Being Human Festival – Events in Leicester and Oxford

The Constructing Scientific Communities project is holding two events in November as part of Being Human: A Festival of the Humanities.

Don’t Panic! Promises and Threats of Science and Technology is being held at the Museum of the History of Science, Broad Street, Oxford on Thursday 17 November from 7-10.30 p.m.  This interactive and entertaining event will explore hopes and fears about science and technology through film, academic interpretations, discussions and performances by actors from the Pegasus Theatre. Come and see the eruption of Krakatoa, Dorothy Hodgkin’s work on penicillin, explore issues on climate change from personal and political perspectives and more. The event is free, but booking is required. To book your free ticket, please click here.

Science and the Victorian Public is being held at the Attenborough Arts Centre, University of Leicester, Lancaster Road, LE1 7HA on Friday 18 November from 1.30 – 2.30 p.m.  This event, part of Literary Leicester 2016, will recreate a magic lantern show, which was hugely popular in the nineteenth century and the ancestor of the modern cinema projector. Historical actors will present a Victorian science lecture with magic lantern slides on subjects including dinosaurs and geology. After the talk and show, members of the audience are welcome to have a closer look at the magic lantern and ask questions of the presenters. This event is free, and no booking is required.

Being Human is led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy. For full details of all of the Being Human events taking place nationwide, please visit the Festival website.


Call of the Wild, MIT 2016

Some more materials have emerged from the ‘Call of the Wild’ symposium that several ConSciCom members participated in. First is a conference report, prepared by Alison Laurence, PhD candidate in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society at MIT. It’s wonderfully detailed and contains notes on the symposium’s several themed panels: ‘What is Wild?’, ‘Field, Museum and Armchair’, ‘Micro Scale’, ‘Invasion/Impurity’, ‘Stalking the Wild’ and ‘Wildness and Domestication’ as well as a digest of participants comments during and discussions after each paper.

Second is an interview with symposium convener Harriet Ritvo which draws out some of these themes alongside some beautiful images (we really like the aerial photo of New York’s Central Park). Here’s a snippet from the interview:

“Wild” is a very powerful category now, as it has been for many centuries. The emotional or ethical response to this power, however, has recently altered. That is to say, for most of history, to call something “wild” was to express disapproval, but the term has become sufficiently positive for the Shaw’s supermarket chain to brand its “organic” product line as “Wild Harvest,” described on its website as “created, flavored, and colored by nature.” As wildness has come to seem less threatening and more threatened, people have come to like it better.

If you haven’t already heard it, this is the symposium where the audio we posted last month of Berris Charnley speaking about rogues and wildness, was recorded. We’ll be continuing this discussion in 2017, with another event being organised for some point in the summer.

Young Scientists Journal Conference 2016

We had a fantastic time hosting the Young Scientists Journal Conference yesterday, so we put together the tweets from the day as an album. Press play to flick through the tweets or follow the storify link to see the full story.


The Young Scientists Journal is written and edited exclusively by 12-20 year olds, and in 2016 reached its tenth anniversary year. It publishes peer reviewed research papers and articles on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in print and online.

The third annual conference at St Anne’s College brought together students, science teachers scientists and academics for an exciting day of talks, workshops, discussions and sharing of ideas. Students also had the opportunity to take part in a poster competition to showcase their own research projects.

The Constructing Scientific Communities project was represented by Professor Sally Shuttleworth at the first welcome session, and Professor Chris Lintott gave one of the keynote talks on The Universe Through A Million Eyes. Grant Miller from Zooniverse ran one of the day’s workshops on the subject of People-Powered Research.

For full details of the day’s events and photographs of the conference, a report is available on the Young Scientists Journal website.

Young Scientists Journal Conference, 18 October 2016

The Constructing Scientific Communities project is hosting the Young Scientists Journal Conference at St Anne’s College on Tuesday 18th October.

The journal is exclusively written, edited and produced by 12-20 year olds, and publishes research papers and articles. It was founded at the King’s School in Canterbury and is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year.

Professor Chris Lintott will be one of the two keynote speakers with a talk on “The Universe Through A Million Eyes”  and Zooniverse will be running a workshop on “People Powered Research”.

The full programme is on the conference website,  and further information is available on this press release.


Rogues and Wild Relatives: Purity and wildness in early-20th Century Genetics

Following up on last year’s post about academic presentations and going into rooms and saying things, here’s a recording of some things I said in a room.

The talk is about genetics, plant breeding and different types of expertise pertaining to the domestication and breeding of plant varieties. The occasion was a small conference held at MIT earlier this year on Wildness. (Coincidentally, a new collection of the writings of one of the central characters in the story of Wildness has just been published, Frederick Law Olmsted: Writings on Landscape, Culture and Society, and is reviewed nicely in the London Review of Books – subscription). If you’re interested, here’s the abstract for the paper:

Continue reading

Science, Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century: Seminars for Michaelmas Term 2016


Our programme for Michaelmas Term 2016 is now announced with two seminars at St Anne’s College.

Drinks will be served after each seminar. All welcome, no booking is required.

Wednesday 19 October 2016 (Week 2)

Dr Andrew Mangham, University of Reading

‘Have ye ever seen a child clemmed to death?’ : Elizabeth Gaskell and the Physiology of Starvation

5.30 – 7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College

This talk will highlight the ways in which the social problem realism of Elizabeth Gaskell intersected with physiological ideas on the material nature of starvation. In modern historical studies and literary criticism there has been a tendency to look upon the social problem novel as an advocate for the emotional needs of the poor; it became highly critical, it is assumed, of the materialist and scientific approaches to social issues. Dr Mangham will argue that central to the novel’s focus on the human is an engagement with the principles, themes and epistemologies of physiology. Gaskell knew important figures in physiology, and engaged with scientists and social reformers through her Unitarian connections in Manchester. She developed a self-reflexive form of realism in her work that, while it tested the reaches and limits of the positivist approach, also saw its dedication to ‘truth’ as central to the moral and emotional understanding of poverty.

Andrew Mangham is associate professor in Victorian literature and culture at the University of Reading. He is the author of Violent Women and Sensation Fiction and Dickens’s Forensic Realism (forthcoming January 2017). He has edited The Cambridge Companion to Sensation Fiction, The Female Body in Medicine and Literature and The Male Body in Medicine and Literature (forthcoming). He is currently working on a study of medical and literary representations of starvation in the nineteenth century.

Wednesday 9 November 2016 (Week 5)

Dr kitt price, Queen Mary, University of London

Psychic Dreams and Newspapers in the Late Nineteenth Century

5.30 – 7.00, Seminar Room 5, St Anne’s College.

Psychic researchers in the late nineteenth century urged newspaper readers to survey their acquaintances for cases of telepathy, clairvoyance, psychic dreams and hallucinations. Dreams proved to be the most wayward of these research objects, requiring additional controls in order to attain evidential value. Media networks helped to stabilise the forms of truth that psychic dreams might offer, with newspapers and telegrams serving to verify the dream’s relationship to external, waking events. As dreams gained new status in the psychological disciplines around the turn of the century, psychic researchers revisited the dream as a valid superconscious phenomenon, drawing the new media technologies of wireless and cinema into the verification process. This paper will track the relationship between media forms and psychic dreams in the work of British, American and French psychic researchers from the 1880s to the 1930s, exploring tensions around evidence that emerged between dream collectors, their subjects, and the media.

kitt price lectures in modern and contemporary literature at Queen Mary University of London. They are the author of Loving Faster than Light: Romance and Readers in Einstein’s Universe.