Tag Archives: History of Science

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!

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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”:

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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!

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‘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!

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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?”

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History of Science Day at the Science Museum

On 5th May 2022 the Science Museum will be celebrating the History of Science Day, a day of special opportunities to explore the Museum’s collections, and public conversations about many aspects of the History of Science. I’m thrilled to be part of a Panel discussion on Media & the Public History of Science – registration will open shortly.

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Public Lecture & Panel: “‘Parallels with the Pandemic’: Living through Coronavirus and World War Two”

I am looking forward to be part of this panel to be speaking about my research into the common warfare framings of the pandemic & comparisons with World War II alongside war historian Jo Fox, and Risk Communication expert Brooke Rogers, chaired by Colin Philpott – tickets are free, but registration is essential; they’re available here [edit: the recording is now available on YouTube].

The event description reads: “During the two years of the Coronavirus pandemic, many comparisons have been drawn between the experience of living through Covid and living through the Second World War. Fear, restrictions on liberty, concern over shortages and several other anxieties were hallmarks of both. Morale and people’s varying willingness to comply with regulations ebbed and flowed during wartime and during the pandemic. One characteristic of the pandemic has been the use of military language to describe the ‘battle against Covid’.

So what lessons if any can be drawn from the two experiences – war and pandemic – which may be useful for future crises?

Joining us to discuss these issues are Brooke Rogers OBE, Professor of Behavioural Science and Security in the Department of War Studies at King’s College; Jo Fox, Professor of Modern History and Pro Vice Chancellor (Research and Engagement) and Dean, School of Advanced Study, University of London, and Franziska Kohlt, Researcher in Science Communication at the University of York. The event will be chaired by author Colin Philpott.”

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Covid narratives research in The Guardian

It was great to see my research on Covid narratives, and how they have shaped our understanding – and misunderstanding of the pandemic, and how it might end in The Guardian. If you’re interested in why some of the narratives framings of the novel coronavirus by UK government and media – especially the warfare framing – are not at all helpful in helping us navigate our way through and out of the pandemic, you can read the full paper here.

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Wrapping up 2021 – and looking ahead to 2022

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In 2021 I have most of all been really grateful that, in a still immensely challenging year, I had the opportunity to pick up some of the postponed projects of 2020, and also pursue new opportunities, expanding on my research in science communication, history of science and literature.

Amongst others, I had the opportunity to discuss both my research and practice in science communication, informed by the history of science, at COP26 and the Bristol Festival of Technology.

I saw a long-term project developing the “Adventures of Manuscripts” series with French-German TV channel Arte finally came to fruition, with all four episodes finally airing this year, after many Covid delays.

The year 2021 was also the anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass. we held a major online conference, and are looking forward this year to publishing a new Companion to Through the Looking-Glass, including many of the conference contributions – and more (more soon!).

I had the opportunity to speak about so many difference aspects of Alice and Looing-Glass from Fashion, to commemorative coins with the Guardian, the Yorkshire Post, and Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

Finally, I am beyond honoured to be joining Oxford’s Continuing Education Department for taking on their summer course ‘Lewis Carroll’s Oxford and the Surprising Histories of Alice’s Wonderland‘ – and there are more news, linked with that (more on that, also, soon!).

Here’s to 2022!

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