April 2016

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Registration is now open for this FREE interdisciplinary conference.

'The Body and Pseudoscience in the Long Nineteenth Century' Conference

18 June 2016, Newcastle University

'Sciences we now retrospectively regard as heterodox or marginal cannot be considered unambiguously to have held that status at a time when no clear orthodoxy existed that could confer that status upon them' (Alison Winter, 1997). The nineteenth century witnessed the drive to consolidate discrete scientific disciplines, many of which were concerned with the body. Attempts were made to clarify the boundaries between the 'scientific' and the 'pseudoscientific', between 'insiders' and 'outsiders'. This conference asks what became lost in separating the orthodox from the heterodox. What happened to the systems of knowledge and practice relating to the body that were marginalised as 'pseudoscience'? Was knowledge and insight into the human condition lost in the process? Or is it immortalised within the literature of 'pseudoscience'?

This interdisciplinary conference considers how different discourses of the body were imagined and articulated across a range of visual and verbal texts (including journalism, fiction, popular science writing, illustration) in order to evaluate how 'pseudoscience' contributed both to understandings of the body and what it is to be human and to the formation of those disciplines now deemed orthodox.

Please visit the website for more details of how to register and to view the provisional programme.


Registration open: Science in Public 2016
University of Kent, Canterbury, 13-15 July 2016 ​

Registration for the Science in Public 2016 conference is now open via this link. The early bird rate is available until 20 May.

A draft timetable for the conference runs from lunchtime on Wednesday 13 July to about 3pm on Friday 15 July. There is a full range of packages with accommodation or day rates available. Thanks to support from the British Society for the History of Science we can offer reduced rates to students, unwaged and freelance attendees.

The Wild Within - Harriet Ritvo Public Lecture. 17th May 2016 5.15pm, The Peel Lecture Theatre, Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, University Road, BS8 1SS.

Harriet Ritvo, Arthur J. Conner Professor of History at the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, will be giving the opening Public Lecture to a series of events running from the 16th - 27th May for the Institute for Advanced Studies' theme of ANIMALS: Non-Human and Human Alike

A conference will take place at UEA next month, organised by Matthew MacKisack (Exeter Medical School), which will explore ideas about the role of imagination and imagery in science and culture: https://medicine.exeter.ac.uk/research/neuroscience/theeyesmind/conference/

An international conference at Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK

21 - 22 May 2016

The visual imagination is one of the most powerful human capacities.

It plays a vital role in art and literature, religion and science, and has been studied and celebrated by artists, writers, philosophers, psychologists, and, now, neuroscientists.

The event, which is the culmination of the AHRC-funded research project, ‘The Eye’s Mind’, will bring together leaders in all these fields to shape a new and more integrated understanding of this mysterious mental resource.

Keynote speakers include:

  • Paul Broks (psychology), John Onians (art history),
  • Joel Pearson (neuroscience), Michael Tye (philosophy)
  • and Adam Zeman (neurology)

For any enquiries please contact Kajsa Berg k.berg@uea.ac.uk

Enter the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford for a unique evening of performance and drama. Drawing from a rich variety of medical plays and historical material, the event will illuminate, provoke, and dramatize developments which have shaped ideas of the body from the 18th century to the present day.

In the 18th century convicts’ bodies, commandeered by the state, were the raw material for anatomical dissections which were often open to the public. Over the next two centuries many other medical bodies were brought into the public sphere. Doctors and surgeons were placed on stages as the surgical theatre was joined by theatrical explorations of the role of medical professionals and the limits of their interventions, such as George Bernard Shaw’s A Doctor’s Dilemma (1906). By 1906 it was possible to look into a microscope and stare at the syphilis bacterium. An organism responsible for centuries of private shame and madness could be seen for the first time, photographed and displayed in public. At the same time that medicine was going public, so was health. The public health movement of the 19th century was another space were bodies were brought out into the open. The move to universal vaccination in particular saw fierce battles over the public treatment of private bodies. The broken bodies and minds of troops returning from the First World War also straddle a divide between private pain and the public psychiatric care that was, or was not, provided for trauma.

Join academics from across the University of Oxford, professional actors from Pegasus Theatre and staff of the Museum of the History of Science as they present a unique evening of performance and drama to illuminate how all of these developments have been mapped not just by medical writing but by theatre, which has a long history of engaging with science and medicine.

Scenes and readings to include:

  • Shelagh Stephenson, An Experiment with an Air-pump (1998)
  • George Bernard Shaw, The Doctor’s Dilemma (1906)
  • Henrik Ibsen, Ghosts (1881)
  • A selection from the WWI poetry collection at Oxford by Sassoon and Owen
  • An historical anti-vaccination song
  • Joe Penhall, Blue/Orange (2000) 


Thursday, 5 May 2016 from 19:00 to 21:30


Museum of the History of Science - Broad Street, Oxford OX1 3AZ

To sign up go to: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/public-health-and-private-pain-a-night-of-medical-history-and-drama-tickets-24590993323

For the summer term seminars in Oxford University's Diseases of Modern Life series, click here.

Reviews that have appeared on the British Society for Literature and Science website in March 2016

A list of books for which we are currently seeking reviewers can be found here.

Please email Gavin Budge on <G.Budge@herts.ac.uk> if you would like to propose a book for review  - anything published from 2010 onwards will be considered.

This is a list of books that are currently in the process of being reviewed.

A list of books that have already been reviewed on the British Society for Literature and Science website can be found here.

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