Hamilton Nov 18 1897
Honourable Gentlemen as ido not know any of you personally iam obliged to address you as a collected whole. ineed not tell you that iam an uneducated person, as you shall emediately see that. Nevertheless though this is an acknowledged disadvantage, ihave in spite of it made some discoveries in natural things, which iam not ashamed of, which is also the object of my address to you at this preasant. ineed not say that there is agreat many things in the expanding universe which are undiscovered or rather unexplained as yet. there is for instance sunfuel prominences sunspots corona comets and agreat train of other things which if followed up would bring us to our own earth and to familiar things which are happening in our midst to the right and left. ihope gentlemen that it will not seem presumptious to you for such as i to aspire to adiscovery in these things. it has been said by Hershell that the worth of an idea is its capability to support itself, in keeping with known and observable facts. how it is upon this bases that my idea stands, and as iknow that it is capable of proving its own self true idoe not hesitate in saying so. in the hands of those who are capable of knowing it will immediately confirm itself. i thought iwould comunicate with you first if you see it within your pleasure to corespond with me it is supposed that modern science and the bible is at adissagreement but insted there is aglorious harmony. as it is said in the book of Job he spreadeth the north over the void place, and hangs the world upon nothing. the north means cold, it is as if he said then, he spreadeth the cold over the void place, that would mean space. He spreadeth cold throughout space and hangs the world upon nothing. my discovery makes aring out of all things which goes and returns back into itself. all the aforesaid phenomenon observed by others in vain as galileo says is read and known by me.
Such as sunfuel what is it is, from where it comes, and its formation, the vast corrona what is is, where produced, and what it is tending to be, comets where they have formed, what they are, and what they are going to be, all these great links in the vast chain ihave found and all other links int he chain that encircles.
52 Shaw St.
Scientific and cultural institutions whose claims to expertise are widely accepted may be called upon as authoritative arbiters of ideas, things, and people, all the more so if they claim "public" teaching, research, or cultural mediation roles. The role of arbiter stems from the public space those institutions are perceived to occupy. For most of its history the RASC has been one of those institutions. It is a position which invites requests for information, advice, and approval from members of the public.
Most such requests are reasonable and rational, but not all can be characterized that way. The above letter is valuable because it represents the latter sort of request from over a century ago. The author, James Price, readily admits to not having enjoyed the benefits of a first-class education, but despite that obstacle believed he possessed scientific insight and special knowledge1. What he wanted was the approval of the Society for his theories, although from the evidence of this letter he seemed ill-equipped to explain those theories clearly. He did not gain what he sought. One hopes our predecessors let him down lightly, and advised him where he could find up-to-date scientific information, and how he could cultivate skills for effective self-criticism. It is not that many Society members of the time would have been adverse to forms of natural theology, but rather they would have made more strenuous efforts to adjust their beliefs to the realities of the best science of their day.
Requests such as Mr. Price's are not a thing of the past, as those who do education and public Outreach (EPO) can attest. How we answer what comes out of left field is a test of us, as much as those requests are a measure of those who ask them.
1There were many very competent self-taught amateur scientists from the working classes contemporary with Mr. Price; Allan Chapman, The Victorian Amateur Astronomer: Independent Astronomical Research in Britain 1820-1920 (Chichester-New York-Brisbane-Toronto-Singapore: Wiley & Sons, Praxis Publishing, 1998), pp. 161-218. It's a pity he appreantly wasn't acquainted with any, or if he counted some among his friends, that he didn't listen to them.