Science, Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century: Seminars for Michaelmas Term 2016


Our programme for Michaelmas Term 2016 is now announced with two seminars at St Anne’s College.

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

Wednesday 19 October 2016 (Week 2)

Dr Andrew Mangham, University of Reading

‘Have ye ever seen a child clemmed to death?’ : Elizabeth Gaskell and the Physiology of Starvation

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

This talk will highlight the ways in which the social problem realism of Elizabeth Gaskell intersected with physiological ideas on the material nature of starvation. In modern historical studies and literary criticism there has been a tendency to look upon the social problem novel as an advocate for the emotional needs of the poor; it became highly critical, it is assumed, of the materialist and scientific approaches to social issues. Dr Mangham will argue that central to the novel’s focus on the human is an engagement with the principles, themes and epistemologies of physiology. Gaskell knew important figures in physiology, and engaged with scientists and social reformers through her Unitarian connections in Manchester. She developed a self-reflexive form of realism in her work that, while it tested the reaches and limits of the positivist approach, also saw its dedication to ‘truth’ as central to the moral and emotional understanding of poverty.

Andrew Mangham is associate professor in Victorian literature and culture at the University of Reading. He is the author of Violent Women and Sensation Fiction and Dickens’s Forensic Realism (forthcoming January 2017). He has edited The Cambridge Companion to Sensation Fiction, The Female Body in Medicine and Literature and The Male Body in Medicine and Literature (forthcoming). He is currently working on a study of medical and literary representations of starvation in the nineteenth century.

Wednesday 9 November 2016 (Week 5)

Dr kitt price, Queen Mary, University of London

Psychic Dreams and Newspapers in the Late Nineteenth Century

5.30 – 7.00, Seminar Room 5, St Anne’s College.

Psychic researchers in the late nineteenth century urged newspaper readers to survey their acquaintances for cases of telepathy, clairvoyance, psychic dreams and hallucinations. Dreams proved to be the most wayward of these research objects, requiring additional controls in order to attain evidential value. Media networks helped to stabilise the forms of truth that psychic dreams might offer, with newspapers and telegrams serving to verify the dream’s relationship to external, waking events. As dreams gained new status in the psychological disciplines around the turn of the century, psychic researchers revisited the dream as a valid superconscious phenomenon, drawing the new media technologies of wireless and cinema into the verification process. This paper will track the relationship between media forms and psychic dreams in the work of British, American and French psychic researchers from the 1880s to the 1930s, exploring tensions around evidence that emerged between dream collectors, their subjects, and the media.

kitt price lectures in modern and contemporary literature at Queen Mary University of London. They are the author of Loving Faster than Light: Romance and Readers in Einstein’s Universe.

Objects of Research: The Material Turn in Nineteenth-Century Literary Studies

A Half Day Workshop

The Woburn Room, Senate House Library

Monday, 18th July, 1pm to 6pm

The Victorians’ fascination with objects and things has proved equally fascinating to the field of Victorian Studies. In keeping with this ‘material turn’, the last decade has seen an upsurge in interdisciplinary, collections-based research that enriches our understanding of Victorian Literature while expounding upon the diverse material culture of the period.

This workshop is a means of learning more about the nature and methodologies of current object-led research in Victorian Studies, as well as the broader issues surrounding this kind of research such as using online resources, locating materials, and searching collections. Bringing together researchers and curators who work across the nineteenth century, we will be asking questions about how to ‘read’ objects, how to situate such materials within a broader historical context, and how to construct narratives based on object-based research.

* Registration is free, but booking is essential as places are limited. *

Please register via this link.


1.00 – 1.10                  Arrival and Registration

1.10 – 1.20                  Welcome and Introduction

1.20 – 2.30                  Session One: Buildings and Bodies

Verity Burke (Reading) ‘Corpora: Articulating Literature and Anatomy in Collections-Based Research’

Nicola Kirkby (KCL) ‘Sketching, Engineering, Plotting: Brunel and Paddington Station’

Emma Curry (Birkbeck) ‘Mad Hats: Dickens’s Material Languages’

2.30-2.45                     Tea Break

2.45 – 4.00                  Session Two: Materialities of Writing and Reading

Hannah Field (Sussex) ‘The Destructible Book: Children’s Novelties and Materialized Readers’

Joanna Robinson (Surrey) ‘Performance and Digital Palimpsests’

Katherine Ford (Science Museum) ‘The archives of the Royal Society and Victorian literary culture’

4.00-5.00                     Session Three: Conversations with Curators

                                    Tim Boon (Science Museum)

                                    Edwina Ehrman (V&A)

Kristin Hussey (QMUL

5.00-6.00                     Wine Reception, Montague Room


The workshop will take place in the Woburn Room, Senate House Library, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU. For a map and travel information, please click here.

For more information, please contact the organiser, Dr Melissa Dickson, at

Fashionable Diseases of Georgian Life: Literature, Medicine and Culture in the Eighteenth Century and Beyond

Credit: Wellcome Library, London

Fashionable Diseases of Georgian Life: Literature, Medicine and Culture in the Eighteenth Century and Beyond

Thursday 2 June 2016, 4.00 – 6.30 p.m.
Seminar Room 8, St Anne’s College, Woodstock Road, Oxford

All welcome, no booking required. Seats available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Drinks will be served after the seminar.

Fashionable Diseases

Fashionable Diseases: Medicine, Literature and Culture, ca 1660-1832 is a three-year, Leverhulme-funded research project at the Universities of Northumbria and Newcastle. In this seminar, hosted by the Diseases of Modern Life project, team members will showcase some of their research through short presentations followed by discussion.

Presentations will include the paradoxical fashionability of gout and rheumatism, the roles of gender, class and health professionals in fashioning fashionable disease, to the manner in which treatments and their locations were implicated in the fashionability or otherwise of disease. The seminar will also consider the crucial role of representation and genre in the creation, maintenance and decline of fashionable disease.


Dr Jonathan Andrews and Dr James Kennaway (Newcastle University). Gout and rheumatism as female maladies: the advantages and disadvantages of fashionable diseases from the sufferer’s perspective in Georgian Britain.

Professor Clark Lawlor (Northumbria University) ‘On Fashion in Physic’: the feminisation of fashionable disease in the very long eighteenth century. Ashleigh Blackwood (Northumbria University) – ‘The most sudden and dreadful hysteric, or nervous disorders’: Women, Fashionable Diagnosis and Remedy.

Professor Allan Ingram (Northumbria University) Doctoring the Doctors: In Fashion and Out? Dr Leigh Wetherall Dickson (Northumbria University) Delusions of Grandeur/ Illusions of Disease. Dr Anita O’Connell (Northumbria University) Sociability and Disease at the Spas: Satires of a Hypochondriac Society.

To download a copy of the seminar poster, please click here


Science, Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century: Seminars in Trinity Term 2016

Natural History Chart (4)

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

 Drinks will be served after each seminar and all are welcome.

Tuesday 10 May 2016 (Week 3)

Dr Anne Secord, University of Cambridge

The Politics of Participation: Early Nineteenth Century Scientific Citizens

The construction of British scientific communities in the early nineteenth century, especially in natural history, was a confessedly more inclusive process than that involved in sustaining the Republic of Letters in the previous century. This inclusiveness, however, did not involve a loosening of the constraints that governed participation, but more regulation of the means by which participation occurred. Scientific reformers in the 1830s proposed various models for organising wider groups of participants to ensure the most efficient collection and use of scientific information. The development of standardised procedures and increased vigilance, however, allowed cooperation without the necessity of consensus, and working-class participation in science often confounds expectations that shared practices imply shared aims. By looking at periodicals and other evidence of occasions of practice, Dr Secord will suggest that working-class participants held different views of knowledge and community which implicitly challenged the idealised division of labour proposed by scientific reformers

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

Wednesday 18 May 2016 (Week 4)

Sydney Padua, Animator and Graphic Artist

Imaginary Engines- Lovelace, Babbage, and the Analytical Engine

Sydney Padua is an animator and graphic artist, whose graphic novel The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage won the British Society for the History of Mathematics Neumann Prize, the British Book Design Award and was a finalist in Goodreads Best Graphic Novel. Unusually for a graphic novel, The Thrilling Adventures is heavily footnoted, and combines detailed research with the creation of an alternative reality in which Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage join forces to complete the world’s first computer, the Difference Engine, whilst embarking on a series of wonderfully illustrated adventures which involve major cultural figures from the Victorian period. In this talk, Sydney Padua reflects on Lovelace and Babbage’s achievements, her own creative interpretations, and visions of his Analytical Engine.

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

Tuesday 7 June 2016 (Week 7)

Dr Staffan Müller-Wille, University of Exeter

Names and Numbers: “Data” in Classical Natural History, 1758–1859

According to a famous formula going back to Immanuel Kant, the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries saw the transition from natural history to the history of nature. This paper will analyze changes in the institutions, social relations, and media of natural history that underwrote this epochal change. Focussing on the many posthumous re-editions, translations, and adaptations of Carl Linnaeus’s taxonomic works that began to appear throughout Europe after publication of the tenth edition of his Systema naturae (1758), Dr Müller-Wille will argue that the practices of Linnaean nomenclature and classification organized and enhanced the flows of data—a term already used by naturalists of the period—among a wide range of amateur and professional naturalists and associated institutions in new ways. Species became units that could be “inserted” into collections and publications, re-shuffled and exchanged, kept track of in lists and catalogues, and counted and distributed in ever new ways. On two fronts—biogeography and the search for the “natural system”—this brought to the fore entirely new, quantitative relationships among organisms of diverse kind. By letting nature speak through “artificial“ means and media of early systematics, Dr Müller-Wille argues, new powerful visions of an unruly nature emerged that became the object of early evolutionary theories. Classical natural history as an “information science” held the same potential for generating surprising insights, that is, as the experimentally generated data of today’s data-intensive sciences.

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

Medicine & Media: A Gathering of Francophone and Anglophone Projects in Medicine and the Humanities

We would like to draw your attention to the following event, to be organized at the Wellcome Library & Maison Française d’Oxford on 7-8 April 2016.

Medicine & Media: A Gathering of Francophone and Anglophone Projects in Medicine and the Humanities

This workshop is the result of a collaboration between scholars from the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3, Université Sorbonne Paris Cité, Université Paris Diderot, The Wellcome Trust, Université de Fribourg and the ‘Diseases of Modern Life’ Project at the University of Oxford. Its aim is to bring together Francophone and Anglophone projects of medicine and the humanities based at a number of European universities, with a view to facilitating future collaboration and scholarly exchange (e.g. by learning from each other’s methodologies, objects of research and research practices).

Members of the academic community are invited to join us for what promises to be an exciting two days of talks and debate. A link to the full programme and the list of participating projects can be found here:

Workshop participation is free of charge, but please note there is a fee of £20 if you wish to join the speakers for lunch on Friday.

To register, please contact:

Science, Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century: Seminars in Hilary Term 2016

Our programme for Hilary Term 2016 is now announced with two seminars taking place at St Anne’s College.

 Drinks will be served after each seminar and all are welcome.

Wednesday 3 February 2016 (Week 3)

Dr Sam Alberti, Director of Museums and Archives, Royal College of Surgeons of England 

Sam's image

Casting no doubt: Plaster Heads in Victorian/Edwardian Science and Medicine

Science and medicine rely on extra-textual objects. From within the array of instruments, models, specimens and other material culture this paper will focus on a specific medium (plaster of Paris casts) and a specific anatomy (the human head). Examples from medicine, anthropology and anatomy will illustrate the particularities of the process of casting, the relationships between interior and exterior, between life and death. Museum stores to this day hold thousands of these widely reproduced and circulated casts, their quantity bewildering, their status ambiguous. Unpacking their significance as clinical and scientific records in the decades around 1900 is revealing.

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

Wednesday 17 February 2016 (Week 5)

Graeme Gooday, Professor of History of Science and Technology, University of Leeds

V0008879 Structure of the outer and inner ear. Coloured stipple Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images Structure of the outer and inner ear. Coloured stipple after: James. StewartPublished: 1800 Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

Medical and technological limits: exploiting, evaluating and alleviating adult hearing loss in Britain up to the Great War.

While early 19th century otologists claimed they could ‘cure’ most categories of deafness, by the early twentieth century such boasts were more characteristic of opportunist mail order advertisers. Victorian middle class people who experienced significant auditory loss in adulthood could thus not expect much assistance from physicians in attempting to sustain life among the hearing. Some followed Harriet Martineau’s example and declared their ‘deafness’ publicly by sporting a hearing trumpet to aid conversation. The more self-conscious opted for hearing assistance discreetly disguised in, for example, a ladies’ bonnet or a gentleman’s top hat. Those untroubled by myopia could instead learn lip-reading, or occasionally hand signing. These purported ‘solutions’ to hearing loss were much debated alongside many other aspects of deafness in the Deaf Chronicle founded in 1889, and in its successor periodicals.

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

Science, Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century: Seminars in Michaelmas Term 2015

V0015716 Comical scenes of hospital patients engaged in reading, writ Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images Comical scenes of hospital patients engaged in reading, writing, playing cards, etc. Coloured lithograph after L. Ibels, 1916. 1916 By: Louise Catherine IbelsPublished: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

Our programme for Michaelmas Term 2015 is now announced with three seminars taking place at St Anne’s College.

Drinks will be served after each seminar and all are welcome.

Wednesday 28 October 2015 (Week 3)

Dr Madeleine Wood, Queen Mary University of London 

A ‘heart hard as a nether millstone’: The relational dynamics of Victorian ‘addiction’

This paper explores the way in which substance use and compulsive behaviours are represented in mid-Victorian literature and medicine when read not as an individual experience, but as one that operates between selves. By looking at gambling, as well as alcoholism and opium use, we see how the disruption of intimate relationships comes to be situated within the emergent discourse of ‘addiction’ in the nineteenth century.

5.30 – 7.00, Seminar Room 9, St Anne’s College

Wednesday 11 November 2015 (Week 5)

Dr Claire Jones, King’s College London

Septic Subjects: Infection and Occupational Risk in British Hospitals, 1870-1970

This paper addresses the effects of hospital-acquired infection (and practices surrounding its prevention and control) on hospital staff during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It focuses on four British hospitals associated with the infection control practices of Joseph Lister and Florence Nightingale – King’s College and St Thomas’ in London and the Royal Infirmaries of Edinburgh and of Glasgow in Scotland – and pays particular attention to the experiences of nurses within these hospitals. Hospital nursing registers, alongside other evidence including oral testimonies, reveal that while nurses felt lucky to be part of the nursing profession as a worthy vocation, many also became ill at various points throughout their lives as a direct result of working on wards with infected patients. By framing the discussion in terms of occupational risk, this paper argues that the introduction and enforcement of hospital infection control procedures were not solely for the benefit of the patient but also for the staff who treated them. A healthy workforce also formed an important part of hospital efficiency metrics.

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

Wednesday 25 November 2015 (Week 7)

Karen Sayer, Professor of Social and Cultural History, Leeds Trinity University

Radical Requiems: The return of the past in British agriculture, 1850-1950

Through art and literature, the press and even advertising, we think we know what a farm is, but how it is managed and what it is for? Post-war to the mid-C20th the question of when a farm is not a farm was raised in the British press. ‘Where does one draw the line’, one correspondent to The Guardian asked in 1964, ‘between the traditional farmer and his confrontation with the elements and these new industrialised farmers who create their own hazards (and our consumer hazards) by treating their stock as belt-conveyor units?’ This paper will address this kind of juxtaposition/binary opposition — traditional agriculture vs. industrialised agriculture (at least re the farmed animal) – as an artefact and consider where and when this artefact was produced and what effect it had. Requiem for lost traditions harnessed the public’s conscience, and resulted in legislative change, (improved animal welfare from the point of view of ethologists); but, farmers and producers were not slow to capitalise: the naturalised countryside, rescued for the good of the consumer, was always for sale. In essence, the theme of the paper can be captured by the question ‘what is a farm’?

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

Image Credit: Wellcome Images

Diseases of Modern Life – Oxford Open Doors – Sunday 13 September 2015

The Constructing Scientific Communities: Citizen Science in the 19th and 21st Centuries and Diseases of Modern Life: 19th Century Perspectives Projects will be taking part in Oxford Open Doors 2015 organised by the Oxford Preservation Trust.


Oxford Preservation Trust’s printed programme contains an error on the date, as the events are listed for Saturday 12th September. Please note that the correct date for these events is Sunday 13th September 2015.


A programme of talks and activities will be held in the Mary Ogilvie Lecture Theatre and Foyer, St Anne’s College, Woodstock Road on Sunday 13th September 2015 between 1.30 – 4.30 p.m.


There will also be a talk by Professor Gary Browning from Oxford Brookes University on Iris Murdoch, one of the most eminent previous fellows of St Anne’s College.

The programme for the afternoon of Sunday 13th September 2015 is as follows:

1.30 – 4.30 p.m. Citizen Science and Zooniverse talks and demonstrations throughout the afternoon (Foyer area). Members of the project team and Zooniverse, the world’s largest citizen science platform, will be there all afternoon allowing visitors to try citizen science for themselves. The talks during the afternoon will look at the history of citizen science.

1.30 p.m. Mini-Talk on Citizen Science (Foyer area)

2.00 p.m. Professor Gary Browning, Oxford Brookes University Iris Murdoch, unity, difference and late modernity  (Lecture Theatre)

3.00 p.m. Mini-Talk on Citizen Science (Foyer area)

3.15 p.m. Dr Melissa Dickson, Diseases of Modern Life Project on Curing Hysteria with Metals and Magnets (Lecture Theatre)

3.45 p.m. Dr Jennifer Wallis, Diseases of Modern Life Project on Lady Tipplers and Secret Drinking in the 19th Century (Lecture Theatre)

4.00 p.m. Mini-Talk on Citizen Science (Foyer Area)

If you have any queries on the event, please contact the Project Administrator, Alyson Slade (

Working with 19th-century medical and health periodicals

On 30 May Diseases of Modern Life will be co-hosting a workshop with fellow project Constructing Scientific Communities, on ‘Working with Nineteenth-Century Medical and Health Periodicals’. The nineteenth century saw an explosion in the number of medical periodicals available to the interested reader. Publications such as the Lancet and British Medical Journal are familiar names to many of us, still published and widely read today. The period also saw a huge range of smaller journals appearing, as practitioners increasingly organised themselves into more discrete medical ‘specialisms’ towards the end of the century. The Asylum Journal, later Journal of Mental Science, for example, sought to bring together the knowledge of those working in the expanding field of psychiatry, whilst The Homoeopathic World provided a forum for discussion for those practicing homoeopathic medicine, and was read both by medical professionals and laypeople.

As digitization projects advance, an increasing number of these medical periodicals are becoming available to researchers. We are interested in learning more about the nature and methodologies of current research projects that involve working with these journals, as well as broader issues surrounding this kind of research. Our speakers will be asking questions about how to read periodicals, how to situate these materials within a broader historical medical context, and how to construct narratives based on periodical research.

Periodicals workshop, May 2015, programme

The workshop is now fully booked, but we will be tweeting throughout the day using the hashtag #medpers, so please do follow us at @diseasesmodlife or @conscicom and join in the conversation!

Science, Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century – Seminars in Trinity Term 2015


Our programme for Trinity Term 2015 is now announced, with three seminars taking place at St Anne’s College.

Drinks will be served after each seminar and all are welcome.

Wednesday 13th May 2015 (Week 3)

Lee Macdonald, University of Leeds

‘The magnificent services which it has rendered to science’: Astronomy and Meteorology at Kew Observatory

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

Wednesday 27th May 2015 (Week 5)

Matthew Paskins, University of Leeds & The Open University

For the Sake of a Dibbling Stick: the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, and inventive communities, 1800-1830

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

Wednesday 10th June 2015 (Week 7)

Rachel Bowlby, Professor of Comparative Literature, Princeton University

Commuters: From the Nineteenth Century to Now

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