Thursday, July 20, 2017

CFP - Science Studies and the Blue Humanities

Configurations, the journal of SLSA (The Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts) is seeking submissions for a special issue on Science Studies and the Blue Humanities, edited by Stacy Alaimo. We are interested in essays, position papers, provocations, and artist statements that explore the significance of science studies for the development of the blue humanities. As oceans and bodies of fresh water increasingly become sites for environmentally-oriented arts and humanities scholarship, how can the emerging blue humanities best engage with the theories, questions, paradigms, and methods of science studies? How do questions of scale, temporality, materiality, and mediation emerge in aquatic zones and modes? How can literature, art, data visualization, and digital media best respond to the rapidly developing sciences of ocean acidification and climate change as well as the less publicized concerns such as the effect of military sonar on cetaceans? Work on postcolonial/decolonial science studies, Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), indigenous sciences, and citizen science especially welcome. Please submit 5,000-7,000 word essays; 3,000 word position papers or provocations; or 2,000 word artist statements (with one or two illustrations or a link to a digital work); to Stacy Alaimo, alaimo[at], by February 1, 2018, for consideration. All essays will be peer-reviewed, following the standard editorial procedures of Configurations.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Dates for Michaelmas Term 2017

The John Watson Building Stones Collection: photograph by Sedgwick Museum.

Our meeting dates for next term are now fixed as Mondays 16th and 30th October, and 13th and 27th November, from 7.30-9pm. Since we will be completing our tour of the four ancient elements with a set of readings on 'Earth', we have an appropriate new venue: the Watson Gallery in the Department of Earth Sciences. Many thanks indeed to Simon for arranging this!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Recap - Sea

Thanks to the mild summer evening, we were able to hold our last meeting of term once more on the margins of the water, in the riverside gardens of Darwin College. Marie introduced our two readings by Rachel Carson, taking us through Carson's career, the relationship between scientific practice and science-writing in the mid-twentieth century, and women in science. As the introduction to Lost Woods revealed: 'What is remarkable is not that Carson produced such a small body of work, but that she was able to produce it at all' (xi).

We thought about the literary strategies Carson employed in 'Undersea', and its similarities with and differences from 'The Edge of the Sea': her precision or vagueness, imagery and comparisons, and evocation of previous classics of scientific literature, from Lyell's Principles to Darwin's Origin. We discussed Carson's ecological and environmental awareness, and her striking early illustrations of the interconnected effects of climate change. We went on to consider what was known about the depths of the sea (or les profondeurs, in Marie's favoured terminology) at the time Carson was writing, and how new discoveries of phenomena such as hydrothermal vents have reframed our understanding of the deep as a more active and energetic place, rather than a gloomy stillness punctuated by monstrous creatures (pictures of which Marie showed us). Carson's mention of foraminifera provided Simon with an opportunity to bring along some fabulous actual and 3D-printed examples from the Department of Earth Sciences' teaching collection (photographs below).

Overall, a fantastic end to what has been a thoroughly enjoyable term's conversations on and around four marvellous readings. Next stop, Earth...

Thursday, June 22, 2017

One-Day Colloquium - Theatrical Ecologies and Environments in the Nineteenth Century

Organised in conjunction with Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film

School of Theatre & Performance Studies and Cultural & Media Policy Studies
Millburn House, University of Warwick, CV4 7HS
Saturday 1 July 2017, 9am–6pm

All are warmly invited to attend this one-day colloquium on Theatrical Ecologies and Environments in the Nineteenth Century. Ecocriticism is a hot topic in both Theatre Studies and Nineteenth-Century Studies, yet the environment is still an under-examined area within nineteenth-century theatre circles. This symposium presents a series of panels and speakers addressing this topic from a wide range of perspectives.

Speakers and papers include:
  • Kirsten Shepherd-Barr, 'Behind the Limelight: Theatre's Working Environment'
  • Ann Featherstone, 'Sagacious Canines and Brave Brutes: Re-discovering the Victorian Dog-drama'
  • Michael Gamer, 'Master Betty vs. Carlo the Wonder Dog: The Year of Child/Animal Actors'
  • George Taylor, 'Stedman, Surinam and Theatrical Exoticism at the start of the Nineteenth Century'
  • Cristina Fernandes Rosa, 'Nature, Ecology and Sustainability in Nineteenth-Century Ballet'
  • Susan Anthony, 'Gothic Plays: Supernatural vs. Forces of Nature'
  • Victoria Wiet, 'The Actress in Nature: The Environments of Artistic Development in Victorian Fiction and Life-writing'
  • Katie Jarvis, 'Ecologies of Imperialism: Amazonian Waterlilies, Fairies and Inter-ecosystem Performance'
  • Christina Vollmert, 'Staging Technology: The International Electrotechnical Exhibition in Frankfurt-am-Main, 1891'
  • Evelyn O'Malley, '"Natural" Shakespeare in the Garden'
  • Jiwon Min, 'The Melodramatic Ecology in Nineteenth-Century Theatre'
  • Alexis Harley, 'Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology: the Geological Sublime and the Romantic Theatre'
  • Victoria Garlick, 'The Broadhead Theatre Circuit: An Environmental Perspective'

The fee for this colloquium is £25 per person (reduced registration fee of £15 for PGRs), payable on the day. Lunches/refreshments will be provided; however, delegates are asked to arrange and cover the cost of their own travel and accommodation. Please note that the nearest train station to the campus is in Coventry. Link to registration, directions and accommodation details can be found at: For further information about this event, please contact Patricia Smyth at or Jim Davis at

Theatrical Ecologies and Environments in the 19th Century

Talk - 'Dissolving The Two Cultures: New Histories of Sciences and Humanities in Early Modern Europe'

Dr Nicholas Popper, College of William & Mary

Venue: Small Committee Room (K0.31), King’s College London, King’s Building

Date: 11:30 – 12:30, Thursday 29 June 2017

Abstract: Scholars in recent decades have challenged a crude historical dialectic that posed the scientific revolution as a modernizing challenge to the sclerosis of literary-oriented humanism. Instead, they have shown that the innovative models and methods devised by early modern luminaries like Francis Bacon and Galileo Galilei adapted elements of a dynamic contemporary humanistic culture. Similarly, though less well explored, scholars have shown that practices associated with the scientific revolution such as quantification and empiricism were significant to contemporary politics, history, and law as well. Natural philosophy, astronomy, natural history, philology, history, and art were often intertwined, and imposing a hard boundary between “science” and the “humanities” in the early modern period now appears anachronistic.

Nonetheless, fundamental assumptions rooted in this dichotomy still pervade early modern history of science and intellectual history, and consequently, we still misunderstand the transformations that took place between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. Taking the role of quantification in historical scholarship as a test case, my chapter proposes that mapping the flow of practices across intellectual communities will supply a new logic and narrative for early modern intellectual history. This approach, I argue, will deepen our understanding of the linkages joining early modern Europe’s cultures of knowledge, while also demonstrating how the formation of disciplines and the cleavage of science from the humanities in the late seventeenth century was itself achieved through shifts in practice.

Nicholas Popper is associate professor of history at the College of William and Mary. He is the author of Walter Ralegh’s History of the World and the Historical Culture of the Late Renaissance (Chicago, 2012). He works on early modern intellectual history, history of science, political practice, and the history of the book. His current project examines how the proliferation of archives and manuscript collecting transformed politics and epistemology in early modern Britain. To help with planning, it would be greatly appreciated if you rsvp to: angel-luke.o’'

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Call for Chapters - Posthuman Pooh: Edward Bear after 100 Years

Deadline for Submissions: August 31, 2017

Full name / Name of Organization: Jennifer Harrison, East Stroudsburg University, USA

Contact email:

I am currently seeking chapter submissions for an edited volume celebrating the centenary in 2026 of A. A. Milne's The World of Pooh. As classics from the "golden age" of children's literature, Milne's Pooh stories have received considerable attention from critics and fans over the years; however, less critical attention has been devoted to the continuing relevance of the Pooh phenomenon in contemporary children's culture. As recent critics have discussed, the Pooh stories are complex and multifaceted, written in many different modes and employing a vast array of different narrative styles and techniques; they have also undergone transformation and adaptation into a plethora of related cultural artefacts.

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of The World of Pooh, therefore, this volume will explore Pooh in light of cutting-edge children's literature and culture theory, with a particular focus on the stories as addressing the fundamentally modern posthuman concern with interrogations of the boundaries between the human and the non-human, the material and the immaterial.

Submissions of an interdisciplinary nature are particularly welcome, as are submissions which examine the relationship between the texts and modern adaptations and artefacts. Some potential areas of exploration might include:
  • The blurring of human-animal-toy boundaries
  • Explorations of space and place within the stories
  • Adaptations for film and TV
  • The marketing of the Pooh franchise
  • Explorations of time within the stories
  • Material culture and artefacts within the stories
  • Bodies and identity within the stories
  • Postcolonial and ecocritical readings

However, this list is nowhere near exhaustive and I am happy to consider any submission which focuses on the Pooh stories and their role in modern children's culture.

I hope to include chapters by authors from a variety of disciplines and viewpoints, reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of current studies in children's literature and culture, as well as the diverse relevance of the Pooh stories in modern children's culture. Please submit a 500-word chapter abstract and a biography of no more than 250 words by August 31, 2017, to:

You can also see a digital version of the CFP at:

All proposed abstracts will be given full consideration, and submission implies a commitment to publish in this volume if your work is selected for inclusion. If selected, completed chapters will be due by December 30, 2017.

All questions regarding this volume should be directed to:

I look forward to what I hope will be a stimulating and exciting array of submissions on this fascinating topic!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Conference - The Society of Arts and the Encouragement of Mineralogy and Geology, 1754-1900

The registration page is open for the forthcoming HOGG conference, The Society of Arts and the Encouragement of Mineralogy and Geology, 1754-1900, to be held on 9th November, 2017 at the Geological Society, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London.

For more information and to register, please see the website.

The Society of Arts’ role in the history of geology and mineralogy is a generally overlooked aspect of development of our disciplines, which this conference will begin to rectify and, hopefully, to stimulate further research. We look forward to seeing you there. Please feel free to forward this notice to friends and colleagues who could be interested but who may not yet be members of the History of Geology Group.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Play reading at Whipple - Isaac's Eye

This Wednesday at the Whipple Museum, we are hosting a free staged reading of Isaac's Eye, a play by Lucas Hnath, 17.00 - 19.00, in connection with 'Staging the History of Science', the exhibition at the Whipple Library by Julia Ostmann and Alona Bach, HPS MPhil students. The Whipple Library will be open from 16.30 - 17.00 to view the exhibition.

When young Isaac Newton meets the great Robert Hooke - the most famous and powerful scientist in Britain - the resulting battle of intellects and egos pulses with wit, humour and tension. Presented in conjunction with 'Staging the History of Science', an exhibition at the Whipple Library.

Arrive from 16.30 to visit the library exhibition.

This amateur production is presented by arrangement with Josef Weinberger Ltd.

Free. Please arrive on time.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

26th June - Sea

Our final meeting of our aquatic terms goes under the sea, reading two pieces by Rachel Carson: 'Undersea', from the  Atlantic Monthly (1937), 322-325, and 'The Edge of the Sea', an address to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1953). Both are republished in Linda Lear (ed.), Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson (1999), or contact MK for a copy.

We meet at Darwin College in our old venue of the Newnham Grange Seminar Room from 7.30-9pm on Monday 26th June.

All welcome!

Recap - Ice

Our third meeting of term took to the Victorian stage and the Arctic wilderness as we discussed The Frozen Deep by Wilkie Collins (with significant input from one Charles Dickens). Simon and his cardboard cast gave a wonderful introduction to the play's influences (notably the 1845 Franklin expedition and the lost Erebus and Terror, the great mystery of which continued to fascinate audiences back in Britain), its writing, dramatis personae, and initially rapturous reception in 1856 (even the set's carpenters were weeping), before a failed attempt at a revival a decade later. Using clips from The Invisible Woman (a 2013 film), he reflected on the play's connections to the unconventional personal lives of both Collins and Dickens.

We went on to discuss several key themes of the play: we explored its presentation of the relationship between destiny and precognition, as epitomised in the striking visions (or 'Claravoyance') of a key character, and links to contemporary interests in spiritualism and clairvoyance (perhaps getting a bit more unfashionable by the mid-1860s?), or the drawing of lots between officers and men; we looked at the work's theatricality (for instance in its staged vision), its drama and melodrama, and how even though it is set in a larger Arctic landscape its acts present a series of three interlinked chamber pieces with quite domestic situations, and the intervening perils only alluded to through (characteristically clunky) expository monologues (with a hint of Monty Python, we thought?).

We thought about why the Artic setting might matter, or not? Was it just a conveniently fashionable location, or - with its connotations of peril, extremity, and isolation - did both supernatural phenomena seem closer to the surface, and also deeper emotions and motivations possible to access? The character of Richard Wardour, in particular, seemed key: was he, as Dickens's biographer Claire Tomalin suggested, an opportunity for Dickens to play a man who overcame his instincts to make a final great sacrifice? Was he someone with frozen emotions until galvanised by a particular situation, or hot-headed throughout? Indeed, we explored whether characters (the Dickens influence?) or plot (the Collins influence?) could be seen as the play's primary driving force.

Overall, a lively discussion and very helpful comments from all who attended: thanks to everyone! Next time we move off from the floating ice-sheets to submerge ourselves under the sea with two pieces by Rachel Carson.

Other songs, poems, etc., referred to in our discussion (with special thanks to the Canadians):

'The Cremation of Sam McGee' by Robert W. Service 

Simon's cardboard cast, as captured by Charissa.

Cambridge BRAINFest - 23-25 June

Cambridge BRAINFest is a public free festival of brain research that will bring together >130 neuroscientists from across Cambridge to present ground breaking research in 30 interactive exhibits covering themes of Development', 'Brain & Body', 'Pain & Pleasure', 'Imagination & Perception' and 'Learning & Forgetting', spanning research from molecule to man. In addition, we will have Q&A sessions with experts at Café Scientifique, BRAINArt (featuring local schools), secret cinema, build-a-brain workshops, an historical self guided neurotrail and interactive neurotheatre, an evening 'Variety Showcase' (with public lectures covering the dyslexic brain, the degenerating brain and the obese brain interspersed with the story of Parkinson's disease through dance and living with dementia through poetry) and an evening of 'Brains & Mental Health' (a question time styled panel discussion, hosted by Professor Sir Simon Wessely, featuring an expert panel). The theme of the evening will focus on how mental illnesses are disorders of the brain, the ongoing research that will help us better understand and treat these disorders and how we can bridge the existing gap between neuroscience research and current practice in the health service. Please see programme flyer attached.

We hope that Cambridge BRAINFest will not only provide opportunities for mutual learning between scientists and members of the public, but also facilitate the transition of research findings into real life applications within a diverse range of public policy areas including health, education and law.

Join the conversation on @CamNeuro #CambridgeBRAINfest and on Facebook

Programme of events | Open to the public, FREE |
Bookings now open! (for evening events)
No booking required for the Cambridge Corn Exchange daytime events

Friday 23rd June 2017

19:00-21:00 Cambridge BRAINFest Variety Showcase

Babbage Lecture Theatre, University of Cambridge

Booking now open!


Saturday 24th June 2017

10:00-15:30 Thematic Showcase, Corn Exchange main auditorium

10:30-15:30 Café Scientifique @ Cambridge BRAINFest, St John's room

10:00-15:30 BRAINArt @ Cambridge BRAINFest, Corn Exchange foyer

10:00-15:30 Secret Cinema @ Cambridge BRAINFest, The King's room

19:00-21:00 Brains & Mental Health @ Cambridge BRAINFest

Babbage Lecture Theatre, University of Cambridge

Booking now open!


Sunday 25th June 2017

10:00-16:00 Thematic Showcase, Corn Exchange main auditorium

10:00-16:00 Café Scientifique @ Cambridge BRAINFest, St John's room

10:00-16:00 BRAINArt @ Cambridge BRAINFest, Corn Exchange foyer

10:00-16:00 Secret Cinema @ Cambridge BRAINFest, The King's room


Additional notes

BRAINArt is an exhibition of brain associated art by local children. In the lead up to Cambridge BRAINFest, we visited 1400 students, talked about the brain and 'hopefully' inspired the students to create brain art. A selection of their artwork will be on display throughout the festival in the foyer of the Cambridge Corn Exchange.

Secret Cinema - The King's Room at the Corn Exchange will be transformed into the Cambridge BRAINFest secret cinema. Festival goers will be able to take a break from the showcase exhibit downstairs and view a collection of films from across the Cambridge Neuroscience community. The secret cinema will run for the duration of the festival and details will be provided in the programme and on information screens throughout the festival.

Cambridge Neurotrail is a walking self guided map of Cambridge with neuroscience points of historical interest. We can provide copies of this to you and your guides/ambassadors.

Hopefully this has been useful to you but please let me know if you need any more details.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Job - Research Fellow, 'Land Lines: Modern British Nature Writing, 1789–2015' (funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council)

Led by Professor Graham Huggan, with co-investigators Dr David Higgins (University of Leeds), Dr Christina Alt (University of St Andrews) and Dr Will Abberley (University of Sussex), the project’s main aim is to produce a co-written book, contracted to Cambridge University Press, on modern British nature writing, but it will also involve a variety of academic and engagement activities working with partners including the Booth Museum and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

You will play a full role in the research and impact agenda of the project. You will work with Professor Huggan and Dr Higgins to organise the project conference in 2018 and will play a key role in liaising with project partners and ensuring that the project engages academic and non-academic audiences. You will also be supported to conduct your own related research and publication in ecocriticism and/or the environmental humanities.

You will have a PhD in English, with a specialism in ecocriticism and/or the environmental humanities. You will also have experience of conducting research and the ability to contribute to the research culture of the School and other project-related bodies at the University.

To explore the post further or for any queries you may have, please contact:

Professor Graham Huggan, Principal Investigator, email:

Jobs - Post-Doc Positions on a Narrative Science Project

Applications are invited for 3 Post-Docs to work on the EU-funded project Narrative Science under the direction of the principal investigator, Professor Mary S. Morgan at the London School of Economics. This team project will investigate how, when, and why scientists use narratives to explain their work within their own communities. Each researcher will develop their own case materials within the overall project, working - by agreement with the project leader - on particular topics and fields of science past and present.

It is expected that candidates will have a PhD in history of science, or a closely related field (including narrative studies, science communication, etc) provided you have some experience of historical research work; or you must have an equivalent track record of independent and original research.

As part of their application, candidates are asked to write a brief response to the larger project summary, found here.

The job advert is found here (which links to further details and tells you how to apply). The closing date is June 22nd.

There will shortly also be an advert for a Research Fellow to help run the project, and to curate a web-based 'library' of case studies in narrative science.

Candidates are welcome to apply to both.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Event - Mathematics meets art at Isaac Newton Institute

A conversation with artist Nigel Hall RA 19 July 2017

The Isaac Newton Institute is proud to offer an open invitation to an audience with artist Nigel Hall RA.

Scheduled as part of INI's 25th anniversary celebrations, the event will examine the complex and inspiring relationship between art and mathematics, told via the medium of Nigel Hall's compelling geometric artworks. Nigel, whose works are exhibited across the globe from New York's Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) to the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, will be joined by Dr Dorothy Buck (Reader in Biomathematics, Imperial College London; co-organiser of INI's HTL programme) and Barry Phipps (Fellow and Curator of Works of Art, Churchill College).

A selection of maquettes, framed drawings and a major outdoor sculpture will be on display in and around INI from 20 June until 18 August, and available for guests to experience during the event. Through them, Nigel's work aims to explore: "the governing principles of how we experience the world, and how to express this in its most refined way with clarity, order and calm".

WHERE? Isaac Newton Institute, 20 Clarkson Road, CB3 0EH
WHEN? 19 July 2017 at 17:00

Light refreshments will be provided

Whipple Library exhibition launch today - 'Staging the History of Science'

A final reminder about the launch event today (Thursday 1 June) to celebrate the installation of 'Staging the History of Science; an exhibit in three acts' by HPS MPhil students Julia Ostmann & Alona Bach. The display is looking very good, and the launch promises to be a fun event, running from 5.30-6.45pm (approx.).

Access is via the Library's 'evening entrance' in Storey's Gate (off Pembroke Street, or go out of the back door of the Dept and turn sharp right), and a member of staff will be there to welcome you if your card is not active for the swipe door. You are welcome to turn up on spec, but if you can sign up via the following form there's a greater chance we'll have enough refreshments:

With thanks and best wishes from all at the Whipple.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

5th June - Ice

Our next meeting will take place on Monday 5th June at Darwin College: we will be reading The Frozen Deep by Wilkie Collins.  Further reading is available here, or why not listen to an extract from its Overture here?

All welcome!

Recap - Rain

On what was one of the sunniest and warmest days of the year so far, we met to discuss Ray Bradbury's 'Death-By-Rain', or 'The Long Rain'. Liz gave a fantastic introduction, which introduced not only Bradbury's own life and ambitions (to 'prevent' not just to 'predict' the future), and the film version of the set text (see above), but also set 'The Long Rain' in a context of 1920s-1960s Venus stories. Based on observations of the planet's cloud cover, these tales often depicted Venus as a water-world: a tropical jungle, humid, warm, and uniform, akin to a prehistoric Earth. Bradbury's story - Liz showed - used this setting for a extreme adventure narrative, looking at the psychological and sensory experiences of people trying to navigate such an unforgiving landscape.

Our discussion followed on from these themes, to explore how Bradbury focused on the reactions of his militaristic men to the situation they were in (with, perhaps, slight inconsistencies or unanswered questions of plot or detail), rather than providing an omniscient overview. We looked at his ways of describing the rain - whether through the repetition of the word 'rain', to place the reader, like his characters, under its ceaseless or even torturing presence; or through passages where the rain took on more of a character or agency, posing for photographs, turning into monstrous forms and storms. We considered how the protagonists became unmoored in time and space, with fast-growing vegetation and aimless wandering, bleached- and leached-out bodies and hopeless futures; and wondered what on earth (or on Venus) they were doing there. Finally, we considered the story's ambiguous ending: was the heavenly-sounding Sun Dome just too good to be true?

Our next meeting - continuing to be seasonally inappropriate, and to think about extreme adventures - will be a discussion of The Frozen Deep.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Talk - 'Polar Opposites: American and Norwegian voices in the exploration of Franz Josef Land'

P.J. Capelotti (Professor of Anthropology, Penn State University), Scott Polar Research Institute (Lecture Theatre), Tuesday, 13 June at 4.30pm

Capelotti will discuss his research into the history of place names in Franz Josef Land, and read from his new book The Greatest Show in the Arctic: the American exploration of Franz Josef Land, 1898-1905. This delves deeply into three fatally flawed American attempts to reach the North Pole from the Russian archipelago of Franz Josef Land between 1898 and 1905. The expeditions were led, in turn, by a nationally-syndicated journalist running from debts, a mistress, and an illegitimate daughter; a deranged meteorologist with a fetish for balloons and Swedish conserves; and a pious photographer in search of God in the Arctic. All three leaders were supported by international casts of characters worthy of a three-ring circus. Two of the expeditions were haunted by still-unexplained deaths and all witnessed both improbable triumphs and ultimate failures.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

CFP - Reading Euclid in the early modern world: research workshop

Thursday and Friday 14 and 15 December 2017, All Souls College, Oxford

Euclid's Elements of Geometry was highly visible in early modern culture: a touchstone for mathematical training as well as a spur to new mathematical research throughout the period. In this period dozens of editions of the Elements were printed, and it was certainly the most widely read mathematical book of the time. Different editors made very different choices about the content and layout of the Elements and the other works attributed to Euclid, based on different assumptions about the meaning and authenticity of the texts and their component parts. Likewise, different readers approached the text in very different ways, bringing to it very different assumptions about the use of (printed) texts, and about the kind of text the Elements was and the kind of attention it deserved: logical or philological, geometrical or practical. Many readers annotated the text, and many selected sections for copying into exercise books. During this period, standards of geometrical proof were being actively questioned by mathematicians, but geometrical methods were being deliberately brought into other fields such as medicine, physics, and philosophy.

This workshop will consider the ways early modern people engaged with Euclid's works – from schoolchildren and artisans to teachers and scholars – and attempt to understand their role in their lives and in culture. It will examine the unique cultural position Euclidean geometry occupied and how that position was shaped and maintained. Invited speakers will include Renee Raphael, Robert Goulding, Catherine Jami, Sabine Rommevaux, Sebastien Maronne, Yelda Nasifoglu and Philip Beeley.

Proposals for papers are invited on all aspects of early modern reading of and engagement with the works of Euclid. Proposals should include an abstract of no more than 250 words and a brief CV, and should be emailed to by 1 August 2017. The conference can provide accommodation, and contribute to travel costs, for speakers.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

22nd May - Rain

Our second meeting of term will take place at Darwin College from 7.30-9pm in 1 Newnham Terrace. We will be reading a short story by Ray Bradbury, first published as 'Death-By-Rain' in Planet Stories (1950), and then as 'The Long Rain' in several collections of his short stories, including The Illustrated Man (1951). Editions of The Illustrated Man are available in the University Library, or contact MK for a copy of the story.

All welcome!

Recap - River

We began our term's readings with 'water's soliloquy', the wonderful Dart by Alice Oswald. A lively conversation flowed - just like the poem's Protean protagonist (Proteagonist?) - from voice to voice, place to place, topic to topic, well-chosen word to well-chosen word.

Sound loomed large: we foregrounded the poem's connections to oral traditions and its effectiveness when spoken out loud; we considered Oswald's research process recording a variety of interviews to ensure the poem was 'made from the language of people who live and work on the Dart', 'who know the river'; we reflected on her mental compositional practices while constructing her 'sound-map', or 'songline'.

Drawing these voices together into the 'mutterings' of the river provided a sense of shifts in perspectives and of being somewhat adrift in time: former trades and industries of the region sat alongside cutting-edge technologies (both commercial and leisurewear). However, we felt the poem avoided nostalgia or sentimentalism; indeed, its commitment to evoking a particular multifaceted landscape prompted a more nuanced set of environmental concerns. (We felt we would come back to these more ecological or political concerns when reading Rachel Carson later in the term.)

The glimpses of people or views moved past the reader, some members of the group thought, like those glimpsed through the window of a train -  just enough detail for each person to make them feel like a rounded character, but leaving one wanting more. All of these different voices, we felt, claimed an ownership of the river, or at least a synecdochic part of it (a bank, a bend), as theirs. The reliance on the river, and its central place in their lives, was clear, and our thoughts on this topic were immeasurably enhanced by the contributions of two participants who had grown up around the Dart. They agreed that there was a sense of place specific to this river, and which Oswald had been able to capture and convey.

The reading experiences of group members were shared, whether rushing through, revelling in its sounds and imagery, before returning with a more deliberate approach to Oswald's unusual but apposite vocabulary; or being confronted by the poem's difficulty, and considering the problems of translation. Throughout, it was felt the poem's interconnectedness and interdisciplinary nature, drawing on myth, memory, or even the natural historical gory spectacle of an eel eating its way out of a heron (yuck!), shows how the river brings together these voices, images, vocabularies, and authorities as complementary sources of expertise, while paying homage to the wider connotation of rivers as lifeblood.

Overall, then, a marvellous session to start the term, and a pleasure to see new, familiar, and returning participants. Next, we face the Venusian rain, and I'm not sure a brolly will be enough to protect you...

Monday, May 08, 2017

Show - Song of Contagion

Song of Contagion hits the stage in London on June 13-17th. The show mashes the world's great musical traditions together into a show that explores how industry lobbying, patient activism and media hype interact to distort priority setting in global health. You can book tickets here. More about the show and the project here.

If you've never been to Wilton's, it's worth coming to the show just to see this fantastic Victoran-era music hall in all its crumbling, East End glory (the BBC Proms follow us to Wilton's in July). Come also, of course, because Song of Contagion will be thought-provoking and damned good fun. Wilton's is within walking distance of the last cholera outbreak in London (1866) - the subject of one of our songs.

On Saturday June 17th, London historian, guide and all-round great entertainer Sophie Campbell will lead a walk exploring how the disease, and the great Victorian engineering project that wiped it out, affected Londoners. Sign up here.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Screening - William Herschel and the Universe: a film by George Sibley

 On March 13th, 1781, in his own back yard, using a telescope he built himself, a 42-year old musician named William Herschel found a new planet for the first time in history. That discovery doubled the size of the known solar system and would change not only his own life, but astronomy as well. William Herschel and the Universe, by Florida film maker George Sibley, tells the story of how a previously unknown amateur astronomer and his telescopes took the scientific world by storm.

Special showing in seminar room 2, Department of History & Philosophy of Science, Free School Lane, Cambridge CB2 3RH 6 June 2017, 4pm Introduced by the filmmaker George Sibley, the film will be followed by a Q&A with George Sibley and Simon Schaffer.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Seminar - ‘Literature, experiment and eighteenth-century balloons: light verse and other flying hits’

This upcoming seminar in the Faculty of English will be of interest to any who enjoyed our ballooning adventures in the air last term:

This term’s second and final meeting of the English Faculty’s 18th-Century and Romantic Studies seminar will take place on Thursday 11th May at 5pm in the Board Room, Faculty of English. Prof. Clare Brant (King’s College London) will speak on the subject, ‘Literature, experiment and eighteenth-century balloons: light verse and other flying hits.’ A synopsis of the paper follows below. All are welcome.

“In 1783, fire balloons were successfully sent aloft by the Montgolfiers, and swiftly joined by balloons raised by gas. The philosophical and practical consequences of these experiments were immense: at last humans could fly. What would they do with this astonishing opportunity? In the period of balloon madness which followed, writers took up the subject with enthusiasm. Balloons inspired heroic poems, satires, fictions, epigrams, sonnets and philosophical verse. As it celebrated aerial achievements and aired thoughtful ambivalence, the literature of balloons played with experiment and enlightenment. It also has an interesting tendency to light verse, which invites new critical thinking. My presentation discusses some highlights from the literature of balloon madness.”
Those wishing to undertake some preparatory reading should request the recommended article and poems from Christopher Tilmouth, Faculty of English.

Clare Brant is Professor of Eighteenth-Century Literature & Culture at King’s College London, where she co-directs the Centre for Life-Writing Research. Her book Eighteenth-Century Letters and British Culture won the ESSE Book Award of 2008; her book Balloon Madness: Flights of Imagination 1783-1786 will be published by Boydell & Brewer this autumn.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Exhibition - People, Politics and the International Geophysical Year

Talk - 'Lewis Carroll and Darwin'

Children's Literature Children's Lives is pleased to announce our next event:

Laura White, "Lewis Carroll and Darwin."
 Tuesday 30th May 2017 5:30 – 7pm.Room 218, Arts Two, Queen Mary University of London.

As has long been understood by scholars, Carroll's Alice books revel in complex jokes about Darwinian theory. But what did Carroll really make of Darwin's challenge to older thinking about nature, and what then are the satiric objects of his nonsensical jokes, such as the evolutionarily-challenged Mock Turtle? This presentation will examine the evidence concerning Carroll's views of Darwin and explore the nature of his jokes on Darwinian ideas.

Laura White is John E. Weaver Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the author of several books on Jane Austen, her last being Jane Austen's Anglicanism (Ashgate, 2011). She has also published widely on interdisciplinary topics in nineteenth-century British culture and literature, and has recently inaugurated a data-mining site on Austen's diction, Austen Said ( Her most recent book, The Alice Books and the Contested Ground of the Natural World, is forthcoming from Routledge this spring.

This event is free but please RSVP
We look forward to seeing you there!

With best regards,

Lucie and Kiera


Children's Literature/ Children's Lives

Children's Literature/ Children's Lives is part of the Centre for Childhood Cultures

8th May - River

We begin our explorations of water by discussing Alice Oswald's marvellous river-poem, Dart (2002), on Monday 8th May at Darwin College from 7.30-9pm. A version should be available online here for those with University access, and editions of the book can also be found in several College, University, and local libraries. For full details of the term's readings please see this previous post.

All welcome!

HPS Departmental Seminars, Easter Term 2017

(Group members might be particularly interested in the frog-related talk on 25th May!)

Departmental Seminars, History and Philosophy of Science
Thursdays, 3:30-5pm, HPS Seminar Room, with tea from 3pm

4 May
Heather Douglas (University of Waterloo)
The materials for trust-building in expertise

The need for expertise is undisputed in today's complex society, but what expertise is, how to identify it, and how to build trust in it is hotly contested. Some philosophers presume that experts should be trusted and provide cursory means of assessment. Other philosophers argue that only experts can identify other experts, and thus we can do nothing but trust experts and hope for the best. Still other philosophers rightly point out that experts have failed some groups of people (and been part of past injustices), so trust is something that must be earned. This debate takes place against a backdrop of an increasing rejection of expertise in Western democracies, and thus addressing these issues takes on some urgency. In this talk, I will argue that expertise consists of a fluency of judgement in a complex terrain. While such fluency cannot be transferred to non-experts quickly or easily (we cannot all become experts in everything), expertise can and should be assessed by non-experts. I will articulate plausible bases for assessment experts by non-experts, and argue that crucial trust-building materials are to be found among them.

11 May
Twenty-Second Annual Hans Rausing Lecture
Lissa Roberts (University of Twente)
The history of failure: a chronicle of losers or key to success?
McCrum Lecture Theatre, Bene't Street, at 4.30pm

18 May
Henry Cowles (Yale University)
Scientific habits circa 1900

In the decades around 1900, habits were scientific. Psychologists saw mental habits as the intersection of an evolutionary past and an experimental future, while neurologists thought that habit signaled the mind's bodily roots. This talk explores the consequences of this attention to habit in the emerging human sciences, including the idea that science itself was (or could be) habitual. The sciences of habit helped recast the scope of scientific thinking and the reach of moral judgement, as issues of choice, willpower and belonging were naturalized in new ways.

25 May
Lydia Patton (Virginia Tech)
Frogs in space: physiological research into metric relationships and laws of nature

A surprising amount of research into theories of space and time in the nineteenth century involved experiments done on frogs' reactions to stimuli. William James and Hugo Munsterberg performed classic such experiments, but there was a much broader group involved. Those who cited the research and used it in their discussions of spatial relationships, and of the relationship between physiological and metric space, include Henri Poincaré and Ernst Mach. Hermann von Helmholtz used experiments on frogs to establish a number of his most important results, including the claim that sensations are not propagated instantaneously but take time to propagate along a nerve. Helmholtz used other experiments on frogs to argue against the existence of a vital force, a key element of his proof of the conservation of force (energy), and a turning point in nineteenth-century physiology and medicine. Frogs mediated between the physiological and the metric: in theories of space and movement, and in theories of metabolism, energy and sensation. The formulation of well-known scientific laws during this time sprang from physiological as well as physical reasoning, and the domain of application of those laws extended to living bodies as well as to inert physical masses. Philosophers who argued that spatiotemporal relationships are fundamental to all sciences, like Cassirer and arguably Poincaré, were drawing on this history in part. The history of amphibious research forms part of the background to accounts of scientific law, like Wigner's and Mach's, that draw on evolution, perception and consciousness, including Wigner's controversial argument that consciousness collapses the wave function.

For more information on this series, please visit the website.

Event - 'STEM and Beyond? Informal Science Learning Across Disciplines'

Brunel University London, Friday 19th May.

We have fifteen presentations on STEM Communication, STEM and the arts, and STEM, social science and interdisciplinarity, including a keynote from Prof Martin Bauer (LSE).

Tickets are free but numbers are limited and registration is essential. Please register via the Eventbrite.

Further information can also be found on the Science in Public Research Network page.

Contact including STEM in the subject for further information.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Cabinet of Natural History, Easter Term 2017

Group members might be particularly interested in Mark Wormald's talk on 8 May, 'Poetic electrons: Ted Hughes and the mayfly'. Abstract here:
In 1981, the artist Leonard Baskin wrote to the poet Ted Hughes with a list of fifteen projected poems about insects that would feature in their next collaboration. It began with ‘The Mayfly’. A poem with that title appeared in London Magazine in 1983, but was never collected. The central poem in Flowers and Insects (1986) which Baskin illustrated, ‘Saint’s Island’, incorporates several phrases and insights first used in ‘The Mayfly’. And in 1993 Hughes published ‘The Mayfly is Frail’, in a revised text of his collection River (first published in 1983).
This paper describes Hughes’s education in the mayfly. Like its subject, it had a long and hidden larval stage, but took memorable flight in a fishing trip to Ireland in May 1982, which ended at Saint's Island on Lough Ree. Two remarkable prose accounts of this trip are among Hughes’ papers in the British Library. Between them they shape a visionary narrative, beginning with an Oxford tutorial in entomology from his son Nicholas, and detailing Hughes’s attempts, in the company of a group of fanatical Irish fishermen, to catch lough trout on imitations of its dun, or Green Drake, and spinner, or Spent. The poetry that emerged from this experience is faithful to these circumstances but also transcends them, offering a powerful vision of ecological interconnection not just to lovers of poetry but to all those concerned for the health of our rivers and lakes.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Hans Rausing Lecture - The History of Failure

22nd Annual Hans Rausing Lecture

The History of Failure: A chronicle of losers or key to success?

By Lissa Roberts, Professor of Long Term Development of Science and Technology, University of Twente

Thursday 11 May 2017, McCrum Lecture Theatre, Bene't Street, Cambridge

4pm tea and biscuits in the foyer of the McCrum. The lecture will start at 4.30pm.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Call for proposals - BSLS Winter Symposium

At the AGM last week BSLS members agreed to trial the Winter Symposium as a postgraduate-led event. It is anticipated that this event would have a specific theme, and might also cover research training and career advice alongside showcasing ongoing research. As always, it is hoped that the event will have a 'non-conference' feel, and include different types of papers, panels, and ways of sharing knowledge. The BSLS Committee will support the conference organisers throughout the process, helping those with little experience to host a successful event. Proposals are invited from postgraduates, and from early career researchers who were recently postgraduates, for a themed one-day event to take place in or about November, to be emailed to Rosalind Alderman ( by 1 June 2017. Proposals should be no longer than two-sides of A4, and should include a theme and description, details of the organising group and location, potential speakers (if known) and types of papers, panels or other sessions to be included. The BSLS will award up to £500 in support of the symposium, which should be free to attend if possible.

CFP - 'Theatrical Ecologies and Environments in the Nineteenth Century'

One Day Symposium
University of Warwick
Saturday, 1 July 2017
Millburn House
School of Theatre, Performance and Cultural Policy Studies

Ecocriticism is a hot topic in both Theatre Studies and Nineteenth-Century Studies, yet the environment is still an under-examined area within nineteenth-century theatre circles. This symposium aims to cultivate more work on this field of research pioneered by Baz Kershaw. Possible topics could include: ecological research in practical stagecraft (how nineteenth-century practitioners created sets, costumes, and effects to represent different environments), theater architecture (such as the Palais Garnier and its "lake" or the use of Thames water for hydraulic bridges and iron curtains), environmental theatre set in outdoor venues such as nineteenth-century pleasure gardens, site-specific theatre, the impact of Victorian theatre and early film on the environment, the creation of fantastical or alternative world environments (as in pantomime), the ecology of theaters (cityscapes, economic conditions, contagion), ecological themes or images within plays, plays invoking nature or the artifice of avoiding nature, theatrical connections to historical ecological movements, ecological links between theater and other arts, the ecology of performance, environmental adaptation (in terms of Linda Hutcheon's argument that adaptation from one medium to another is akin to biological adaptation), animal performers, human actors performing animals, the economic ecology of production (in terms of a Darwinian market selection), theatrical and early cinematic statements about the environment, theatre and world ecologies. There are myriad possibilities, and it is the aim of the symposium organizers to be inclusive.

We invite the submission of abstracts on any topic connected to Theatrical Ecologies and Environments in the Nineteenth Century. The symposium is curated by the editors of Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film: Professor Jim Davis, Dr Janice Norwood, Dr Pat Smyth and Professor Sharon Aronofsky Weltman.

Please submit abstracts for consideration to by 1 May, 2017.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

BSLS/JLS - Early Career Essay Prize 2017

Screening - 'Donna Haraway: Story Telling for Earthly Survival'

Fri 12 May 2017, 18:30 - 20:30
Lecture Theatre, Frayling Building, Royal College of Art, London SW7 2EU

Donna Haraway is a prominent scholar, a vivid and unique thinker in the field of science and technology, a feminist, and a writer whose work bridges science and fiction. Well known since the 1980s for her work on gender, identity and technology, Haraway has stimulated a blooming discourse on trans-species feminism. A gifted storyteller who paints pictures of a rebellious and hopeful universe populated with critters and futuristic trans species in an era of disaster, Haraway provokes new ways of reconfiguring our relation to the Earth and all its inhabitants. Brussels-based filmmaker Fabrizio Terranova visted Haraway in her home in California, spending two weeks in her company to produce an unconventional film portrait. Terranova's approach allowed Haraway to speak in her own environment, while using attractive staging that emphasized the playful and cerebral sensitivity of the scientist. The result is a rare and candid portrait of one of the most daring and original thinkers of our time.

Lizzy Kane and Jules Varnedoe will be in discussion with Fabrizio Terranova prior to the screening.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Exhibition - 'Women of Mathematics throughout Europe'

Cambridge Centre for Mathematical Sciences, the Isaac Newton Institute and the Betty and Gordon Moore library are proud to take part in the ‘Women of Mathematics throughout Europe’ portrait exhibition.

The Women of Mathematics’ exhibition celebrates female mathematicians from institutions throughout Europe, and this special expanded exhibition is supplemented with portraits and interviews featuring local female mathematicians from Cambridge University’s Faculty of Mathematics. The portraits will be on display in the Isaac Newton Institute and in the Core of the mathematics building from Tuesday 25th April, and in the Betty and Gordon Moore Library following the exhibition. See for more information around the exhibition.

The exhibition opens TUESDAY 25TH APRIL at 3.30PM, featuring talks by Cambridge mathematicians Professor Anne Davis, Dr Holly Krieger, and Dr Carola-Bibiane Schönlieb. Following the talks will be a panel discussion on issues affecting women in mathematics and a drinks reception, with a chance to network whilst viewing the exhibition.

Women in Mathematics at Cambridge: 25 April 2017, 3.30-7pm Centre for Mathematical Sciences, University of Cambridge

3.30pm Coffee & registration

4.15pm Opening of the exhibition by Heads of Department Prof Gabriel Paternain and Prof Nigel Peake

4.30pm Mathematical talks: Prof Anne Davis, Dr Holly Krieger, and Dr Carola-Bibiane Schönlieb

5.30pm Panel discussion chaired by Dr Christie Marr

6.00pm Drinks reception

The talks will be aimed at a general public audience and all are welcome. The exhibition is free and open to all; for tickets please visit

Talk - 'A Place of One's Own in Mathematics'

Building up a career in mathematics is still very tricky for women. Inspired by Virginia Woolf who claimed that having a room of one’s own is essential for women writers, we shall analyse some of the obstacles that can prevent a woman from finding a place of her own in the world of mathematics.

Sylvie Paycha (University of Potsdam)

Thursday 27 April 2017, 16:00-17:00, Center for Mathematical Sciences, MR 4.

To find out more please visit

CFP - 'Travel, Translation and Communication'

The Victorian Popular Fiction Association's 9th Annual Conference: 'Travel, Translation and Communication'

19th-21st July 2017, Institute of English Studies, Senate House, London

Keynote Speakers:
  • Anne-Marie Beller (Loughborough)
  • Mary Hammond (Southampton)
  • Catherine Wynne (Hull)
Exhibition – 'Picturing The Mass Market: Popular Late Victorian Periodicals' Curated by John Spiers
Reading Group – 'Travels of the Mind and Body' Hosted by Chloé Holland and Anne-Louise Russell

Call for Papers

The Victorian Popular Fiction Association is dedicated to fostering interest in understudied popular writers, literary genres and other cultural forms, and to facilitating the production of publishable research and academic collaborations amongst scholars of the popular. Our annual conference is integral to this aim and brings together academics with interests in Victorian popular writing, culture and contexts. The conference has a reputation for offering a friendly and invigorating opportunity for academics at all levels of their careers, including postgraduate students, to meet, connect, and share their current research.

The organisers invite a broad, imaginative and interdisciplinary interpretation of the topic and its relation to any aspect of Victorian popular literature and culture which might address literal or metaphorical representations of the theme.

We welcome proposals for 20 minute papers, or for panels of three papers, on topics which can include, but are not limited to:
  • Textual travel: syndication (national and international), railway bookstalls, Mudie's boxes, international/colonial editions (Tauchnitz), international copyright, piracy, serial publication / triple decker / single volume
  • Genre crossings: Realism, melodrama, sensation, detective, adventure, science and speculative fiction, fiction/non-fiction, high to low brow
  • Forms of communication: verbal, technological (telegraphs), written, epistemological, spiritualism, telepathy, mesmerism
  • Translation: languages, adaptation, cultural adaptation, Neo-Victorianism, intertextuality, metatextuality
  • Migration: transportation, immigration, expatriotism, diaspora, empire, race and colonialism, slave narratives, agency, freedom, dislocation
  • Tourism: Grand Tours, leisure cruise ships (P&O), watering holes, accommodation, sanatoriums, travel writing, holiday reading, the seaside, cosmopolitanism
  • Trade and commerce: money, speculation, business, postal service
  • Crossing boundaries: North and South, border controls, diplomatic exchanges, Europe, America, globally
  • Transport: trains, trams, buses, ships, bicycles, carriages, on foot (flâneur, voyeur)
  • Travel plans: maps, cartography, Bradshaw's Guides, packing, travel diaries
  • Religious movements: pilgrimage, religious processions
  • Communication between the classes: class mobility, exploring other classes (Dickens, Mayhew, etc), reform literature
  • Communication between genders: Romance literature, secrets and lies, miscommunication
  • Education and transmission of knowledge: lectures, Working Men's Clubs, conduct literature, temperance movement, pedagogical approaches, journalism, exposés
  • Movement and performance: travelling fairs, the circus, touring theatrical companies, cross dressing
  • Travels in time, space and place: histories, time travel, reincarnation, transmigration, space travel, journeys to the centre of the earth
  • Life stages: birth, ageing, death, crossroads, mobility and immobility
  • Digital humanities: travel and space intersections, network analysis, flow modelling, GIS-based research
Special topic panels: Following our successful formula, we are continuing the special panels which will be hosted by guest experts; therefore we especially welcome papers about the following topics:
  • Topic 1: Transport, hosted by Charlotte Mathieson
  • Topic 2: The Sea and the Seaside, hosted by Joanne Knowles
  • Topic 3: Travel and Archives, hosted by Nickianne Moody

Please send proposals of no more than 300 words and a 50 word biography in Word format to Drs Janine Hatter, Helena Ifill and Jane Jordan.

Deadline for proposals: Friday 28th April 2017


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

CFP - Extraordinary Bodies in Early Modern Nature and Culture

An international workshop at Uppsala University, Sweden, October 26–27, 2017

A wealth of literature has shed light on religious, philosophical, scientific and medical concepts of extraordinary bodies, wonders and monsters in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park have been tremendously influential with their Wonders and the order of nature (1998) and in many ways contributed to our understanding of emotions and the monstrous before 1750. One of their suggestions is that there was no enlightenment, disenchantment, or clear pattern of naturalization, of monsters in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Monstrous births were explained by natural causes, such as a narrow womb or an excess of seed, already by medieval writers whereas they could still be read as divine signs in the late seventeenth century. No linear story took monsters from an older religious framework to a newer naturalistic one or from prodigies to wonders to naturalized objects. Wonders eventually lost their position as cherished elements in European elite culture but that had nothing to do with secularization, the “rise of science”, or some triumph of rational thinking. Rather, the emergence of strict norms and absolute regularity, both of nature’s customs and God’s rules, is a better description of this shift. Nature’s habits hardened into inviolable laws in the late seventeenth century and Daston and Park picture “the subordination of anomalies to watertight natural laws, of nature to God, and of citizens and Christians to established authority”. Monsters became, in an anatomical framework, compared to normal bodies and regarded as organisms that had failed to achieve their perfect final form. Their value now depended, not as it had earlier on their rarity or singularity, but on the body’s capacity to reveal still more rigid regularities in nature.

The history of monsters as submitted to strict norms in early modern nature is intriguing and a number of questions can be raised. Had all bodies by 1750 become part of a regularized nature or can monsters still be found in science in the late eighteenth century? What else do we know about normalizing processes in the early modern period? In the field of the deviant, has there been a general shift from natural rules to moral orders, from bodies to behavior? What other aspects of extraordinary bodies are there that can help us frame early modern nature and culture, to grasp its orders and disorders?

The purpose of this workshop is to bring together scholars from different fields to discuss current research on extraordinary bodies and monsters in natural history, medicine, law, religion, philosophy, and travel literature in the early modern period. It will comprise of an invited talk, paper presentations and a concluding general discussion.

We especially welcome research relating to topics such as:
  • Concepts of monsters in natural philosophy/history and medicine
  • Transgressions – species, individuals, elements, life and death
  • Anatomy, embryology and obstetrics
  • Bodies, signs and religion
  • The visual culture of the extraordinary body
  • Physical deviances and the law
  • Normalization and medicalization
  • Collections of wonders and curiosities
  • Classification
  • Moral and natural rules and orders
  • Embryos in medical research and education
  • Linnaeus, wonders and paradoxes of nature
  • Travel and the meaning of distant and exotic bodies
  • The politics of monster history

Abstracts for papers of 200-300 words should be submitted no later than June 1, 2017 to Helena Franzén:

Please provide your full name, institutional affiliation, and contact details. The format of the workshop will not allow for more than c. 10 papers. We will select the abstracts to be presented at the meeting considering original research and relevance to the theme of the workshop. By June 15, 2017 applicants will be notified if their papers have been accepted or not.

The workshop will be two full days, i.e. morning to late afternoon October 26–27, 2017.

Registration, lunches, conference dinner and accommodation (two nights at the conference hotel) are free of charge for participants presenting papers. It will also be possible to obtain limited economic support for travel expenses. Please indicate in the application if such support is required for attendance and what level of support is needed.

There are a few places available for additional participants. The deadline for such applications is also June 1, 2017. For those interested, please indicate your reasons for wanting to take part in the conference. No economic support will be given to attendees who do not present papers.

The conference language is English.

This workshop is organized by the research programme “Medicine at the Borders of Life: Fetal Research and the Emergence of Ethical Controversy”, funded by the Swedish Research Council and hosted by the Department of History of Science and Ideas at Uppsala University.

Maja Bondestam, Uppsala University

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Easter Term 2017 - Water

In Easter Term our exploration of the four elements reaches the water. Appropriately enough for this most protean of substances, we will engage with several forms of media: a poem, a short story, a play, and two essays. In very different ways, these works comment on the relationships between literature and water: experiencing and analysing, surviving and following, cherishing and chronicling its varied appearances as river, rain, ice, and sea.

We will meet at Darwin College from 7.30-9pm as usual. All are welcome to join us, whether new or old members of the group! Follow us on Twitter @scilitreadgrp or look at our blog for full news and updates.

8th May – River

Alice Oswald, Dart (2002). Also in several College and University libraries.

22nd May – Rain

Ray Bradbury, 'Death-By-Rain', Planet Stories (1950). Republished as 'The Long Rain' in several collections of his short stories, or contact MK for a copy.

5th June – Ice

Wilkie Collins, The Frozen Deep (written 1856, published 1866).

26th June – Sea

R.L. Carson, 'Undersea', Atlantic Monthly (1937), 322-325; and 'The Edge of the Sea', address to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1953). Republished in Linda Lear (ed.), Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson (1999), or contact MK for a copy.

Recap - Flight

Experiments in photographic aeronautics.
Buoyed by sparkling beverages and bubbly chocolate, our conversations at the last meeting of term took to the air, reading Thomas Baldwin's Airopaidia (1786) and considering the poetry, practicalities, and potential pitfalls of balloon voyages.

Using Richard Holmes's Falling Upwards (2013), and Marie Thébaud-Sorger's 'Thomas Baldwin’s Airopaidia, or the Aerial View in Color' in Seeing from Above: The Aerial View in Visual Culture, Mark Dorrian, Frédéric Pousin (eds), (2013), we thought about the new kinds of experiences which Baldwin was trying to convey with his narrative. We felt that Baldwin had communicated well the exhiliration and novel sensory impressions of his flight, though perhaps he had exaggerated its tranquillity. Looking at the extraordinary images which accompany the text helped think about how Baldwin charted his journey, making myriad observations, and also how he was challenged by new aerial perspectives.

We were left wanting to know more about Baldwin himself: though evidently physically present, from top to toe to taste-buds, in the balloon, and clearly familiar with the local Chester landscape, in other ways he was frustratingly absent. We could find out more about his balloon-supplier Lunardi (including his unfortunate inclusion of his pet cat as part of his aerial cargo) than we could about Baldwin. In some ways, then, by combining a very specific account of one balloon voyage with an inclusive narrative voice, Baldwin enabled any of his readers to imagine they were alongside him above the clouds.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Seminar - 'Brainwashing the Cybernetic Spectator: The Ipcress File, 1960's Cinematic Spectacle and the Sciences of Mind'

14 March 2017, 12:00 - 13:30pm, Seminar room SG2, Alison Richard Building, CRASSH

Dr Marcia Holmes (History, Birkbeck)
Discussant: Dr Dan Larsen  (History, Cambridge) 

This paper argues that the mid-1960s saw a dramatic shift in how 'brainwashing' was popularly imagined, reflecting Anglo-American developments in the sciences of mind as well as shifts in mass media culture. The 1965 British film, The Ipcress File (dir. Sidney J. Furie, starr. Michael Caine) provides a rich case for exploring these interconnections between mind control, mind science, and media, as it exemplifies the era's innovations for depicting 'brainwashing' on screen: the film's protagonist is subjected to flashing lights and electronic music, pulsating to the 'rhythm of brainwaves'. This paper describes the making of The Ipcress File's brainwashing sequence, and shows how its quest for cinematic spectacle drew on developments in cybernetic science, multimedia design and modernist architecture (developments that were also influencing the 1960s' psychedelic counterculture). I argue that often interposed between the disparate endeavours of 1960s mind control, psychological science, and media was a vision of the human mind as a 'cybernetic spectator': a subject who not only scrutinizes how media and other demands on her sensory perception can affect consciousness, but seeks to consciously participate in this mental conditioning and guide its effects.

(Dr Holmes's paper will be pre-circulated and may be read in advance. You can receive a copy by emailing

Talk - 'Polyphonic Minds'

Peter Pesic (St. John's College, Santa Fe)
Sunday 19 March: 1400-1500 -- Faculty of Music, Lecture Room 1

Peter Pesic is Tutor and Musician-in-Residence at St. John's College, Santa Fe. He is the author of Labyrinth: A Search for the Hidden Meaning of Science; Seeing Double: Shared Identities in Physics, Philosophy, and Literature; Abel's Proof: An Essay on the Sources and Meaning of Mathematical Unsolvability; and Sky in a Bottle, all published by the MIT Press.

Talk - 'Climate in word and image: science and the Austrian idea'

Deborah Coen (Columbia University), History and Philosophy of Science Departmental Seminar, Thursday, 16 March at 3:30pm

One of the most urgent challenges of climate research today is that of conceptualizing interactions across scales of space and time. In her book in progress, Deborah Coen examines how this problem was addressed in the late Habsburg Monarchy, where scientists developed an unprecedented conceptual apparatus for tracking the transfer of energy from the molecular scale to the planetary. Her presentation will offer an overview of this project. The central argument is that these innovations arose in part as a solution to a problem of representation, a problem that engaged Habsburg scientists as servants of a supranational state. The problem was to represent local differences while producing a coherent overview; that is, to do justice to the vaunted diversity of the Habsburg lands while reinforcing the impression of unity. This problem was worked out at the interface between physical and human geography, and it stimulated technical innovations across a range of media, from cartography, to landscape painting, to fiction and poetry, to mathematical physics, while also shaping political discourse. In this way, Climate in Word and Image writes the history of climate science as a history of scaling: the process of mediating between different systems of measurement, formal and informal, designed to apply to different slices of the phenomenal world, in order to arrive at a common standard of proportionality. A focus on scaling emphasizes not only the cognitive work of commensuration, but also the corporeal, emotional and social effort that goes into recalibrating our sense of the near in relation to the far.

Tea and biscuits will be available from 3pm in Seminar Room 1

Seminar Location:
Seminar Room 2
Department of the History and Philosophy of Science
Free School Lane

Following the talk we will go to the pub, and on to dinner. All are welcome! If you would like to join dinner, please contact Richard Staley (

Friday, March 10, 2017

Book launch - 'Astronomouse'

A launch party for the book Astronomouse, by Frances Willmoth, will be held at the Whipple Museum on Friday 17 March, 4.30-6pm. Everyone is welcome to attend.

The book describes the building of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich (1675-76) from the unique viewpoint of the local mouse population. It is beautifully illustrated with line-drawings. Further details may be found at (RRP £8.99 - £8.00 at the launch party).

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Talk - 'Fakhr al-Din al-Razi's Physics: Time, Space and Void'

Peter Adamson (Professor für spätantike und arabische Philosophie, LMU München)

Monday 13th March, 4pm, Lightfoot Room, Faculty of Divinity.

All are welcome.

Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d. 1210) was a great Persian philosopher and theologian, famous for his lengthy, rich commentary on the Koran, for his theological works, and for his critical reception the philosophy of Avicenna (d. 1037).

Peter Adamson is a leading scholar of Arabic philosophy:

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

CASEBOOKS: Six contemporary artists and an extraordinary medical archive

The exhibition is accompanied by a series of events, beginning with the Private View on Thursday 16 March and the Artists and Curator Seminar on Friday 17 March. All events take place at Ambika P3 (opposite Baker Street tube). Details online and below.


CASEBOOKS: Six contemporary artists and an extraordinary medical archive
Jasmina Cibic, Federico Díaz, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Rémy Markowitsch, Lindsay Seers, Tunga

Private View: Thursday 16 March 2017, 6:30 - 8:30pm, Ambika P3, University of Westminster, 35 Marylebone Road, London NW1 5LS, Baker Street Station

Exhibition continues: 17 March - 23 April 2017



Fri 17 March 2017, 4 - 6 pm Ambika P3, University of Westminster, 35 Marylebone Road, London NW1 5LS, Baker Street Station. Book a place here.

The CASEBOOKS exhibition is one of the most collaborative projects to take place at Ambika P3. It brings together researchers on the Casebooks Project, based at the University of Cambridge, with the curatorial team at the University of Westminster. This seminar is an opportunity to explore the issues brought about by the exhibition from the perspective of the artists and the Ambika P3 curator. Artists will present their projects and a round table will be convened to discuss the following topics:
  • How did the artists engage with the Casebooks Project ? 
  • What are the levels at which audiences engage with the artworks and the historical and digital artefacts through the exhibition?
  • Have the casebooks provided a common theme to the exhibition?
  • Can a collaborative exhibition such as this create new links between art, history and science?
Participants: The panel will consist of the exhibiting artists or their representatives and Dr Michael Mazière, Curator of Ambika P3. The Seminar will be chaired by Dr Lauren Kassell, Director of the Casebooks Project.

4.00 – 4.15: Introductions Lauren Kassell Michael Mazière
4.15 – 5.15: Artists' presentations
Jasmina Cibic: Unforseen Foreseens; Federico Díaz: BIG LIGHT Space of Augmented Suggestion
; Mark Hellar: Lynn Hershman Leeson’s, Real-Fiction Botnik and Venus of the Anthropocene; Rémy Markowitsch: The Casebooks Calf; Lindsay Seers: Mental Metal
; Rana Saner: Tunga’s Me, You and the Moon
5.15 – 6.00: Round table and Q&A from the audience chaired by Lauren Kassell
6.00 – 6.30: Drinks

Visit our website for the latest updates to the Casebooks Project: A Digital Edition of Simon Forman's and Richard Napier's Medical Records.