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The Dark Path to Knowledge

The Autobiography of John Gough of Kendal (1757-1825), 'Blind Philosopher' and Polymath

Michael Pearson


The eminent physicist-cum-chemist John Dalton remarked that John Gough was ‘one of the most astonishing instances that ever appeared, of what genius united with perseverance and energy and other subsidiary aids can accomplish when deprived of what we usually reckon the most valuable sense’ – a sentiment reiterated verbatim by Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley a founder of the National Trust. What impressed them was the power of his intellect and his astonishing attainments for a man blinded before his third birthday by smallpox. His numerous publications ranged across mathematics, meteorology and atmospheric physics, the nature, transmission and reception of sound by the unsighted, many aspects of natural history and the folklore of his native Westmorland.

Also remarkable is the fact that his manuscript account of his life, supplemented by extensive handwritten biographical notes by his son and amanuensis Thomas Gough, has survived. This book provides a full transcript of John Gough’s autobiography with
supporting footnotes, together with an introduction to his life, a list of publications, and a biographical sketch of his son Thomas who did so much to preserve his father’s memory.

Michael Pearson is a naturalist and local historian. He is a regular contributor to the North Craven Heritage Trust Journal and The Naturalist.

Ian Hodkinson is Professor Emeritus in the School of Natural Science at Liverpool John Moores University. His working life was spent as an invertebrate biologist, working especially on the impact of climate change on Arctic and alpine habitats, but his later research has focused on pioneer naturalists in the Lake District.





Publication Date:

2021 November


Paperback; 210 x 148mm



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