Friday, August 21, 2009

Symposium – Euclidean Geometry in 19th-Century Culture

A symposium on Euclidean geometry in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century British culture will be held in Cambridge, UK, 1-2 October 2009.

Speakers include Professors Dame Gillian Beer, Joan L. Richards, Jeremy Gray, Marilyn Gaull, Linda Henderson and Robin Wilson. This interdisciplinary symposium aims to explore the story of Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry in the nineteenth century, and to investigate the relationships of geometry and artistic culture from Romanticism to Modernism.

The symposium will be held at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), and is funded by the European Research Council. Anyone interested in Victorian mathematics or culture is very welcome to attend. The regular fee is £20; a reduced rate is available.

Further information and the programme are available here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Next term - Analogy

Our theme for next term's meetings will be 'Analogy' in science and literature. Meetings will be held on Mondays 19th October, and 2nd, 16th, and 30th November, from 7.30-9pm.

Watch out for further details soon...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

British Science Festival: The Tables Turned

A performance by the BSHS Outreach and Education Committee.

‘The Tables Turned’ takes its audience to a dinner-party séance of the 1860s.

A film will show characters – including a physicist, poet, physician and medium – attempting to summon the spirits.

Through conversations on, and responses to, the evening’s events – table-rapping, ghostly messages and emanations – questions over the authority of men of science in the realm of the supernatural, and over scientific methods themselves, will be raised.

What is the limit of scientific knowledge? How do we test phenomena? Can we believe what we see? The audience and characters will analyse the problems of fact-making and observation, of orthodoxy and heterodoxy, in the cultural context of Victorian Britain.


  • Wednesday 9th, 9pm (main programme)
  • Wednesday 9th (KS3/4) and Thursday 10th (KS5), 10.30am, 12.30pm, 2pm (Young People’s Programme)

Funded by the Wellcome Trust.

For further information and booking see the British Science Association website.

British Science Festival: William Wordsworth at the British Association? Literature and Culture in the Early Years of the BSA

Wednesday 9th September, 16.00-17.00

Venue: Austin Pearce 3

In association with the Research Centre for Literature, Arts and Science at the University of Glamorgan. With thanks to the University of Glamorgan Strategic Insight Partnership Scheme for helping to fund this event.

Presenter: Dr Martin Willis, University of Glamorgan

In the early years of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1831-1851) it was not just scientists who enjoyed the annual meetings and various reports and discussions, but other men of culture too. This event explores some of the relationships between the early BA and key literary, artistic and cultural figures. Additionally, the event will show how the scientists of the BA used literary and artistic works in their scientific reports and in the Presidential Addresses.

The core message of the event, therefore, is to reveal that science was always part of wider social activity and creativity, and that the BSA’s interactions with society are not new but an evolved version of the original BAAS’s conception.

See the British Science Festival website for booking and further information.

British Science Festival: Culture Clash – The Two Cultures 50 Years On

An afternoon meeting at the University of Surrey, 8 September 2009

Fifty years ago, C P Snow claimed there were 'two cultures' - with an unbridgeable gulf between literary culture and that of science and technology. The idea sparked widespread controversy, which has continued ever since.

This meeting, which is part of the British Science Festival at the University of Surrey (Guildford), takes a critical look at Snow's notorious idea and its enduring appeal. Have the two cultures moved any closer? And what do they imply for the larger questions he raised about education, economic development, and global inequality?

Chair: Jon Turney


Prof Robert Bud (Science Museum): The Two Cultures: a 20th century dilemma

Dr Ted Nield (Editor, Geoscientist magazine): What did CP Snow really say and what did he mean?

Prof Raymond Tallis (University of Manchester): After the Two Cultures: can we meet Snow's challenge?

Date: Tuesday 8 September 2009

Time: 4.00­6.00 pm

Organised by: General Section, British Science Association

For more information and booking, please see the British Science Festival website.

Monday, August 10, 2009


From the SciTalk website:

Scientists and writers need each other

Scientists need to show writers — poets, playwrights, novelists – the wealth of possibilities that are opened up to fiction by using science and scientists in their work. Just as a novel with an accountant as a main character need not be about accountancy, a novel with a scientist need not be about science. Scientists need writers to show that they are 'normal people' from all backgrounds, with normal concerns.

SciTalk offers a way for scientists to communicate their expertise and their enthusiasm to writers, and a way for writers to find out about science and how scientists ‘work’ — through personal contact and meeting face-to-face, not just by email or phone.

Writers: you need no longer fear the apparent mystique and impenetrability of science, or worry about getting facts wrong, or having to resort to the scientist as cliché for a character. As you will discover here, there are scientists for every occasion, for every character. Science is individual or collaborative; scientists may be based in a laboratory or an office or a tent out in the wilds. The language and jargon can be exciting; the images are extraordinary; and the workplaces offer a wealth of different settings and scenarios.

Enjoy discovering more and putting your discoveries to good use in your work. You will find here scientists, men and women, who range from technicians to postgraduate research assistants to research group leaders, from academics to bioethicists to those working in commercial companies.

Browse the site or search for a particular expertise — then contact the scientists and arrange to meet.

CFP - Nature and the Long Nineteenth Century

A one-day interdisciplinary postgraduate conference exploring intersections of the natural world with nineteenth-century literature and culture at the University of Edinburgh, Saturday, 6 February 2010. Keynote speakers: Dr Martin Willis, University of Glamorgan, Dr Christine Ferguson, University of Glasgow, Professor Nick Daly, University College Dublin

In the twenty-first century, environmentalism and the impacts of climate change form a nexus of intense debates about relationships between human culture and the natural world. However, the centrality of the natural world to the nineteenth century imagination has long been acknowledged by scholars, way-marked by Lynn Merrill's The Romance of Victorian Natural History (1989) for example, while Mike Davis's Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World (2002) demonstrates the relevance of nineteenth-century research to the modern world.

This conference probes the significance of nature to the long nineteenth century and to our study of its literature, history, science, art, and other media. How did the natural world influence people in the nineteenth century? And how did nineteenth-century culture shape attitudes to the natural world? Have twenty-first century questions over nature, climate, and the environment changed the way we view and study the cultural products of the nineteenth century, or offered new avenues for research, especially interdisciplinary research?

Possible topics could include but are not limited to:

Representations of nature in history, literature, drama, poetry, art, theatre

Representations of, or human relationships with: oceans and the seaside, mountains and the countryside, rivers, lakes, gardens,

working animals, pets

Natural history, specimens, collecting, displaying

Science and human or animal nature: hybridity, husbandry, eugenics; Darwinism and biology; Lyell and geology

Climate change, environmentalism, eco-criticism, the ecotopia

The natural world in romance, Gothic, the fantastic

Natural horror, biological monstrosity and the limits of the human

The (un)natural city, machine, media

The (super)natural world: ghosts, spiritualism, Gothic

Theoretical approaches to human and animal nature or the representation of nature.

Postgraduate and early-career researchers are invited to submit 300 word proposals for 20 minute papers or proposals for panels to by 16 November 2009. See also our webpage.

Organisers: Claire McKechnie, University of Edinburgh and Dr Emily Alder, Edinburgh Napier University. Contact us at

We are grateful for the support of the British Association for Victorian Studies, the British Society for Literature and Science, and the Centre for Literature and Writing at Edinburgh Napier University.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Correspondence of Humphry Davy and his Circle

 Call for documents

Sir Humphry Davy (1778–1829) was the foremost British chemist of his day. Born in Penzance, Cornwall, he rose to prominence at the Pneumatic Institute in Bristol, before moving to the Royal Institution in London, and eventually became President of the Royal Society. His major contributions to science include the physiological effects of nitrous oxide (laughing gas), the discovery of potassium and sodium, the development of electro-chemistry, the miners' safety lamp, the electro-chemical protection of the copper sheeting of Royal Navy vessels, the conservation of the Herculaneum papyri and seeking to improve the quality of optical glass. As a friend of Coleridge, Southey and Wordsworth, Davy was also a Romantic poet and was almost certainly the chemist whom Mary Shelley had in mind when she described the teacher of Victor Frankenstein.

A team of Davy scholars is now planning to publish an edition of letters of Davy and his circle including his wife Jane Davy (nèe Kerr, olim Apreece, 1780–1855) and his brother John Davy (1790–1868). Although the Royal Institution holds the vast majority of Davy letters, we have so far located Davy material in about fifty archives including the British Library, Wellcome, Bodleian, Bristol City Archives, American Philosophical Society, the Northumberland Record Office and other North-East archives. We would be very interested to hear of any Davy letters or related material by or about him located in other archives or in private possession.

The team comprises Professor Sharon Ruston (University of Salford), Professor Frank James (Royal Institution), Professor Tim Fulford (Nottingham Trent University), Professor Jan Golinski (University of New Hampshire) and Professor David Knight (University of Durham).

Please contact Professor Sharon Ruston at Your assistance will be greatly appreciated.