This article investigates the background to George Henry Lewes’s testimony at the 1875 Royal Commission on Vivisection, paying particular attention to his role as the sole “private investigator” (amateur physiologist) to testify at the Commission. Lewes’s initial training in medicine in the 1830s, the reawakening of his experimental interests in the 1850s, and his attempts to contribute to debates around the nature of animal reflex actions are discussed. This is followed by an analysis of why amateur and private animal experimentation was by the 1870s increasingly seen as problematic by antivivisectionists concerned about the lack of accountability of scientific experiment to public purview and sentiment and outdated by scientists demanding increasing exactitude in laboratory experiments. This article will be followed by an accompanying second part that will examine Lewes’s 1875 testimony in detail.

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