In the 1880s, the competing successes of both branches of science --- the real world oriented applied and natural history folks and the lab-bound experimental theory-oriented natural philosophy folks - gave Modernity a doubly fierce intensity of purpose.
Fear complemented Hubris inside their minds.
Applied science and technology had produced the better microscopes and telescopes that forced humanity to see the very small and the very big worlds co-existing with the long familiar medium sized human world.
The age of the beginnings of Life, of the Earth and of the Universe were pushed back into unbelievably distant times.
The scale of Universe was revealed to be as big as the scale of the world of microbes, atoms and molecules was revealed to be small.
Modern steamships and trains and electric telegraphs allowed explorers to more easily visit distant cultures ( distant in remote place or distant back in time) and spread that news worldwide instantly.
Now incredibly more cultures, languages, religions, ideas, foods were shown to exist than were imagined just a few years earlier.
That matched the new vast numbers of animal, plant and microbial species being added years to the relatively static total known a few decades earlier.
This plentitude of plentitudes overwhelmed everybody, none more than the elites who has secured their position at the top of each society's foodchain by creating a hegemony of thought.
Even new foods and new musics, let alone new immigrants or new scientific ideas, presented alternative to that hegemony.
Much worse, the mere idea that alternative visions existed, undercut decisively the claim that any one hegemony could be truly hegemonic.
Fortunately, at the very same time, lab scientists were convincing themselves that all the newly apparent surface variety of reality could be reduced to the simple motions of a few fundamental elemental atoms.
And that man could easily rearrange the abundant - boring - atoms of rock, air and water into anything man could imagine as well as thinks as yet undreamed up.
Reductionism would plenticide all the newly discovered plentitude and restore a simple static vertically oriented heirarchy to the elites' unsettled societies....