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