Saturday, March 28, 2015

Video - Charlotte Sleigh on Literature and Science

A recording of a talk by Charlotte Sleigh (University of Kent), on 'Engineering fiction: literature and science in interwar Britain' from the Oxford Literature and Science Research Seminar Series, 20/03/2015, is available here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Science and Literature - Summer School

Following the successful 1st International Conference on Science and Literature, that took place in Athens last year, the International Commission on Science and Literature is happy to announce the  Summer School on Science and Literature, which will be held in the Greek island of Andros, from the 22nd to the 26th of June 2015.
The Summer School will be of especial interest to graduate students and early-career researchers working on literature, the sciences and the history of science. It will offer the opportunity for an in-depth presentation and discussion of themes relevant to Science and Literature at large. Each day, a lecture will be given on a specific point of intersection between science and literature. Participants will then work in small groups and prepare their own views on the subject, and discuss how it pertains to their own research. Participants will also have the opportunity to present short papers on their research or on subjects they want to discuss and receive feedback on. Finally, a round table will be organized discussing the future of Science and Literature as an academic field and its possible application in scientific and literary education.  The language of the Summer School will be English but there will be an opportunity for presentations in French, German and Greek if there is a relevant interest.
Dr. John Holmes, Chair of the British Society for Literature and Science, Prof. Manuela Rossini, President of the Society for Literature, Science and the Arts (Europe), Prof. Paola Spinozzi, University of Ferrara, Prof. Constantin Canavas, Hamburg Technical University have already confirmed their participation as invited speakers.
Andros island is a picturesque island on the Aegean Sea, about two hours from Attica (Rafina harbor), with several ferries during the day. There is a also a convenient connection between Athens airport and Rafina harbor.
For an overview of Andros island visit
The venue of the summer school will be Pighi Sariza Hotel (, with several nice beaches a short distance from the hotel. Participants will have also the chance to participate in several cultural events including visits to the famous Goulandri Museum of Modern Art and the Kaireios Library in Chora, the capital of Andros. The cost of the accommodation will be around 50 euros per day (breakfast, lunch and dinner included). There will also be a registration fee of 140 Euros. Support for a number of young scholars will be provided by a DHST/IUHPST grant.
Those who are interested to participate are invited to send an email to and/or by May 20, 2015.

Friday, March 20, 2015

CFP - The Darwins Reconsidered

Evolution, Writing & Inheritance in the Works of Erasmus and Charles Darwin
A One-Day Colloquium: Friday, September 4, 2015
University of Roehampton, London.

Keynote Speakers: Professor David Amigoni (Keele University) Professor Tim Fulford (De Montfort University)

Plenary Speaker: Dr John Holmes (Reading University)

When the 28-year-old Charles Darwin first opened his ‘evolutionary’ notebook in 1837, he deployed the title of his grandfather Erasmus Darwin’s medical treatise, Zoonomia (1794-6). By then, Erasmus -- poet, doctor, inventor and leading light of the Birmingham Lunar Society -- had drifted into comparative obscurity; best remembered as the eccentric genius whose work The Loves of Plants (1789) had been notoriously parodied as The Loves of Triangles. Erasmus was never forgotten by his more famous grandson, however, and throughout Charles’s career, Erasmus’s writing and thinking acted as both catalyst and antagonist to Charles’s burgeoning evolutionary ideas, on such subjects as heredity, variation and sexual selection. Forty-two years later, Erasmus was also the subject of Charles’s own venture into non-scientific writing – a biography of his illustrious grandfather. In the first academic conference to formally consider the imaginative and scientific relationship between these two remarkable speculative thinkers, we ask, in what ways did Erasmus’s life and works facilitate and anticipate Charles’s ideas, and how did Charles mobilise the stated and unstated affinities with Erasmus to enrich his own thinking?

We invite papers of 20 minutes that consider the two writers in the following broad subject areas:
  • poetry, aesthetics, and writing style
  • scientific families & heredity 
  • evolution
  • styles of observation 
  • humour and excess 
  • pleasure 
  • biography 
  • the relation between the arts and sciences 
  • the natural world 
  • variation and diversification 
  • geology 
  • family life 
  • experimentation 
  • scientific method 
  • public and private sphere
 Please send an abstract of no more than 300 words, accompanied by a short biography, to the conference organisers, Prof. Martin Priestman ( & Dr Louise Lee ( by April 28, 2015.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Recap - Blinded by the Sun

Characters from the play 'live-sketched' by Simon during Adrian's introduction.

At our second - and last - meeting of term we discussed Stephen Poliakoff's Blinded by the Sun (1996). After dishing out the cake and drinks (not quite the picnic fare represented in the play...), Adrian provided an excellent and thorough introduction to Poliakoff, his work, and even his family.

Alongside Arcadia (1993) and Copenhagen (1998), Blinded by the Sun formed, we learned, the middle of a trio of science plays produced by the National in the 'nineties. Arguably the least well known of these plays, it is also the only one in which, as its opening instructions say, 'The time is the present' throughout. Is this best, therefore, seen as an 'unhappy state of the nation' play?

Adrian identified the key themes of the play's attempt to gain insight into the workings of academia and its relationship with wider society: how, it asks, do science departments response to the world? What does the world want from them, and what do they want from the world? What does the world reward in the sciences and what does it not reward? What do science departments themselves value and/or reward? With Poliakoff's brother a chemistry professor at Nottingham, we felt the playwright had a particular connection to these topics. Scrutiny of the current website of the Nottingham chemistry department shows its quite evident placement in relation to wider audiences, with emphases on student satisfaction and sustainable chemistry ('benign by design').

Guided by Adrian, we also thought about replication and reputations in science, with reference to the cold fusion controversy of the late nineteen-eighties. Does, as the play seem to suggest, a focus on sensational frauds miss many other forms of misconduct or betraying of ideals as part of scientific practice? At several points in the play we felt its characters expressed well the frustrations, insights, and experience of actually conducting scientific research; the different personalities involved seemed to stand in for different types (and generations) of researchers.

The discussion continued to cover everything from perpetual motion machines to detergent. In particular, we talked about several pairs of topics: pure and applied science, individual and group research, gender and careers, counterfeiting and skill, cognitive dissonance and fraud, inspiration and perspiration. A fitting conclusion to our term focussing on this pair of plays.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Talk - ‘Science Communication’

A talk by Dr Charlotte Sleigh, Reader in History of Science at the University of Kent, will be followed by a conversation between Dr Sleigh and Tilly Blyth, curator of the recently-opened gallery, ‘Information Age’.

Tuesday 31 March, 1 pm In the Patrons’ Room of the Smith Centre, at the Science Museum

The entrance to the Smith Centre is from Imperial College Road. Go north from the Museum entrance (i.e. to the right when facing the Museum), turn the corner on the left, and ring the bell at the entrance to the Smith Centre of the left. Please feel free to bring a lunch to eat, if you wish.

Everyone is welcome.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Stories about science: exploring science communication and entertainment media

A research symposium at the University of Manchester
Thursday 4 and Friday 5 June 2015
We are now in a golden age for science in entertainment. Academy Award winning films such as Gravity and The Theory of Everything, and television ratings titans like The Big Bang Theory, have proved that science–based entertainment products can be both critically acclaimed and financially successful. In fact, many high profile scientific organizations including the US National Academy of Sciences and the Wellcome Trust in the UK now believe that science communication can, and perhaps should, be both informative and entertaining.

These groups have embraced movies and television as legitimate vehicles for science communication by developing initiatives to facilitate scientific involvement in the production of films and television programs. Science communication scholarship on entertainment media has been slow to catch up with the enthusiasm shown by these scientific organizations, as science communication studies of science in mass media still predominantly focus on news media and factual documentaries.

This Wellcome Trust-funded two-day symposium brings together scholars from across disciplines to explore the communication of science through entertainment media in order to uncover new ways of approaching, understanding, and theorizing about this topic. Our exciting range of speakers will explore science communication and entertainment media from a variety of disciplinary and global perspectives as it is practised and experienced by a diverse array of publics.

The event will run from Thursday 4 to Friday 5 June 2015 and is organized by the Science and Entertainment Lab research group within CHSTM, comprised of David A. Kirby, William R. Macauley, and Amy C. Chambers. There is no cost for attending the symposium, but spaces are limited.

Please contact the organizers if you are interested in attending, or if you would like further details:

Ninth Science Fiction Foundation Masterclass in Science Fiction Criticism 2015

Friday 17 July to Sunday 19 July 2015

**Applications remain open, on a first come first served basis**
The SFF Masterclass involves three days studying texts supplied by three class leaders. It is a great way to broaden your critical perspectives, sharpen some critical tools, and to make contacts with other people writing on SF and Fantasy. The class leaders are drawn from professional writers, academics and fans, and this is a great opportunity to learn from people experienced in their craft.
Anyone interested in writing seriously about science fiction and/or fantasy, at whatever level they are in their careers, is welcome to attend. This includes not just critics and reviewers, but historians and other scholars. Those who have attended past Masterclasses are also welcome to apply (though we will prioritise applications from those who have not been previous students).
Price: £200; £150 for registered postgraduate students. 
The Class Leaders for 2015 will be: 
Pat Cadigan, multiple Clarke and Hugo Award-winning author of Synners and Fools, and Official Queen of Cyberpunk.
Nick Lowe, BSFA Award-winning critic and writer of Interzone's 'Mutant Popcorn' column.
Graham Sleight, Hugo Award-winning Managing Editor of the Science Fiction Encyclopedia.
Further details here.

Conference registration now open - Being Modern

Science and Culture in the early 20th century
Institute of Historical Research, London 22-24 April 2015

'What proofs did Bloom adduce that his tendency was towards applied, rather than toward pure, science?' Joyce, Ulysses

Engagement with science was commonly used as an emblem of "Being modern", across culture in Britain and the western world in the years around the First World War. This conference will be held on the exact centenary of the first use of poison gas on the Western Front.

Join distinguished historians of literature, design and culture exploring how the complex interpretations of science affected the re-creation of what it was to be modern early in the 20th century.

Further details here.

Conference registration now open - Biological Discourses

The Language of Science and Literature around 1900

The decades around 1900 are a crucial period for the impact of biological thought on the intellectual cultures of the western world. The impulses of Darwinism were taken up by intellectuals, writers and artists from the 1860s onwards, and both Darwinian and anti-Darwinian currents of thinking exercised a powerful influence on the intellectual climate of the early decades of the twentieth century. It was a period that saw major developments in cell biology and the establishment of genetics as we know it, the movement of medical science and psychiatry beyond mechanistic conceptions of illness, and the emergence of psychoanalysis and sexology as new disciplines. “Biological Discourses”, a student-led conference to be held in Cambridge on 10-11 April 2015, is part of a collaborative venture between the Cambridge Department of German & Dutch and the Institute for Modern Languages Research, London, investigating the interplay and the forms of mediation between literary and biological discourses in that period.

Please see the link ( for registration, programme and further details, or click below:

Biological_ Discourses Prg (Final)

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Chemistry World article - on telling stories in science

A brief discussion of narratives and science (as well as links to further readings on the subject) is here.