Thursday, December 15, 2016

Jobs - Postgraduate Research Associate x 2

HUM0750, School of History, University of Kent
Closing date: 22 Jan 2017 £32,958 - £38,183 per annum

The Centre for the History of the Sciences within the School of History seeks two qualified postdoctoral researchers to work as part of a three-year Leverhulme Trust-funded project, "Metropolitan Science: Places, Objects and Cultures of Practice and Knowledge in London, 1600-1800", led by Dr Rebekah Higgitt.

In this role, you will conduct object-based and archival research, particularly in the collections of the Science Museum and among the papers of London's Livery and Trading Companies. You will participate fully in the activities of the project, attending workshops and conferences, publishing results of research, feeding into the development and interpretation of the Science Museum's "London, Science City" gallery (opening 2019), and assisting Dr Higgitt's research and public engagement agendas. If you have specialist knowledge of the history of early modern London, experience in archival work and publishing research articles and a keen interest in contributing to this project, this is a great chance to join a unique working environment that offers excellent training, benefits and future opportunities.

Start date for applications: 15 December 2016

Closing date for applications: 22 January 2017

Interviews are to be held: 6 February 2017

Go to to view the full job description and also to apply for this post. If you require further information regarding the application process please contact Teresa Bubb, Resourcing Adviser, at Informal enquiries about the roles and the project can be made to Dr Higgitt by email at

Please note - applications must be made via the University's online application system. You will be required to fill in the main details section of the application form as well as upload your CV and a cover letter / summary document. You should provide clear evidence and examples in your application which back-up any assertions you make in relation to each criterion. We recommend a maximum of 4 x A4 sides for this document. CVs or details sent directly to the department or via email cannot be considered.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Whipple Library Alphabet

The wonderful Whipple Alphabet is nearing its end: look back at all of the posts so far here.

As they say, this is a:
series of 26 mini blog posts featuring items from the Whipple Library’s special collections which will be published weekly throughout 2016. The series will showcase some of the variety and breadth of our collections by selecting notable authors, topics and associations in a roll call of examples spanning the alphabet. Members of the Library staff team have selected from a range of favourite, representative and more unusual items to write about and will be sharing their thoughts each week via the Whipple Library Books Blog. Follow our progress over at or via Twitter (@hpslib) by searching for the hashtag #whippleAZ.

We are now on Twitter!

Do follow us if you'd like: @scilitreadgrp

Saturday, December 03, 2016

CFP - 'Gut Feeling: Digestive Health in Nineteenth-Century Culture'

An interdisciplinary workshop, 26-27 May 2017, University of Aberdeen

Gut health has become a buzzword in contemporary culture. Ground-breaking research is pointing to potential links between the gut and such diverse areas as our mood, weight, and thought processes. The current debates on the digestive system and our physical and mental health, however, are not without precedent. The stomach occupied a central place in the development of medicine in the nineteenth century and the number of medical, literary and popular publications on digestion proliferated from this period onwards. With the exception of anorexia and obesity, however, few scholars have examined the cultural significance of the gut in the modern period, confirming the lowly status the abdomen has endured in the Western intellectual tradition.

This workshop aims to develop a new understanding of gut health in modern history by establishing a dialogue between different scholars on this aspect of the body. The preoccupation with guts and the bowels in the Early Modern period developed a new urgency in the nineteenth century through the rapid progress of medicine and the increased concern with the stomach as a site of self-fashioning. The obsession with the gut during this period was a highly cosmopolitan phenomenon crossing many fields of experience, and the workshop aims to bring together scholars from a range of specialisms, including English studies, Modern Languages, History, History of Medicine, Anthropology, Philosophy, Visual Studies, Religious Studies and History of Science.

Applications from postgraduate and early career scholars are particularly welcome.

Topics include, but are not limited to:
  • The history of psycho-gastric conditions
  • The history of nutritional physiology and metabolism
  • (In)digestion as a metaphorical framework
  • Literary portrayals of digestion, constipation and defecation
  • Digestive and excretory labours and authorial identity
  • Visual portrayals of the digestive system
  • The gut as a site of self-fashioning
  • Digestion and nationhood
  • Digestion and public health
  • Gut-brain connections
  • Digestion and modernity
  • Digestion and constipation in philosophical thought
  • The role of digestion in social relations
  • Digestive health as spiritual practice

Interdisciplinary approaches and international comparisons are strongly encouraged.

Contributors will be invited to submit developed papers for consideration for publication after the event.

Proposals should be no more than 300 words in length and a short biography should also be included. Please send to by 31 January 2017.

This two-day workshop is funded by the University of Aberdeen School of Language, Literature, Music and Visual Culture; the Society for French Studies; the British Society for the History of Science; and the British Society for Literature and Science.

BSLS Book Prize 2016

Nominations for The British Society for Literature and Science book prize 2016 are now being sought. All nominated books must be dated 2016 and should be academic titles (usually monographs or essay collections) in the area of literature and science (including technology and medicine, in all periods). The prize is not open to creative writing. Paid up members may nominate their own titles. Members of the BSLS committee are not eligible for the prize.

Nominations should be sent to Peter Garratt by 31 December 2016.

The announcement of the prize winner will take place at the annual conference in April.

Recap - Fighting Fire

Last Monday witnessed a fitting finale to the term, when we met to discuss how people have experienced, witnessed, recorded, explained, responded to, dealt with, and even lied about fires.

Our set readings took in a number of literary forms: Pepys's delightful fiery diary, where an evocative account of the Great Fire of London sat alongside more mundane matters; a contemporary ballad both chronicling the geographical spread of the fire but also invoking classical comparison and divine retribution; R.M. Ballantyne's 'Boy's Own'-style adventure, where the fire was cast as an enemy or a wild animal to be conquered by the noble fire brigade and juvenile hero; and Hilaire Belloc's charming cautionary tale, riffing on moral fables for the young.

Several themes of the term's conversations therefore recurred: the liveliness of fire, and the temptation to anthropomorphise it; the wider spiritual and religious symbolism of fire; attempts to control fire by the use of certain kinds of equipment; how best to describe in verbal or visual forms a far more multisensory experience. Although with twentieth-century comic verse we were perhaps far from Heraclitus, the connecting thread of fire meant that even more similarities or contrasts, echoes and evocations, were present than I had anticipated when setting the readings over the summer. Appropriately, we closed the term as we began, with the reading of a piece of poetry.

Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed to a particularly memorable series of sessions this Michaelmas! As previously advertised, we will be sticking with the elements in Lent when we will be exploring air, possibly now with a focus on eighteenth-century pneumatics. (Readings will follow in January.) Until then, may the Yule log burn bright!

Conference - 'After Idealism: Sound as Matter and Medium in the 19 Century'

17-18 March 2017, University of Cambridge

Conference details, registration & full programme:

This conference aims to enlarge substantially our understanding of the dialogue between 19th-century music and natural science, examining in particular how a scientific-materialist conception of sound was formed alongside a dominant culture of romantic idealism. It takes as its subject sound as matter and medium, focusing on the domains of natural science, emergent technologies, sentient communication and acoustics.

Speakers include:
  • Carolyn Abbate (Harvard / musicology)
  • Nikita Braguinski (Humboldt Universität / media theory)
  • Melissa van Drie (Cambridge / theatre studies)
  • Edward Gillin (Cambridge / history of architecture)
  • Alexandra Hui (Mississippi / history and philosophy of science)
  • Sybille Krämer (Freie Universität / media philosophy)
  • Melle Kromhout (Amsterdam / musicology)
  • Julia Kursell (Amsterdam / musicology)
  • Roger Moseley (Cornell / musicology)
  • Peter Pesic (Santa Fe / history and philosophy of science)
  • John Durham Peters (Iowa / communication studies)
  • Alexander Rehding (Harvard / music theory)
  • Milla Tiainen (Helsinki / musicology)
  • Viktoria Tkaczyk (Max Planck, Berlin / history and philosophy of science)
  • David Trippett (Cambridge / musicology)

Registration is now open via the conference site (£40 full fee -- £15 student or unwaged)

Friday, December 02, 2016

CFP - Science in Public events

The Science in Public Research Network is delighted to announce that we'll be having an extra busy year in 2017.

Our 11th Annual Conference will be on the theme of 'Science, Technology and Humanity' and will be held at the University of Sheffield, 10th - 12th July 2017.

We are issuing a Call for Open Panels with a closing date of 31st January 2017. For further details please see: or email

In addition to our annual conference, Brunel University will be hosting a SiP research-practice workshop on the theme of informal science learning, titled 'STEM and Beyond? Informal Science Learning Across Disciplines', on 19th May 2017.

We invite contributions from researchers or practitioners by 6th February 2017
For further details please see: or email
Please propagate these announcements far and wide, and we look forward to seeing you next year!
Angela Cassidy (Chair) and the Science in Public Research Network Committee

Job - Teaching Associate in the History of Modern Science and Technology

Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge

Applications are invited for a 3-year post in the history of modern science and technology with an emphasis on the period after 1900. The successful candidate will have completed a PhD (and will hold a PhD certificate) before taking up the post.

The role holder will help support and maintain the Department's national and international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. The role holder will be expected to continually update their knowledge and understanding in the field and to write up work for presentation, publication and lecturing. The successful candidate will be expected to contribute to the lecturing, supervising, examination and administration of courses for both undergraduate and graduate students in the Department. The candidate should be prepared to deliver lectures and supervise written work on a broad range of topics in the history of technology from 1900 until the present. The position will start on 1 September 2017, and will include an initial 6-month probation period.

Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available for 3 years in the first instance.

To apply online for this vacancy, please click on the 'Apply' button below. This will route you to the University's Web Recruitment System, where you will need to register an account (if you have not already) and log in before completing the online application form.

Applicants are able to upload a maximum of three documents. These should be arranged as follows: 1.) cover letter, curriculum vitae and full list of publications combined into one document. Please include weblinks or doi's for your publications, where possible, 2.) details of teaching experience and research interests, 3.) two samples of original written work. If you are unable to upload your work samples, please email these as attachments to, ensuring that you include your surname in email subject line and in the file names.

Please provide the names and contact details of three referees in the space provided. We will contact the referees of longlisted candidates directly to request references (unless you advise that you do not wish us to do so). Referees will be asked to comment specifically on the candidate's ability to undertake this role in the Department.

Shortlisting: mid January 2017

Interviews: early February 2017

Enquiries may be made to the Departmental Administrator, Tamara Hug (tel: 01223 334540, email:

Please quote reference JN10844 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

The University values diversity and is committed to equality of opportunity.

The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.


£29,301-£38,183 Reference

JN10844 Category

Academic-related Closing date

3 January 2017

Monday, November 28, 2016

Talk - Memory, Miniaturization, and the Transformative Energy of Fairy Tales

Professor Maria Tatar, The John L. Loeb Professor of Germanic Languages and Literature, Harvard University. Thursday 01 December 2016, 17:00 - 18:30 Faculty of Education, 184 Hills Road, Cambridge, CB2 8PQ, DMB, Room GS5
"Fairy tales may be simple stories but they also give us the expression of complex thought. On the one hand, they offer up stark enactments of binary oppositions and cultural contradictions, with encounters between predator and prey, beauties and beasts, or primal innocence and cannibalistic cruelty. At the same time, their surfaces conceal layers of cultural memory saturated with historical meaning. This talk will draw on Walter Benjamin’s essay on the storyteller to understanding the cultural repetition compulsion that drives us to keep retelling “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and other fairy tales."
Maria Tatar is without doubt one of the world’s leading authorities on children’s literature, fairy tales and folklore. She was born in Hungary, but her family moved to the USA in the 1950s, when Maria was a child. She grew up in Highland Park Illinois, which she refers to in her 2014 Lowell Lecture for the Boston Public Library ( Maria went from Highland Park High School to Denison University in Ohio, and from there to graduate study at Princeton. On completing her doctoral work, Maria joined the faculty of Harvard University where she is now the John L. Loeb Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures, and Chair of the Committee on Degrees in Folklore and Mythology. She also shares her love of wonder tales and children’s literature with a wider audience through her Breezes from Wonderland blog ( Her extensive list of publications includes _The Hard Facts of the Grimms' Fairy Tales_ (1987), _Off with Their Heads! Fairy Tales and the Culture of Childhood_ (1992), _Enchanted Hunters_ (2009), and _Secrets Beyond the Door: The Story of Bluebeard and His Wives_. (2004).

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Blog posts - Animals in Literature and History

Group members might be interested in this ongoing series of blog posts on Animals in Literature and History, featuring everything from sporting cats to medieval wolves, via eighteenth-century sharks.

CFP - “Can It Be?”: Representations of Science in 21st-Century Fiction

As the third millennium progresses, science and technology more than ever govern human lives, and the topic of science and/in fiction shows no signs of decline, neither in terms of artistic production nor as an area of critical inquiry. As several critical accounts of the field of 21st century literature note, writers address contemporary issues such as environmental catastrophes and international conflicts, the proclaimed turn to precarity and the future of the planet and of humanity. Yet, at the same time, writers also appear disposed to look back, continuing to make the past and issues of time, history and temporality dominant concerns. But the question arises of what this turn to the past means in view of our narrative engagement with technology, projections of the future and its place in human life today and in times to come: (how) can it be that literature set in the 19th and 20th centuries imitates earlier styles and techniques and engages with technologies that once had a frightening impact but have become part of our reality long ago? How do these trends relate to the typically speculative view of science fiction? What happens to the characteristic orientation towards futuristic science and settings and, on the other hand, to conceptions of realism? Considering, for instance, the booming genres of Neo-Victorian fiction, adaptations and re-tellings, (how) can it be that upon entering the new millennium, writers seem to find greater imaginative stimulus in the past than in the present and the future?

The edited collection of essays aims to address current directions in fictional science narratives in different media. It brackets questions of scientific accuracy and the well-trodden path of the ‘two cultures’ debate to explore what modes, forms, and genres emerge and dominate in the 21st century. Aside from tracing new and old boundaries between kinds of knowledge, modes of narration and perceiving reality, and between facts and fiction, the ethical dimension of the question ‘can it be’ might include narrative representations of risk, fear, and cultural assumptions about scientists and the research enterprise.

We invite contributions that address 20th century developments from a 21st perspective, as well as theoretical reflections on new trends and movements, surveys and close readings of narratives, including novels, drama, film, young adult fiction, and graphic fiction.
Papers may deal with (but are of course not limited to) the following topics and interrelations:
  • Science and genre, e.g. the historical novel, thriller, satire, fantasy, dystopia, transrealism, and life-writing
  • Science and ethics
  • Science and religion, secularism
  • Science and/as terror
  • Science and (post)human identity
  • Science – still between fascination and fear?
Please send 300-500 words abstracts to Dr Nina Engelhardt ( and Dr Julia Hoydis (

Deadline for submission of abstracts: 01.02.2017.
Notice of acceptance: 01.03. 2017.
Deadline for submission of papers (7000 words): 01.01.2018

Talk - 'The Anthropology of the Humanities'

David Clifford, Tuesday 29th November 2016, 6pm, Paston Brown Room, Homerton College
The study of the humanities has been challenged in recent years to validate its value, both in the academy and in wider society. Various scholars have taken up this challenge; my paper seeks to address a further dimension. English scholars in particular face demands to justify their subject, on the very reasonable grounds that the transferable skills the study of English claims to provide are no less provided by other subjects.I will review some of these scholars' arguments; mine, however, focuses on scientific and anthropological claims about the role played by language in human evolution, development and social organization over the last 100,000 years. It won't in itself be an argument for improved public funding, I'm afraid, but I hope to argue for the ancient, long-term benefits of language, and how this enhances what we gain from studying it like this, for society and for human civilization in general.
Dr David Clifford is Fellow in English, Homerton College

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Blog post - Dinosaurs, Evolution and Faith

Group members might be interested in this blog post by Richard Fallon on Henry Neville Hutchinson.

Call for articles - 'The "Heart" and "Science" of Wilkie Collins and Contemporaries'

Deadline for Abstracts: 28th February 2017; Deadline for Articles: 31st May 2017

‘“Why can’t I look into your heart, and see what secrets it is keeping from me?”’
The protagonist of Wilkie Collins’s Heart and Science (1883), surgeon Ovid de Vere, laments the difficulty in deciphering hidden emotions and secrets. Yet the language suggests his medical background, striking a note with the novel’s supposedly anti-vivisection message and highlighting contemporary debates into the nature of experimental medicine, observation and epistemology. What is the best way of uncovering secrets, and what part does knowledge of the body play in this? Can medical training benefit from a thorough understanding of emotion? And does gender play a part in this? Issues of ‘heart’ and ‘science’ reverberate across Collins’s work, from the Major’s collection of women’s hair in The Law and the Lady (1875) to Ezra Jenning’s solution to the crime of The Moonstone (1868). This conference takes as its focus the proliferation of “heart” and “science” throughout Collins’s work.

We welcome both abstracts and full article submissions on, but not limited to, the following topics:
  • Wilkie Collins’s Heart and Science (1883) and/or any of Collins’s work
  • The Body: As a scientific subject, as a site of emotion, bodily representations, and the body in forensics, news reportage and the home.
  • The Victorian origin of disciplines: Collins as an interdisciplinary figure, the divide (or not) of “heart” and “science”, the definition of sensation in literature and/or science.
  • Medicine and anatomical science: vivisection, taxidermy, anatomical atlases and the nineteenth-century doctor and/or scientist.
  • Psychology and psychiatry: the physicality of mental illness, hysteria, the asylum, treatment and therapeutics.
  • Gender: the gendered body, representations of gender, the gendered connotations of “heart” and/or “science”.
  • Sensation: As genre, as sense or emotion, as subjective.
  • Detection: forensics, interrogation, the body as clue, the science of detection, and crimes of the heart.
  • Relationships: Romantic, familial, or otherwise.
  • Neo-Victorian Approaches to “Heart” and “Science”
  • Work by other contemporary sensation writers
Submissions are not limited to papers on Wilkie Collins’s Heart and Science but to “heart” and “science” at work in the full range of Collins’s fiction. The WCJ are also interested in related authors and sensation fiction more broadly, hence papers on authors such as Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Charles Reade, Charles Dickens, Ellen Wood, Florence Marryat and other sensation writers will also be considered. Interdisciplinary perspectives are welcome.

Email abstracts to and by 28th February 2017.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Cam magazine - science and literature

An interesting selection of works on Dr Suchitra Sebastian's 'Shelfie' for edition 79 of the Cambridge alumni magazine (pp. 44-45).

Article - "The science fiction that came before science"

The Atlantic discusses Cavendish, Godwin, et al.

Early Science and Medicine Seminar

On Tuesday, 22 November, Daniel Margócsy (HPS Cambridge), will speak about 'Reading Vesalius 700 times: the problem of generation and the reception history of De humani corporis fabrica' at 5pm. Everyone is welcome for tea and biscuits from 4:45.

Seminar Room 1, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Free School Lane.

Organised by Lauren Kassell and Dániel Margócsy.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Next Term - Air

We will be continuing our elemental theme next term, when we take to the air. What is air? How can it be described, captured, interrogated, surmounted? How has the science and literature of air changed in different historical and cultural contexts? From the life-force to the air-force, scientific controversy to fart-based caricature, atmospheric pressure to new aerial perspectives, we will explore its many manifestations.

Once again, I (Melanie) will be putting together a list of readings which will hopefully range widely in terms of time and space, and include many different types of writing, by many different people. If you have any suggestions of particular readings or topics you would like to include, I would be delighted to hear from you: please get in touch before 8th December. I would particularly like assistance with tracking down relevant early modern sources; with non-British sources (though available in translation, please); and with more recent scientific fiction works.

28th November - Fighting Fire

Our final meeting of term will both commemorate the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London earlier this year, with a pair of early modern sources, but will also think more broadly about the relationships between fire, people, and technologies. We meet, as usual, from 7.30-9pm in the Newnham Grange Seminar Room at Darwin College. All are most welcome to join us, as we bid farewell to the flames!

We will be reading:
Optional further reading: Robert M. Hazen and Margaret Hindle Hazen, Keepers of the Flame: The role of fire in American culture, 1775-1925 (1992), chapter 4, 'Fighting Back'.

Recap - Bodily Fire

Simon's marvellous evocation of the spontaneous combustion scene in Bleak House, as photographed by Charissa.

Thankfully the signs were reassuring as we entered the Newnham Grange Seminar Room for the third meeting of term: no smoke, little soot, a lack of greasy residue, and only the smallest heaps of ash. Despite the subject-matter of our selected readings, we could be fairly sure that no spontaneous combustion had occurred. Thus emboldened, and joined by some two-dimensional Dickensian colleagues, we embarked on a lively (and largely politics-free…) debate on the fact, fiction, history, and mystery, of this strange manifestation of bodily fire.

Charissa introduced the chosen extracts from the Philosophical Transactions, Familiar Letters on Chemistry, and Bleak House, detailing the specific connections they drew upon: medicine and chemistry; science and the law; certain kinds of people and particularly fiery fates. These lines of approach opened up rewarding topics of discussion, from the set of clues or symptoms (see Huxley's 'Method of Zadig') of spontaneous human combustion, to varying explanations for its supposed occurrence, internal and external (lightning, gin, internal gases?), to whether or not a realist novel had to include realistic science.

An evocative reading by Simon of the opening pages of Bleak House reminded us of the atmosphere and wider preoccupations of the work, including its general preoccupation with combustion, energy and entropy (for more on this, see Barri Gold's Thermopoetics), driving the engine of its plot. This led us on to a perennial topic of interest for the group: the role of models, analogies, and lived experiences more generally in scientific writings and conceptualisations.

Expertise was another key area of interest: Liebig's setting-up of hierarchies in his piece of chemical (and chemists') advocacy, and his connections to training a generation of research chemists; how links to industry, agriculture, and the state, helped affirm the role of the scientific expert. We thought about the relationships between scientific experts and the public (would people no longer send in 'curious observations' directly to the Royal Society?), between scientific experts and expert witnesses (are mathematicians no longer permitted as expert witnesses?)

We discussed how different this type of fire was, compared with its incarnations in our earlier sessions: no longer as pure, generative, creative, as in Heraclitus, nor as subtle as in Barrett and Tyndall; however, in its associations with fate ('The Appointed Time') and hell-fire it retained a spiritualised or divine element. Finally, we also thought about the more recent examples of 'SHC', as it has become known; its occurrence in recent sci-fi and fantasy works, including Buffy, X-Files, and Red Dwarf, and whether it is now more usually found in the province of conspiracy theorists than serious scientific enquiry. But the question remains: is spontaneous human combustion impossible, or just very very improbable?

Thanks, as ever, to all who contributed to a particularly enjoyable evening!

Friday, November 11, 2016

PhD Studentship - Nuclear Literature and Culture

Fully-funded PhD studentship on topics in nuclear literature and culture, School of Arts and Humanities, Nottingham Trent University. Details here.

Closing date is 12 noon on Friday 9 December. For informal discussion regarding the project, please contact:

We invite applications from prospective PhD students wishing to work on nuclear literature and culture under the supervision of Dr. Daniel Cordle and Prof. Phil Leonard. There is no restriction on the specific focus of the project, but possible areas for the research include:

  • Nuclear literature of the Cold War or post-Cold War periods
  • The nuclear Anthropocene
  • Nuclear imagery and motifs
  • Nuclear criticism (i.e. theories and concepts in nuclear studies)
  • Nuclear technologies and infrastructure in literature
  • Nuclear science in literature
  • Material and cultural legacies of the nuclear age
  • Post-apocalyptic literature

The successful applicant will be based in a department that is recognized internationally for its high quality research and which has a lively research culture. Dr. Cordle has written extensively on North American and British nuclear literature and culture, including the monographs, States of Suspense: The Nuclear Age, Postmodernism and United States Fiction and Prose (Ashgate, 2008) and Late Cold War Culture: The Nuclear 1980s (Palgrave, forthcoming), as well as on literature and science. Prof. Leonard is an expert on technology, culture and debates about globalization. The candidate should demonstrate good knowledge of nuclear culture or of related areas (e.g. Cold War culture; contemporary literature and technology; literature and science). His/her project should be clearly defined and seek to advance knowledge in the burgeoning area of the Nuclear Humanities.

CFP - 2017: A Clarke Odyssey

A Conference Marking the Centenary of Sir Arthur C. Clarke
Canterbury Christ Church University, Canterbury, UK
Saturday 9 December 2017
Keynote Speakers: Stephen Baxter
Dr Sarah Dillon (University of Cambridge)

Sir Arthur C. Clarke is one of the most important British sf writers of the twentieth century - novelist, short-story writer, scriptwriter, science populariser, fan, presenter of documentaries on the paranormal, proposer of the uses of the geosynchronous orbit and philanthropist.

We want to celebrate his life, work and influence on science fiction, science and beyond.

We are looking for twenty-minute papers on topics such as:
*       any of Clarke's publications
*       influences on Clarke
*       Clarke's influence on others
*       the Second World War
*       Sri Lanka/Ceylon
*       the Cold War
*       adaptations to film, television, radio and comic books - 2001: A Space Odyssey, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, Rendezvous with Rama, Trapped in Space, etc.
*       collaborations
*       A.I. and computers
*       alien encounters and first contact
*       astronomy, space and space travel
*       Big Dumb Objects
*       the destiny of life and mind in the universe
*       the far future
*       futurology
*       politics
*       religion, the transcendent and the paranormal
*       science and scientists
*       world government
*       Young Adult fiction
*       the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction, the Sir Arthur Clarke Award for achievements in space and the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation awards

Please submit four-hundred-word abstracts and a hundred-word biography to and by 30 July 2017.
The conference will be co-organised by Dr Andrew M. Butler (Canterbury Christ Church University) and Dr Paul March-Russell (University of Kent). Further details will be available from

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Talk - 'The Earth's history in image and print'

Professor Martin Rudwick (HPS, Cambridge) will be presenting 'The Earth's History in Image and Print' on Wednesday 16th November at 8.45pm in the Friend's of Peterhouse Seminar Room, organised by the Cambridge Bibliophiles.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

CFP - Narrating Science: The Power of Stories in the 21st Century

May 24 – 27, 2017, Toronto/University of Guelph

In the latter decades of the twentieth century, discourses on science and technology began to spread beyond the professional communities of scientific experts involved in knowledge production. In the cultural realm, we saw the rise of the “popular science” genre, of science series and documentaries on TV, and, around the turn of the millennium, an increase in the amount, depth, and quality of attention paid to science in literary and mainstream fiction. At the Narrating Science conference, we bring together scholars, scientists, and writers to compare how and to what effect storytelling about science across a spectrum of genres (fiction and non-fiction) and media (print and film) is engaging with different aspects of science (concepts and facts, practice and practitioners, institutions and societal impacts). Novelists Allegra Goodman and Karen Jay Fowler will be joining us with a public reading and discussion of their novels Intuition, The Cookbook Collector, and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. We are interested in what and how stories about science are contributing to understandings of issues of societal concern (e.g. climate change, genetic engineering, nuclear physics, evolution, concepts of cognition, pharmaceutics, nuclear power, scientific ethics and responsibility, etc.), and in how they reflect or embody the specifically global nature of the scientific enterprise (the permeability of national borders to concepts, technologies, and scientists; different cultural and national contexts for the practice and use of science; and culture-dependent popular perceptions of science). If you would like to attend, check for updates about the program and registration after January 1st at To propose a presentation, send a description of your topic (300 words) for a 30 minute talk, as well as professional biographical information (100 words) by December 9, 2016. Contributions from across the humanities and social sciences, as well as from working scientists, science communicators and writers are welcome, but should be aimed at a multi-disciplinary audience. Send queries and proposals to Susan Gaines at Organized by the College of Arts, University of Guelph, Canada, and “Fiction Meets Science” ( at the Universities of Bremen and Oldenburg, Germany.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Talk - Biology and Modernist Sculpture

A reminder that tomorrow, Tuesday 8 November, at 5.00 in the History of Modern Medicine and Biology Seminar Ed Juler (Newcastle University) will speak on 'The life of forms: biology and modernist sculpture'.

Seminars are held in Seminar Room 1, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Free School Lane, Cambridge CB2 3RH. Tea and biscuits are available from 4:40pm; seminars run from 5:00 to 6:30pm.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

CFP - Consuming Animals

Friday 17th- Saturday 18th March 2017
University of York, UK
Keynote speakers include: Professor Diana Donald and Professor Timothy Morton

This two-day interdisciplinary conference is designed to bring together those in the humanities whose work explores humanimal relations during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In particular, it seeks to investigate the various, and often ambiguous, ways in which animals were consumed by humans symbolically and materially. Through various methods of consumption, typically characterised by exploitation and violence, human society and accepted definitions of what it means to be human, have nevertheless been fundamentally shaped by animals. Whether on the end of a gourmand’s fork or a whaler’s harpoon, on the lap of an aristocrat or by the side of a beggar, conjured as majestic and wild by the artist’s brush or as haggard and caged by the eyes of the menagerie visitor, in private homes and city streets, in the artistic or literary imagination, the bodies of animals (alive or dead) were ubiquitous during this period. Indeed, they provided both the fashionable feather and the faithful companion; they were, simultaneously, consumed, feared, defended, caged and loved. The minds of Georgians and Victorians were filled with treacherous tigers and devoted dogs with whom they forged complex relationships and encounters – and to whom they were much more than mere material bodies.

Conference themes include, but are not limited to, the following topics: 
Violence and Killing
Science, Evolution and Vivisection
Imperialism and Exploration
Confinement and Exhibition
Art, Film, Literature and Music
Animal welfare and animal rights
Gender, Race, Sexuality, Religion, and Class

Proposals are invited for short papers (20 minutes)
Abstracts of up to 250 words, along with a short 50 word bio should be sent to:
 Deadline for abstracts: December 14th 2016

Friday, November 04, 2016

Report - CoSciLit Conference

Find out what happened earlier this year at the 2nd International Conference on Science and Literature in Clare Stainthorp's report.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

14th November - Bodily Fire

Our next meeting will look at scientific and literary explorations of the strange phenomenon of spontaneous human combustion.Was this fact, or fiction?

We will meet, as usual, from 7.30-9pm in the Newnham Grange Seminar Room at Darwin College. Readings are:
Optional further reading: J.L.Heilbron, ‘The Affair of the Countess Görlitz’, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 138 (1994), 284-316.

Recap - Sensitive Fire

Thanks to all who forewent an opportunity to trick or treat, and instead attended our Hallowe'en meeting of the Science and Literature Reading Group on Monday evening! We formed another excellently interdisciplinary group, with a particularly strong showing from the HPS MPhil and Part III cohort, which committed itself to a conversation about experimental practice, paranormal activity, natural classification systems, and public engagement techniques from the 18th century to the present day.

In my introduction I tried to draw out three main ways in which to think about these readings about the so-called sensitive flames: phenomena, genre, and community. Phenomena: how do you interrogate, explain, and describe what happens in the (super)natural world? Genre: what is particular about publishing in the late-19th-century periodical press? Are these articles more lectures, essays, attempts at virtual witnessing? How do the poems, and articles, relate to each other? Community: how literature as well as science binds together communities, how communities were defining themselves at this time: British Association, physicists, men of science, spiritualists, etc.

Many of these issues, I suggested, were to do with boundaries: a theme which opened up the discussion: we talked about the style in which Tyndall's piece was written, with the sensitive flame almost like a living creature; how a taxonomy of flames was created; we watched a video of a sensitive flame in action; we talked about what kinds of forces were involved, and how the effects were explained; we considered the special role that flames and candles had at the Royal Institution, and its particular place within the London scientific landscape of the 19th century; we connected these readings back to Heraclitean understandings of flux and change, spirit and matter; how Tennyson's 'The Brook' could be rewritten as a series of celebratory scientific in-jokes; and what limits (or not) there might be to what experimental approaches could reveal about the workings of the universe.

Thanks to all who contributed to the discussion or to the catering arrangements, which with their zombie brain jellies or DIY 'sensitive flame' biscuits made up for any Hallowe'en festivities we might have been missing out on. And the supernatural theme will continue next time, when we discuss spontaneous human combustion...

Visions of Nature events - Oxford

This year the Oxford University Museum of Natural History has been hosting a series of exhibitions, events and residencies under the theme Visions of Nature. In December, BSLS members John Holmes and Janine Rogers will be taking part in three public events at the museum as part of this celebration of art and poetry inspired by the natural world:
  • On 1st December (7-9 p.m.), John and Janine will be giving a joint talk entitled Building the Book of Nature, drawing on their research for their Canadian SSHRC-funded research project on natural history museum architecture. This talk will explore the architecture and art of the museum, including a guided tour and a pop-up exhibition of designs by John Ruskin, the Pre-Raphaelites and others.
  • On 7th December (6.30-8.30 p.m.), they will be joined by Stephen Wildman, Director of the Ruskin Library and Research Centre, together with researchers and teachers from Oxford, to discuss how science and art have worked together in visualising nature throughout the ages.
  • Finally, on 12th December (7-9 p.m.), John will be joining the museum’s three poets-in-residence, John Barnie, Steven Matthews and Kelley Swain (one-time BSLS Secretary), to launch a new anthology of poems inspired by and connected with the museum, entitled Guests of Time.
All three events are free and open to all. If you would like to reserve seats in advance, please click here.

SHAC Autumn meeting - Air, Alchemy, Elements and Electrons

Royal Institution, 21 Albemarle Street, London, Saturday 12 November 2016, registration from 9.30am. The deadline for registering for the meeting and lunch is Monday 7 November 2016.

The meeting will include a range of papers on topics appropriate to the Society’s interests, with the full programme given below.

9.30: Registration and Coffee

10.00: John Christie (Oxford): ‘Joseph Priestley and the Politics of Nitrous Air Eudiometry’
10.30: Tobias Schoenwitz (Cambridge): ‘Science or Art? Pharmacy in 19thC England and Austria’
11.00: Steven Turner (Washington DC): ‘Spectacle and Vision in 19thC English Chemistry’
11.30: William Brock: ‘The Fortunes of Robert Hunter, a Younger Rival of Christopher Ingold’
12.00: Simon Werrett (UCL): ‘Astonishing Transformations’

12.30: AGM and Presentation of Oxford Part II Chemistry Prize
13.00: Lunch – a sandwich lunch will be provided

13.45: Edwin Rose (Cambridge): Late 18thC Reception of Joseph Black’s Discovery of Fixed Air’
14.10: Steven Irish (Cambridge): ‘Calamines and Crystallography: Chemical Combination in the Work of James Smithson’
14.35: Karoliina Pulkkinen (Cambridge): ‘What Classification of Chemical Elements Can Teach Us on Epistemic Values’
15.00: Alexandra Marraccini (Oxford): ‘Elephant-Hawk Moths in the Tender Garden. Scientific Knowledge and Effect in a Late 16thC Alchemical Formula Book’
15.25: Michael Jewess: ‘History of Science Sites: Beware the Great London Street Re-naming’

15.50: Tea

16.20: Edward Werner Cook (New York): ‘August Wilhelm Hofmann in London’
16.45: Will Scott (Cambridge): ‘The Electron in Early 20thC Organic Chemistry’

17.10: Concluding Remarks – meeting ends at 17.30

The meeting (including refreshments and lunch) costs £15 for SHAC and Royal Society of Chemistry Historical Group Members; £20 for non-members. Full details on how to register are available on our website Alternatively a flyer can be downloaded from

CFP - ​Breath, Flight and Atmosphere: the Theme of Air in British Culture

Royal West of England Academy, Queen’s Road, Bristol, Monday June 26th 2017

Coinciding with a major exhibition – Air: Visualising the Invisible in British Art, 1768-2017  (June 17th – September 3rd) – the Royal West of England Academy is hosting an interdisciplinary one-day symposium in partnership with Oxford Brookes University.

Christiana Payne, Professor of History of Art, Oxford Brookes University
Sam Smiles, Professor Emeritus of History of Art, University of Plymouth
Stephen Jacobson, Vice-President, Royal West of England Academy

Air is everywhere. The air we breathe is essential to human, plant and animal life; its quality is a fundamental ingredient of our health and that of the planet as a whole. The air above us is a region of wonders and dangers: hot air balloons and aeroplanes, flying creatures and bombing raids, luminous colours and evocative clouds. It is not surprising that artists have often been fascinated by this kind of subject matter. From experiments with air-pumps in the eighteenth century, through the sky paintings of Turner and Constable and the polluted cityscapes of Grimshaw and Lowry, to the wartime perils and the exhilaration of flight in the paintings of Ravilious and Lanyon, British artists have found many varied sources of inspiration in the air.  Contemporary artists tackle similar themes, with an emphasis less on flight, which is no longer a novelty, than on the nature of breath and the connections between air and health.

This one-day symposium complements the exhibition, which includes works by Joseph Wright of Derby, J. M. W. Turner, John Constable, Samuel Palmer, John Everett Millais, Christopher Nevinson, Eric Ravilious and Peter Lanyon along with work by contemporary artists.

The symposium seeks to create dialogue between practising artists, curators, writers, academics and students from disciplines including history of art, cultural studies, geography, history, literature, environmental humanities and philosophy.

250-word abstracts for 20-minute papers should be sent to Christiana Payne at, to arrive no later than Tuesday January 31st 2017.

Please contact the RWA for further information:
Joel Edwards, Learning and Participation Manager
Royal West of England Academy, Queen’s Road, Clifton, Bristol BS8 1PX

Monday, October 31, 2016

Talk - Medical Etymology: The Language of Medicine

The Cambridge Medical Humanities Society is excited to announce its first talk of the term. Join us at 6pm on Friday 4th November in the Main Lecture Theatre in St John's College for wine, soft drinks and snacks. The talk will start at 6.30pm. Further details can be found on our Facebook event and in the blurb below.

Ever wondered what a crab has to do with oncology? What bile has to do with depression? Where the word testis comes from? Or what the movie 'The Hangover' should really be called? Unlikely. Find out the answers to these useless questions and many more at our latest talk entitled 'The Language of Medicine'. If you've ever wanted to impress your consultant with a casual knowledge of Latin and Greek, this is the talk for you. We will cover a brief history of medical language, a cheat's guide to working out the origins of medical terms, and a selection of weird and wonderful medical etymologies, for lifelong use in pub quizzes, or awkward ward rounds.

As William Osler said 'The young doctor should look about early for an avocation, a pastime, that will take him away from patients, pills, and potions…' Let this be your avocation.

Alexandra Caulfield has degrees in Classics and Medicine, and is known for being overenthusiastic about medical etymology.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Performance - Professor Bernhardi

Prolonging life – we’re good at that!
Performance of ARTHUR SCHNITZLER’S Professor Bernhardi

28 & 29 October 2016, 7pm (Doors 6pm)
Pre-show talk at 6.30pm
Anatomy Building, Downing Site, Downing Street, CB2 3DY Cambridge

Arthur Schnitzler's unlikely comedy Professor Bernhardi (1912) tells the story of a Jewish doctor who prevents a Catholic priest from giving the last rites to a patient who is unaware that she is dying. It is a play about doctors talking to doctors, raising questions about the Viennese politics and ethics of medical care. The production will stage Schnitzler’s own archival work. It will shed light on his extensive drafts and notes on Professor Bernhardi, held by Cambridge University Library, and the pathology that shaped the creative process of Schnitzler's medical drama. The venue is the Anatomy Lecture Theatre at Downing Site, Cambridge. It has particular meaning for the drama. Anatomical theatres, like dramatic theatres, are places to see and to acquire knowledge. The topography of the anatomy theatre elevates the observer to a position that looks at the open body from above, almost with a birds-eye perspective.

The production is a collaboration between the theatre company [FOREIGN AFFAIRS], the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience and academics from the Schnitzler Digital Edition Project.

Book tickets here: More information:

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

CFP - Humanities special issue on James Joyce, Animals and the Nonhuman

Humanities, an international, scholarly, open access journal, and its Guest Editor, Dr Katherine Ebury (University of Sheffield), are seeking proposals for a Special Issue focused on ‘James Joyce, Animals and the Nonhuman’. The Special Issue is scheduled to appear in September 2017, with a manuscript delivery deadline of June 2017.

While ecocritical approaches to Joyce, in particular in Eco-Joyce (Brazeau and Gladwin) and The Ecology of Finnegans Wake (Lacivita), have recently generated interest in Joyce’s environmental imagination, connections between Joyce and animal studies, or Joyce and the ‘nonhuman turn’, have yet to be explored. In Portrait, Temple is credited with the idea that ‘The most profound sentence ever written…is the sentence at the end of the zoology. Reproduction is the beginning of death’. But although excellent critical work on Joyce and animals has certainly appeared, with perennial interests being Tatters of ‘Proteus’, the Blooms’ cat, Garryowen of ‘Cyclops’, and, of course, cattle disease, a sustained volume or special issue certainly seems necessary. Equally, the voice of the printing press, which, Bloom reminds us in ‘Aeolus’, ‘speaks in its own way. Sllt.’ (7: 174–7) has been heard, but not so far in the sense of the ‘nonhuman turn’ which only emerged in 2012. This Special Issue seeks to offer a space for sustained consideration of how Joyce represents the animal and the nonhuman throughout his works. Contributions that suggest how we might feed Joyce’s example into contemporary conversations about animals and the nonhuman are also sought.

We welcome submissions that interrogate and interpret Joyce’s relation to the world beyond the human and are open to a range of approaches, including theoretical, textual, genetic and historical. We also welcome submissions from both emerging and established scholars.

We seek 250–500 word proposals for original contributions and a 100-word biography (included selected publications) by 31 October 2016; please email both the Guest Editor and the journal, as listed below.

Dr. Katherine Ebury
Guest Editor

BJHS Special Section - Palaeonarratives and Palaeopractices: Excavating and Interpreting Deep History

Group members might be interested in the (open access) special section of the September 2016 issue of the British Journal for the History of Science, on palaeonarratives and palaeopractices, especially guest editor Amanda Rees's 'Stories of stones and bones: disciplinarity, narrative and practice in British popular prehistory, 1911–1935'.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Victorian Network - Issue on 'The Victorian Brain'

The Summer 2016 issue of Victorian Network, entitled "Victorian Brain" and guest edited by Professor Sally Shuttleworth (University of Oxford), is now available.

Talk - The Strange Spaces of Chinese Science Fiction

Dr Sarah Dodd (University of Leeds)
5pm, October 26, 2016 (Wednesday) FAMES Rooms 8 & 9 

The history of science fiction in China reaches back to the beginning of the twentieth century, when utopian narratives of an idealised future played their part in calls for a revolution in fiction, and it has remained deeply entangled with the ideas and politics of a changing China. This talk will provide a whistle-stop tour of key movements in the history of Chinese SF, before considering the recent 'new wave' of writers, whose work is gaining awards and recognition not only in China but also in English translation. Looking at the work of Liu Cixin, whose Three Body trilogy is the first Chinese SF novel to be translated into English, and a number of other writers who are finding success in short stories, I will discuss the ways in which these works explore themes of hybridity, haunting and boundary-crossing – all tied in with ideas of contested space, whether of the body, society or the universe itself. Finally, to add another dimension to the discussion, I will look at the space of the SF field, considering the role of magazines, awards and fandom, as well as the key figure of author and translator Ken Liu, who has played an important role in bringing Chinese SF to English-speaking audiences, paving the way for recent ventures such as the collaboration between Clarkesworld magazine and Storycom International Culture – the first time an English-language genre magazine has made translation a regular part of every issue.

Speaker Dr Sarah Dodd is Lecturer in Chinese Studies at the University of Leeds. She teaches courses on Chinese literature, history and cinema, and her research focuses on representations of the monstrous in classical and contemporary Chinese fiction. She is co-organiser of the projects Writing Chinese: Authors, Authorship and Authority ( – which aims to create a network of authors, translators, academics and others working in the field of contemporary Chinese fiction – and Reading the Fantastic (, which brings together early career researchers looking at various aspects of the intercultural fantastic.