Friday, January 27, 2017

Blame Not Our Author at the Corpus Playroom

The imaginative stage set, which made use of detachable shapes and their shadows.
Last week a few members of the Reading Group went to see this unusual perfomance of a long-lost geometric dramatic work. It was a fascinating evening, full of mathematical and early modern (and early modern mathematical) in-jokes: full credit to cast and crew for taking on such a challenging piece of writing!

I have scanned in the historic notes on the play which were made available to audience members, in case they are of interest to readers of this blog (hopefully they are legible):

Lent Term 2017 - Air

This term the Science and Literature Reading Group takes to the air, as we continue our series of meetings exploring the elements. We will focus on late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century pneumatics, from eudiometry to aeronautics, considering how air was philosophised, exploited, and consumed.

Meetings take place on Monday evenings at Darwin College from 7.30-9pm. Please note that this term we will be meeting in the ground floor seminar room of 1 Newnham Terrace. All are welcome to join in our wide-ranging and friendly discussions!

The group is organised by Melanie Keene and Charissa Varma. For recaps, further readings, news, and other updates, please visit our blog: We have also recently joined twitter: you can follow us @scilitreadgrp.

6th February: Atmosphere

20th February: Breath

13th March: Flight
  • Thomas Baldwin, Airopaidia (1786), as much as you’d like of 1-164 (‘The Excursion throu’ the Air’), especially 1-14, 29-59, 94-97.

Talk - Curious things sent to Charles Darwin in the post

Francis Neary (Darwin Correspondence Project)

Wednesday 1 February, 13:15-13:45, Milstein Room, Cambridge University Library

All are welcome - no need to book. This is part of our ongoing programme of free tours and pop-up talks. Tours are limited to 15 people and can be booked at

Monday, January 23, 2017

Event - "Maps without borders: Stories of civic science in action"

London, 18th February

This storytelling exhibition showcases powerful aerial maps created by citizens using kites, balloons, and point-and-shoot cameras. We explore how people around the world are harnessing the power of Do-It-Yourself techniques to address local environmental, social and political matters. Sitting around a proverbial campfire, we will tell four stories of women and men, unsung heroes in the U.S. and the Middle East, who have crafted tools and gathered evidence that has reconfigured the perception of space, place, and issues that shape their lives. Their maps take us on the journeys that reveal who created them: their challenges, struggles, and successes in achieving change in their communities. These maps lie at the intersection of technology, science, the environment, and social justice; they reveal the power of engagement and how people are creating alternative narratives of place and transformation. Free event. Wheelchair accessible.

More information and RSVP.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Talk - Fantasy Worlds with Frances Hardinge

Wednesday 8th February, 6 – 7pm followed by a drinks reception

G07, Percy Building, Newcastle University

Join us for an exclusive event with Frances Hardinge, as she discusses the borders between fantasy and reality and her inspiration for her writing with Aishwarya Subramanian from Newcastle University’s Children’s Literature Unit. Her latest novel, The Lie Tree, described as ‘a Victorian Gothic mystery with added paleontology, blasting powder, post-mortem photography and feminism” won the Costa Book of the Year 2015 and audiences will also be treated to a reading from the outstanding novel by Frances as part of this very special event.

This event is hosted by Newcastle University’s School of English Literature, Langauge and Linguistics with Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children’s Books.

Free event. Please book online in advance at:

This event complements the Children’s Literature Unit’s Postgraduate Visit Day, which will be hosted earlier that day for prospective Masters and PhD students. For more information and to book, visit:

CFP - 'STEM and Beyond? Informal Science Learning Across Disciplines'

Science in Public and Brunel STS Cluster are pleased to invite you to submit an abstract to a forthcoming full day workshop about public engagement in the sciences, arts, humanities and social sciences on 19th May at Brunel University London. Titled “STEM and Beyond? Informal Science Learning Across Disciplines”, we welcome contributions from academics from all fields, science communicators, educational practitioners, and science and technology studies scholars. The event is an opportunity to both reflect upon the impacts of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) agenda on communication in all disciplines, and to present examples of good practice. The event features a keynote presentation by Prof. Martin Bauer of the LSE on science communication across the disciplines.

Full event details here:

Please submit titles and 300 word abstracts for contributions to by Monday 6th February. Please put ‘STEM and Beyond abstract’ in the subject heading, and include your institutional affiliation if you have one, although we welcome freelance scicomm and education practitioners to join us to share their ideas and experience.

The event is co-organised by the Brunel Science, Technology and Society (STS) Research Cluster and the Science in Public Research Network (SiP), with support from Brunel’s College of Business, Arts and Social Sciences, Brunel’s Institute of Environment, Health and Societies, and the Brunel STEM Learning Centre.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Scientists and their diaries - workshop at the Royal Society

Friday 27 January, 12:00-17:30

The Royal Society, in association with the Constructing Scientific Communities project, is hosting a one-day workshop on the topic of 'scientists and their diaries'. The full programme for the day is here. Attendance (including sandwich lunch and afternoon tea) is free, but booking is essential - please email to reserve a place.

The workshop will be followed by a public evening event, 'Why we write', with Professor Sunetra Gupta - workshop attendees are very welcome to stay on for this.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

CFP - The Preserves of the Imagination in Victorian Science

We invite paper proposals for a panel on "The Preserves of the Imagination in Victorian Science" for NAVSA's 2017 conference. This panel explores the role and domain of the imagination in Victorian science. Topics may include:
  • Invitations for readers of scientific texts to imagine experiences or objects
  • Thought experiments
  • Fictional scientific objects (e.g. the ether)
  • Scientific models and modeling in the Victorian period
  • Role of the imagination in scientific practice/discovery
  • Risks of imagining/hypothesizing
  • Scientific creativity
  • Imaginative pursuits of Victorian scientists
Papers dealing with Victorian physics are particularly welcomed. Please send 500-word abstracts to or by January 13th.

CFP - Water

The Northern Nineteenth-Century Network presents "Water", a day conference at Leeds Trinity University,  Friday 7 April 2017, 10am to 5pm

Keynote Speaker: Professor John Chartres, University of Leeds
Call for Papers: Deadline 30th January 2017

We invite submissions from postgraduate students and academic staff across the humanities from the constituent universities AND other universities (particularly in the Yorkshire and Humberside region) on the theme of ‘Water’.

Paper proposals are invited on topics including but not limited to:
  • bodies of water, waterways, & water-related transport (canals, rivers, lakes, seas, streams, barges, boats, ships, ferries, steamboats and trains, lightships)
  • communities living & working on or near water (sailors and the navy, bargemen/boat people, fishermen/fishwives, whalers, ports, harbours, seaside towns and tourism, coastal communities, Lake Districts and Fenland communities).
  • water in various forms (steam, mist, fog, liquid, ice, frost, snow) and science and medicine dealing with water/water-borne diseases (cholera, biology of water creatures fish, birds, bugs, etc, aquaria, flushing toilets)
  • the politics of water (sanitary reform, the provision of clean drinking water, reservoirs and sewers, wells, ponds, privies, public baths, laundry industry, the ‘great unwashed’)
  • water mythology and creatures and their cultural representations (the Kraken, Moby Dick, mermaids, naiads, the Lady of the Lake, the Lady of Shallot, Neptune)
  • artistic, musical, and literary representations of water, and water-related architecture (seascapes, maritime novels, travel literature relating to the sea/arctic, angling stories, musical events on or featuring water, harbours, piers, bridges, lighthouses)
  • religious and spiritual uses of water (living water, baptism, truth in a well, the temperance movement) and material forms of water (watery foods e.g. soups, ice-cream)
The theme of water will be interpreted broadly, as too the chronological range of the nineteenth century (1780s-1920s). Please send an abstract of 250-300 words for a paper of 20 minutes to

Monday, January 09, 2017

Dates for Lent Term 2017 - Air

The meeting dates for this term's pneumatic discussions will be:
  • 6th February
  • 20th February
  • 13th March
As usual, we'll be meeting from 7.30-9pm at Darwin College: this term in the ground floor seminar room of 1 Newnham Terrace.

Further details of readings to follow!

Play - Blame Not Our Author

Corpus Playroom, 17-21 January 2017
Enter the world of a Euclidean textbook from the early 17th century, where a melancholic young square named Quadro dreams of becoming the perfect circle. Meanwhile, his dastardly friend, Rectangulus, decides to seek revenge on the entire shape-world, turning Quadro, Line and Circulus against their weary sovereign, the Compass. Geometric chaos ensues, as the characters in an overused textbook are finally given the chance to rebel against their lot in life.

Transcribed and published by the Malone Society in 1983, Blame Not Our Author has not been performed since it was penned in the Jesuit English College in Rome circa 1630. Written for students some 400 years ago, it is packed with visual gags that are farcical, witty, and still eloquent to anyone familiar with school geometry lessons. On another level, it provides a rich insight into a world where publications on practical mathematics, geometry, and technical skills were proliferating in print culture, and reflects certain historical anxieties about public use and abuse of mechanical knowledge.
Book here.

CFP - Any Signs of Childness?

Peter Hollindale's Signs of Childness in Children's Books (1997), 20 years on.
Day Symposium, 05/05/2017, Department of Education, University of York (UK) – H/G21, The Eynns Room
I wish to argue here that childness is the distinguishing property of a text in children's literature, setting it apart from other literature as a genre, and it is also the property that the child brings to the reading of a text.
Twenty years ago, Peter Hollindale coined the term 'childness' to qualify, or rather evoke, the particular feel of those discourses which express with unique intensity something of the quality of being a child in a certain place and time. Childness, Hollindale argued, is not a static property; always situated, it occurs through reading events, and signals a successful exchange between text and young reader.

This compelling but also elusive concept, although very often mentioned in children's literature studies, has arguably been underused; children's literature theorists have not engaged with that text as much as with Hollindale's other celebrated work, Ideology and the Children's Book (1988). Yet the 'I know it when I see it' dimension of childness continues to condense much of the seduction and frustration of children's literature as an object of study. In this symposium, we welcome scholarly contributions that reread, update, reevaluate, rethink, or trace the legacy of, Hollindale's concept in the light of two decades of children's literature theory and criticism. Suggested topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Childness and contemporary children's literature theory
  • Childness and exchange: 'kinship' and 'difference' models; generational gaps and 'cultural time-gaps'; adult-child relationships; childness and 'adultness'
  • The reading event: potential uses of 'childness' in empirical work
  • Childness and sociological, political and intersectional approaches to children's literature
  • Childness beyond children's literature: childhood studies, education, sociology and philosophy of childhood; general literary theory
  • Childness beyond children's books: multimedia, film, cultural and material productions
We welcome abstracts of 300 words from researchers and postgraduates before February 5th, 2017. To submit an abstract or for any questions, please email Peter Hollindale has kindly agreed to be present at the event.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

BSLS Small Grants Scheme and Postgraduate Conference Fund – Call for Applications

Applications are now invited for the next round of both competitions, each with a deadline of 1st March 2017.

BSLS Small Grants Scheme

Applications are invited for BSLS small grants of up to £400 to promote the study of literature and science. We are open to all sorts of proposals other than personal conference expenses. Examples of activities for which the awards might be used are expenses for a visiting speaker, a seminar series, or a symposium. Applications for support to stage special BSLS panels at appropriate conferences (other than the BSLS 2017 conference) will be considered.

Recent events supported by the scheme include: conferences on ‘The Body and Pseudoscience in the Long Nineteenth Century’ at the University of Newcastle, and on ‘Doing Science: Texts, Patterns, Practices’ at the University of Cologne; EXEWHIRR, a public-engagement event on ‘The Human-Technology Relationship through the Ages’ at the Bike Shed in Exeter, and; a symposium on ‘Biomedical Science and the Maternal Body’ at the University of Southampton organised by the Postgraduate Contemporary Women’s Writing Network.

Applicants should be current members of BSLS and should apply by making a case for how the award will contribute to the development of literature and science, with a brief outline of costs of the project. Applications should be no longer than 500 words. Where funding is sought for BSLS panels a clear indication of the scope of the panel, and of its contribution to the understanding of literature and science, should be included. Recipients of small grants are asked to acknowledge BSLS sponsorship appropriately in publicity for events and to provide a brief report on events for the BSLS newsletter and website.

Applicants may apply for any amount up to £400; in some instances a proportion of the amount applied for may be awarded. International members of BSLS are welcome to apply for the awards, but should note that they will be distributed in the form of bank cheques made out in pounds sterling. Serving members of the BSLS Executive Committee are not eligible to apply for the awards. We cannot enter into correspondence about the decisions of the Committee.
The application should be e-mailed, as a Word attachment, to the BSLS Secretary, Greg Lynall ( by 1st March 2017. Please put 'BSLS small grant' in the subject heading of your email. Applications will then be considered by the BSLS Executive Committee, with successful applicants informed by the end of March. Queries about the scheme should be directed to Greg Lynall.

BSLS Postgraduate Conference Fund

Applications are invited for bursaries of £200 for BSLS postgraduate student members toward the cost of presenting research papers at conferences (this excludes the BSLS annual conference, which has its own postgraduate bursary scheme). In addition to funding attendance at literature and science conferences, we would like to fund members who intend to give papers on literature and science at conferences which are not specifically focused on this topic, in order to promote the study of our field more widely.

To be eligible, applicants must
  • Be a member of the BSLS
  • Be a current research student
  • Be presenting a paper at a conference held after 1st April 2017

Eligible expenses include conference fees, travel and accommodation costs. Applicants must provide an outline of their research paper, justify why the funds are required (i.e. give a break-down of the budget) and state whether they have applied to any other funding sources (and the outcomes of those applications). You should also state why you think the particular conference you have chosen would be valuable, both for your own career and with regard to the wider objectives of the BSLS.

Applications should be no longer than 500 words. Successful applicants will be expected to provide a brief report on their paper and experience of the conference, for the BSLS newsletter and website.
International members of BSLS are welcome to apply for the awards, but should note that they will be distributed in the form of bank cheques made out in pounds sterling. Serving members of the BSLS Executive Committee are not eligible to apply for the awards. We cannot enter into correspondence about the decisions of the Committee.

The application should be e-mailed, as a Word attachment, to the BSLS Early Career Executive Committee Member, Ros Ambler-Alderman ( by 1st March 2017. Please put 'BSLS PG conference fund' in the subject heading of your email. Applications will then be considered by the BSLS Executive Committee, with successful applicants informed by the end of September. Queries about the fund should be directed to Ros Ambler-Alderman.

Talk - 'Letters, laughing gas and the lamp: Humphry Davy, 1778-1829'

Professor Sharon Ruston, Royal Institution, Tuesday 10th January, 7pm

Further details and booking here.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

CFP - Women in the History of Natural Science

This year the Society for the History of Natural History's annual conference will be on the theme of Women in the History of Natural Science, to take place in the Lake District, at the University of Cumbria Ambleside Campus on Thursday 15th June and at the Freshwater Biological Association, at Far Sawrey, on Friday 16th June 2017.

For further information or proposals for papers please contact the Meetings Secretary:

We are particularly interested in hearing about the lives, work and stories of less well-known figures. We invite papers on:
  • Women who have made significant or interesting contributions to the earth and life sciences, in any time period, and from any country, but excluding those still extant.
  • Women as collectors, taxonomists, biologists, writers, publishers, artists, ecologists, curators, travellers, conservationists
  • The uses of terms such as "predisciplinary", "amateur", "female virtuosi" or "professional" to describe the work that women did.
 The Society's AGM will take place on Friday afternoon 16th June. Nominations for the Society's Founder's Medal should be sent to the Secretary ( before the end of January 2017.