Monday, December 15, 2008

Lent 2009

This term we shall focus on historical fiction. All of the novels will be made available in January in our box-file for reading in the Whipple Library *only*; many are also held in Cambridge University Library, or are still in print.

Useful background reading for all of this term’s seminars can be found in the Isis Focus section on ‘History of Science and Historical Novels’, Isis 98 (2007), 755-795.

We meet fortnightly on Mondays in the upstairs seminar room at Darwin College, from 7.30-9pm. All welcome!

19th January
John Banville, Doctor Copernicus (1976)
Available in Cambridge University Library, from second-hand booksellers, and also still in print: alone, and as part of the 'Revolutions' trilogy.

2nd February
Daniel Kehlmann, Measuring the World (2007 translation by Carol Brown Janeway)
Available in Cambridge University Library, in print, and from second-hand booksellers.

16th February
Russell McCormmach, Night Thoughts of a Classical Physicist (1982)
Available in Cambridge University Library, from second-hand booksellers, and also still in print.

2nd March
C.P. Snow, The Search (1934)
Available in Cambridge University Library, and from second-hand booksellers.

Friday, December 12, 2008

London Consortium PhD Studentship

The London Consortium in collaboration with the Science Museum invites applications to a new PhD studentship to commence in September 2009. The London Consortium Science and Humanities Studentship is offered to support projects of doctoral research into an area that involves or establishes a significant relation between science and the humanities. The award is tenable for three years and will cover the full cost of fees for a home student, or if awarded to an overseas student it will have the effect of reducing the overseas rate to the home rate. It will also include an annual stipend of £3,000 towards living expenses.

The London Consortium is a unique collaboration between Birkbeck College, the ICA, TATE, the Science Museum and the Architectural Association offering masters and doctoral programmes in humanities and cultural studies in an innovative, multidisciplinary environment. In the first year of the award the successful applicant will follow five core courses and a research methods course designed to provide a rigorous grounding in the key concepts and methodologies of multidisciplinary research. The doctorate will be examined by a thesis of 80,000 to 100,000 words, and will be awarded by the University of London.

The studentship will be awarded to a candidate who proposes an original and cross-disciplinary research project exploring the relation between science and the humanities. The student is encouraged to make use of the Science Museum’s unique collections relating to science, technology and medicine. With over 300,000 objects in its care, the Science Museum has particular strengths in the history of western science, technology and medicine since 1700. This collection is supported by the books, journals and archives which are available in the Science Museum Library. Interested applicants should apply to the London Consortium’s doctoral programme, indicating on the application form that they would like to be considered for the award. Applicants should have a good 2:1 (or equivalent) in a discipline relevant to the application.

Further information about the London Consortium can be found here. Enquiries about the Science and Humanities Studentship should be directed to Matt Taunton, admissions tutor, by email on, or by telephone on 020 7836 7558.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

CFP - Cultivating Empire

Cultivating Empire: Exploration, Science and Literature: An Interdisciplinary Conference
, featuring the work and influence of Sir Joseph Banks

Lincoln, UK, 18 April 2009

This multidisciplinary conference will examine the intersections between the local and the global--the English shire and the colonial shore--in the years 1750-1850. Focusing on the relationship between Britain and the countries over which it extended its power, the conference has as its centre Sir Joseph Banks but also aims more broadly to present critical work in the following areas: the history of exploration and of colonial settlement (e.g. in Australasia, the South Pacific, Africa, India, the NW coast of America, the Poles, and in Britain itself); the development of colonialism as a system (for instance, the application to a global network of forms of administration and control pioneered on the English country estate); the cultural impact of the exploration and settlement of previously-unknown regions (e.g. in verbal and visual representations: art, theatre, poetry and fiction, journalism, travel writing, and vis-a-vis Orientalism, Omai, Tahiti,and India); natural philosophy in Britain and abroad (e.g. plant exchange, imperial botany, geological mapping, imperial medicine, the Royal Society, Kew Gardens, Hooker); agricultural improvement at home and in the colonies (e.g. Captain Bligh and the breadfruit scheme, the import and export of crops and livestock, the Royal Society of Arts); local history: the relationship of antiquarian study to the practice of natural philosophy in the empire; Sir Joseph Banks: any aspect of his life and work; archives and correspondence: the role of collections, letters and information stores, then and now, in knowledge-production and staging empire; the late eighteenth-century gentry as a class; the exchange and cultural meanings of technologies and objects

Submissions for 20 minute papers are invited from historians of science, literary critics, geographers, students of local history, garden historians, colonial critics and all others interested in the cultures of late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century Britain. Abstracts of no more than 200 words should be sent by email to by 1 January 2009.Venue: University of Lincoln/The Collection (Usher Gallery, Lincoln) where delegates will have a chance to inspect Benjamin West's great portrait of Joseph Banks before it leaves the UK.

Organisers: Neil Chambers, Sir Joseph Banks Archive, Nottingham Trent University, Tim Fulford, Dept ELH, Nottingham Trent University, Ian Packer, School of Humanities and Performing Arts, University of Lincoln, The Sir Joseph Banks Society.

Transcribing Tyndall

I've just come across the following blog, linked to the Tyndall Correspondence Project initiated by Bernard Lightman at York University in Toronto, which might be of interest to Science and Literature members!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Dates for next term...

... are confirmed as Mondays 19th January, 2nd and 16th February, and 2nd March, from 7.30-9pm in the upstairs seminar room at Darwin College. Details of the selected readings will be available soon.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

1st December

Our final meeting of term will be held on Monday 1st December, from 7.30-9pm in the upstairs seminar room of Darwin College.

We'll finish our exploration of the science of education with Chas. Hope Semir's wonderfully-titled Driven to suicide! or, the life of an assistant master in a London board school (1889).

There is a copy of this pamphlet in the Cambridge University Library, classmark 1890.7.610, order in Rare Books Room; or a photocopy in the Whipple Library Reading Group boxfile.

We hope you can join us for a glass of wine and perhaps a mince pie or two...

Dramatis Personae

Friday, November 14, 2008

Beddoes - Conference

Thomas Beddoes - Doctor of Enlightenment

Friday 12 December 2008 at 9:00am

A one-day conference organised by the Royal Society in conjunction with the Centre for Life Writing Research, King's College London.

Dr Thomas Beddoes (1760-1808) was one of the most remarkable figures in the history of British medicine. Part of a group of radical physicians friendly with Erasmus Darwin and the Lunar Circle in the early 1790s, he set up the Pneumatic Institution near Bristol where he attempted cures using newly-discovered combinations of gases. The then-unknown Humphry Davy superintended trials, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge was among his patients.

This conference marks the bicentenary of Beddoes's death. Speakers will include Trevor Levere, Larry Stewart, Mike Jay, George Rousseau, Giuliano Pancaldi, Iwan Morus, Neil Vickers and Jane Darcy. Registration is now open, at a fee of £15, or £10 concession (students/retired/unwaged). Further information, a programme and a registration form are available to download here. Enquiries should be directed to Felicity Henderson on 02074512597 or For further information see here.

Next term preview

Next term we shall be reading novels about the history of science. For a head-start on some of the themes we'll be discussing (and an introduction to some of the set books, too), have a look at the recent Isis focus section on history of science and historical novels:

Jan Golinski, 'Introduction: History of Science and Historical Novels'

Kathryn M. Olesko, 'The World We Have Lost: History as Art'

John Gascoigne, '"Getting a Fix": The Longitude Phenomenon'

Lawrence M. Principe, 'Transmuting History'

Charles C. Gillispie, 'The Distorted Meridian'

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

17th November

Our third meeting of term will continue our discussions on 'the science of education'. We meet as usual in the upstairs seminar room of Darwin College from 7.30-9pm. We'll be reading:

Otto Ernst, Flachsmann als Erzieher (1900). Translated by H M Beatty as Master Flachsmann (1904). Available here and in the Whipple Library boxfile.

All are welcome!

Mary Anning - "The greatest fossilist the world ever knew"

The 12th Annual Robert Grant Lecture

Mary Anning: "The greatest fossilist the world ever knew"

Prof. Hugh Torrens

JZ Young Lecture Theatre, UCL Anatomy Building

Wednesday 12 Nov 2008 at 4:30pm

Despite the fact that she was an uneducated, working-class woman from Devon, Mary Anning (1799-1847) broke through the male-dominated field of geology to become one of the most important fossil collectors ever.

She discovered the first ever plesiosaurs, the first British pterosaurs and several amazing ichthyosaurs but she was rarely given the credit. A religious Nonconformist, who published nothing and travelled little, her life is difficult for historians to study but proves to be fascinating.

This lecture explores all of these problems, and outlines Anning's extraordinary achievements. Her work as a "merely commercial" collector of fossils opens up the complex debate about who is
amateur and who professional.

Professor Hugh Torrens, former President of the British Society for the History of Science and the International Commission on the History of Geological Sciences is the leading expert on Anning's life, and has published over 200 books, articles and papers.

Following the lecture, join us for a free glass of wine in a private view of the Museum.

This event is free and there is no need to book.

All are welcome.

The Age of Wonder - Royal Institution Lecture

The Age of Wonder

Monday 19 January, 7.00pm-8.30pm

Speaker: Prof Richard Holmes

In this lecture Richard Holmes tells the story of three remarkable scientific friendships during the Romantic Age in Britain. The astronomers William and Caroline Herschel, the chemists Humphry Davy and Michael Faraday and the medical scientists, John Abernethy and William Lawrence all challenged traditional ideas about human identity, morality and religious belief. They were pioneers in a time where distinctions between poetry, art and science were yet to take hold. Holmes presents an age on the cusp of modernity, when science and faith in God were mutually incompatible, and shows through the vivid dramas of his central relationships how ideas are nurtured, scientific discoveries made, and how religious faith and scientific truth collide. This lecture seeks to answer questions that are as relevant to us as they were to Coleridge's generation: What are the sources of creativity? In what sense is there a human soul? Is it a fundamental mistake to regard science as a purely rational pursuit, or must we also recognise it as an imaginative and emotional one?

Admission: Tickets cost £8, £6 concessions, £4 Ri members. You can book tickets online at or by calling the Events Team on 020 7409 2992 9.00am-5.00pm Monday to Friday.

Venue: The Royal Institution, 21 Albemarle Street, London W1S 4BS

For more information please visit

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Proof-reading - telling stories with numbers, telling stories with words

On Monday 10 November at 6.30pm the Royal Society, in collaboration with the Royal Society of Literature, is hosting Proof-reading: Telling stories with numbers, telling stories with words.

In Proof-reading Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time will discuss the interface between mathematics and literature with Professor Marcus Du Sautoy, author of the critically- acclaimed Music of the Primes, presenter of the current BBC4 series The Story of Maths, and recently appointed Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford.

Admission is free. No ticket or advanced booking required. The discussion is open to the public on a first-come-first-served basis and doors open at 5.45pm.

For more information please visit Proof-reading: Telling stories with numbers, telling stories with words but if you have any further questions please email me on

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

3rd November

The second meeting of term continues our theme of 'the science of education' with a story by Maria Edgeworth.

The good French governess (1801) is available here and the same edition has also been digitised by Google books. If you have difficulty downloading either of these, a version without page numbers is available here.

We hope to see you from 7.30-9pm in the upstairs seminar room at Darwin College!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

20th October

Our first meeting of the year will be held on Monday 20th October, from 7.30 to 9pm in the upstairs seminar room of Darwin College.

All are welcome!

We begin our readings on the science of education with a French classic:

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Émile, ou De l'éducation (1762), Book 2, especially the discussion of children’s reasoning, which is pp. 89-126 in the Penguin edition translatedby Allan Bloom; pp. 63-107 in the Everyman edition translated by Barbara Foxley; and paragraphs 254-412 in the Grace Roosevelt translation, available online.

A copy of this will also be placed in our box file in the Whipple Library.

CFP - Phobia Conference

PHOBIA: Constructing the Phenomenology of Chronic Fear, 1789 to the Present

An international conference hosted by the Glamorgan Research Centre for Literature, Arts and Science

Friday 8 - Saturday 9 May, 2009
The ATRiuM Campus, Cardiff

Keynote Speakers: Laura Otis (Emory University); Andrew Thacker (De Montfort University):

The history of phobias as disease entities is intimately connected to the phenomenology of modernity. Whereas the emergence of spatial phobias such as agoraphobia (Carl Otto Westphal, 1871) and claustrophobia (Benjamin Ball, 1879) coincided with growing urbanisation and the development of the modern metropolis, Sigmund Freud's modern subject theory situated phobia at the heart of his psychoanalytical practice ('Little Hans', Totem and Taboo, Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety). The fin de siècle was rife with cultural and social fears about the present and the future, and the twentieth century-with its two global conflicts, its natural disasters and the threat of terrorism-has ushered in a period of postmodern panic. Fear and anxiety are omnipresent in the modern age. But when, how and why does fear become chronic, morbid or abnormal? And in what ways has fear been conceptualised by medical practitioners, cultural theorists and artists?

This interdisciplinary conference looks at the different ways in which writers, artists, historians, art historians, cultural and human geographers, scientists and medical practitioners have constructed, represented and theorised phobia and chronic fear.

We welcome proposals for papers on any aspect of phobias and anxiety disorders in the period from 1789 to the present. Interdisciplinary approaches are welcome. Topics may include but are not limited to:

* spatial phobias
* biophobias
* social phobias
* phobia and the Gothic
* the fin de siècle
* phobia, modernisation and modernity
* phobia and psychoanalysis
* phobia and cultural geography
* fear of science and technology
* phobia, the senses and physical sensations
* phobophobia

The conference will include an evening trip to Cardiff Bay, home to Wales's iconic new architectures and a central location of recent television dramas Dr Who and Torchwood. There will also be an opportunity for conference participants to submit work for a special 'Phobias' issue of The Journal of Literature and Science.

Please send paper proposals of 300 words to Dr Vike Martina Plock and Dr Martin Willis at by 19 December 2008.

Proposals for panels (comprising three speakers) are also welcome-please submit the title and a brief description of the panel as well as abstracts for the individual papers.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

CFP - The Two Cultures in Question

Art and Science Now: The Two Cultures in Question

Science Museum and Tate Modern, London, 23-24 January 2009

Call for Papers

On 7 May 1959, C. P. Snow delivered the Rede Lecture in Cambridge on the subject of 'The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution'. A failed scientist and a moderately successful novelist, Snow drew on his experience as a Civil Service Commissioner to consider what seemed to him to be an increasing fissure between 'literary intellectuals' and 'natural scientists'. In part an attack on the perceived insularity, decadence and political sterility of the London literary scene, in part a complaint about the poverty of a humanities education and a demand for curriculum reform in schools and universities, the lecture was, most fundamentally, a critique of the lack of mutually intelligible exchange between the two cultures. As the 1950s drew to a close, Snow believed that only a national culture as aware of the importance of knowing the second law of thermodynamics as of knowing the plays of Shakespeare, would be fit to offer developing countries the scientific and technological solutions to poverty and deprivation that were so urgently required.

The London Consortium is bringing together the Science Museum and Tate Modern in a two-day conference to mark fifty years of the two cultures. Divided into a more specialised academic event and a more public occasion, it will consider the history of this debate, asking whether Snow's critique has been addressed by the increase in multi-disciplinary research, alongside the expansion of educational curricula and provision within science and the humanities. But in a world of increasing disciplinary specialisation in which there has been exponential growth of sub-disciplines in both science and the humanities, it will also ask whether the distinctions between and indeed within the two cultures might have become further entrenched. The most fundamental question this celebration of 50 years since Snow's lecture will ask, though, is how the terms of the debate may have changed.

We invite papers for a conference at the Science Museum on 23rd January 2009, that consider questions such as the following: How have new technologies such as the internet and new resources like Wikipedia reconfigured our sense of disciplinary boundaries, hierarchies of knowledge and the places where cultural capital is held? Has the new dominance within general culture of ideas drawn from the life sciences, molecular biology, genetics and biochemistry, ecology, epidemiology, and their unpredictable pressings upon fundamental questions of how and why humans and other organisms should find themselves and their relationships defined in particular ways, led to an ever more complex and porous boundary between science and the humanities? How are Snow's notions of disciplinary and national cultures to be rethought through the paradigms and politics of globalisation?

Please send 200-word abstracts for papers (20 minutes maximum) by November 1st to Dr. Laura Salisbury, School of English and Humanities, Birkbeck, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX, or e-mail:

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Michaelmas 2008

This term we will be reading about the science of education.

Copies of all the readings will be placed in our box file in the Whipple Library. Organised by Daniel Friesner (Science Museum) and Melanie Keene (HPS). We meet on Mondays from 7.30 to 9pm in the upstairs seminar room of Darwin College.

All are welcome!

20th October
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Émile, ou De l'éducation (1762), Book 2, especially the discussion of children’s reasoning, which is pp. 89-126 in the Penguin edition translatedby Allan Bloom; pp. 63-107 in the Everyman edition translated by Barbara Foxley; and paragraphs 254-412 in the Grace Roosevelt translation, available online.

3rd November
Maria Edgeworth, The good French governess (1801). Available here and the same edition has also been digitised by Google books. If you have difficulty downloading either of these, a version without page numbers is available here.

17th November
Otto Ernst, Flachsmann als Erzieher (1900). Translated by H M Beatty as Master Flachsmann (1904). Available here.

1st December
Chas. Hope Semir, Driven to suicide! or, the life of an assistant master in a London board school (1889). There is a copy of this pamphlet in the Cambridge University Library, classmark 1890.7.610, order in Rare Books Room.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

CFP - BSLS Conference 2009

British Society for Literature and Science
Conference 2009

The 4th annual conference of the British Society for Literature and Science will take place at the University of Reading on 27th-29th March, 2009. Keynote speakers will include Dame Gillian Beer, formerly King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at Cambridge; Patrick Parrinder, Professor of English at the University of Reading; and Simon Conway Morris, Professor of Evolutionary Palaeontology at Cambridge. The Society invites proposals for 20-minute research papers addressing any aspect of the interaction between literature and science; collaborative panels of two or three papers; and papers or panels on the teaching of literature and science. We welcome work on literature from all periods and countries, and on all aspects of science, including medicine and technology. Presenters need not be based in UK institutions.

Please email proposals of up to 400 words to Dr John Holmes ( by Monday 1st December, together with a 100-word biographical note (or in the case of a panel, abstracts and notes for each speaker). Please send abstracts in the body of messages; do not use attachments. Alternatively, abstracts and proposals may be posted to:

Dr John Holmes
Department of English and American Literature
University of Reading
PO Box 218

Please address any queries to Dr John Holmes at the email or postal address above.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Darwin's Microscope

Congratulations to Reading Group member Kelley Swain, whose first collection of poems, Darwin's Microscope, will be published by Flambard Press in 2009. You can read more about the inspiration for Kelley's work on her blog. We hope to be hosting a poetry reading by Kelley in the future, so watch this space for further details...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

BA Festival of Science - events

Details of the History of Science Section events at this year's BA Festival of Science in Liverpool (6th-11th September) are now available on the Section webpage.

Topics addressed this year include a Presidential session on 'Maritime Liverpool: Knowledge and Power'; 'Race Matters: Rethinking Race and Identity'; 'The Local and the Global: Liverpool and International Health'; and, on the schools programme, a role-play activity about 'The Business of Bodies'. Of particular interest to members of the Reading Group is the following session:

Science Fiction and You

Monday 8th September 2008, 3pm to 6.30pm
Hearnshaw Lecture Theatre, Eleanor Rathbone, University of Liverpool

This session is organised by The BA History of Science Section and the BA Education Section

We would like to thank the Science Museum Futureworld Project for their support.

Book here

Join us for an afternoon of science fiction as we explore its place in culture, education and science communication. What role does sci-fi play in public understanding of, and hopes and fears around, science? How can we use science fiction in education, and to stimulate productive public dialogue?

Science fiction author Stephen Baxter, popular science analyst Jon Turney and others explore the relationship between science fiction, science communication and education.


Jon Turney: ‘Can you believe anything you learn about science in science fiction?’

Science facts in science fiction may be reliable, but they don’t have to be. But what about other things might you learn about science from fiction?


Stephen Baxter: ‘Populating an Empty Heaven. How science fiction has shaped our expectations regarding life in the universe, from public intuition to the scientific search for extraterrestrial life.’

The modern depiction of Mars in science fiction began with HG Wells. Since Wells, fictional models of Mars and Martians have stimulated the aspirations of space engineers, and have informed public perceptions of the threats and opportunities afforded by extraterrestrial life. Science fiction visions have replaced divine visions of the cosmos.

4.30pm Tea Break


Panel Discussion.

Members of the audience are invited to discuss the day’s issues with our panellists, who will each speak for a few minutes about their involvement with Science Ficiton. Our two opening speakers, Jon Turney and Stephen Baxter will be joined by:

  • Professor Steven French (University of Leeds): ‘Fictional Philosophies of Science in Science Fiction’
    Science fiction not only draws on, reflects and projects scientific theories, it also presents certain views of how these theories are discovered, how they are developed and how they are supported by experiment and observation - how, in other words, science works. Are these presentations accurate? Or do they conform to certain stereotypes, often promulgated by scientists themselves? And if so, does science fiction help or hinder our understanding of science?
  • Katie Claydon-Park (Ryburn Valley High School): ‘Science Fact or Fiction?’
    How can science fiction films augment the delivery of Science in secondary schools? Katie Claydon-Park, Assistant Head teacher at Ryburn Valley High School is part of a team who hove developed imaginative approaches to the use of film to engage students and enhance the delivery of difficult topics.
  • Dr David Kirby (University of Manchester): ‘Big Screen Science: Scientists’ Backstage Role in the Production of Hollywood Films’
    I will elaborate on the role science consultants play in turning scientific facts into plausible cinematic scenarios for Hollywood filmmakers.
  • Dr Irene Lorenzoni (Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research): ‘Seeing or believing: does watching “The Day After Tomorrow” influence our views on climate change?’
    I will focus upon narratives of climate change presented in the film “The Day After Tomorrow” and examine how viewing of the film may influence people’s perceptions and actions.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Designing Darwin Competition

Many congratulations to Science and Literature Reading Group member Simon Crowhurst for winning the 19+ category in the British Society for the History of Science Outreach and Education Committee's 'Designing Darwin' competition with this image. For details of all of the competition winners, and to download Simon's drawing for your own use, see here. For the University of Cambridge press release, which includes Simon's response to winning the prize, see here.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Conference - History of Science in France and Great Britain

The History of Science in France and Great Britain. Cross-Perspectives.
The Maison Francaise d'Oxford and the History Faculty of the University of Oxford are pleased to invite you to a one-day conference on the history of science in France and Great Britain, on the 3rd of July 2008. Papers will be given in English. Further information can be found on the Maison Francaise website, at the following link: The conference includes a panel on science and literature:


Chairman: Dr Kirsten Shepherd-Barr (University of Oxford, Saint Catherine's College)

Dr Frédérique AÏT-TOUATI (University of Paris Sorbonne/University of Oxford, New College)
The optics of fiction in Kepler's Somnium

Liliane CAMPOS (Maison Française d’Oxford, University of Paris Sorbonne)
"Mathematics on stage in Paris and London: a comparative study of Jean-François Peyret's *Le Cas de Sophie K.* and Complicite's *A Disappearing Number*

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Various Modes of Cooking

As prepared by Mrs Beeton

Carrots in the German way,

Minced veal and macaroni.

Hashed partridges and jugged hare,

Hot crab and cucumbers.

Rolled loin of mutton, eel pie,

Veal pie (dish for a picnic).

Rich strong stock; medium stock;

Economical stock.

Sunderland gingerbread nuts

(an excellent recipe).

Rich bride, crimped cod, fried smelts, gruel.

Suckling pig, bullock’s heart.

Hodge-podge and Yarmouth Bloaters –

Red herrings – useful soup for

Benevolent purposes.

Universal pickle.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Clinical Signs

Found suppurating in D.J. Taylor, 'Pig Diseases' (4th edition)

A common inhabitant of the nasal

cavity of pigs, the organism grows

on MacConkey agar. No alternative

hosts of the organism are known.

Coughing is obvious when the animals

are disturbed. One or more animals in a

pen may be affected severely. Outbreaks

of sneezing occur in baby pigs.

Affected pigs appear hairy and growth may

be depressed. In severe cases they may scream

or walk on their knees. Short snouts may occur.

The role of vectors is uncertain.

Dead animals are usually in good

Condition. The spleen kidney and a long bone

should be submitted for examination.

Rodents should be eliminated.

Energy Flux at Earth

Observed slowly rotating in Binney and Merrifield, 'Galactic Astronomy'

The mean metallicity

of the stars: proper motion,

accepted distance, richness,

class, magnitude, position.

They will probably suffer.

It can be advantageous

To turn the procedure round.

We can use standard candles,

Plenty of cosmic rays and

Lots of cool gas, energy,

A source of noise, unity,

Rotating components and

Even vertex deviation.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Found nesting in T.A. Coward, ‘British Birds and Their Eggs’ (1920)

Early in the year when
The weather is broken
The bird perches high on a tall tree
And in exultant and ringing song
Defies the elements

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Into the Microscope

Spied through 'A Popular Handbook to the Microscope' (1895)

Get the best stand you can, and remember
The double nosepiece is the most useful.
Join the Queckett Microscopical Club.
Learn to judge the sharpness of the image
And use no greater power than required.
Exquisite lilies start into being
Thin slices of the cuticle of leaves
Diatoms in equi-angular forms
And proper water-fleas or Daphniae
Marvellous changes in appearances
The eye needs educating as the hands
There is such desire to look into things
Bring it close to the eye and it blots out
Almost all we can see of earth and heaven

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Poetic Process

This year’s meetings were brought to a close with a wonderful poetry-writing workshop on Monday 9th June, led by Katy Price.

Katy introduced the session by commenting how she would have liked to have discovered more about the collaborative process behind Crawford’s Contemporary Poetry and Contemporary Science: how such works as Kinloch’s ‘The Organ Bath’ were crafted and drafted, unseating scientific vocabulary and ideas and making them do poetic work; becoming self-reflective as language was recruited to perform scientific functions. Attention to the activity of writing (and rewriting) poetry, she pointed out, also parallels the increased emphasis on communicating scientific methods, processes, and practices to wider audiences, as well as detailing experimental findings. She discusses this in more detail in her review of the volume for the BSLS website.

The workshop then gave us the chance to experience one particular poetic process ourselves, writing ‘found poetry’ from field guides and reference works. It was based on a similar seminar given by David Morley at the Poetry School in March 2007. Our chosen structure was syllabics: for inspiration in this relaxed form of verse, something of a half-way house between metre and free verse, we listened to Thom Gunn’s ‘Considering the Snail’. Diving into an eclectic range of texts, we tackled subjects including pig disease and microscopy, astrophysics and chordate evolution, birds and badgers, ending up with a wide range of styles, lengths, and approaches. Some examples of what we managed to ‘find’ in just over an hour’s searching should be appearing on the blog soon.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

BSHS Dingle Prize Lecture - Elegant Solutions

Elegant Solutions - the BSHS Dingle Prize Lecture

Royal Institution, London

Thursday 10 July 2008, 7.00pm-8.30pm

Lecturer: Dr Philip Ball

Scientists frequently talk about 'beauty' in their work, but rarely stop to
think quite what they mean by it. What makes an experiment beautiful? Is it the
clarity of the design? The elegance of the apparatus? The nature of the
knowledge gained? There have been several recent attempts to identify
'beautiful' experiments in science, especially in physics. But Philip Ball
argues that, not only is chemistry often neglected in these surveys, but it has
its own special kinds of beauty, linked to the fact that it is a branch of
science strongly tied to the art of making things: new molecules and materials,
new smells and colours. He offers suggestions for ten particularly beautiful
experiments in chemistry, taken from his recent book Elegant solutions: Ten
Beautiful Experiments in Chemistry (Royal Society of Chemistry, 2005).

This talk marks the book's receipt of the 2007 Dingle Prize for communicating
the history of science and technology from the British Society for the History
of Science.

Tickets cost £8, £6 concessions and £4 for RI Members.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

9th June

For the last meeting of this academic year, we'll be trying something slightly different: Katy Price will be returning to the group to host a creative writing workshop.

Please bring along a field guide, textbook or reference work from any scientific discipline, and be prepared to participate in a (completely non-threatening!) writing activity inspired by this term's theme of 'contemporary poetry and contemporary science'.

We hope to see you and your textbooks on Monday 9th June at Darwin College at 7.30pm!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

26th May

At our next meeting we will discuss two further chapters from Robert Crawford's Contemporary Poetry and Contemporary Science (OUP, 2006):
  • Kay Redfield Jamison, "Contemporary Psychology and Contemporary Poetry: Perspectives on Mood Disorders" (pp. 191-203).
  • Paul Muldoon, "Once I looked into your eyes", with introduction by Warren S. Warren (pp. 167-169).
The book is on reserve in the Whipple Library for reading and photocopying.

Please feel free to bring along any other contemporary poems to discuss!

We meet as usual from 7.30-9pm in the upstairs seminar room at Darwin College. All welcome!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

CFP - Darwin, Tennyson and their readers


A Bicentenary Celebration, 1809 – 2009

A One-Day Conference to be held in Cambridge, Saturday 17th October 2009, 10am – 6pm.

Plenary Speakers: Gillian Beer, George Levine

Offers of Short Papers (20 minutes long) are invited.

Please contact: Valerie Purton, Anglia Ruskin University ( by 1st October, 2008.

2009 will mark the bicentenary of the births of both Alfred Tennyson and Charles Darwin. Our one-day conference will celebrate this event by exploring the interaction of literature and science in the Victorian period, mining the rich vein of research opened up by Professor Dame Gillian Beer in Darwin’s Plots (1983) and continued by Professor George Levine in Darwin and the Novelists (1988). Professors Beer and Levine will both present plenary papers at the conference, outlining their latest thinking and building on the central insight that ‘the cultural traffic ran both ways’.

Short Papers are therefore invited, exploring the links not only between Tennyson and Darwin, but more generally between the writings of nineteenth century scientists and of nineteenth century poets or novelists – evidence that they were reading each other. A paper on Thomas Huxley’s reading of Tennyson would be especially welcomed; some more obvious subjects might be: George Eliot’s reading of Darwin; Darwin and Myth; Darwin reading Dickens; ‘Optimistic Materialism’ - in the light of George Levine’s latest book, Darwin Loves You (2007); ‘Condition of England novels and Evolutionary Theory: Kingsley, Disraeli and Darwin’; ‘Tennyson and Browning: two responses to evolutionary debates’; ‘Growing Younger with the Years: the reputations of Tennyson and Darwin reconsidered’; or ‘A Passion for Fabulation: Darwin, Tennyson and Autobiography’.

Proposals for papers, including a 300-word summary, should be sent to: Dr Valerie Purton Department of English Anglia Ruskin University East Road Cambridge CB1 1PT U.K. Tel: 0845-196-2496 Email:

Monday, April 28, 2008

12th May

Next time we'll continue our exploration of Robert Crawford's Contemporary Poetry and Contemporary Science with a focus on the following sections:
  • Jocelyn Bell Burnell, "Astronomy and Poetry" (pp. 125-140).
  • John Burnside, "Steinar Undir Steinahlithium", with introduction by R. M. M. Crawford (pp. 107-109).
Please feel free to bring along any other contemporary poems you would like to discuss.

We meet as usual in the upstairs seminar room at Darwin College, from 7.30-9pm. All welcome!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Nineteenth-Century Epic - A Symposium

A symposium on the 'Nineteenth-Century Epic' will be held at Newham College, Cambridge, on Friday 2nd May, from 2-5pm, hosted by the Cambridge Victorian Studies Group. Further details are available on this poster. To register, please contact

Monday, April 21, 2008

28th April

Our term exploring science and poetry begins on 28th April, in the upstairs seminar room at Darwin College from 7.30-9pm.

We will start to look at Robert Crawford (ed.), Contemporary Poetry and Contemporary Science (OUP, 2006), particularly the following chapters. A copy of the book is available on reserve in the Whipple Library.

  • Miroslav Holub, "Rampage, or Science in Poetry" (pp. 11-24).
  • Robert Crawford, "Biology", with introduction by Rona R. Ramsay (pp. 69-71).

Please feel free to bring along other poems that you would like to discuss...

All are welcome!

Sunday, April 13, 2008


The Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company and West Yorkshire Playhouse are putting on a production on Tom Stoppard's Hapgood: in Birmingham from 11-26 April 2008 and in Leeds from 1-24 May 2008.

Emily Ballou - The Darwin Poems

Australian poet Emily Ballou will read from her new collection, The Darwin Poems (a portrait of Charles Darwin) on April 16 2008 at 18.30 at The Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, King's College, London. Please RSVP

Monday, April 07, 2008

Beyond Measure - Conversations Across Art and Science

The new exhibition at Kettle's Yard, Beyond Measure: Conversations Across Art and Science, exploring the uses of geometry, runs until 1st June. Further details are available here.

BSLS book prize

Congratulations to former member of the Reading Group Ralph O'Connor on winning the first book prize of the British Society for Literature and Science for his The Earth on Show! The full announcement is available here.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Easter 2008

This term we will be exploring science and poetry.

In the first three meetings, we will look at Robert Crawford (ed.), Contemporary Poetry and Contemporary Science (OUP, 2006). A copy of the book is available on reserve in the Whipple Library. We will explore the whole book, but in particular the following:

28 April
  • Miroslav Holub, "Rampage, or Science in Poetry" (pp. 11-24).
  • Robert Crawford, "Biology", with introduction by Rona R. Ramsay (pp. 69-71).

12 May
  • Jocelyn Bell Burnell, "Astronomy and Poetry" (pp. 125-140).
  • John Burnside, "Steinar Undir Steinahlithium", with introduction by R. M. M. Crawford (pp. 107-109).

26 May
  • Kay Redfield Jamison, "Contemporary Psychology and Contemporary Poetry: Perspectives on Mood Disorders" (pp. 191-203).
  • Paul Muldoon, "Once I looked into your eyes", with introduction by Warren S. Warren (pp. 167-169).

Please feel free to bring along other poems that you would like to discuss...

9 June
  • The final meeting will be a creative writing workshop.
  • Please bring along your own poems and writings! We hope to have a creative writing tutor present, to facilitate the discussion.

We meet on Mondays from 7.30 to 9pm in the upstairs seminar room of Darwin College. All are welcome!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Cultures of Climate Change - Poetry Event

The Cultures of Climate Change warmly invites you to its fourth and final event of Lent 2008

Melanie Challenger - The Boundless Main: On Poetry and Frost

Monday 10 March, 17:00 - 18:30
Main Seminar Room, CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane

Melanie Challenger won an Eric Gregory Award in 2005, and her first collection, Galatea (Salt), was nominated for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. She is the British Antarctic Survey Artist in Residence for International Polar Year 2007-8, and returned from three months in Antarctica in February. Melanie will read some of her work and speak about her experiences; discussion and a wine reception to follow.

For more information on all our events please visit, or email Bradon Smith ( or Benjamin Morris (

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Next term - contemporary poetry and contemporary science

Dates for our meetings next term have been confirmed as Mondays 28th April, 12th and 26th May, and 9th June, from 7.30-9pm in the upstairs seminar room at Darwin College. We'll be reading selections from Robert Crawford (ed.) Contemporary Poetry and Contemporary Science (Oxford University Press, 2006).

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

CFP: Women in science, women of science

4-6 June 2009
Université Stendhal Grenoble III
UFR d'Etudes Anglophones CEMRA 3016

International pluridisciplinary conference

Women in science, Women of science: figures and representations from 18th

century to present.

Scientific knowledge has always been, both empirically and politically, a
masculine stronghold. Since the mid-19th century, however, despite
institutional and cultural resistance, women have progressively gained
access to scientific studies and careers.

The first theme of study will focus on emblematic female scientists of the

18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Papers may concentrate on historical,
social and political analyses of how, why and when women "infiltrated" the
scientific world and (re-) appropriated scientific discourse at different
moments in History. Another possible approach is to analyse the reactions
of the scientific community/ the press… to such women.

The second theme of study will analyse the evolution of (pseudo-)

scientific discourse on women and women's condition (for example medical
or eugenist discourse, etc).

The third theme will be devoted to fictional representations: how does the

popular culture construct and vehicle images of women of science and women
in the world of science? From the famous scientist's wife/daughter to the
androgynous cyborg of feminist science-fiction, to what extent have these
representations evolved over time? What impact did the feminist movement
of the 1970s have on how women are seen and how they see themselves in
relation to the sciences? Papers which include studies of television,
cinema and various genres of pulp-fiction will be welcome.

The conference will be followed by a publication.

Deadline for submissions: November 14th 2008

Please send a 300- to 350- word abstract (in French or in English) to the

And to the research secretary with the heading «WS abstract, copy»

Thursday, February 21, 2008

BAVS 2008

The call for papers for the 2008 Conference of the British Association for Victorian Studies, which will be held at the University of Leicester from 1-3 September, is available here.

The conference theme is 'Victorian Feeling: Touch, Bodies, Emotion' and plenary speakers include Paul White and Rebecca Stott.

"This interdisciplinary conference seeks to address all aspects of nineteenth-century tactile, emotional and embodied experience. Drawing on three decades of rich attention to Victorian bodies inspired by thinkers as diverse as, for example, Bakhtin, Foucault, and Poovey, this event pursues and endeavours to contribute to new developments in the ways that we can conceive of physical and psychical experience in this period. Alongside attention to personal feeling and its expression in verbal, visual and aural culture, we encourage contributions that address collective and (anti)social experiences, political, philosophical, economic, scientific and religious sensibilities, cultures of feeling and interpersonal relations."

The deadline for paper proposals is 31st March 2008.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

3rd March

Join us for our final meeting of term from 7.30-9pm in the upstairs seminar room at Darwin College as we discuss two stories about multiple worlds and uncertainty:
  • Jorge Luis Borges, "The garden of forking paths" (1941). Several English translations available, e.g. by Helen Temple and Ruthven Todd in Ficciones, ed. A. Kerrigan. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1962, pp. 89-101.
  • Fred Hoyle, "A jury of five". In Element 79. New York: New American Library, 1967, pp. 114-132.
All welcome!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

18th February

Our next meeting will take place in the upstairs seminar room of Darwin College from 7.30-9pm on Monday 18th February. We'll be reading some literary uses of the new physics, all of which can be found in the photocopied packs in the Whipple Library boxfile:

  • Aldous Huxley, Those Barren Leaves, Part V, Chapter 1. London: Chatto and Windus, 1925, pp. 339-348.
  • Robert Frost, "Version" (1962). We will use the complete text of this poem, as published in The Poetry of Robert Frost, ed. E. C. Lathem. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966, p. 427.
  • Michael Roberts, "On mechanical hallelujahs, or how not to do it". Poetry Review, Vol. XIX, 1928, pp. 433-8 (esp. pp. 437-8).
  • Robert Frost, "Education by Poetry" (1931). In Selected Prose of Robert Frost, ed. H. Cox & E. C. Lathem. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1966, pp. 33-46 (esp. pp. 36-41).

All welcome!

Darwin Day 2008


TUESDAY, 12th FEBRUARY 2008, from 9.00 a.m.

Arthur Thomson Hall, The Medical School, University of Birmingham

Please find the updated programme for the University of Birmingham Darwin Day 2008 here.

Professor Dame Gillian Beer DBE will be participating, giving a repeat performance of her
recent Romanes lecture. In addition, Emma Darwin (novelist and Darwin descendant) will be
contributing a few words.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Competition: Designing Darwin

Prize competition, organized by the British Society for the History of Science
Outreach & Education Committee. Details and poster available here.

The year 2009 sees both the bicentenary of Charles Darwin's birth and the 150th birthday of his most famous work, On the Origin of Species.
In anticipation of the celebrations, the BSHS Outreach & Education Committee is
offering prizes for original designs that best illustrate the significance of either (or both) of these anniversaries.

Format of the entry
Entries may submitted in one of the following electronic formats:
i) A poster up to A3 in overall size
ii) An illustrated essay of 500 words
iii) A PC screensaver

Entries may be submitted as jpeg files or in other standard formats including a digital photograph or a digital scan (for any entry prepared initially on paper). The file size should be no more than 500kB to ensure that the winning entries can easily be downloaded from the BSHS OEC website.

Entry categories
There are three age categories for entrants, a prize of £100 being awarded in each category:
i) 11-14
ii) 15-18
iii) 19+
For categories i) and ii) the age of the entrant must be confirmed by a responsible adult (parent, guardian, teacher) and the entrants' age should fall within the relevant category by the competition deadline of May 6th 2008.


The entry should be emailed by May 6th 2008 as a file attachment to

In the body of the email you should include the name, address, and other
relevant contact details for all the entrant(s) who have contributed to the submission.

The winning entries will be announced at the BSHS/CSHPS/HSS conference at Keble College, Oxford, 5th July 2008.

Enquiries about this competition should be directed to

Monday, January 28, 2008

CFP: Lawrence Durrell: a Writer at the Crossroads of Arts and Sciences


Lawrence Durrell: a Writer at the Crossroads of Arts and Sciences July 1st - 5th, 2008 - Université Paris X - Nanterre CREE (CREA EA 370)

"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true arts and science," Albert Einstein, "What I believe," 1930.

The aim of this conference is to explore Lawrence Durrell's universe at the crossroads of arts and science, but also to explore the world of Paris between the wars as the artistic and intellectual magnet that drove so many artists to become expatriates.

The sessions will focus on the relationships between Durrell's works and the aesthetic context as well as the development of scientific research. Contributions dealing with the Parisian intellectual and artistic crucible, the arts of politics, artistic intertextuality (drama, music, painting, philosophy), the scientific fabric (Durrell's investigations into quantum theory and psychoanalysis) are particularly welcome. But other propositions on wider fields are welcome as well.

Submissions for papers including a 250-word abstract, a short biography, and possibly a bibliography, as well as any request for specific material (recorder, videoprojector or other) should be sent by April 1st, 2008 to Corinne Alexandre-Garner (, or Murielle Caplan-Philippe ( or Isabelle Keller-Privat (

Thursday, January 24, 2008

4th February

Following on from last week's enjoyable discussion of the 'solar system atom', our next session will shift focus to explore the psychological roots of complementarity in works by William James and Niels Bohr.
  • William James, The Principles of Psychology (1890), Vol. 1, Chapter IX, "The stream of thought". London: Macmillan and Co, 1891, pp. 224-290 (esp. pp. 229-248).
  • Niels Bohr, "The Quantum of Action and the Description of Nature" (1929). In Atomic Theory and the Description of Nature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1934, pp. 92-101.
Photocopied reading packs containing these extracts, as well as the rest of the term's material, will be available from Monday afternoon (28th) in the Whipple Library box-file.

We hope to see you in Darwin College from 7.30-9pm!

BSLS 2008 - Programme

A draft programme for the 2008 conference of the British Society for Literature and Science has been released. Registration for the conference is also open, at preferential rates before 1st March.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

21st January

At our first meeting of term we will look at the rise and fall of the "solar system" model of atomic structure, as it was presented in the popular journal Scientific American. Copies of the selected readings are already available in the Whipple Library box file: please bring £1 to reimburse Daniel for the cost of photocopying to the first meeting.
  • A. H. Compton, "What Is Matter Made Of?" (May 15, 1915, pp. 451-2).
  • S. Dushman, "Beyond the Microscope" (June 1922, pp. 372-3).
  • A. T. Merrick, "Solar Systems Inside the Atom" (February 1925, pp. 80-1).
  • A. T. Merrick, "The Marvellous Speeds of Atomic Particles" (March 1925, p.301).
  • P. R. Heyl, "What Is An Atom?" (July 1928, pp. 9-12).
  • "Our Point of View: Whose Fault is It?" (November 1931, p. 299).

See you in the upstairs seminar room at Darwin College at 7.30pm!

Publishing Science Seminars

Publishing Science: Seminars in Book History and Bibliography

Organised by the Book History Research Group, the Open University, and the Institute of English Studies, University of London.

28 January 2008 (Monday)
Venue: Room 273 (ST)
Time: 17:30 - 19:00
Speakers: Jonathan Topham (University of Leeds) 'Scientific Publication and the Readership for Science in Early Nineteenth-Century Britain'

Jonathan Topham is co-author of 'Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical: Reading the Magazine of Nature' (2004) and 'Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical: An Electronic Index' (2005), and co-editor of 'Culture and Science in the Nineteenth-Century Media' (2004).

11 February 2008 (Monday)
Venue: Room 273 (ST)
Time: 17:00 - 19:30
Speakers: Jim Mussell (Birkbeck College/ NSE) 'The Roles of Secrecy in Nineteenth-Century Science Publishing'

Jim Mussell is postdoctoral research assistant on the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition. He is the author of 'Science, Time and Space in the Late Nineteenth-Century Periodical Press' (2007) and writes broadly on nineteenth-century science and publishing.

25 February 2008 (Monday)
Venue: Room 273 (ST)
Time: 17:30 - 19:00
Speakers: Gowan Dawson (University of Leicester) 'Moa Mania: Richard Owen's functionalist Paleontology and Nineteenth-Century Print Culture'

Gowan Dawson is the author of 'Darwin, Literature and Victorian Respectability' (2007), and co-author of 'Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical: Reading the Magazine of Nature' (2004).

10 March 2008 (Monday)
Venue: Room 273 (ST)
Time: 17:30 - 19:00
Speakers: Angelique Richardson (University of Exeter) ' "Among the earliest acclaimers of The Origin": Hardy and the Scientists'

Angelique Richardson is the author of 'Love and Eugenics in the late Nineteenth-Century: Rational Reproduction and the New Woman 1890-1914' and the editor of 'Women Who Did: Stories by Men and Women 1890-1914' (2005). She is a member of the advisory committee of Exeter's Centre for Medical History, a Research Associate of the ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society (Egenis), and a Contributing Editor to 'Critical Quarterly'.