Arts blog

To complement our reviewing of scholarly work in literature and science society members share their responses to and participation in the wider engagement with science among the contemporary arts.

The blog is open for all to read and all society members can contribute. We welcome contributions on any aspect of contemporary culture’s engagement with science, whether through poetry, fiction, theatre, cinema, television, music, dance, exhibitions, performance art, public talks, journalism or popular science-writing. As well as announcements and reviews of new publications or events, members are welcome to post interviews, recordings and links to other websites, including to their own original work.

The one area of engagement excluded from the blog is the academic study of literature and science, which has always been the BSLS’s main focus. Scholarly books will still be reviewed on the reviews pages, and academic events and calls for papers announced on the front page as currently. The blog is owned in common by the BSLS membership, and will not be edited, but it will be monitored, and contributions that are defamatory or infringe copyright will be removed.

Free tickets are still available for this special event at Brighton's Booth Museum of Natural History on Thursday evening, which marks the opening of a new exhibition on birds in literature.

'Flying off the Page: Birds in Literature, Victorian Era to the Present' will explore how birds have been depicted in literature and culture over time.

Please book your place for the event here:

The event is one in a series planned over the summer, funded by the AHRC as a part of a collaborative project on the history of British Nature Writing. See here for more details:


After the Visions of Nature year at the Oxford University Museum, the anthology Guests of Time, including poems by Kelley Swain, John Barnie and Steven Matthews alongside poetry by Victorian poets connected to the Museum such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris and Gerard Manley Hopkins, has been published by Valley Press. To read more about the anthology and to order a copy, click here.

This year the Oxford University Museum of Natural History has been hosting a series of exhibitions, events and residencies under the theme Visions of Nature. In December, BSLS members John Holmes and Janine Rogers will be taking part in three public events at the museum as part of this celebration of art and poetry inspired by the natural world:

  • On 1st December (7-9 p.m.), John and Janine will be giving a joint talk entitled Building the Book of Nature, drawing on their research for their Canadian SSHRC-funded research project on natural history museum architecture. This talk will explore the architecture and art of the museum, including a guided tour and a pop-up exhibition of designs by John Ruskin, the Pre-Raphaelites and others.
  • On 7th December (6.30-8.30 p.m.), they will be joined by Stephen Wildman, Director of the Ruskin Library and Research Centre, together with researchers and teachers from Oxford, to discuss how science and art have worked together in visualising nature throughout the ages.
  • Finally, on 12th December (7-9 p.m.), John will be joining the museum’s three poets-in-residence, John Barnie, Steven Matthews and Kelley Swain (one-time BSLS Secretary), to launch a new anthology of poems inspired by and connected with the museum, entitled Guests of Time.

All three events are free and open to all. If you would like to reserve seats in advance, please click here.

Cafe Culturel (run by students from Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences and Biomedical Sciences, at University of Birmingham) starts a new year of events. The first event in the new calendar, on Tue 18th October 2016, 6:30 pm, at Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum, is workshop/cafe event with the title Cognitive Decline: Presentations and Representations. Starting from the current RSC production of King Lear (, a panel made up of a visual artist (Tom de Freston), a theatre critic (Prof. Russell Jackson) and a psychiatrist (Consultant Femi Oyebode) will present views and then engage in a discussion with the audience on the theme of how the various manifestations of cognitive decline are represented in various forms of art. The evening will comprise a short presentation from the members of the panel, which then will be followed by an extended questions and answers session, to which the public are invited to contribute. You can find more details and perspectives about the event on our Cafe Culturel blog:, or you can contact Dr. Emil Toescu (; or check the Cafe facebook page:

And if you are interested in attending, please book your (free) ticket at There are only a limited number of seats available, so please register if you are sure that you will be able to attend.

William Rowan Hamilton, the great 19th century mathematical physicist, tried his hand at poetry, so it is entirely appropriate that he should be celebrated in that form. Iggy McGovern, physicist and poet, has written a sonnet sequence which reflects views of Hamilton by his contemporaries.

McGovern's work is characterised by a wry sense of humour. Participants will perform the readings, some of which will have a scientific perspective, from the likes of Airy and Tait, but others will feature notable figures from Irish society.

Date: 14 June 2016

Start time: refreshments at 17:15 for a 17:45 start

Location: Institute of Physics, 76 Portland Place, London W1B 1NT, UK

This event is open to all with an interest. The fee to attend is £5 for non-members; IOP members can attend for free. Numbers are limited so advanced registration is advised. To register, click here


Explore the humble beginnings of the citizen science movement

From classifying the cosmos to tracking British bees, citizen science has captivated the imagination of the British public; online platforms such as Zooniverse have over 1 million participants. But, you might be surprised to hear that this isn't a new thing. Long before the internet put data at our fingertips, researchers capitalised on the power of many.

Join the Constructing Scientific Communities team for an informal discussion-based event. Learn how 19th-century models are offering ways of harnessing this huge popular interest, and how these models are helping to advance science.

  • Free to attend, no registration required
  • Seats allocated on a first-come-first-served basis
  • Doors open at 6pm


Professor Sally Shuttleworth - Professor of English Literature, University of Oxford
Professor Chris Lintott - Professor of Astrophysics & Citizen Science Lead, University of Oxford
Dr Berris Charnley - Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Constructing Scientific Communities

Chaired by Katherine Mathieson, Director of Programmes, British Science Association

For more information please go to

Institute of Art and Ideas video debate.

According to Richard Dawkins 'Science is poetic, ought to be poetic and has much to learn from poets'. Can poetry really contribute to the progress of science or is the poet's eye 'in fine frenzy rolling' no more than an imaginative flourish?

Mathematician and game theorist Ken Binmore, moral philosopher Mary Midgley, and award-winning poet, novelist and great-great granddaughter of Charles Darwin Ruth Padel, examine the nature of science and art.

Sunday 28 September, 2pm

Double the Stars, a historical novel based on the life and adventures of astronomer Caroline Herschel, written by Kelley Swain (poet and former BSLS Secretary), will be being launched in the Octagon Room of Flamsteed House at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, London! All welcome – click here for details.

As part of this year's Oxford Open Doors programme, BSLS Chair John Holmes will be giving a talk explaining how the Pre-Raphaelites became involved in the design of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History in the 1850s, and how the Museum itself encapsulates in stone, iron, and glass its own scientific conception of the truth of the natural world. The talk will be at 3 p.m. on Saturday 13th September at the Museum. The event is free, but you can reserve a seat by through this website.

Location: Progress Theatre, the Mount, off Christchurch Road, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 5HL  (

Performance dates: September 8th to 13th, 7.30pm (doors at 7pm)

**Please note there will be a gala reception on the final night, where ticket-holders will enjoy a wine and canapé reception, followed by a Conversation with the playwright Juliet Aykroyd, – start time 5.30pm, doors at 5pm. Tickets £20 (limited numbers).**

Info no: 0118 384 2195

Tickets: £10/£8 conc
Phone booking: 0333 666 3366
(Please note there is a booking fee)


One was the father of evolution; the other the father of meteorology. Both men changed the world - but while one man is revered, the other is forgotten.

Set during the voyage of the Beagle and in later years, Darwin & FitzRoy plots the friendship and tension between Charles Darwin and the Beagle's captain, Robert FitzRoy. Both men of science and men of faith, Juliet Aykroyd's witty and poignant play charts the relationship between two giants of modern science on their celebrated voyage around the world, and catalogues the demons besetting both.

Darwin & FitzRoy is a joint production between Progress Theatre and WAM, the Festival of Weather, Arts and Music.

Commissioned by Lord Hunt, ex-director Director General and Chief Executive of the British Meteorological Office, for a one‐off performance on the 150th anniversary of the publication in 1859 of Darwin's seminal work On the Origin of Species, Progress Theatre is proud to be performing the play as the centrepiece of the week.

Uniquely, every performance of this play will be preceded by an event exploring FitzRoy's life, life scientific under sail, the music inspired by the Sea and the use of old ship's logs in modern climate research. Accompanying the play and the events will be an exhibition of weather-inspired art by two Reading artists, Julia Rogers and Roxana Tohaneanu-Shields.

This production of DARWIN & FITZROY is by special arrangement with Stay Thirsty Media, Inc. (

WAM events Sept 8-13 at Progress Theatre

Monday 8th September: Admiral FitzRoy, Founder of the Met Office
FitzRoy expert Gordon Tripp introduces Robert FitzRoy and examines his role as the Founder of the modern Met Office
Tuesday 9th September: Science at Sea and Under Sail
Prof. Tony Rice brings us as close as we can probably stomach to what it meant to be a scientist aboard a sailing ship
Wednesday 10th September: Sea Fever
Songs of the sea and inspired by the sea, performed by singer Pierrette Thomet and guitarist Gerard Cousins
Thursday 11th September: oldWeather - New Science
Dr Philip Brohan of the Met Office talks about his citizen science project oldWeather, digitising old ships' logs - such as the Beagle log
Friday 12th September: Faith in Science
Join Prof Brian Golding OBE of the Met Office as he considers the thorny issue of faith and its meaning in science
Saturday 13th September: Sea Fever and Gala Reception
A drinks and nibbles reception featuring Juliet Aykroyd, author of Darwin & FitzRoy.
This will be followed by Sea Fever, songs of the sea and inspired by the sea, performed by singer Pierrette Thomet and guitarist Gerard Cousins, and the play.
A limited number of tickets are available which will include drinks and canapes, "meet the playwright", Sea Fever and the play.



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