Who even was in school for most of Mason’s life and what was going on in education in the later part of the century? Read/skim Chapter 6 at the Education in England site to get an overview. Note especially the 1862 Revised Code or “Payment-by-Results” system and some of the consequences of it. This excerpt from “Science, Technology and Education: England in 1870” by Margaret Gowing explains some of the issues at that time:
evening science classes for artisans were scattered thinly round the country; a poor secondary education system included very little science; university education was seriously deficient in quality and quantity; two higher schools of science had a mere sprinkling of students. Furthermore, the supply of places even at this low level exceeded demand and, as parents and boys alike had feared, science students could not always find jobs.