Magic Lantern and Science Workshop: 17 March 2017

The Constructing Scientific Communities, Diseases of Modern Life and the Million Pictures projects are pleased to announce a special workshop, hosted at London’s Royal Institution, to consider the multiple relationships that existed between popular science and the magic lantern, with an emphasis on the long nineteenth century. Papers will consider magic lantern slides, instruments, and instrument makers, as well as considering issues of curation and performance.

A special attraction will be Jeremy Brooker’s evening entertainment concerning John Tyndall’s celebrated lectures at the Royal Institution. All workshop attendees will be also welcome to join this public lecture without charge.

Attendance is free, but space is limited. To attend, email: by March 1st, 2017

A copy of the event poster is available here


9:30-10:15 – Coffee on arrival

10:15-10:30 – Introductory Comments. Sally Shuttleworth (University of Oxford) and Geoff Belknap (Leicester University), Constructing Scientific Communities Project. 

10:30-12:00 – Panel 1: Approaches to Science and the Magic Lantern

  • Iwan Morus (University of Aberystwyth), ‘Seeing the Light: Fact and Artefact in Victorian Lantern Culture’
  • Sarah Dellmann (Utrecht University),  ‘Images of Science and Scientists: Lantern Slides of Excursions from Utrecht University, NL (c. 1900-1950)’
  • Emily Hayes (Exeter University), ‘Fashioned by physics: the ‘scope and methods’ of Halford Mackinder’s geographical imagination’

12:00-1:00 – Lunch

1:00-2:30 – Panel 2: Magic Lanterns and Museums/Curation

  • Charlotte New and Meagan Smith (Royal Institution), ‘Shedding light on yesterday: Highlighting the slide collections of the RI and relevant preservation’
  • Frank Gray (Screen archive South-east, Brighton), ‘Working with Archive Collections: Development, Access and Historical Context’
  • Phil Wickham (Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, University of Exeter), ‘Lanterna Magicka: The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum and its lantern collections’

2:30-3:00 – Coffee break

3:00-4:30 – Panel 3: Materiality of the lantern

  • Phillip Roberts (York University), ‘Science and Media in the Industrial Revolution: Instrument Makers and the Magic Lantern Trade’
  • Kelly Wilder (De Montfort University), ‘From Lantern Slides to Powerpoint: Photography and the Materiality of Projection’
  • Deac Rossell (Goldsmiths College), ‘Changing Places: Tracking Magic Lantern Culture from Physics to Chemistry to Cinema’

4:30-4:45 – Closing Remarks. Joe Kember and Richard Crangle (Exeter University), Million Pictures Project.

6:00-7:00 – Drinks Reception

7:00-8:30 – Evening lantern show for the general public:

  • Jeremy Brooker, A Light on Albemarle Street: John Tyndall and the Magic Lantern

The talk is part of a programme of events to celebrate the European Research Council’s 10th anniversary week from 13-20 March.  More information on the anniversary is available on the ERC’s website.




Doctor, Doctor: Global and Historical Perspectives on the Doctor-Patient Relationship – One-day Symposium – Registration now open

We are pleased to announce that registration for the one-day symposium on global and historical perspectives on the doctor-patient relationship is now open. The event is being held at St Anne’s College (University of Oxford) on 24 March 2017.

You can sign up here. Tickets are £30 for standard delegates and £20 for concessions. This includes lunch, refreshments and a drinks reception. Please note that there are separate registration options for speakers and delegates – do ensure you select the right one.

A draft copy of the programme is available to download here: doctor-doctor-symposium-programme. The keynote speaker is Anna Elsner (University of Zürich).

This one-day symposium is generously supported by St Anne’s College, The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities (TORCH) through a Medical Humanities Programme Grant, and the Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project Constructing Scientific Communities.

The symposium is organised by Alison Moulds (St Anne’s) – DPhil Candidate on Constructing Scientific Communities – and Sarah Jones (Oriel). You can contact them here:

For more details, visit the symposium website:


Scientists and their diaries: Events at the Royal Society

On Friday 27 January 2017, the Constructing Scientific Communities project is holding two events in association with the Royal Society.

The Royal Society is at 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG. Travel and practical information is available here.

12.00 – 17.30.  Workshop: Scientists and their diaries

The full programme for the workshop is here. Attendance is free and includes sandwich lunch and afternoon tea, but booking is essential. If you would like to attend, please email to reserve a place.

18.00 – 19.00. Why We Write: Public Evening Event

The workshop will be followed by a public event on Why We Write, with Professor Sunetra Gupta. Workshop attendees are most welcome to stay on for this. Further details are available on the Royal Society Events page.



A Lamp in One Hand and a Measuring Tape in the Other

Guest blogger and ConSciCom intern Lea Beiermann recalls the highlights of her four-month stay at the University of Leicester.

When I arrived in Leicester in early September I only had a vague idea of what I would be doing during the upcoming months. I had read a number of publications by ConSciCom researchers over the summer (for example Gowan Dawson’s new book) and had a rough idea of what the project was about – but I did not know yet what I would be able to contribute. Shortly after I arrived, it was agreed that I would mainly assist Geoff Belknap in his research on illustrations in nineteenth-century science periodicals.

Continue reading

Science, Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century: Seminars for Hilary Term 2017


John Atkinson Grimshaw, At the Park Gate (1878)

John Atkinson Grimshaw, At the Park Gate (1878)

Our programme for Hilary Term 2017 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 1 February 2017 (Week 3)

Professor Barbara Taylor, Queen Mary University of London

Pathologies of Solitude

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

Solitude today is a serious health concern. Loneliness is identified as a major contributor to illness, especially among the elderly and people with mental disorders. Conversely, fears are expressed about a decline in young people’s capacity for solitariness, in this digitally-connected age. Modern people, in other words, are either too solitary or not solitary enough: a paradoxical situation with potentially serious consequences for individual and social wellbeing.  Such concerns are not new. Solitude has always been problematic. From antiquity on it has been portrayed in dichotomous ways: as a higher state of being, free from worldly vice, and as an unnatural, debilitating condition. ‘Whosoever delights in solitude’, an Aristotelean epigram ran, ‘is either a beast or a god’. In the premodern world, only the god-like – saints, philosophers – were entitled to solitude. For the rest of humankind, occasional solitude – for prayer, contemplation, restoration – was part of a well-balanced life, but a reclusive existence was unhuman and productive of many evils: misanthropy, melancholy, superstition, madness.  Every age produces its versions of these anxieties. But a decisive turning point came in the late eighteenth-nineteenth century when the social and attitudinal changes associated with the rise of ‘commercial civilisation’ prompted an unprecedented level of concern about solitude and its associated pathologies: a concern which has continued unabated – although some of its emphases have changed – right up to the present.

In this paper Professor Taylor outlines this history, with particular emphasis on nineteenth-century developments.  She is putting together a research project on the Pathologies of Solitude, 18th-21st Centuries, and would welcome the opportunity to discuss the scope and aims of the project.

Wednesday 22 February 2017 (Week 6)

Dr Helena Ifill, University of Sheffield

Medical Authority, (pseudo)Science and the Explained Supernatural in Late Victorian Female Gothic Fiction

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

Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s short story ‘Good Lady Ducayne’ and Florence Marryat’s novel The Blood of the Vampire were published at much the same time as Bram Stoker’s best-selling Dracula. But these “vampire” stories do not feature the kind of blood-sucking fiend we may expect. Instead they offer alternative visions of vampirism which lead to a questioning of “expert” medical authority, doctor-patient power relations, and the efficacy of modern medical science.


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.