Video of Germs Revisited

On Thursday 16 March 2017, Dr Emilie Taylor-Brown gave a talk with Dr Jamie Lorimer (School of Geography and the Environment) and Dr Nicola Fawcett (Medical Sciences Division) on the subject of Germs Revisited. The talk was part of a programme of events to celebrate the European Research Council’s 10th anniversary week in March.

The talk discussed bad germs, friendly bacteria and whether we need to rethink our relationships with the microscopic world! The talk drew on past and present ideas from medicine, fiction and art to discuss new ways of thinking about human-microbe relationships along with developing trends in microbiome studies.

The event was organised through The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities, and the video is now available on the TORCH website. To view the video, please click here.

 

 

 

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The Contagion Cabaret, Oxfordshire Science Festival

The Contagion Cabaret: a quirky theatrical evening of drama, discussion and disease

Tuesday 20 June 2017, 7.30 – 10pm

Museum of the History of Science, Oxford 

Image: iStock.com/WilliamSherman

The Constructing Scientific Communities and Diseases of Modern Life projects are taking part in the Oxfordshire Science Festival with The Contagion Cabaret  at the Museum of the History of Science, Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3AZ.

Killer germs, superbugs, pestilent plagues and global pandemics have fascinated writers, musicians and thinkers for centuries. As diseases spread through a population, likewise myths and ideas travel virally through film, literature, theatre and social media. Join a cast of actors, scientists and literary researchers for an inventive illustration of infectious extracts from plays and music, past and present.

The event is free but booking is required via Eventbrite.

Please note that the doors to the Museum will open at 7.15pm and the talk begins promptly at 7.30pm. Late arrivals cannot be guaranteed entry. This event is suitable for ages 14+

Sally Shuttleworth is Professor of English Literature looking at the inter-relations between literature and science, including the project Diseases of Modern Life: Nineteenth-Century Perspectives.

Kirsten Shepherd-Barr is Professor of English and Theatre Studies, interested in the relationship between modernism, science and theatrical performance.

John Terry is Artistic Director of Chipping Norton Theatre known for ambitious and adventurous theatre work, usually script based but with a strong visual and physical tilt.

 

Vacancy: Postdoctoral Research Assistant

Applications are invited for a Postdoctoral Research Assistant to join the team working on the Diseases of Modern Life: Nineteenth Century Perspectives project.  The post  is full time and will be fixed term from 18 October 2017 (or as soon as possible thereafter) for the remainder of the grant which finishes on 31 January 2019.

The postholder will work under the direction of Professor Sally Shuttleworth, and will be expected to produce a monograph, or series of articles, relating to the project research, present their research at UK and international conferences, assist with media activity, and help organise public engagement activities.

Candidates should have been awarded a PhD in a relevant field (such as history of medicine or science, or literature) by the time of taking up the post.  You should show outstanding academic promise, and be willing to assist in the organisation of seminars, workshops and conferences, and contribute to the general running of the project.

Applications must be submitted online. To apply, please click here.

Please note: the closing date is midday on Friday 30 June 2017.

Candidates will need to upload a CV, supporting statement, an outline of a potential book project or series of articles, and a sample of written work.  Please ensure all documents are uploaded as PDF files. 

Candidates should ask two referees to submit reference letters directly to the Project Administrator, Alyson Slade at : alyson.slade@ell.ox.ac.uk by the closing date.

It is hoped that interviews will be held in the last two weeks of July.

Science, Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century: Seminars for Trinity Term 2017

 

 

The Railway Station by Francis Holl after William Powell Frith (1866)

Our programme for Trinity Term 2017 is now announced with three seminars at St Anne’s College.

Drinks will be served after each seminar. All welcome, no booking is required.

Wednesday 10 May 2017 (Week 3)

Professor Ursula Martin, University of Oxford

Ada Lovelace in her Mathematical Context

5.30 – 7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College

Ada, Countess of Lovelace, 1815 – 1852, the so called “first computer programmer”, is famous for her 1843 paper, which combined technical detail, and farsighted reflections, in describing Charles Babbage’s unbuilt analytical engine, a mechanical computer which, in principle, would have had the same capabilities as a modern machine.  Lovelace’s broader reflections  include the complexity and difficulty of programming, the potential for mathematical experiment, algebra, or composing music, and even, as noted by Alan Turing, the limits of machine thought.

Celebrated as an icon of women in science, Lovelace has been the subject of many popular accounts, with intense debate as to her ability and contribution to the 1843 paper. The only biography to study Lovelace’s mathematics  is detailed,  confident, but mathematically incorrect: the only edition of the letters is somewhat unscholarly and leaves out the mathematical content, stressing notions of poetical science.

Our recent work (with Christopher Hollings and Adrian Rice) is the first study of Lovelace by historians of mathematics, ad describes her eclectic childhood education, and her private study in 1840, at university level, with the eminent mathematician Augustus De Morgan.  We identified her increasing insight, tenacity with details and desire to grasp abstract principles – the skills required for independent mathematical work.

One might assess such  varying accounts of Lovelace’s life and contribution against changing contexts of class, gender, or mental stability; changing perceptions of mathematics amongst both professional mathematicians and the general public; changing perceptions of how to present women scientists; or better understanding of the misremembering or composure of women’s contributions.  Despite her reputation, we lack a scholarly account of the 1843 paper, and the trajectory of its ideas, rooted in the relevant mathematical context,  or a biography that  treats her as a member of a scientific community, alongside Babbage, De Morgan and Somerville, rather than constraining her as marginal or exceptional.

Ursula Martin is Professor of Computer Science at Oxford, and holds an EPSRC Fellowship to study collaborative  mathematics.

Wednesday 24 May 2017 (Week 5)

Dr James Emmott, Oxford Brookes University

On the Stratification of Language

5.30 – 7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College.

‘There are few sensations more pleasant than that of wondering,’ the philologist Max Müller declared at the opening of his Rede lecture, delivered in the University of Cambridge on 29 May 1868. The cause of wonder for Müller on this occasion was the thousands of years that humans had lived in ‘conscious ignorance’ of the ancient layers of rock and the remains of organic creatures, before geological eyes were opened in the eighteenth century; and, more strikingly, the centuries during which names had been given to a panoply of living things while ‘what was much nearer to them than even the gravel on which they trod, namely the words of their own language’, escaped systematic notice. ‘Here, too,’ Müller observed, ‘the clearly marked lines of different strata seemed almost to challenge attention, and the pulses of former life were still throbbing in the petrified forms imbedded in grammars and dictionaries’. Yet this attention did not fully arrive until the nineteenth century, when the idea that language was a fixed and stable structure gave way to the view that it was a ‘growing and developing medium’ (Hans Aarsleff), a material accumulation susceptible to sifting, analysing, and accounting. This paper will wonder about what new varieties of thought were made possible by the association of these fields, and the analogies they engendered. The vastness and composite complexity of the linguistic record, with models of preservation and decay borrowed from geology, prompted reappraisals both of the utility and applicability of universal laws to human culture, and a fundamental rethinking of language itself.

Wednesday 7 June 2017 (Week 7)

Professor Oliver Zimmer, University of Oxford

Time Tribes: How the Railways Made Communities (1840-1900)

5.30 – 7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College

When it comes to modern loyalties, scholars of various disciplines have predominantly looked at class, profession, region or nation. While these no doubt represent important sources of identity, in the long nineteenth century TIME emerged as a significant source of individual and collective self-definition. Increasingly, how people related to and made use of their own time marked out their actual and desired status. Time, that most elusive of matters, became instrumental for the making and unmaking of communities that sometimes transcended regional and national contexts. Much of this can be attributed to the railways and the temporal innovations they facilitated, above all standard time and railway timetables. This paper approaches the phenomenon in question – time tribes – through an investigation of British and German railway passengers.

ERC 10th Anniversary Week

The Diseases of Modern Life project was featured on the Humanities Division website as part of the ERC’s 10th anniversary week celebrations and events in March. The article is available here

Professor Sally Shuttleworth, Dr Melissa Dickson and Dr Emilie Taylor-Brown also appeared in a video made for the 10th anniversary, which featured a number of Oxford recipients of ERC funding. The video is available here

 

Sally Shuttleworth on BBC Radio 4

Professor Sally Shuttleworth has been a panellist on two BBC Radio 4 programmes broadcast on 9th March 2017.

For  In Our Time hosted by Melvyn Bragg, Professor Shuttleworth discussed Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel North and South. The programme is available here. 

As part of Radio 4’s Mars season, Professor Shuttleworth was a panellist on “What We Saw from the Ruined House” to discuss HG Wells’ science fiction novel The War of the Worlds. The programme is available here.

Lunchtime Talk: Germs Revisited

On Thursday 16 March 2017, Dr Emilie Taylor-Brown will be giving a talk with Dr Jamie Lorimer (School of Geography and the Environment) and Dr Nicola Fawcett (Medical Sciences Division) on the subject of Germs Revisited.

The talk will discuss bad germs, friendly bacteria and whether we need to rethink our relationships with the microscopic world! The talk will draw on past and present ideas from medicine, fiction and art to discuss new ways of thinking about human-microbe relationships along with developing trends in microbiome studies.

The talk will be at 12.30 at St Luke’s Chapel, Radcliffe Humanities, Woodstock Road. All are welcome and sandwiches will be provided.

The event has been organised through The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities, and is free to attend. Booking is recommended via the TORCH website.

The talk is part of a programme of events to celebrate the European Research Council’s 10th anniversary week from 13-20 March.  More information on the anniversary is available on the ERC’s website.

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