The BSLS are pleased to announce that this year's winner of the essay prize jointly awarded with the Journal of Literature and Science is Maria Avxentevskaya's essay titled 'The Spiritual Optics of Narrative: John Wilkins's Popularization of Copernicanism'.

We offer our many congratulations to Maria.

The judging panel wrote: "This a thoroughly convincing and exceptionally well-argued essay that is a deserving winner of the 2015 prize. The reading of Wilkins’s Discovery is consistently illuminating as an account of the logic of early modern scientific argument and its appeal to probability according to moral rather than empirical authority. The analysis is meticulous and builds up to an impressively coherent picture. The move at the end of the essay to show how Wilkins remains concerned to establish the truth of the physical world, and not simply to win the rhetorical argument, is an important and salutary reminder that we have to avoid imposing our own standards on early modern modes of argument, as well as grounding Wilkins’s own shift to the position of a founder of the Royal Society. The essay combines these acutely historicized arguments with fine close reading to produce a work of real intellectual achievement."

As in previous years the level of competition was high, with some extremely good essays on a range of literature and science topics submitted for consideration. The judges were impressed by the vitality of the work and by the obvious strength of the field.

Maria's essay will appear in one of the next issues of the Journal of Literature and Science: 

The University of Roehampton will be holding a colloquium on Erasmus and Charles Darwin on Friday 4th September. To see the full programme and to register, click here. There is a discount on the registration fee for members of the BSLS.

Science Fiction and the Medical Humanities

As part of the Wellcome Trust funded project 'Science Fiction and the Medical Humanities', the BMJ Group journal Medical Humanities will be publishing a special issue.

We invite papers of broad interest to an international readership of medical humanities scholars and practising clinicians on the topic 'Science Fiction and the Medical Humanities'.

Science fiction is a fertile ground for the imagining of biomedical advances. Technologies such as cloning, prosthetics, and rejuvenation are frequently encountered in science-fiction stories. Science fiction also offers alternative ideals of health and wellbeing, and imagines new forms of disease and suffering. The special issue seeks papers that explore issues of health, illness, and medicine in science-fiction narratives within a variety of media (written word, graphic novel, theatre, dance, film and television, etc.).

We are also particularly interested in articles that explore the biomedical 'technoscientific imaginary': the culturally-embedded imagining of futures enabled by technoscientific innovation. We especially welcome papers that explore science-fiction tropes, motifs, and narratives within medical and health-related discourses, practices, and institutions. The question - how does the biomedical technoscientific imaginary permeate the everyday and expert worlds of modern medicine and healthcare? - may be a useful prompt for potential authors.

For further details on call and project

Twitter @scifimedhums

Texts and Contexts: The Cultural Legacies of Ada Lovelace

“That brain of mine is more than merely mortal; as time will show.”

A workshop for graduate students and early career researchers

Tuesday 8th December 2015

Mathematics Institute and St Anne’s College, Oxford


The mathematician Ada Lovelace (1815-1852), daughter of poet Lord Byron, is celebrated as a pioneer of computer science. The notes she added to her translation of Luigi Menabrea’s paper on Charles Babbage’s analytical engine (1843) are considered to contain a prototype computer program. During her short life, Lovelace not only contributed original ideas to the plans for this early computer; she also imagined wider possibilities for the engine, such as its application to music, and meditated on its limitations. Lovelace leaves a legacy not just as a computer scientist, but also as a muse for literary writers, a model to help us understand the role of women in science in the nineteenth century, and an inspiration for neo-Victorian and steampunk traditions.


As part of the University of Oxford’s celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of Lovelace’s birth, this one-day workshop will bring together graduates and early career researchers to discuss the varied cultural legacies of this extraordinary mathematician. The day will feature an expert panel including graphic novelist Sydney Padua and biographer Richard Holmes.


The day will conclude with a reception and buffet when there will be opportunities to meet with speakers from the Ada Lovelace 200 Symposium, which will also take place in the Mathematics Institute on the following two days (9th-10th December). Researchers from all disciplines are invited to submit proposals for papers on the influences of Lovelace’s work, on topics including, but not limited to, literature, history, mathematics, music, visual art, and computer science. This might include:


  • Lovelace’s place in the study of the history of science.
  • Lovelace and women in science in the nineteenth century
  • Early nineteenth-century scientific networks, including Lovelace’s relationship with such individuals as Charles Babbage and Mary Somerville.
  • Lovelace and discussions about the role of the imagination in scientific practice in the nineteenth century.
  • Lovelace as translator and commentator.
  • Mathematics and music, and the musical possibilities Lovelace envisaged for Babbage’s engine.
  • Lovelace’s own textual legacies, such as her correspondence, childhood exercises and mathematical notes held in the Bodleian.
  • Lovelace’s technological legacies, from her seminal work on Babbage’s Analytical Engine to her impact on computer programming today.
  • Lovelace’s role in the steampunk tradition, from Gibson and Sterling’s The Difference Engine to Sydney Padua’s The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, and neo-Victorian fashion.
  • Efforts and activities to commemorate and memorialise Lovelace, from the recent Google Doodle to the annual Ada Lovelace Day.


Proposals, not exceeding 250 words, for 15-minute papers should be submitted to 5pm, Friday 28th August 2015. Those who are accepted to speak at this graduate workshop will also be offered free registration for the Ada Lovelace 200 Symposium taking place on the following two days. For more information, please visit

Applications are invited for BSLS small grants of up to £400 to promote the study of literature and science. We are open to all sorts of proposals other than personal conference expenses. Examples of activities for which the awards might be used are expenses for a visiting speaker, a seminar series or a symposium. Applications for support to stage special BSLS panels at appropriate conferences (other than the BSLS 2016 conference) will be considered.

Recent events supported by the scheme include EXEWHIRR, a public-engagement event on ‘The Human-Technology Relationship through the Ages’ at the Bike Shed in Exeter; a symposium on ‘Biomedical Science and the Maternal Body’ at the University of Southampton organised by the Postgraduate Contemporary Women’s Writing Network; and a postgraduate conference on ‘Abnormality and the Abnormal in the 19th Century’ organised by the Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies at Durham University.

Applicants should be current members of BSLS and should apply by making a case, in up to 300 words, for how the award will contribute to the development of literature and science. A brief outline of the costs of the project should be appended. Where funding is sought for BSLS panels a clear indication of the scope of the panel, and of its contribution to the understanding of literature and science, should be included. Recipients of small grants are asked to acknowledge BSLS sponsorship appropriately in publicity for events and to provide a brief report on events for the BSLS newsletter.

The application should be e-mailed, as a Word attachment, to the BSLS Secretary, Peter Middleton, by Friday September 11th, 2015. Please put 'BSLS small grant' in the subject heading of your email. Applications will be considered by the BSLS Executive Committee later in September. Applicants may apply for any amount up to £400; in some instances a proportion of the amount applied for may be awarded. Successful applicants will be informed by the end of September.

Queries about the scheme should be directed to Peter Middleton. International members of BSLS are welcome to apply for the awards, but should note that they will be distributed in the form of bank cheques made out in pounds sterling. Serving members of the BSLS Executive Committee are not eligible to apply for the awards. We cannot enter into correspondence about the decisions of the Committee.

You are warmly invited to join us on Tuesday 2 June, when Professor Angelique Richardson (Exeter) will be addressing our Seminar with her paper entitled: ‘Hardy and the Scientific Imagination’.

We begin at 5:30pm in Room G24, Foster Court, University College London, Malet Place, London WC1.
Directions to this building can be found here:
Professor Angelique Richardson's paper will be followed by questions and discussion, and the meeting will conclude with a glass of wine at 7:30pm.
‘Hardy and the Scientific Imagination’.

This talk will explore ways in which Thomas Hardy took up aspects of science in his novels and poetry.  Considering his definition of science, and its role in fiction, it will focus in particular on his treatment of mind body relations during the 1870s and 1880s when the leading scientists and philosophers of his day were grappling with similar questions.

Professor Angelique Richardson (Exeter): Angelique Richardson is Associate Professor of English at the University of Exeter. Her books include Love and Eugenics in the Late Nineteenth Century, 2003, and, as editor, Women Who Did: Stories by Men and Women, 1890-1914, 2005, and After Darwin: Animals, Emotions, and the Mind, 2013. Her monograph Thomas Hardy and the Politics of Biology: Character, Culture and Environment is forthcoming.

Registration is now open for a one-day conference on the subject of 'Romanticism and the South West', a conference which re-assesses the importance of the South West in Romantic thought and writing.

The conference aims to explore the importance of the South West for Romantic writers, with a particular emphasis on the following topics:

  1. Ecologically aware writing and protoenvironmental thought;
  2. The role of the South West in an era of scientific development and discovery;
  3. The South West as a centre for reform movements and radical politics, as well as a region connected to slavery and imperialism;
  4. Romantic afterlives in the South West.

For more information please visit

BSLS members are invited to send in proposals to host the second BSLS one-day symposium in November or December 2015.

At the AGM, the BSLS membership voted again to support, in addition to the annual conference, a one-day symposium in November or December 2015 on any theme related to the recent conference or the research interests of the BSLS. A budget of £500 will be made available to members to fund the symposium.

The first Winter Symposium was held last year on the subject of Teaching Literature and Science, at the University of Westminster. Details can still be found on the BSLS website.

Proposals should include:

*   a statement of up to 500 words setting out the rationale for the event and how it interprets the over-arching theme
*   contact details for the organiser(s)
*   the venue(s) and date of the symposium
*   a provisional programme including provisional or confirmed speakers and panels
*   a clear budget explaining how the grant will be spent.

A small registration fee may be set for the symposium if required; if it is, this should be justified in the proposal. The BSLS will be named as the official sponsor of the event, but it will not take on further financial liability beyond the grant itself.

Applicants must be members of the BSLS both when the application is made and when the symposium is held. International members of the BSLS are welcome to apply for the awards. Applications should be emailed as a Word document to the Chair of the BSLS, Martin Willis (, and copied to the Secretary Peter Middleton ( by Friday 17th July 2014. Applications will be considered by the BSLS Executive Committee. The award will be made to the application which the Committee judges as best fulfilling the overall aims of the BSLS and serving its members and the academic community as a whole. Successful applicants will be informed as soon as possible after the deadline.

Queries about the scheme may be directed to Martin Willis, but no correspondence will be entered into about the decisions of the Committee. Serving members of the BSLS Executive Committee are not eligible to apply for the grant. They may be included in the proposal for the symposium as participants, but they may not receive any of the award money either as costs or fees.

This year's annual guest lecture at the centre for Interdisciplinary Research into the Humanities and Science at the University of Reading will be given by Prof Michael Ruse from Florida State University:

Title: Is Evolution a Religion? A View From Literature

Venue: The Harborne Lecture Theatre, University of Reading (Building 31 on the campus map)

Date: Tuesday 26th May

Time: 2.00 – 3.30 p.m.

This is a free public lecture and everyone is welcome. For more information, contact John Holmes, co-director of the IRHS (

At the 2015 AGM several members of the Executive Committee came to the end of their tenure, and new members were elected.

This is the membership of the Executive Committee for 2015-2016.

Chair: Martin Willis (University of Westminster) –

Secretary: Peter Middleton (University of Southampton) –

Treasurer: Michael Whitworth (Merton College, University of Oxford) –

Membership Secretary: Jessica Roberts (University of Salford) –

Communications Officer: Josie Gill (University of Bristol) –

International Liaison (Europe): Folkert Degenring (University of Kassel, Germany) –

International Liaison (North America): Janine Rogers (Mount Allison University, Canada) -

Book Reviews Editor: Gavin Budge (University of Hertfordshire) -

Member-at-large & Newsletter Editor: Jenni Halpin (Savannah State University, USA) -

Member-at-large: Peter Garratt (University of Durham) -

Postgrad/ECR Member-at-large: Ros Ambler-Alderman (University of Southampton) -

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