Apparently, 1884 was a transition year for art movements. The Pre-Raphaelite movement was winding down, and Impressionism was still in the developmental stages. The Pre-Raphaelites reacted against the Industrial Revolution, instead focussing on nature. The Impressionists focussed on the fleeting images, transitory plays of light and color. If these themes--the idea that images are transitory and the backlash against industrialism--are indicative of the day, then 1884 was caught between a sort of Voltairesque "back to nature" movement and a Roaring Twenties, "live for the moment" kind of attitude. Neither of these attitudes is particularly conducive to scientific or mathematical discovery. The naturalism portrayed in the Pre-Raphelite art might show a tendency to shy away from the technological aspects of science, and the fleeting nature of Impressionistic works suggests a concern with capturing "the good times," not toiling in laboratories.
On the literary front, the period was just a few years from the naturalistic, pessimistic style of Stephen Crane. In America, William Dean Howells wrote or corruption in the cities, and Mark Twain wrote of corruption everywhere. This was about a decade before the Muckrakers, but the seeds of disillusionment were already being sown. If the art and literature are indicative of the attitudes of the time, 1884 was a time of skepticism, distrust of large cities, and fear of technology--a time that should have provided plenty of fodder for satirists.