Monday, January 29, 2018

5th February - Connection

Our second meeting of term willl take place from 7.30-9pm in the Newnham Grange Seminar Room at Darwin College (left along the corridor from the Porters' Lodge, and up the carpeted staircase, passing the bust of Charles Darwin).

We focus on two readings which consider the ways in which ethereal connections were made and discussed in the early twentieth century:
All welcome!

The Peterhouse Theory Group

Our first meeting of Lent term will be 30 January at 17.30 in The Parlour (G Staircase).
  • Sam Kennerley (History): "Collingwood and the Archaeological Approach to History"
  • Josh Nall (History and Philosophy of Science): "Escape to Mars? Victorian and modern narratives of a dying planet"
All talks this term will begin at 17.30.

Wine and other beverages will be served.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

2018 Sandars Lectures - 'Chemical Attractions'

By Dr Peter Wothers, Director of Studies in Chemistry at Cambridge.

Held on the 6th, 7th and 8th of March in St Catherine’s College.

Lecture 1; 6th March.

The first lecture looks at how a young teenager first became addicted to collecting antique books on chemistry over 30 years ago. We will look at some of the very first ‘rare’ books purchased, and exactly what the attraction of them was. We will explore some of the other great chemical libraries formed in the past, and their different ‘flavours’ and strengths. We will also discuss how book collecting has changed over the past 30 years, during the age of the internet – a resource not available to the great collectors of the past. Some of the treasures stumbled across during the time collecting will be exhibited and discussed, including a possibly unique broadsheet summarizing one of the first text books of modern chemistry from the beginning of the 17th century.

Lecture 2; 7th March

This second lecture looks at some of the key chemical texts from the 18th century, when modern chemistry really began. We look at how an understanding of the air and the different gases it contains prompted a revolution in chemistry with the introduction of a new nomenclature which is still used today. We look at some of the key texts by authors such as Cavendish, Priestley, Scheele and Lavoisier and how the modern theory and language developed. We will also see how a chance acquisition of an additional item thrown in with a main lot in an auction led to the identification and purchase of an important piece of scientific apparatus. The lecture will include a couple of explosive chemical demonstrations!

Lecture 3; 8th March

In this third and final lecture, we look at some of the earliest books written by women chemists, prior to Madame Curie. Particularly important is Elizabeth Fulhame’s book from 1794: An essay on combustion, with a view to a new art of dying and painting. Also examined are the immensely influential and utterly delightful editions of Jane Marcet’s Conversations on Chemistry published between 1806 and 1853. This book takes the form of informal dialogues, or conversations, between the teacher, Mrs Bryan, and her two young students, Caroline and Emily. We will also look at other books written for younger audiences and some of the dangerous experiments they encouraged their readers to try out.

Further information here.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Landscapes Below Speaker Series

Milstein Seminar Rooms, University Library
Thursday 25 January, 17.30-18.30


Anna Rhodes, Collections Officer at Buxton Museum & Art Gallery

In 1636 Thomas Hobbes published his topographical and satirical poem The Wonders of the Peak. This popular verse described visiting some of Derbyshire's geological wonders, including limestone caverns and natural wells. Hobbes' poem publicised this landscape and by the eighteenth century, these sites were teeming with visitors. Descriptions and engravings of the sites were published in magazines and they attracted artists including Joseph Farrington, Philip James De Loutherbourg and William Gilpin. This talk explores how these geological 'wonders' were represented on both paper and canvas in the eighteenth-century. It draws on many unpublished travel journals, examining how the visitors engaged with the geological landscape. These often sensationalised descriptions, written by both men and women contain tales of perilous adventure, eerie visions into other worlds and the stirrings of modern geology.

Further information, and a link to book tickets, here.

Future events:
  • 'The Role of Women in the History of Geology' - Tuesday 20 February
  • 'George Cumberland, fossil collecting and landscape painting in early 19th century Bristol' - Thursday 22 March

All details and booking information can be found here.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Cambridge Interdisciplinary Performance Network: Narratives and Artificial Intelligence

23 January 2018, 5-7pm
CRASSH, Alison Richards Building, SG1

Chair: Satinder Gill (CIPN)

The AI Narratives project at the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence examines how we talk and think about AI, and considers the impact this could have on how it is regarded, developed, and regulated, highlighting the role of humanities research in technological development.

1. Stephen Cave: Hopes and Fears for AI: Four Dichotomies

Rarely has a technology arrived more pre-loaded with associations than the intelligent machine. We categorise those associations into four dichotomies of hopes and fears:

- Ease / Obsolescence

- Dominance / Subjugation

- Gratification / Alienation

- Immortality / Inhumanity

Stephen Cave is Executive Director of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, Senior Research Associate in the Faculty of Philosophy, and Fellow of Hughes Hall, at the University of Cambridge. Stephen earned a PhD in philosophy from Cambridge, then joined the British Foreign Office, where he spent a decade as a policy advisor and diplomat. His research interests currently focus on the nature, portrayal and governance of AI.

2. Sarah Dillon: Displaying Gender

This paper will take a brief interdisciplinary and intersectorial look at the displaying and enacting of gender in artificial intelligence technology and the narratives surrounding.

Films: Ex Machina, Conceiving Ada.

Novels: M. John Harrison's Empty Space.

Sarah Dillon is University Lecturer in Literature and Film in the Faculty of English at the University of Cambridge. She is author of The Palimpsest: Literature, Criticism, Theory (2007) and Deconstruction, Feminism, Film (2018). Sarah is a Senior Research Fellow at CFI, where she is co-Project Lead on the AI Narratives project, with the Royal Society. Sarah is a public advocate for the importance of the Arts and Humanities and broadcasts regularly on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Radio 4.

3. Kanta Dihal: Personhood

Personhood has been attributed to objects from cars to computers to the Berlin Wall; the latter has even been married. At the same time, some humans have been denied personhood. This talk will explore the issue of personhood in the age of artificial intelligence, with the two robot figures of Sophia and Pepper as key protagonists... or objects of investigation.

TV series and films: Humans (UK)/Real Humans (Sweden); Ex Machina;

Kanta Dihal is the Postdoctoral Research Assistant on the AI Narratives project, and the Research Project Coordinator of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence. In her research she explores the public understanding of AI as constructed by fictional and nonfictional narratives. She has recently submitted her DPhil thesis in science communication at the University of Oxford, titled 'The Stories of Quantum Physics.

4. Beth Singler: AI and Film

Dr Beth Singler will talk about the series of four short documentaries she is making on AI and robotics at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, with help from the CFI, Arm, and Little Dragon Films. She will show the first half of Pain in the Machine, the first in the series and the winner of the 2017 AHRC Best Research Film of the Year award. She will discuss how the dissemination of accounts of artificial intelligence can rely on dominant narratives and she will reflect on science, fiction, her films, and their role in public engagement.

Pain in the Machine

Beth Singler is the Research Associate on the "Human Identity in an age of Nearly-Human Machines" project at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, where she is exploring the social and religious implications of advances in Artificial Intelligence and robotics. As an associate research fellow at the CFI she is collaborating on the Narratives of AI project, which is running in partnership with the Royal Society. Beth is an experienced social and digital anthropologist.

Chair: Satinder Gill

Satinder is a Research Affiliate with the Music Faculty, based with the Centre for Music and Science. She is author of Tacit Engagement: Beyond Interaction (2015), editor of a forthcoming book on The Relational Interface: Where Art, Science, and Technology Meet (2018), and member of the Editorial Board of the AI & Society Journal since its establishment in 1987.

To join the CIPN mailing list, subscribe here; to post events relating to the concept of performance to the CIPN mailing list, email here.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

22nd January - Imagination

Our aethereal explorations begin with a discussion of two classic works of science and literature:
All welcome!

Conference - Remembering James Petiver (1665-1718)

26th April 2018
The Linnean Society of London

Registration Now Open - see here

This day meeting marks the tercentenary of the death of James Petiver FRS, an important but often overlooked professional apothecary and compulsive natural historian in 18th-century London. Petiver made significant contributions to multiple fields of natural history, above all botany and entomology. An assiduous correspondent and collector, he successfully cultivated sources of natural historical intelligence and material from the Americas to the East Indies.

Speakers will assess Petiver's life and legacy by deploying a range of historical and scientific disciplinary perspectives. On the 300th anniversary of his death, the meeting will set out to remember James Petiver:

• as a practising natural historian of substantial abilities and merit
• as a collector and cataloguer of natural historical specimens with enduring significance
• as a writer of both manuscript correspondence and published natural historical texts
• as an apothecary whose professional and private scientific interests mutually informed each other
• as a social networker both within London and across the globe
• as an historical figure whose legacy has been contested and which is ripe for reconsideration

Speakers: Dr Arnold Hunt, Dr Charles E Jarvis FLS, Sebestian Kroupa, Dr Alice Marples, Katrina Maydom, Professor Kathleen S Murphy, Dr Victoria Pickering, Professor Richard Vane-Wright FLS. Respondent: Dr Emma Spary.

Organisers: Richard Coulton, Charlie Jarvis.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Twentieth-Century Think Tank - 'Ether: The Multiple Lives of a Resilient Concept'

Jaume Navarro (University of the Basque Country), Thursday 18th January

In this session I propose to discuss the text of the introduction to a collective volume on the ether in the early twentieth century soon to be published by Oxford University Press. This book is a snapshot of the ether qua epistemic object in the early twentieth century. The contributed papers show that the ether was not necessarily regarded as the residue of old-fashioned science, but often as one of the objects of modernity, hand in hand with the electron, radioactivity or X-rays. Instrumental was the emergence of wireless technologies and radio broadcasting, certainly a very modern technology, which brought the ether into social audiences that would otherwise have never heard about such an esoteric entity. Following the prestige of scientists like Oliver Lodge and Arthur Eddington as popularisers of science, the ether became common currency among the general educated public. Modernism in the arts was also fond of the ether in the early twentieth century: the values of modernism found in the complexities and contradictions of modern physics such as wireless action or wave-particle puzzles a fertile ground for the development of new artistic languages; in literature as much as in the pictorial and performing arts.

The question of what was meant by "ether" (or "aether") in the early twentieth century at the scientific and cultural levels is also central to this volume. The essays in this volume display a complex array of meanings that will help elucidate the uses of the ether before its purported abandonment. Rather than thinking of the ether as simply a name that remained popular among several publics, this book shows the complexities of an epistemic object that saw, in the early twentieth century, the last episode in the long tradition of stretching its meaning and uses.

Please contact Richard Staley if you would like a copy of the Introduction.

The Think Tank meets from 1-2pm 
Seminar Room 2
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Free School Lane

CFP - Victorian Interdisciplinarity

Durham University, 12 May 2018

CfP Deadline: 1 March 2018

Hosts: Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies & Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies

Organising Committee: Rosemary Mitchell, Efram Sera-Shriar (Leeds Trinity University); Bennett Zon (Durham University); Helen Kingstone (University of Glasgow)

Keynote speaker: Gowan Dawson (University of Leicester)

The Victorian Interdisciplinarity project combines expertise at Durham and Leeds Trinity to build upon a current project called Victorian Culture and the Origin of Disciplines, led by cultural historian Bennett Zon (Durham) and historian of science Bernard Lightman (York University, Canada). Begun at Durham's Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies, that project explores the factors underpinning the coalescence of modern disciplines, while problematizing conventional notions of disciplinary crystallization and exposing deep channels of interdisciplinary interaction.

Led by a combination of scholars at Durham and Leeds Trinity, including cultural historians Helen Kingstone and Rosemary Mitchell, historian of science Efram Sera-Shriar and Bennett Zon, Victorian Interdisciplinarity extends this project by magnifying focus on the dynamics of interdisciplinary interaction in the formation and promulgation of individual disciplines. It tests the nature of Victorian Britain's interdisciplinary project by probing mutual implications in the genesis of arts and sciences, including hard and soft sciences, social sciences, humanities and performative arts. These topics are reflected in a series of three main events comprising two separate workshops: Victorian Disciplinarity and the Arts (Saturday 25 November 2017, Durham); Victorian Disciplinarity and the Sciences (Friday 23 February 2018, Leeds Trinity); and an international conference (Saturday 12 May 2018, Durham). Related events are also being planned, including a CNCS workshop and guest lecture led by Bernard Lightman, and activities at Leeds Trinity.

According to Joe Moran ''interdisciplinarity' provides a democratic, dynamic and co-operative alternative to the old-fashioned, inward-looking and cliquish nature of disciplines. And yet this straightforward interpretation begs a number of questions: how exactly does interdisciplinary research aspire to be warm, mutually developing, consultative? Can disciplinary divisions be so easily broken down or transcended? Is it not inevitable that there should be some means of ordering and structuring knowledge?' (Interdisciplinarity, 2011)

This project seeks to probe the ways Victorian ordered and structured knowledge by viewing their intellectual landscape as non-disciplinary. Testing modern disciplinary and interdisciplinary configurations of professional disciplinary coalescence, Victorian Interdisciplinarity draws upon the methodology underpinning Peter's Bowler's transformative concept of the non-Darwin revolution. While Bowler argues that Victorian evolutionary ideas failed to produce crystalized ideological hegemonies, Victorian Interdisciplinarity proffers a transformative disciplinary landscape in constant flux – effectively a non-disciplinary revolution.

Within discussions of interdisciplinarity the Arts and Science have tended to reflect C.P. Snow's dichotomous concept of Two Cultures. This project synthesises rather than separates our methodological insights to produce a holistic and comprehensive understanding of Victorian interdisciplinarity.
  • How was Victorian knowledge organized – is it disciplinary, interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, transdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary, or even non-disciplinary?
  • Is interdisciplinarity a legitimate concept to apply to Victorian disciplinary interrelationships? What were the politics of disciplinary borders, and how did they facilitate/impede interdisciplinarity?
  • What were the processes, practices, mechanisms, discourses, and publication modes of Victorian interdisciplinarity?
  • What role did individuals and networks (such as learned societies) play in the coalescence of Victorian interdisciplinarity?
  • What were the counter-trends working against disciplinary formations, and what caused them – eg. tensions between elite and popular practitioners and forms, or peripheral/provincial v. central locations; issues of gender, class, and ethnicity/race; religion; rural and urban; colonial, imperial and global/transnational dimensions of knowledge?
  • How can studying Victorian interdisciplinary help to inform the theory and practice of interdisciplinarity for us today?

Individual Proposal abstracts for a single speaker (20 minutes + 10 discussion) should be 350 words and clearly describe the argument, evidence, and research findings, situate the work in relation to previous scholarship, and articulate how the research contributes to research into Victorian interdisciplinary.

Panel Proposal abstracts for 3 speakers (1 ½ hours) or 4 speakers (2 hours) should be 350 words and provide an outline of the main argument, evidence, and research findings of the panel, as well as situating the panel's work in relation to previous scholarship and articulating how the research contributes to research into Victorian interdisciplinary. The panel organizer should also include an individual proposal abstract for each paper following the guidelines for Individual Proposals, along with each panelist's contact information. Panel Proposals will be considered only as a whole, the session's coherence being an essential part of the evaluation process.

Submission information

Please send your proposals as Word documents to no later than 1 March 2018. The following format should be used:
Name, affiliation (if applicable) and contact details (postal address, email and phone)
Type of presentation (individual or panel)
Abstract title
Audio-visual and other requirements (the following are available: Data projector or large plasma screen; Desktop PC; VGA, HDMI and 3.5mm audio inputs; CD player; DVD player; Visualiser; Piano)
Brief biography (150 words)

HPS Departmental Seminar - Making sense of art and science

Charlotte Sleigh (University of Kent) will speak at the History and Philosophy of Science Departmental Seminar on Thursday, 18 January at 3:30pm on 'Making sense of art and science':

Historian of science Charlotte Sleigh has been working with science-artists since 2013, and in this talk she presents her reflections on hoped-for and actual relations between the two disciplines. A brief history of the field of A&S (art and science) will highlight the different purposes that art-science hybrids have fulfilled in different contexts, with particular emphasis on the past twenty years in the UK. Key concepts that have been marshalled to mediate between the two fields are subjected to critical analysis. A second part of the talk draws on Charlotte's particular experience in two A&S projects of her own: Chain Reaction! (2013) and Biological Hermeneutics (2017). In it, she reflects on some of the difficult and even embarrassing realities involved, drawing on Shapin's notion of 'lowering the tone' to help highlight some of the political tensions between art and science. Institutionalisation, money and space emerge amongst the categories in urgent need of more honest appraisal. Finally, related questions of research and critique are raised. There is a failure on the part of many scientists (just as there is amongst the general public) to understand and hence respect the research and critical practice that underpins contemporary art practice. What appears in galleries and elsewhere is the top tenth of the iceberg; research and critical practice are the nine-tenths that lie beneath. A&S collaborations may be improved, Sleigh argues, by an improved communication of this little-appreciated feature of contemporary art. Additionally she suggests that contemporary artists (as well as scientists) may have their research enhanced through an engagement with STS, which may be considered as the 'out-sourced' critical practice element of science.

Seminar Location: Seminar Room 2 Department of the History and Philosophy of Science Free School Lane Cambridge CB2 3RH

Tea and biscuits will be available from 3pm in Seminar Room 1. Following the talk, there will be a reception, also in Seminar Room 1. All are welcome! If you would like to join dinner after the reception, please contact Mary Brazelton.

Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies Annual Public Lecture for 2017-18

'The Public Sphere After Darwin: Popular Science Periodicals and the New Space for Debate' 

Professor Bernard Lightman (York University, Canada)
LCVS Visiting Professor, 2017-2018

Thursday 22 February in AG32/33 (Conference Suite)
Leeds Trinity University at 6pm (preceded by a wine reception from 5.30pm)

Macmillan's Magazine was one of several new journals that, beginning in the 1860s, altered the dynamics of the public space in Britain for debating the issue of the relationship between science and religion. These journals were founded just as the evolution issue sparked discussions about this relationship. In effect, journals such as Macmillan's Magazine sought to expand the bounds of permissibility through the creation of new formats that encouraged the toleration of unorthodox views. They provided an outlet for scientific naturalists, such as T. H. Huxley, who sought to establish themselves as respectable, cultural authorities while challenging the conventions of polite debate. The period after the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species was also characterized by the founding of new popular science journals, such as Recreative Science (founded 1859), Quarterly Journal of Science (1864), Science Gossip (1865), Scientific Opinion (1868), and Nature (1869). The central question of this lecture is: how did popular science journals treat the topic of the relationship between science and religion from the 1860s to the 1880s in light of the creation of new spaces for debate in the general periodical press?


Bernard Lightman is Professor of Humanities at York University, and will become President of the History of Science Society starting in January 2018. Lightman's research interests include nineteenth century popular science and Victorian scientific naturalism. Among his most recent publications are the edited and co-edited collections Global Spencerism, A Companion to the History of Science, and Science Museums in Transition. He is currently working on a biography of John Tyndall and is one of the editors of the John Tyndall Correspondence Project, an international collaborative effort to obtain, digitalize, transcribe, and publish all surviving letters to and from Tyndall.


The joint LCVS and University of Leeds Victorian Research Seminar programme – of which the public lecture is the highlight - showcases the research work of Victorianists across the two institutions and beyond. All are warmly welcomed to this event. Please email us to confirm attendance at the public lecture, so we can ensure adequate catering for the occasion.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Migration: Arts, Humanities, Sciences

2018 Darwin College Lecture Series
Lady Mitchell Hall, Cambridge
5.30pm on each Friday of Lent Term

Leading intellectuals and public figures from across the arts, humanities and sciences will deliver a series of public lectures on the topic of 'migration' in Lent Term 2018. Speakers include historian and broadcaster David Olusoga, President of the Royal Society, Venki Ramakrishnan, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.

Convenors: Dr Johannes Knolle and Dr James Poskett

For further details, please see the lecture series website.


All lectures take place at 5.30pm in Lady Mitchell Hall, Cambridge.

19 January 2018

Black and British Migration, David Olusoga (Historian and Broadcaster)

26 January 2018

Immigration and Freedom, Professor Chandran Kukathas (LSE)

2 February 2018

Art and Migration, Professor Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll (University of Birmingham)

9 February 2018

Forced Migration, Filippo Grandi (UN High Commissioner for Refugees)

16 February 2018

Disease Migration, Professor Eva Harris (UC Berkeley)

23 February 2018

The Partition of India and Migration, Kavita Puri (BBC)

2 March 2018

Migration in Science, Dr Sir Venki Ramakrishnan (Royal Society)

9 March 2018

Animal Migration, Professor Iain Cousin (Max Planck Institute for Ornithology)


Papers are invited (for oral or poster presentation) for a conference "Science, Imagination and Wonder: Robert Grosseteste and His Legacy" organised by the Ordered Universe Research Project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, UK, and the International Grosseteste Society. An interdisciplinary project is dedicated to new editions and translation of the scientific work of Robert Grosseteste. The conference will be the Fourth International Grosseteste Conference and will take place at Pembroke College, Oxford, UK, 3–6 April 2018.

The conference will celebrate the life and works of Grosseteste, especially in their response to natural phenomena. A principal aim of the conference is a confluence of disciplinary perspectives on this remarkable thinker. Submissions are welcome from all disciplines and from all career stages. Some suggested areas for subjects are listed below, but please be in touch with the organising committee to run ideas past us:
  • the legacy of Grosseteste's thought in the later Middle Ages and beyond
  • Grosseteste's predecessors and contemporaries
  • textual and editorial issues connected to medieval science
  • inter-textual issues across Grosseteste's writings: pastoral, theological, scientific and literary
  • rendering medieval thought in images, diagrams and visualisation
  • the extended legacy of the themes Grosseteste raises:
  • the order inherent in creation
  • questions of morality and science
  • definitions of experience, experiment
  • attitudes towards authorities
  • education and pedagogic practice
  • relevant thematic issues in history of science and literature
  • modern scientific inspirations from medieval thinkers
  • the role of wonder and imagination in science, in the medieval and modern periods

Oral presentations should be of 20 minute length, and the organising committee will also consider applications for sessions of 3–4 papers with potential speakers identified. Posters should be in A0 portrait format (33.1 wide x 46.8 length in inches), to be displayed throughout the conference and at dedicated Poster Sessions where presenters will be available to discuss their work). In all cases please submit a 300 word abstract with a brief academic biography here.

Please visit our website to find out more about the conference.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Lent Term 2018 - Aether

Following our tour of the four classical elements, this term the Science and Literature Reading Group looks to the fifth: aether. Our first three meetings focus on ways in which ethereal concepts have been used: as a vehicle for the imagination; as a medium for interconnection; and as a means of communication. The final meeting will celebrate completing the elementary series with a found poetry workshop using all of the texts we have read and discussed over the past year.

All are welcome to join in our wide-ranging and friendly conversations, which take place at Darwin College on selected Monday evenings from 7.30–9pm. The group is organised by Melanie Keene and Charissa Varma.

For recaps, further readings, news, and other updates, please follow us on Twitter @scilitreadgrp or follow this blog.

22nd January – Imagination

5th February – Connection

26th February – Communication

12th March – Elementary Poetry workshop