Sunday, July 15, 2018

Exhibition - Personifying Plague

A new exhibition in the Whipple Library - Personifying Plague: Visualisations of Plague in Western Medical History - will be on view from 3pm on Thursday 19th of July until the end of October.

The exhibition has been curated by Ranana Dine, and was inspired by research she undertook during her MPhil in Health, Medicine and Society.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

“How scientific objects end. A workshop”

Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge
December 3rd and 4th, 2018

 In his 2009 paper “We have never been Whiggish (about Phlogiston)”, Hasok Chang pointed at the difficulty of writing a history of the Chemical Revolution in terms of winners and losers, of new and old, of Oxygen and Phlogiston. Similarly, the forthcoming book Ether and Modernity (OUP, 2018) portrays a more complex image of the presence of the ether in the early twentieth century than usually depicted. Phlogiston and the Ether are indeed two favourite examples in traditional philosophies of scientific change: new theories and experiments supposedly proved those entities never to have existed and only wrongly considered as scientific. Post-hoc histories of such objects and the processes of their abandonment, however, are not necessarily neutral on the ontology of the objects and can often create a new entity, one that is certainly dead, but not necessarily equal to the one that was supposedly killed. In other words, writing about dead scientific objects can turn into a process of object formation that perfectly demarcates the properties of the dead object in new ways.

This workshop addresses the afterlives of scientific objects by paying attention to the role played by the histories of defunct objects in their configuration qua deceased entities. Such narratives include not only later historical accounts but also the early ‘obituaries’ of the objects (written by the actors involved in their rejection), laboratory and museum catalogues (in the cases of instruments and other material objects), and pedagogical and popular accounts.

Please send expressions of interest either to attend or to present new research at the workshop to by September 15th, 2018. Registration will be required but free of charge.

Confirmed speakers:
  • Theodore Arabatzis (University of Athens): “Do scientific objects have a life (which may end)?”
  • Daniel Belteki (University of Kent): “Lost in the production of time and space: the transformation of the Airy Transit Circle from a working telescope to a museum object.” 
  • Hasok Chang (University of Cambridge): “Is the Voltaic contact potential dead?” 
  • Moritz Epple (Göethe Universität): “Have Vortex Atoms ever been alive? On an unstable existence between the Unseen Universe and new mathematics.” 
  • Alexandra Ion (Romanian Academy and University of Cambridge): “Itineraries after death: thinking about time and agency through anachronistic specimens caught in anthropological collections.” 
  • Jaume Navarro (University of the Basque Country): “The historiographical relevance of the early obituaries of the ether.” 
  • Mat Paskins (London School of Economics): “Dyeing Off: the death of dyestuffs as chemical objects.” 
  • Greg Radick (University of Leeds): “There was no such thing as the Mendelian gene and this is a talk about it.” 
  • Jennifer Rampling (Princeton University): tba 
  • Simon Schaffer (University of Cambridge): “The object of death in oriental natural history.”
  • Richard Staley (University of Cambridge): “The Undead in Climate History: The death and afterlife of the Medieval Warm Period.”

Friday, July 06, 2018

Conference - The Visual Worlds of the Royal Society

Details here.


Monday 16 July 2018

Sachiko Kusukawa (University of Cambridge): Welcome & Introduction

Alexander Marr (University of Cambridge): William Sanderson's Criticism and Copying

Matthew Walker (University of New Mexico): Oblivious to the Ancient and Moderns? The Royal Society and John Evelyn's Translation of Fréart's Parallel

Rebekah Higgitt (University of Kent): The Making of a Medal: The Iconography and Manufacture of the Royal Society's Copley Medal c. 1736-1742

Henrietta McBurney Ryan (University of Cambridge): Mark Catesby and the Royal Society

Sietske Fransen (University of Cambridge): Netherlandish Influences on the Visual World of the Royal Society

 Kate Bennett (University of Oxford): John Aubrey's Prospects

Karin Leonhard & Elisa von Minnigerode (Universität Konstanz): John Finch. A Lynx with a Knife

Spike Bucklow (Hamilton Kerr Institute Cambridge): The Paston Treasure


Tuesday 17 July 2018

Andrew Burnett (British Museum): 'They found a great quantity of Roman money'. Institutions and Coin Collecting in the 17th Century

Frances Hughes (University of Cambridge): Visual Discernment in the Calligraphy Collection of Samuel Pepys

Katherine M. Reinhart (University of Cambridge): Institutional Image-Makers: Richard Waller and Claude Perrault

Katy Barrett (Science Museum): George Gabb 'The Physical Laboratory of the Académie des Sciences' and Unpicking the Visual Worlds of the Royal Society

 Felicity Henderson (University of Exeter): Closing Remarks

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

CFP - Literary Birds

Call for Papers: Literary Birds

A Durham University Conference

Durham Castle, UK, 11 – 12 October 2018

Keynote Speaker: Professor Simon Armitage

Throughout human history, birds have occupied a significant ubiquity in our physical and psychological existence. Our deep, yet conflicted relationship with birds is reflected in their enduring presence in the literary imagination from ancient to recent times. Leonard Lutwack notes that their ‘familiarity and transcendence have given birds a wider range of meaning and symbol in literature than any other animal’ (Birds in Literature, 1994). Paradoxically, as the non-human animal world diminishes in an ever increasing industrialist, capitalist society, human technological sophistication deepens our appreciation of its subtleties and complexities. This challenges the human-centric notion of a hierarchy of beings, which in turn persuades us to reappraise our ethical relationships to, and uses of, bird species. Current debates in Animal Studies and Speciesism encourage radical reassessments of notions of the literary animal, with the bird, arguably the most prevalent animal in literature, relatively neglected. Concurrently, award-winning literary output, such as Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk (2014), and Nicholas Royle’s collection of avian tales, Ornithology (2017), confirm that the literary bird is just as potent now as it was for the Grecian songster.

‘Literary Birds’ celebrates avian literary encounters in their myriad manifestations. We would be delighted to welcome the submission of abstracts for 20-minute papers from postgraduate researchers, early career researchers, and established academics, which address the role of the bird in literature from ancient to modern times. Topics may include, but are by no means limited to, the following:
  • Aspects of the literary bird, such as birdsong, feathers, flight, and nesting
  • Appraisals of and/or legacies of particular species of birds (e.g. the prevalence of the canary in nineteenth-century poetry and fiction)
  • Biblical, mythic, and folkloric birds
  • The bird in poetry and/or as poet
  • The bird and utopian and/or dystopian literature
  • The bird as gothic trope and/or the bird in ‘horror’ literature
  • Bird symbolism
  • The bird and gender politics
  • ‘Othered’ birds and avatars (e.g. the parrot in Wide Sargasso Sea and Treasure Island)
  • Film adaptations related to literary birds
  • Literary-visual intersections (e.g. bird illustrations and avian ekphrasis)
  • The prevalence of bird-related fiction titles
  • Bird ownership in literary circles
  • Literary birds in light of bird cultures, beliefs, and practices (e.g. hunting and eating, the emergence of pre-Darwinian natural histories, taxidermy, cabinet collections, bird ownership, and falconry)
Please send an abstract of 150-200 words, along with a brief biographical note (also 150-200 words), to the conference organisers, Professor Stephen Regan and Helena Habibi, by Wednesday 15 August 2018, to We look forward to reading your abstracts.




Wednesday, June 13, 2018

CFP - Science and Spiritualism, 1750-1930

The Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies is pleased to announce a two-day conference, to take place at Leeds Trinity University on 30 and 31 May 2019. We are delighted to have Professor Christine Ferguson (University of Stirling), and Professor Roger Luckhurst (Birkbeck, University of London) as our keynote speakers.


Since the emergence of modern mediumship in the middle of the nineteenth century, science and spiritualism have been interwoven. Sceptics and believers alike have investigated spirit and psychic phenomena to determine its legitimacy. This two-day interdisciplinary conference will explore the history of the intersection of science and spiritualism during the long nineteenth century.

Key scholarship includes:
  • Ferguson, Christine, Determined Spirits: Eugenics, Heredity and Racial Regeneration in Anglo-American Spiritualist Writings 1848-1930, Edinburgh University Press, 2012.
  • Lamont, Peter, Extraordinary Beliefs: A Historical Approach to a Psychological Problem, Cambridge University Press, 2013
  • Luckhurst, Roger, The Invention of Telepathy, 1870-1901, Oxford University Press, 2002
  • McCorristine, Shane, Spectres of the Self: Thinking about Ghosts and Ghost-Seeing in England, 1750-1920, Cambridge University Press, 2010
  • Oppenheim, Janet, The Other World: Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England, 1850-1914, Cambridge University Press, 1985
  • Owen, Alex, The Darkened Room: Women, Power and Spiritualism in Late Victorian England, University of Chicago Press, 2004

We welcome proposals from any discipline, covering any geographic region.

Possible topics include:
  • Scientific investigations at séances
  • Scientific literature on spirit and psychic phenomena
  • Technology and spiritualism (such as photography, telegraphy, telephony)
  • Medicine and spiritualism (such as studies in physiology and psychology)
  • Shamanism, animism and spiritualism in anthropology
  • Science, spiritualism and the periodical press
  • Cultures of science and religion and its connection to spiritualism
  • Spiritualism and material culture (such as haunted objects or locations)
  • Contesting cultural authority in spiritualism cases
  • Scientific experiments on spiritualism
  • Crisis of evidence in spirit and psychic investigations
  • Magicians and spiritualism (such as exposing fraud through replicating tricks)
  • Science and spiritualism in literature (such as Browning's Mr Sludge)
  • Scientists as spiritualists and spiritualists as scientists

Please send a 250-word abstract, along with contact information to The Deadline for submission is 15 November 2018.

Some small travel bursaries will be available to postgraduate and early career scholars. If you would like to be considered for one, please include a short expression of interest detailing your research, and how this conference will be of benefit to you.

If you have any questions about the event please get in touch via email at

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Film - Screening of Ruth Maclennan's Call of North

Accomplished filmmaker and artist Dr. Ruth Maclennan (Institute Associate) will be screening her recent film 'Call of North' tomorrow in the Small Lecture Theatre in Geography. Many you you know that Russian studies are a real tradition at SPRI. Please come and join us tomorrow at 1pm in the Geography Small Lecture Theatre - all welcome! Michael Bravo Scott Polar Research Institute

Conference - Alchemy and Print Culture

The Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry’s next meeting, Alchemy and Print Culture, will be held on Saturday 30th June 2018 in room 728 at the UCL Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London.


10.00: Registration.

10.30-11.30: Didier Kahn (CNRS/Université Paris-Sorbonne): “Willem Silvius and the publication of Denis Zecaire and Bernardus Trevisanus in the context of the sixteenth-century alchemical publishing movement.”

11.30-12.30: Peter J. Forshaw (University of Amsterdam): “Arcana Illustrata: Early Modern Alchemical Image Cycles in Print.”

12.30-13.00: SHAC Annual General Meeting.

13.00-14.30: LUNCH BREAK. Unfortunately, we are unable to provide lunch at this meeting but there are various cafés and restaurants nearby

14.30-15.30: Jennifer M. Rampling (Princeton): “From Script to Print, and Back Again: The Making of Elias Ashmole’s Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum (1652).”

15.30-16.30: Stephen Clucas (Birkbeck, University of London): “E bibliotheca nostra Typographis: the Nuremberg printer Johannes Petreius and the promotion of alchemy.”

16.30: Meeting ends. 

he meeting fee is £10 for SHAC and RSC Historical Group Members, otherwise £15. Further information and a registration form can be found at

Job - Librarian, Linnean Society

LIBRARIAN (Full-time, permanent post)
Salary: £27,000 - £30,000 p.a. with a generous workplace pension scheme

Job description

The Linnean Society of London is the world's oldest extant biological society and has in its care several internationally important collections, including those of the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus. Arts Council England has awarded Designation status to the entirety of the Linnean Society's library, archives and biological specimen collections. The Society is seeking to appoint an experienced Librarian who will ensure the smooth running of all aspects of the Library and support the Head of Collections in her/his role as Custodian of all the Society's collections. The post-holder will have a wide range of responsibilities, supporting the research requirements of Library users, cataloguing and classifying Library material and creating displays in the Reading Room. The post holder will also be responsible for the operation and development of the library management system (Heritage Cirqa), will act as Administrator for the Linnaeus Link Project and the Society's "adoption" scheme, AdoptLINN, and will support the Society's charitable public engagement and educational activities. Candidates should have a degree or postgraduate qualification in librarianship, information studies or information management and at least 3 years' post-qualification experience in a comparable environment. This post will require exceptional IT skills and commitment to the highest standards of service to our users.


Further information is available on the Linnean Society website: Application is by CV and supporting letter, including details of two referees. Closing date: Midnight on Sunday 1st July 2018. Interviews are scheduled for Monday 9th July 2018 at the Society's Rooms in Burlington House, Piccadilly, London.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

CFP: Special issue of 'Victorian Poetry': 'New Work on Edward Lear'

The guest editors, Jasmine Jagger and Benjamin Westwood, are seeking submissions for a special issue of 'Victorian Poetry' devoted to new work on Edward Lear, which will appear in summer 2020. Lear studies is in the middle of a lively and substantive revival, following a steady sequence of publications on diverse aspects of his work – even in the last two years. The first collection of essays dedicated to Lear’s poetry ('Edward Lear and the Play of Poetry', co-edited by James Williams and Matthew Bevis) appeared with OUP in 2016. A major study of his natural history (Robert McCracken Peck, 'The Natural History of Edward Lear') was published in the same year. And, in 2017, Jenny Uglow’s major new biography appeared with Faber ('Mr Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense'). There is, at the moment, considerable and renewed critical interest in Lear as a poet and artist in his own right. This is also evident in a number of recent articles and doctoral dissertations, as well as forthcoming monographs and essay collections. The editors are particularly keen to solicit submissions regarding: Lear and affect Lear’s poetics Lear’s visual art Lear’s travel writing Lear and other writers Essays should be 5,000 words in length, and should follow the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition. Please send abstracts only, of around 250 words, by 16 September 2018. The final deadline for essays will be September 2019. All submissions and enquiries should be directed to and

Public lecture: 'Paying the Tolls: Glass in Time and the Regulation of the Free Trade State', Jenny Bulstrode (University of Cambridge)

The Society of Antiquaries, Burlington House, London: 1-2pm, Tuesday 21 August (doors open at 12.30).

Lectures are free and open to the public, but space is limited and booking is recommended.

For further details and to book please follow this link.

In the stores of the British Museum are three exquisite springs, made in the late 1820s and 1830s, to regulate the most precise timepieces in the world. Barely the thickness of a hair, they are exquisite because they are made entirely of glass. Combining new archival evidence, funded by the Antiquarian Horological Society, with the first technical analysis of the springs, undertaken in collaboration with the British Museum, the research presented here uncovers the extraordinary significance of these springs to the global extension of nineteenth century capitalism through the repeal of the Corn Laws. In the 1830s and 1840s the Astronomer Royal George Biddell Airy; the Hydrographer to the Admiralty, Francis Beaufort; and the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, collaborated with the virtuoso chronometer-maker, Edward John Dent, to mobilize the specificity of particular forms of glass, the salience of the Glass Tax, and the significance of state standards, as means to reform. These protagonists looked to glass and its properties to transform the fiscal military state into an exquisitely regulated machine with the appearance of automation and the gloss of the free-trade liberal ideal. Surprising, but significant connections, linking Newcastle mobs to tales of Cinderella and the use of small change, demonstrate why historians must attend to materials and how such attention exposes claims to knowledge, the interests behind such claims, and the impact they have had upon the design and architecture of the modern world. Through the pivotal role of glass, this paper reveals the entangled emergence of state and market capitalism, how an exquisite glass spring set the time for Dent’s most famous work, the Westminster clock, Big Ben; and how the British factory system was transformed in vitreous proportions.