Saturday, October 31, 2009

Events - 'Two Cultures'

1.)  50 years of Snow's 'Two Cultures', The Royal Institution, Thursday 12 November, featuring Prof Helen Haste, Dr Patricia Fara and Prof Frank James.
For more information and to book tickets, please visit here. The event is open to all and tickets cost £8 standard, £6 concessions, £4 Ri

2.) Beyond Two Cultures: a multi-disciplinary symposium re-examining the extent of C P Snow's science/humanities divide
 Friday 11 December 2009, Room 1.71, Franklin-Wilkins Building, King’s College London, Stamford Street, SE1 9NH

Open to all. For full details see here. To book visit here or RSVP to

Friday, October 30, 2009

'The Poetry of Science' - Creative Writing and the Artistic Naturalist

6pm, Thursday 5th November, The Linnean Society.

Further details here.

Object Stories

MURE (Morus nigra, L.)

A smooth shiny base, turned like a chess piece,
Is the stage where this mulberry dances
A sumptuous papier-mâché fruit
Seducing us with sugary glances
Her stalk is set at a jaunty angle
Clothed in long stripes of dark green and lime green
The dark spots run through it like Brighton rock
Above it the bulbous fruit reposes
Dark red and black, exploding with sugar
Labels revealing the inner contents
Of the graine ouvertepéricarpe osseux,
The embryou lodged in its secret heart.

Daniel Friesner

The world puzzle
The world was split: brutally, along lines of latitude and radii that ran through the Earth’s core. It lay, set out, upon the table, a dissected planet. The divisions ran sharply across continents and oceans,  cuts of a geometrical sphere that ignored geography and tore over the structures of the Earth’s surface. 
Somehow, gradually, the detail began to creep inside. Line-tendrils from the surface began to snake into the interior, crawling across the blank surfaces of the raw partitions.  Slowly, with muted colours resembling those of lichen, the confusions of the surface crept into the Earth’s interior. A great elephant appeared at the Earth’s core. From America, a vast tree grew into the interior, and on it sat a Native American, talking to a monkey. Last of all, the writing appeared, fitting between the spidery pictures and explaining them. The barren Earth was filled with vegetation, people, and descriptions; the puzzle had solved itself.

Simon Crowhurst

RUR - online

John has helpfully pointed out - for those of us who went to see Rossum's Universal Robots last night - that the full text of the play is online here. Spot the (many) differences...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

2nd November

Join us at Homerton College (room MAB119) from 7.30-9pm for our second meeting of term. We'll continue our analogical explorations with Dedre Gentner's "Are Scientific Analogies Metaphors?", from D. Miall's edited collection on Metaphor: Problems and Perspectives, pp. 106-132 (Brighton, Sussex: Harvester Press, 1982). This is available online here.

All are welcome!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Registration open - Nature and the Long Nineteenth Century

Nature and the long nineteenth century is a one-day interdisciplinary postgraduate conference exploring intersections of the natural world with nineteenth-century literature and culture.

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?

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. Please include a brief biog with your abstract.

For further information including the full call for papers and registration details, see:

Conference organisers: Claire McKechnie, University of Edinburgh and Dr Emily Alder, Edinburgh Napier University. 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.

Play - Rossum's Universal Robots

This week the ADC Theatre here in Cambridge is showing 'Rossum's Universal Robots' as their late show at 11pm.
"In a dark future, Old Rossum has discovered the secret of life. Now his factory manufactures artificial people. Known as 'robots', they toil to ensure that humans live a life of luxury. Once, Helena Glory sought revolution among the robots; now, married to the factory manager, she is complicit in their servitude. But she still dreams of a world where robots are no longer enslaved. And now, as discontent stirs afresh among the robot masses, there is the danger that such a dream will be realised, with devastating consequences for mankind.
First performed in 1921, R.U.R. is the play that invented the word robot. An enduring cautionary tale, it deals with the human desire to dominate and the costs of domination. This dynamic production will find innovative ways to re-tell this classic story, in order to create a new vision of a bleak alternative future."
Some of the Science and Literature Reading Group are attending the play on Thursday evening, and it would be great to see others there!
To book tickets, see here.

Call for papers – 'Booms' of Popular Science Publishing

We are seeking contributions to a one-day symposium on 20th century popular science: the morning devoted to the apparent post-Einstein boom in popular science publishing, the afternoon considering post-Hawking works.

We are keen that this event should help foster connections between the wide range of people who study and think about popular science: historians, science communication researchers, professional scientists, science writers and literary critics.

The event is to be held at Imperial College London on 31st March, 2010. It will comprise of a series of extended 30 minute talks, plus time for discussion.

The mention of Einstein and Hawking should not suggest an interest purely in the popularisation of physics, nor should it imply a focus
on biographical details of their lives, celebrity-science, or challenges of relaying especially abstract ideas in text. We are merely using these two iconic names in the history of popular science as a starting point for broader discussion in what can be a very diffuse topic of inquiry and a prompt to interrogate the reality of so-called 'booms' in popular science publishing.

Papers might explore the impact of other iconic scientists, popular science audiences, marginal scientists publishing through popular
texts, the role of journalists and science-writers and/or the role played by publishers, reviewers and bookselling contexts. We should
also note that we welcome papers which reflection on both the background context and long-term consequences of 20th century popular science. Papers on 19th or 21st century popular science publishing are still of interest, as long as they speak to themes raised by a 20th century focus.

The broad range of topics potential papers might discuss include (but are not limited to):
* Relationships between scientists and their publics.
* Celebrity, public intellectuals and popular science authorship.
* Marketing and the role of consumer culture.
* Issues of culture and social class.
* Writing for children.
* Implied epistemologies.
* Publishing processes and cultures.
* Outsider-scientist writers.
* Science and Religion.
* The audiences of popular science.
* Popular science's impact on and reflection of science policy issues.
* Humour and comedy in science writing.
* Wonder and the sublime.
* Metaphor.
* Literary renderings of mathematics.
* Illustrations, diagrams, graphics and design.

Potential contributors should email a 500 word abstract (including, if necessary, bibliography) along with a 150 word biography to by 11th December, 2009.

We are planning a special issue for a scholarly journal such as the Public Understanding of Science, based on the event. If you would be
unable to join us on the 31st of March, but are interested in submitting a paper for such a publication, it is worth dropping us an
expression of interest. These, and all other queries, to

Dr Hauke Riesch, NearCo2 Project, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge.

Dr Alice Bell, Lecturer in Science Communication, Imperial College, London.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Darwin's Bards


Play - Inherit the Wind

The Old Vic
Kevin Spacey, David Troughton , Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, Directed by Trevor Nunn

To view trailer click here For further information click here.

When science teacher Bertram Cates violates a state law he finds himself at the centre of a court case that not only shakes the United States but resonates across the world.

Considered one of the great American plays of the twentieth century Lawrence and Lee's gripping, relevant drama is inspired by the famous Scopes 'Monkey Trial'. In 1925 school teacher John Scopes stood accused of violating a Tennessee statute by teaching Darwin's theory of evolution to his students. Two legal Titans confront each other when this close knit community puts freedom of thought on trial.

A film version of the play released in 1960 starring Spencer Tracy and Gene Kelly received four Academy Award nominations. This production marks the 150th Anniversary of the publication of Darwin's 'The Origin of Species'.

'He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind:
and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart'

(Proverbs 11:29)

To watch Trevor Nunn and Kevin Spacey talking about Charles Darwin on BBC's Newsnight Review please click here

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

British Academy Events - Alexander von Humboldt and America

Two events to mark the 150th anniversary of Humboldt’s death, 27 November 2009

The British Academy, 10 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1

Convenors: Professor Marina Warner CBE, FBA, University of Essex, and Professor Peter Hulme, University of Essex

One-day Conference

9.30am - 5.30pm

The 150th anniversary of Humboldt’s death falls this year and this conference will celebrate and interrogate his achievements. The German natural scientist, humanist, and travel writer Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) is a familiar name, but his work and thought have been under-explored. They illuminate many contemporary issues, not least the very idea of America.

Among the questions the conference will address are: Just how important was Humboldt for perceptions of America in the nineteenth century and indeed subsequently? With changing history, what does his perspective on Latino/Hispanic history contribute, notably to understandings of Cuba, Mexico and the Andean region? His work also poses deep questions about literary genre: with time his scientific writings are taking on qualities found in poetry or memoir writing. Is the pursuit of knowledge destined to turn into lasting works of imagination? While anthropologists,historians and natural scientists have long valued Humboldt’s data collections, his narrative talents, which allowed him to weave together scientific details with philosophical, literary-aesthetic, social and political insights, have only recently attracted the attention of literary scholars. How adequate are the translations through which English-speaking readers approach his work (originally written in French and German)? How significant was Humboldt as a travel writer? To what extent does his scientific work still have validity and usefulness today?


Registration is required for this event. Please visit our website for a copy of the programme and to register. Please note that lunch will not be provided, but time will be allowed for attendees to obtain lunch in the surrounding area.

* * * Evening Panel Discussion:

Broadening the Mind: Travellers in Latin America

7.00pm - 8.30pm Chair: Professor Marina Warner, CBE, FBA

After the break-up of the Spanish Empire, Latin America opened its doors to travellers from European countries other than Spain, and many followed in Humboldt’s wake – not least Charles Darwin. Ever since Latin America has attracted European travellers and travel writers. But what exactly do they find there and are their minds broadened by the experience? The evening discussion focuses on four such travellers: from the workshop participants Ottmar Ette will speak about Humboldt and Nigel Leask about Darwin; then two contemporary travel writers (Richard Gott and Richard Fleming) will speak about their experiences travelling in and writing about parts of Latin America.


Professor Ottmar Ette (University of Potsdam), principal editor of Humboldt’s work in Germany; Professor Nigel Leask (University of Glasgow), author of Curiosity and the Aesthetics of Travel Writing, 1770–1840: ‘From an Antique Land’; Richard Gott, writer and journalist, author of Land Without Evil: Utopian Journeys Across the South American Watershed; Richard Fleming, writer and journalist, author of Walking to Guantánamo.


Registration is not required for this panel discussion (conference registrants will be asked to indicate if they wish to attend). Seats will be allocated on arrival.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Seminar Series - The Victorians and Science

AUTUMN TERM 2009: The Victorians and Science
Convenor: Ana Vadillo (Birkbeck)

17 October 2009, 11am, Room G37 (Senate House, South Block, Ground Floor)
Dr. Adelene Buckland (University of Cambridge), ‘Lyell’s Plots’
Dr. Angelique Richardson (University of Exeter), ‘Hardy and Biology’

14 November 2009, 11am, Room G37 (Senate House, South Block, Ground Floor)
Dr. Gowan Dawson (University of Leicester), ‘Palaeontology in Parts: Serializing Science in the Penny Cyclopædia 1833-43′
Dr John Holmes (University of Reading), ‘Darwinism in Victorian Poetry’

12 December 2009, 11am, Room G37 (Senate House, South Block, Ground Floor)
PANEL: After Darwin’s Plots
Professor David Amigoni (Keele University), ‘Fields of Inheritance: Science, Literature and their Relations after Darwin’s Plots’
Professor Gillian Beer (University of Cambridge), ‘Emotions, Beauty, Consciousness: late Darwin’
Professor Daniel Brown (University of Western Australia), ‘Egerton’s Keynotes: Darwinian naturalism and fin-de-siècle fetishism.’

Further details here.

Play - Let Newton Be!

Menagerie Theatre Company's new play, Let Newton Be! will be performed this Friday, 23rd October, 7.30pm, Robinson Theatre, Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge. For further information, see here. To book tickets, see here. They say:

Isaac Newton - heretic, alchemist, scientist. A devout, difficult, obsessive man who sought and found God in universal laws of light and motion.

These brilliant discoveries and innovations were part of a greater project that took in other, more dangerous ideas which he was forced to keep secret.

Isaac Newton remains a great influence, within the scientific world. His shadow looms large, not least in Cambridge, his home and workplace for 35 years. However, he remains a mystery to many which is why a new play about Newton hits the stage this October, appealing to both specialist and general audiences alike.

Let Newton Be! brings Isaac Newton to life, using his own words and those of his contemporaries. It is a verbatim play, the script drawn entirely from correspondence to, from or about Newton. Let Newton Be! focusses on the collision between his unorthodox religious beliefs and his radical experiments with light & optics.

Craig Baxter weaves a compelling narrative showing Newton in many different lights. We see him as the young boy measuring the speed of wind. We see him as the isolated Cambridge scholar, practising alchemy in the secrecy of his darkened room. We see him as the autocrat of British Science, ruling the Royal Society with an iron fist. Above all, we see Newton as a human being - complex, comical, driven and vulnerable.

Let Newton Be! shows why Newton is as controversial as he is famous. He was an enormously difficult personality, often in dispute with ‘colleagues’ who he despised, mistrusted or undermined. However, the play aims to illuminate not to denigrate. It looks more at a man in dispute with himself who asked fundamental questions about our world. In doing so, he changed the world forever.

Written by Craig Baxter

Directed by Patrick Morris

Designed by Issam Kourbaj, Artist in Residence, Christ’s College

Neil Jones
Paul McCleary
Caroline Rippin

Poet in the Parlour

This week Kelley Swain will be resident as Poet in the Parlour at the Whipple Museum, Monday-Friday from 12.30-4.30. Come along and have a chat about science and literature!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

‘Slashing through our millennial gloom’ – Futurists prickling the English

To celebrate the founding manifesto of Futurism in 1909 we invite you to an interactive exhibition that brings the sounds, sights and sensations of the era to life. Here you may borrow from the Futurists in your own style: using caution or abandon as you shoot at popular culture in a Vorticist game of space invaders, manipulate sounds of the city to create a new sonata, deform words into wriggling poetic scores, produce updated manifestos for the year 2009 and even participate in a Futurist performance at the end of the afternoon.

Featuring the spectacular Dutch dada performer chacha who will present a selection of sound poetry at 3pm.

Everyone is welcome to attend this interactive exhibition on Saturday 24 October, in the Recital Hall at Anglia Ruskin University (East Road, Cambridge), from 1-4pm. Suitable for all ages.

Please call 0845 196 3826 or email to book your FREE place.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

19th October

Our first meeting of term will be held from 7.30-9pm in room 119 in the Mary Allan Building, Homerton College, Hills Road, Cambridge.

We begin our readings on analogy with a classic piece by Pierre Duhem, a photocopy of which is available in the Group boxfile in the Whipple Library.

Pierre Duhem, The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory, trans. Philip P. Wiener (Princeton University Press, 1954), chapter IV (pp. 55-104), "Abstract theories and mechanical models".

All are welcome!

Wellcome workshop - Medicine and Literature

1st December, 2-3pm, Wellcome Library, London
Whether you're interested in Love in the Time of Cholera or scaling The Magic Mountain, this workshop will help you explore the relationship between medicine and literature, through the resources of the Wellcome Library.
To book see here.

Talk - Poems of Space

10th November, 19:00-20:45, National Maritime Museum Lecture Theatre, £8

Renowned astronomer Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell explores the connections between poetry and science and her experience of compiling Dark Matter, an anthology of poems inspired by astronomy. Followed by a discussion with poet Kelley Swain (Darwin’s Microscope) and astronomer/writer Dr Pippa Goldschmidt. Futher details here.

Tickets from the NMM Bookings Office: 020 8312 6608,

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Journal of Literature and Science - Vol II out now

The second volume of the Journal of Literature and Science has now been published.
This issue contains articles on:

The ichthyosaurus and its representations by JOHN GLENDENING
Hoffmann's motifs of physical movement by VAL SCULLION
The sonnet and geometry by MATTHEW CHIASSON & JANINE ROGERS

Additionally there are reviews of recent journal articles by Laura Voracheck,
Anna Henchman, Mandy Reid and Danielle Coriale.

The JLS is online and free to access and can be found here.

The JLS is now accepting submissions for articles, and reviews of
recent journal articles for future issues. Please make any enquiries with the

Editor-in-Chief, Martin Willis, on

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Oxford Literature and Science Seminar - Michaelmas 2009

Hawkins Room, Fellows' Quad, staircase 3
Merton College

Friday 30 October (3rd week), 2pm
Professor David Amigoni (Keele): ‘Charles Darwin’s centenary and the politics and poetics of parenting: inheritance, variation, and the aesthetic legacy of Samuel Butler’

Friday 27 November (7th week), 2pm
Dr John Holmes (Reading): ‘Darwinism in Victorian Poetry’

PhD studentships in ‘Internationalisation of Literature and Science since the Early Modern Period’

Application deadline: 15/11/2008

The PhD-Net “Internationalisation of Literature and Science since the Early Modern Period” is a bi-national PhD programme run collaboratively by King’s College London and the University of Stuttgart, which aims to forge interdisciplinary connections between various subjects in the Humanities (German Studies, English Studies, Comparative Literature, Philosophy, and the Histories of Medicine, Science and Technology). Partner institutions in Germany include the German Literature Archive in Marbach and the Institute for the History of Medicine of the Robert Bosch Foundation.

An international research group will support and connect projects which address both inter- and trans-national tendencies within the Humanities. Projects will develop both theoretical models for the as yet under-researched area of internationalisation within the Humanities, as well as critically assess historical case studies from the early modern period onwards, which address the role of exchange movements and networks and the transfer of topics, practices and methods in literature and science. Of particular interest is the relevance of literature(s) for the internationalisation of the sciences, alongside critical reflections on the significance of the presentation and the mediality of knowledge (language, text, image) for its circulation, communication and implementation.

For further info, including application procedure, please click here or contact Ben Schofield (

Cambridge Literary Review

The first issue of the Cambridge Literary Review is now available: orders can be made online via the website.

Issue #1 includes:

Poetry & fiction from:
Richard Berengarten, Emily Critchley, Debora Greger, John James, Justin Katko & Jow Lindsay, John Kinsella, Charles Lambert, Tom Lowenstein, Helen Macdonald, John Matthias, Anna Mendelssohn, Marianne Morris, Ian Patterson, J.H. Prynne, Peter Riley, Luke Roberts, Avery Slater, Rosie Šnajdr, Josh Stanley, Keston Sutherland, Timothy Thornton, and John Wilkinson.

Raymond Geuss, 'Vix intellegitur'
Stefan Collini, 'Understanding and judgement in the humanities'
Rebecca Stott, 'Tangling with history'
Philip Pettit on the Cambridge Review

Feature: On Cambridge Poetry
Jeremy Noel-Tod, 'A History of Difficulty: On Cambridge Poetry'
Andrew Duncan introducing Charles Madge's 'The Storming of the Brain' (1950)
Peter Riley introducing a selection of poems by Raymond Crump
Elaine Feinstein on Prospect
Richard Berengarten on the 1975 Cambridge Poetry Festival
Gareth Farmer on Veronica Forrest-Thomson
John Hall on Douglas Oliver's 'Arrondissements'
Rod Mengham on Andrew Crozier's 'Free Running Bitch'
Christina McLeish on Roger Langley and Nigel Wheale
Robert Archambeau, 'Public Faces In Private Places: Messianic Privacy in Cambridge Poetry'
Marianne Morris 'On Disorder'

Steampunk Art @ Oxford

The Oxford Museum of the History of Science has a new Steampunk exhibition opening on 13th October. See the exhibition blog here, the special edition of Broad Sheet here, and details of planned events here.

Friday, October 02, 2009

BSLS Book Prize 2009

The British Society for Literature and Science is pleased to invite nominations for the annual BSLS Book Prize. The prize of £150 will be awarded to the best book published in English in 2009 in the field of literature and science. Monographs, edited volumes, editions and books of creative writing are all eligible for consideration, excepting books wholly or partly written by members of the BSLS executive.

Please send nominations, giving the author, title and publisher, to Dr John Holmes (book-prize convenor) at, with 'BSLS Book Prize' as the subject heading. The deadline for receipt of nominations is 16 January 2009.

* The book prize was launched in 2007. The past winners are Ralph O'Connor for 'The Earth on Show: Fossils and the Poetics of Popular Science, 1802-1856' (University of Chicago Press, 2007) and George Levine for 'Realism, Ethics and Secularism: Essays on Victorian Literature and Science' (Cambridge University Press, 2008).

* Nominations are invited from BSLS members and from publishers. The authors or editors of the nominated books need not be BSLS members. BSLS members are welcome to nominate their own books.

* The book must have 2009 as its publication date.

* The winner of this year's prize will be announced at the fifth annual conference of the BSLS in April 2010 at Northumbria University.

* The prize will be paid by means of a cheque made out in pounds sterling.