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Monday 19 January 7.00pm–8.30pm

‘The age of wonder’ a lecture by Prof Richard Holmes

In this lecture Richard Holmes tells the story of three remarkable scientific friendships during the Romantic Age in Britain. The astronomers William and Caroline Herschel, the chemists Humphry Davy and Michael Faraday and the medical scientists, John Abernethy and William Lawrence all challenged traditional ideas about human identity, morality and religious belief. They were pioneers in a time where distinctions between poetry, art and science were yet to take hold.

Holmes presents an age on the cusp of modernity, when science and faith in God were mutually incompatible, and shows through the vivid dramas of his central relationships how ideas are nurtured, scientific discoveries made, and how religious faith and scientific truth collide.

This lecture seeks to answer questions that are as relevant to us as they were to Coleridge's generation: What are the sources of creativity? In what sense is there a human soul? Is it a fundamental mistake to regard science as a purely rational pursuit, or must we also recognise it as an imaginative and emotional one?

Admission: Tickets cost £8, £6 concessions, £4 Ri members. You can book tickets online at www.rigb.org or by calling the Events Team on 020 7409 2992 9.00am-5.00pm Monday to Friday.

Venue: The Royal Institution, 21 Albemarle Street, London W1S 4BS

For more information please visit www.rigb.org

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‘The making of Mr Gray's Anatomy’, a talk by Ruth Richardson
Tuesday 4 November 2008, 7.00pm-8.30pm

The veins of the exterior of the head and face

The Veins of the Exterior of the Head and Face

Gray's Anatomy is probably one of the most iconic scientific books ever published: an illustrated textbook of anatomy that is still a household name 150 years since its first edition, known for its rigorously scientific text, and masterful illustrations as beautiful as they are detailed. This event will tell the story of the creation of this remarkable book, and the individuals who made it happen: Henry Gray, the bright and ambitious physiologist, poised for medical fame and fortune, who was the book's author; Carter, the brilliant young illustrator, lacking Gray's social advantages, shy and inclined to religious introspection; and the publishers - Parkers, father and son, the father eager to employ new technology, the son part of a lively circle of intellectuals. It is the story of changing attitudes in the mid-19th century; of the social impact of science, the changing status of medicine; of poverty and class; of craftsmanship and technology. And it all unfolds in the atmospheric milieu of Victorian London - taking you from the smart townhouses of Belgravia, to the dissection room of St George's Hospital, and to the workhouses and mortuaries where we meet the friendless poor who would ultimately be immortalised in Carter's engravings.

Alongside the story of the making of the book itself, Ruth Richardson reflects on what made Gray's Anatomy such a unique intellectual, artistic, and cultural achievement - how it represented a summation of a long half century's blossoming of anatomical knowledge and exploration, and how it appeared just at the right time to become the 'Doctor's Bible' for generations of medics to follow.

Tickets cost £8 standard, £6 concessions and £4 Ri members.
See http://www.rigb.org/contentControl?action=displayContent&id=2429

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Museum of the History of Science, Broad Street, Oxford

Tuesday 19 February, 7 pm

In the next in an occasional series of lectures by authors of successful books in the history of science, Philip Ball will talk about his book, The Devil's Doctor: Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science. Philip Ball has been awarded the Dingle Prize (2007) by the British Society for the History of Science and is described in The Sunday Times as 'one of our most versatile and gripping science writers.'

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Professor Dame Gillian Beer, Honorary President of the BSLS, will deliver the Romanes Lecture at 5.45 p.m. on Thursday, 8 November 2007 in the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford. Her lecture is entitled ‘Darwin and the Consciousness of Others’. The lecture is free to attend and open to all.


George Levine's work over the past three decades has illuminated the Victorian period. Dr Sharon Ruston, University of Keele, sends this report of Professor Levine's recent lecture at the University of Leicester Centre for Victorian Studies.

George Levine gave a public lecture at the University of Leicester on 21st November, taken from his book Darwin Loves You, the title of which, he revealed, was originally inspired by a car bumper sticker. Levine’s lecture was incredibly well attended, attesting to Levine’s importance as a scholar and also the success of Leicester’s Victorian Studies MA, the first to be set up in the country, 40 years ago.

The irritation that led Levine to write Darwin Loves You mainly consisted of the widely-held belief that Darwin was a ‘disenchanter’, that his writings and discoveries by explaining all natural phenomena naturalistically reduced the world of its mystery and emptied it of all but utilitarian values. Instead, Levine, with Darwin, resounded with: ‘there is grandeur in this view of life’; Levine’s lecture and book attempt to show us that there is virtue and value in this world without need or recourse to the transcendental.

Following Robert Richard’s lead, Levine too finds that Darwin was a Romantic, influenced by Wordsworth and Shelley and appropriating the sublime in his attempts to describe Nature as an organism, not as a machine. In his writings, Levine showed that Darwin speaks as others, whether pea-hen or any other animal, using a Romantic sympathy to imagine himself in another’s position. Natural selection causes Darwin, in a moment of sublime encounter, to declare himself ‘struck dumb with amazement’, so that even as he begins to demystify the world he never ceases to wonder at it. Indeed, Levine’s own wonder at Darwin’s writing and at the natural world came across most strongly during the lecture, in his conviction that even a secular view can still enchant us.