‘Mind Boggling Medical History’ Card Game Launch Event – Feb 28th!

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February 28th
5pm
Royal College of Nursing Library and Heritage Centre, London

Register here!

Join us for the launch of “Mind-Boggling Medical History” and explore the unexpected in medical and healthcare practice and history.

Mind-Boggling Medical History is a card game and educational resource led by the Constructing Scientific Communities project at the University of Oxford, in partnership with RCN Library and Archives. It is funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The educational game is designed to challenge preconceptions and show how ideas in medicine change for a variety of reasons.

The online game is accompanied by teaching resources to enable it to be used in schools for history or health education lessons, and for nursing and medical students at university.

Attendees at the launch will all receive a limited edition printed pack of the 50 card game and answer booklet.

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Join us for a Contagion Camerata – February 2nd, 2018

Local students have been working with Dr John Traill (University of Oxford) to compose musical pieces about science and medicine. For inspiration, the students attended the Contagion Cabaret at Oxford’s Curiosity Carnival in September.

Hear their compositions in a showcase at St Anne’s College in February. Details below.

2 February 2018
6:30 pm
Mary Ogilvie Lecture Theatre
St Anne’s College, Oxford

No booking required. Free entry.

 

Science, Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century Seminars in Hilary Term 2018

Galton Inquiries 1883Our programme for Hilary Term 2018 is now announced with three seminars at St Anne’s College.

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

Tuesday 30 January 2018 (Week 3)

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.

 

Tuesday 13 February 2018 (Week 5)

Dr Ryan Sweet, University of Leeds

Normalcy Interrogated: Prosthetic Hand Users in Victorian Sensation-Fiction Narratives

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

The nineteenth century is often celebrated as a period of great innovation in artificial limbs. Not only did the century see tremendous developments in surgical practice, meaning that more amputees survived amputation and more survived with serviceable stumps able to support prosthetic limbs, but an attitude was also cultivated that increasingly privileged physical “normalcy”. As the concept of the “normal” body was constructed by contexts such as the emergence of bodily statistics, the growth of sciences that equated physical appearances with particular character traits, and changes in Poor Law legislation, it became more important than ever before for individuals to conceal bodily losses in order to avoid the stigma attached to physical difference. An emerging profession of prosthesis makers cashed in on both this growing consumer market and wider taste for physical “wholeness”—an explicit constituent of “normalcy”—by producing sophisticated artificial limbs designed to conceal limb loss (aesthetically and functionally). The products of the most successful of these limb makers, such as A. A. Marks and Frederick Gray, were celebrated by journalists and advocates on both sides of the Atlantic. In spite of such high spirits surrounding the achievements of artificial limbs, literary representations of prostheses tended to be more critical of both the efficacy of and logic underpinning such devices. Two examples of a texts that complicated the developing hegemony of physical “wholeness”—as well as the importance placed on concealing physical difference—were the sensation-fiction short stories “Lady Letitia’s Lilliput Hand” (1862) by Robert William Buchanan and “Prince Rupert’s Emerald Ring” (1895) by T. Lockhart. In this talk, I will argue that texts such as these challenged the status quo by presenting sensory critiques of hand prostheses and questioning the demand for them to enable users to “pass” as “normal”.

 

Tuesday 27 February 2018 (Week 7)

Dr Jana Funke, University of Exeter

‘Sexo-Aesthetic Inversion’: Transgender Subjectivities in Late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Literature and Science

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

Much scholarship on the history of sexual science in relation to trans history has tended to focus on two related areas of sexological activity: the invention of diagnostic categories to produce fixed and stable identities, and the development of surgical and hormonal technologies to alter the physical appearance of trans bodies over the course of the 1920s and 1930s. As a result, sexual science is mainly remembered for implementing a medicalized framework that produced rigid diagnostic labels and put emphasis on the physical or somatic aspects of trans experience. This paper presents an alternative account of the relation between trans history and sexual science by focusing on a slightly earlier historical period, the decades between 1880 and 1920. At a time when surgical and hormonal interventions were not yet within immediate medical reach, understandings of what is nowadays described as trans identity emerged through sustained dialogue between scientific and literary writers who shared ideas concerning the role of Einfühlung (empathy), fantasy, dreams, the imagination and creativity in enabling an individual to experience and achieve cross-gender identification. Starting with British sexologist Havelock Ellis’s concept of ‘sexo-aesthetic inversion’ and Ellis’s exchange with modernist writer Bryher (Annie Winifred Ellerman) in the late 1910s, the paper works backwards to trace the intellectual roots of the scientific-literary framing of trans subjectivities. These include late nineteenth-century scientific studies of colour hearing, sense perception and aesthetics as well as works by literary authors like Olive Schreiner, Vernon Lee and William Sharp/Fiona Macleod to name but a few. Through its investigation of this earlier moment, the paper moves across the Victorian-Modernist divide to illuminate previously overlooked forms of exchange between literary and sexual scientific writings and to offer an alternative account of modern trans history.

UK DISABILITY HISTORY MONTH EVENT: WORK, TIME AND STRESS: HISTORICAL AND CONTEMPORARY PERSPECTIVES

Thursday, November 23, 2017 –

WATCH THE VIDEO FROM THE EVENT HERE.
1:00pm to 2:00pm
Radcliffe Humanities, Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6GG
Seminar Room

Professor Sally Shuttleworth (Faculty of English Language and Literature) will look at discussions of stress and overwork in both education and professional life in the Victorian era, based on her research.  Although we are clearly living in a radically altered world, there are nonetheless startling similarities in the ways the problems of overwork have been framed and debated, then and now.

Dr Marie Tidball (Faculty of Law, Centre for Criminology and TORCH Knowledge Exchange Fellow) will talk about the ‘dynamic’ nature of disability and the impact that stresses of modern life have on its trajectories, employment and what people sometimes refer to as ‘disability time’. That is, the changed experience of time due to pain, anxiety and stress caused by an impairment or the impact an impairment has on the length of time it takes to do ‘activities of daily living’ which in turn affects the availability of time as a resource which has value, such as getting dressed takes longer for prosthetic limb wearer, the increased extent of email, and related issues for people’s energy levels and productivity. This has an interesting impact on the number of hours disabled people may have available or may be able to work and thus a factor affecting the disability pay gap.

The two talks will raise lots of ideas for discussion, including the impact of modern technologies in each period on the nature of work.

Please email torch@humanities.ox.ac.uk if you have any accessibility needs.

Lunch from 12.30pm. Talk from 1pm.

This event is part of UK Disability History Month 22 Nov-22 Dec.

 

Science, Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century Seminars in Michaelmas Term 2017

Our programme for Michaelmas 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.

MTSeminar picture

Tuesday 24 October 2017 (Week 3)
Dr Helen Cowie, University of York
From the Andes to the Outback: Acclimatising Alpacas in the British Empire
5.30—7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College

Abstract: This paper examines attempts to naturalise the alpaca in the British Empire. In the nineteenth century Britain made concerted efforts to appropriate useful plants and animals and acclimatise them within its own colonies. The alpaca was a prime target for acclimatisers on account of its silken wool, which was manufactured into a range of luxury textiles. Its export was, however, banned by law in Peru and Bolivia, so the animals had to be smuggled out of the Andean states and shipped illegally to Britain and Australia. The paper studies the circuits of exchange that facilitated the transfer of alpacas from one continent to another and considers how British subjects in places as diverse as Bradford, Liverpool, Sydney and Arequipa promoted and benefited from the naturalisation scheme. It situates alpaca acclimatisation within a wider discourse of agricultural ‘improvement’, bio-piracy and imperial adventure.

Tuesday 7 November 2017 (Week 5)
Professor Martin Willis, Cardiff University
The Good Places of Sleep: Nineteenth-Century Utopian Fictions and Sleep Research
5.30—7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College
Abstract: We seem obsessed by the quality of our sleep in the early twenty-first century, yet the high point of sleep research was the second half of the nineteenth century, and particularly the period from 1880-1900, when modern sleep studies began. For the Victorians, sleep was an active state, (linked often to other cognitive pathologies and dissonances such as catalepsy and epilepsy) which enabled or disabled certain functions of mind and body. How one slept was therefore of considerable interest to the general public as well as to physiologists, physicians and neurologists. Concurrent with this avid attention to the epistemologies of sleep, utopian fictions employed sleep as a foundation for asking questions of ideal lives and worlds. Often, other worlds were entered through the medium of sleep. This seminar will consider the connections between sleep and utopia and ask whether sleep is itself a good place.
Tuesday 21 November (Week 7)
Professor Kirsten E Shepherd-Barr, University of Oxford
Infectious Ideas: Mechanisms of Transmission in the 19th Century
5.30—7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College
Abstract: This paper explores the semantic instability of the term “contagion” in the nineteenth century as refracted through theatre and performance, with key examples as case studies. I’ll look at 19th-century theatrical engagements with evolution, biology, and other related sciences, to show theatre’s preoccupation with mechanisms of transmission broadly conceived—from imaginative versions of heredity (including telegony in Ibsen and Strindberg, for instance) to breastfeeding on stage in Herne and Brieux to the “contagious” theatricality at the heart of Charlotte Mew’s short story “A White Night.” These and other examples can help us think about how and when the line began to blur between a strictly medical definition of contagion and a fuzzier “social disease” usage, onto which theatre cottoned very early on. I will then trace the powerful legacy of these theatrical engagements with contagion, looking first at how Artaud radically extends earlier metaphoric uses of contagion into his immersive, experiential “plague” and finally exploring the present day in which virtual contagion games allow the user to “perform” plagues and pandemics. A unifying thread running through all of these examples is how contagion relates to definitions of culture (e.g. Greenblatt, Foucault) founded, paradoxically, on containment and control. Finally, I will explore briefly how all of this relates to the wider issue of how to forge productive disciplinary cross-contaminations in a professional environment that increasingly regulates, directs, and manages trans- or interdisciplinarity.

Contagion Cabaret

A unique collaboration between The Theatre Chipping Norton and Oxford University

Wednesday 27 September, 7.45pm The Chipping Norton Theatre

Girl In Gas Masks Holds a Red Ballon

Image: iStock.com/WilliamSherman

A unique collaboration between The Theatre Chipping Norton and Oxford University
Killer germs, superbugs, pestilent plagues and global pandemics have fascinated writers, musicians and thinkers for centuries. As disease spreads through a culture, likewise myths and ideas travel virally through film, literature, theatre and social media.

Dreamt up in the plague-ridden imagination of the Theatre’s Artistic Director John Terry, join a cast of familiar faces including Marcus D’Amico (Frankie and Johnny) and Anna Tolputt (Around the World in 80 Days), alongside scientists and literary researchers from Oxford University for an evening of infectious extracts from plays and music, past and present. Be sure to bring your antiseptic wipes!

For more information and to book tickets see http://www.chippingnortontheatre.com/index.php?p=whatson&id=3601

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.

 

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.

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.

erc-10th-birthday