the universe, and her later work as a Theosophist reflected this interest. However, "Light, Heat, and Sound" was primarily focused on explaining the scientific principles behind these phenomena in a way that was accessible to a wide audience and also served as a manual for the Elementary Examinations in South Kensington.
In 1879 Annie Besant became a student at the University of London. This was also through the intercession of her tutor, Edward Aveling, who taught comparative anatomy at the London Hospital. Aveling joined the National Secular Society and began fighting for secularisation alongside his students in Whitechapel, which soon cost him his teaching post at the hospital. Besant took as many courses as possible at the various institutes accredited by London University. "Besant chose a number of experimental science classes, without doubt hoping to put her as yet theoretical scientific knowledge into practice. She studied sound, light, and heat, as well as electricity and magnetism at Birkbeck Institute. She also took courses in acoustics, biology, animal physiology, botany, and mathematics at several other institutions. This demonstrates Besant's vast scientific curiosity, but also her sincerity, for such serious studies went beyond making a symbolic point. Moreover, she had chosen to join the extreme minority of Victorian women who studied science: there were only three women out of the thirty-seven students in her animal physiology class, for instance. Besant proved an excellent student. The National Reformer adopted a Women's Rights habit of reporting her exam results, along those of other female students, in an openly feminist perspective. Besant took up the pen herself, in her 'Daybreak' editorial of 9 July 1882, to rejoice that 'in the awards made by UCL, it is gratifying to notice that where the women students have competed with the men, the women have taken a large proportion of the prizes.' The National Reformer announced that Besant came out of her first year having passed chemistry, mathematics, theoretical mechanics, electricity and magnetism, botany, biology, animal physiology, acoustics, and the study of light" (Muriel Pécastaing-Boissière, p. 112).
"Besant stopped trying for a BSc. when she realized that her chemistry teacher had unjustly failed her, even though she had received a First Class ranking in this subject during her first year. Anyway, by then, she had joined the socialist cause: so this was more a matter of priorities to her than really giving up on a struggle. After being dismissed from the London Hospital, Edward Aveling organized adult classes in the even more aptly named Hall of Science of the NSS. In 1883, no fewer than thirteen weekly science and Latin classes were offered there over thirty weeks, under the Science and Art Department at South Kensington, as well as London University matriculation classes. Besant had taken advanced certificates and qualified as a science teacher in eight different topics. From 1880, she taught some of these classes, soon joined by Alice and Hypatia Bradlaugh, who also took teaching certificates. Over eight years, Besant taught weekly science classes to up to thirty working or lower-middle-class young men and women. She taught elementary animal physiology, advanced chemistry, acoustics, light and heat, electricity and magnetism, and published textbooks. Her students' results stand as proof that Besant must have been an excellent science teacher: in June 1881, the National Reformer proudly announced that two of her fourteen students in elementary animal physiology had received a First Class ranking in South Kensington examination" (Muriel Pécastaing-Boissière, pp. 115-16).
This book is of great rarity. OCLC locates only eight copies in public libraries (two in Europe at British Library and Göttingen University and five in the USA). No copy is recorded at auction. Reference: Muriel Pécastaing-Boissière, Annie Besant (1847-1933) - Struggles and Quest, Theosophical Publishing House, London, 2017, pp. 112-16. Bibliography: OCLC 1467691.
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