Friday Rabbit Hole anyone? Catch me on The Colin McEnroe Show together with the brilliant Annie Rauwerda of “Depths of Wikipedia“, and nature writer Dominic Couzens, as we explore Rabbit Holes, from Alice in Wonderland and Greek mythology, via Jefferson Airplane and the Matrix to the depths of the Internet – podcast now available here and on and all the usual podcast channels!
Appointment as USC Inaugural Carrollian Fellow
It took a while to clear the paperwork, but I’m incredibly honoured to have been appointed as the University of Southern California’s Inaugural Carrollian Fellow. Extremely humbled by the kind words of USC Libraries, who will be hosting me in the coming year:
“The USC Libraries have named Franziska Kohlt as their inaugural fellow in their newly re-envisioned Carrollian Fellowship. Kohlt, an accomplished historian of science, scholar of comparative literature, and expert in science communication, brings her diverse expertise and passion for Carroll’s works to the new fellowship.
“Dr. Kohlt exemplifies the scholarly excellence and creative vitality we hope to inspire and make possible through the Carrollian Fellow program,” said Marje Schuetze-Coburn, interim dean of USC Libraries. “We’re delighted to welcome her to the USC Libraries and excited about the new approaches she will bring to the Cassady Lewis Carroll collection and to engaging our academic and creative communities.”
The fellowship is the brainchild of Rebecca Corbett, curator of the Cassady Collection and director of special projects within the USC Libraries’ Specialized Collections group. “Fran’s appointment as our Carrollian Fellow is really exciting for the USC Libraries,” said Corbett. “She is an established Carrollian scholar who truly embodies the polymathic spirit of Dodgson, with her work spanning comparative literature, the history of science and science communication, and she will help us to explore connections between the Cassady Collection and our rare book holdings in natural history and the history of science.””
BBC History Extra: 125th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s Death
To honour the 125th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s death, BBC History asked me to write an article about the man, his life – and of course his most famous work: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
It’s unusual to have 2000+ words to explore a topic in a little more depth – so I hope you enjoy this portrait of the “maker of Wonderland” which is out today.
As for one of my favourite parts of the story, though, scroll on…
Lewis Carroll and Alan Turing
One of my favourite parts of this story comes right at the end. Among the people who admired Carroll and was inspired by his work – his mathematics as well as his fiction, was the young Alan Turing, who borrowed from his school library at Sherborne both Alice books – Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass – and The Game of Logic (pictures are courtesy of Sherborne School archives).
Sherborne School also feature the anniversary, as well as the Turing connection in a post on their website, as well as in their letter to current students and alumni.
Unfortunately, in the BBC article, some links seem to have disappeared from the text of my article in the process of online publication, so if youre interested in finding out more about how Carroll recorded his memories of the origin of Alice in his diaries, Alice’s own recollections of her acquaintance with Carroll, or the photomontages and photos of unclear provenance that have been named as Carroll’s in recent years – as well as quotes falsely attributed to Carroll & Alice, I provide the links here.
Science & Magic at the Royal Institution 👻
Haven’t had enough of Halloween, and fancy figuring out the science behind table rapping?
The Royal Institution, some brave volunteers, some fab academics and myself explore the neuroscience, medical history and social context of seances in Victorian Britain, and why involuntary muscle-action was a big deal!
Did it work though? And are all volunteers now possessed? Click the video and find out!
Sleep and Folklore in Popular Culture, out on Audible
Thrilled that my – albeit slightly mortified – that my first audio book is now out in the open! Give it a listen! Here’s what Audible say:
“It’s easy to dismiss dreams as “just dreams”—incoherent visions, disturbing, odd images that don’t really mean anything much. But in stories, myths, and fables, dreams are vital. They’re often used as a literary device to provide insights and foreshadowing. Through the dreams in stories, we get to the heart of deep philosophical, scientific, and religious problems. Dreams allowed writers to transcend boundaries and confront things otherwise off-limits. ”
The audio bookwas commissioned to be co-released with the latest instalment of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman Audible audio book – and you can get both on amazon & the Audible app!
BBC Radio “The Forum” on Moths
I was delighted to be invited back to Broadcasting House to record a programme on Moths for the BBC World Service, alongside Prof Matthew Gandy (University of Cambridge, UK), Alma Sollis (Smithsonian, Washington DC), and artist Liina Lember.
For those of you who read German, I gave a preview of some of the issues we cover in during my curatorship of Real Scientists DE – from Islamic Poetry, to silk making, to citizen science, and how entomology can be racist. Everyone else will have to wait till November 10th, when the programme will be broadcast worldwide.
And here’s the German preview in my thread for “Real Scientists DE”:
Perceptions of Insects: Panel Discussion for Royal Entomological Society’s Insect Week
Love insects? Hate Insects? Bees good, wasps bad? Butterflies wow, moths yuk?
How do we come to love and hate insects, or prefer some insects over others? And why is this a crucial question in times of climate and biodiversity crisis, and what can we learn from it?
I was thrilled to join a panel discussion on this topic for the Royal Entomological Society’s National Insect Week with Prof Adam Hart, Prof Seirian Sumner, Prof Verity Jones, and Liam Hathaway
You can watch the recording here, and also read a shorter blog summary here!
‘The Folklore of Dreams’ for Wondrium & Audible
In 2022 Wondrium commissioned the 6-part course ‘The Folklore of Dreams’ which will become available exclusively via Audible later this year. Aimed at a general, non-academic audience, this six part audio book will explore how we have imagined, and told stories about dreaming. It will follow these stories, and the symbols, landscapes, heroes, and demons that populated them through the ages, looking at science, literature and storytelling, wherever it happened. This is what the blurb says:
Sleep and dreams have always been among the most mysterious, yet essential, aspects of the human condition, so it’s little wonder that a rich legacy of sleep-related myth and folklore has sprung from every culture across the world in every period in time. And these legends still shape pop culture today, linking, like an unseen thread, some of our most famous tales: the sleeping princesses of fairy tales, Morpheus in The Matrix, the nightmarish creatures in the dreamworld of Pan’s Labyrinth, the mirror worlds of Alice in Wonderland, or the Sandman myth in Neil Gaiman’s work of the same name.
The audiobook will be co-released with the latest release of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman – the precise release date is yet to be confirmed, but keep watching this space! Very grateful to the production team at Audible & at Bigdog studios, who really managed to record the entire thing in one sitting!
BBC Radio ‘The Forum’ on Mirrors
If you haven’t had enough of last year’s Through the Looking-Glass bicentenary, I’m speaking on this forthcoming BBC “The Forum” episode on the Cultural History of Mirrors. I’m part of a panel including Elizabeth Baquedano and Mark Pendergrast, and discuss mirrors in the history of science, theology and literature. The programme will be aired on 21 April 2022, and will subsequently become available online here.
This is what the BBC website says:“For the Ancient Egyptians they were seen as receptacles for the soul, for the Aztecs they were used to tell the future and for the early Christians, they were an aid for reaching self-knowledge. And mirrors’ key role in the reflection of light led to the development of high-powered telescopes to explore the universe. No human invention has been so closely tied with our sense of self and the world around us. And yet mirrors also have a capacity to deceive us – so how much attention should we give them in our lives, and are we overly obsessed with our image in the mirror?”