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Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine

Archived news for 2012

16 November 2012
Multiple viva successes!


(l-r) James Sumner, Alex's co-supervisor; Simone Turchetti, Alex's co-supervisor and Imogen's internal examiner; Imogen; Richard Noakes (University of Exeter), Imogen's external; Alex; Vlad Jankovic, Alex's internal. Alex's external, Jim Fleming (Colby College), attended by video link.

Our graduate student population has enjoyed several successful PhD outcomes recently. Friday 26 October saw our first known occurrence of simultaneous vivas, as Imogen Clarke defended her thesis on the development and identity of "modern" physics in twentieth-century Britain, supervised by Jeff Hughes, while Alex Hall presented his work on the role of natural disasters and cultures of risk and blame in the development of the Meteorological Office, from the harsh winter of 1946-7 to the Great Storm of 1987.


Jakob (centre) with his examiners, Andrew Nahum (Science Museum, London) and James Sumner

On Thursday 15 November, Jakob Whitfield defended his PhD on the role of the gas-turbine work of the Manchester engineering firm Metropolitan Vickers, considering how a major electrical firm more used to building heavy steam turbines found itself sucked into the unpredictable world of aviation design as the Second World War loomed.

All three candidates passed subject to minor corrections, cementing CHSTM's reputation as a centre for graduate work on the history of twentieth-century science and engineering.


9 November 2012
New book edited by Carsten Timmermann and Elizabeth Toon

Cancer Patients, Cancer Pathways: Historical and Sociological Perspectives, published by Palgrave Macmillan. Here is what it says on the back:

Cover of Cancer Patients, Cancer Pathways

The eleven essays in this volume examine cancer research and treatment as everyday practice in post-war Europe and North America. Rather than writing cancer's history as that of inevitable progress and obstacles overcome, these scholars emphasize how contingency, politics, and institutional interests have informed approaches to research and treatment. Focusing on the interface between individual patient trajectories and the evolving routines of research, therapy and care, the contributors bring together ethnographically-inflected historical and sociological observation with technically well-informed accounts of encounters between patients and professionals. The picture that emerges is one of cancers rather than Cancer, of patients rather than 'The Patient', and of medical practices that are both experimental and routine. As cancer treatment has come to epitomize biomedicine, these essays speak to readers interested more broadly in understanding patients' experiences with large institutions, sophisticated technologies, and clinical research, and the way these experiences can shape treatment policies.


5 November 2012
Video: Vladimir Jankovic on 'Where is the Weather'

Watch CHSTM's Vladimir Jankovic on the Wellcome Trust's YouTube channel: Where is the Weather?. Vladimir talks about urban meteorology and the impact of living in the city on our immediate environment


24 October 2012
Call for Papers: Dogs in History and Culture 1750-2000

Sponsored by the AHRC and organised by Michael Worboys, Julie-Marie Strange and Neil Pemberton. Scholars from different disciplinary backgrounds will discuss the role and presence of the canine in history. We invite papers from across a broad geographic and disciplinary range. The conference aims to foster discussion about the nature of canines and their interactions with humans. Please send abstracts of up to 150 words to Neil Pemberton by 30th of November.


16 October 2012
CHSTM at the Manchester Science Festival

Having been closely involved in the Manchester Science Festival since its foundation, CHSTM is pleased to be contributing to numerous events at MSF 2012.

On Saturday 27 October, John Pickstone will lead a history of science walk around the older parts of the University campus. This is a chance to explore how the different sciences developed in Manchester, and what lay behind the city’s world-famous achievements in chemistry, physics and computing. It will include the work of Ernest Rutherford and Alan Turing, and the surprising early careers of Marie Stopes and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Neil Pemberton will be talking on Crime Scent Investigation at the Manchester Museum on Thursday 1 November. Bloodhounds were originally bred to track other animals and people by the power of smell, and Neil will reveal some of the early controversies over their use, focusing particularly on attempts to trace the notorious Jack the Ripper. Don’t forget that Breed: The British and their Dogs runs throughout the Festival at the Manchester Museum. The exhibition, developed by the Museum and based on CHSTM’s AHRC Project Grant on The Dog Fancy and Fancy Dogs, reveals how dog shows and the culture they created changed the form and meanings of domestic dogs.

On Friday 2 November, in the newly opened Ancient Worlds gallery in the Manchester Museum, Leucha Veneer will talk about William Boyd Dawkins, geologist and archaeologist, and the Manchester Museum’s first curator. Using his knowledge of geology from building tunnels in Manchester, Dawkins brought science to the fore in the understanding of archaeology - and the age of the earth.

The same day, also at the Manchester Museum, James Sumner will speak on Alan Turing in Manchester. 2012 marks the centenary of the computer visionary who spent his last six years here, investigating how to model life processes and pondering the prospect of thinking machines. The talk will address the life and work of a complex twentieth-century icon.

On Saturday 3 November, James will also be taking part in Demon drink? Beer versus temperance at the People’s History Museum. Annemarie McAllister of the University of Central Lancashire will discuss the scientific claims of the nineteenth-century anti-drink movement, while James will explain how brewers tried to rally scientific authority to their cause.
There will also be several evening film screening events at the Museum of Science and Industry, featuring CHSTM staff:

  • Dimensions, Saturday 27 October. Post-film discussion led by David Kirby, featuring director Sloane U’Ren and scriptwriter Ant Neely.
  • GATTACA, Monday 29 October. Introduction and post-film discussion from David Kirby.
  • Contagion, Friday 2 November. Introduction and post-film discussion from David A Kirby and microbiologist Jo Verran of MMU.
  • Moon, Sunday 4 November. Introduction and post-film discussion from Duncan Wilson.

See weblinks for booking details for all events. Advance booking is advised in most cases, and there is a charge of £5 for Dimensions, GATTACA and Moon.


1 October 2012
Lunchtime seminar programme now online

The programme of the CHSTM lunchtime seminar series, organised by postgraduate students is now now available online for this term (October to December). The convenor is Katherine Platt.


From l to r: Michael Worboys (supervisor), Rachael Russell, Keir Waddington and Carsten Timmermann

27 September 2012
Rachael Russell's PhD Viva

Rachael Russell recently passed her PhD viva voce examination and was awarded her degree in July. Her examiners were Dr Keir Waddington (Cardiff) and Dr Carsten Timmermann. The title of her thesis is 'Nausea and Vomiting: A History of Signs, Symptoms and Sickness in Nineteenth-Century Britain'. Her innovative work explored symptoms that were common, transient and largely self-limiting. Such symptoms were often very distressing for sufferers and difficult for doctors to interpret: were they merely a minor illness or did they indicate a serious, underlying condition. There were two case studies – morning sickness and sea-sickness. Rachael won a Faculty Prize for the high quality of her dissertation.


24 September 2012
Seminar update: Mental Health Forum

Details of the monthly Mental Health Forum meetings for October, November and December are now available.


17 September 2012
Open lecture: Professor Harriet Ritvo, "The Animal Estate, 25 years on", Friday 5 October

In 1986, Harriet Ritvo published The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the Victorian Age, a book that broke new ground in Victorian Studies and stimulated the development of Animal Studies as an area of research and teaching.

In this lecture, Professor Ritvo reflects on her work and its impact in the last quarter century. The lecture is part of the programme of events linked Manchester Museum's new exhibition Breed: The British and their Dogs. There will be an opportunity to visit the exhibition after the lecture.

The lecture will take place at the Manchester Museum on Friday 5 October, from 1 till 2pm. All are welcome to attend.

Professor Ritvo's visit and lecture is supported by the AHRC Project Grant "The Dog Fancy and Fancy Dogs in Victorian Britain", held at CHSTM.


14 September 2012
CHSTM Newsletter, Autumn 2012

Our latest newsletter features news of the Earth Under Surveillance project, new research initiatives on hospitals, systems biology and dogs, Rob Kirk and Neil Pemberton's new book Leech, science fiction and science in fiction, and CHSTM's contribution to Alan Turing Year... and looks forward to the major International Congress in 2013.


14 September 2012
CHSTM Seminar Series, October-December 2012

Speaker details and titles for our main seminar series, now running fortnightly, are available.


14 September 2012
Animal models workshop: programme and registration available

The programme has been announced for our two-day meeting "Animal models, model animals?", to be held on Thursday 20 and Friday 21 September. Attendance is free, but please contact the organisers to register.


29 August 2012
Two £5000 tuition bursaries available for Masters-level study

CHSTM is offering two £5000 taught masters (MSc) student bursary awards for suitably qualified candidates accepted for our full-time or part-time postgraduate MSc programme. The awards, which are tenable from September 2012, will cover tuition costs at Home/EU rates. They do not include a stipend or support for accommodation.

See here for more information about our MSc programmes, including awards in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, Medical Humanities, and Science Communication.

The deadline for applications is Monday 10 September.

Application forms and further particulars for the bursary awards and for graduate study are available from our MSc programme director, Dr David Kirby (see link for email and other contact details).


18 June 2012
Seminar by Rima Apple: 19 June, 2pm, Smith A.1018

Professor Rima Apple of University of Wisconsin-Madison is currently visiting CHSTM. Professor Apple will speak on 19 June at the slightly unusual time (for our seminars, that is) of 2pm, in Room A.1018 in the Smith Building. The title of her talk is 'From Science and health to Everything you always wanted to know about sex: Women, medicine, and libraries'. All welcome.


11 May 2012
Cold War/Blue Planet: Workshop, 27-29 June

As part of the Earth Under Surveillance (TEUS) project, CHSTM will host a three-day workshop on the growth of the earth sciences in Cold War context, bringing together perspectives from history, geography, intelligence, international relations, science and technology studies and environmental research.

Attendance is free, but all attendees should register in advance. Further details are provided on the conference webpage:



John Pickstone and Michael Worboys present Dave with a box of wine, as a token of our esteem

9 March 2012
Our thanks to Dave

Colleagues from CHSTM, House Services and around the University gathered today to mark the retirement of Dave Reddish, our long-serving cleaner. Dave joined the University in 1998, and has been chiefly responsible for keeping CHSTM habitable since our move to the Simon Building in 2005. He has been a popular member of staff, and an ever-present fixture of the Centre. We wish him all the best for an active and enjoyable retirement!


8 March 2012
Alan Turing and Life's Enigma: an exhibition at Manchester Museum, in collaboration with CHSTM and the University of Manchester Heritage Programme

The exhibition Alan Turing and Life's Enigma runs from 24 March to 18 November 2012, as part of the University’s commemoration of Turing's centenary, and of his remarkable contributions to the theory and practice of computing.

Alan Turing was on the staff of the University of Manchester from 1948 until his death in 1954. The exhibition features the work he did here on morphogenesis, the development of shape and structure in plants and animals. Turing's highly original project is explored using archival materials, museum objects, video interviews and 1950s-inspired design.

The exhibition was developed as part of the University of Manchester Heritage Programme, which is co-ordinated by John Pickstone of CHSTM, and is curated by Museum staff, led by Henry McGhie, and by Dr Alice Nicholls of CHSTM, with additional input and support from the Faculty of Life Sciences, the School of Computer Science, and the School of Chemistry.


1 March 2012
CHSTM at Manchester Histories Festival 2012

Our local readers will have noticed that the Manchester Histories Festival – founded in 2009 by CHSTM emeritus John Pickstone – is back. This Saturday (3 March) sees the Festival's main Celebration Day, in the Town Hall and various nearby venues, and CHSTM, of course, is contributing, with public talks from Michael Worboys and James Sumner, and a CHSTM stall answering visitors' questions and giving information about our work. We hope to see you there!


23 February 2012
An addition to the CHSTM Seminar Series: Priscilla Wald, 'Race, Cells and Monstrosity', Thursday 8 March

CHSTM is pleased to announce a special seminar by Priscilla Wald of Duke University, in the usual location (2.57 Simon) on Thursday 8 March at 4pm. All are welcome. Priscilla's abstract:

Race, Cells, and Monstrosity: Biotechnology in Public Discourse

In early 1951, an African-American woman named Henrietta Lacks consulted a doctor at the Johns Hopkins Medical Center. She had no idea that the symptom that had led her there was the result of a remarkably aggressive cervical cancer, which would ultimately prove fatal. Nor could she have guessed that the proliferating cells that were killing her would allow researchers at Johns Hopkins to develop the first immortal cell line later that same year. The HeLa cell line (named for Henrietta Lacks) revolutionized cell biology, leading to new opportunities for research as well as important medical advances, including the development of the polio vaccine within the decade. It also produced a new entity for which there was no precedent. Henrietta Lacks gave the story of the creation of the cell line a human face; it added an element of tragedy that makes for a good story, and it has been told numerous times. But those stories have characteristically conflated the person and the cells and in so doing have obscured important unresolved questions, such as what exactly is a cell line and what is its relation to the human donor? The efforts to make sense of the new entity in the broader context of the emergence of biotechnology as big business will be the subject of this talk.


23 February 2012
Could you love a chemical baby?


CHSTM researcher Duncan Wilson’s new book, Tissue Culture in Science and Society (Palgrave), sheds new light on tissue culture’s history. From its first development in 1907, as well as being discussed at scientific meeting and in journals, tissue culture also appeared in films, newspaper reports and fictional stories.

The book challenges claims that popular attitudes to research on tissues are always negative, unchanged and opposed to science. Popular interest changed over time, in line with broader concerns: from interest in ‘better breeding’ during the 1920s, to the development of new therapies during the 1950s, and patient rights from the 1980s. Far from operating against public attitudes, scientists who used tissue culture drew upon and influenced them.

For example, in 1926 Thomas Strangeways drew on interest in ‘better breeding’ to claim that tissue culture legitimated ‘the test tube baby’. This was widely reported by newspapers and informed novels like Brave New World; and these popular sources, in turn, influenced the ways that scientists presented and used tissue cultures.


14 February 2012
Lecture by Marta Hanson: 'Visualizing the Geography of Diseases in China, 1870s-1920s', 5 March

This talk hosted by the University's Centre for Chinese Studies on 5 March, 4-6pm, may be of interest: Marta Hanson (Johns Hopkins University) will be speaking on 'Visualizing the Geography of Diseases in China, 1870s-1920s'. Room: Samuel Alexander A101. For further details, please contact Dr William Schroeder in Chinese Studies.


6 February 2012
2012 Cardwell Memorial Lecture: Professor Otto Sibum, 6 March 2012

The ninth Cardwell Memorial Lecture will be organised by the University of Salford. The speaker is Professor Otto Sibum of Uppsala University, who will be speaking on 6 Maqrch on an appropriately local subject -- 'In James Joule's laboratory: experimenting in Manchester and Salford circa 1850'. Attendance is free, but please register in advance via the Salford link below.


30 January 2012
Meeting: Putting the Science in Fiction, Wednesday 25 April

CHSTM's David Kirby is one of the organisers of this one-day meeting bringing together leading entertainment professionals, novelists, arts scholars, and scientists to forge new relationships between the scientific community and the arts/entertainment community.


27 January 2012
Lunchtime seminars, January-May 2012

This semester's programme of lunchtime seminars is now available.


26 January 2012
Lecture: Joanna Bourke, 13 February

CHSTM will co-host an interfaculty lecture by Joanna Bourke (Birkbeck, University of London) entitled ‘Bodily Pain, Combat and the Politics of Rhetoric’ on Monday 13 February, in the Samuel Alexander Lecture Theatre at 5pm.

25 January 2012
CHSTM Seminar Series, January-May 2012

Speaker details and titles for our main weekly seminar series are now available.


20 January 2012
Seminar update: Mental Health Forum

The spring programme for the (almost) monthly Mental Health Forum is now available.


13 January 2012
Contemporary History of the NHS: Gareth Millward on disability, Monday 16 January

In a change to the advertised programme, Gareth Millward of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine will give his paper, "Invalid definitions: Who was 'really' disabled, 1965 - 1995?", on Monday afternoon.

6 January 2012
Postgraduate Open Day, Wednesday 8 February 2012

Happy New Year! Are you interested in learning more about graduate-level study or research at CHSTM? Come along to our Open Day and find out about our Masters and PhD programmes.



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