George Gabriel Stokes

Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, Cambridge

Natural Theology

Stokes explores ‘hints as to God’s moral government of his creatures’ in a survey of the natural sciences. These lectures range across cosmology, theories of light, the anatomy of the eye, metallurgy and chemistry, and responses to evolution. Using complex scientific exegesis, Stokes finds a materialist understanding of the universe, earth, and man to be untenable. He makes a case against an evolutionary worldview, arguing that the gulf between man and animals suggests that man is a ‘special creation’.


George Gabriel Stokes was born on 13 August 1819 in Skreen, Ireland. A physicist and mathematician, he is known for his studies on the behaviour of viscous fluids and for Stokes’s theorem, a basic hypothesis of vector analysis. Stokes matriculated at Pembroke College, Cambridge in 1837 and graduated Senior Wrangler and first Smith’s prizeman, both prestigious accolades. He was offered a fellowship immediately upon completion of his studies and became the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics in 1849, a post previously held by Sir Isaac Newton.

Secretary of the Royal Society of London for thirty years and president for five, he also represented Cambridge as a parliamentarian at Westminster from 1887 to 1891. Stokes’s major publications and lectures include Mathematical and Physical Papers (1880–1905), On Light: Delivered at Aberdeen University: Burnett Lectures (1887), Natural Theology (1891–1893), ‘The Annual Address of the Victoria Institute: The Perception of Light’ (1895), Röntgen Rays: Memoirs by Röntgen (1899), and (posthumously published) Memoir and Scientific Correspondence of the Late Sir George Gabriel Stokes (1907).

Published/Archival Resources
Published as Natural Theology.