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Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine

Archived news for 2013

13 December 2013
Graduate Studies Open Day, Wednesday 12 February 2014

Are you interested in learning more about postgraduate study or research at CHSTM? Come along to our Open Day and find out about our Masters and PhD programmes.


11 December 2013
Student volunteers wanted for science communication project

Are you an undergraduate or postgraduate student interested in science communication and the history of recent biology and medicine? Would you like to gain some practical experience in this field, guided by academics in the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine? We are looking for student volunteers who can help us compile brief summaries on a list of important discoveries in biology and medicine since 1960 (about one day’s work each) for the Bollington Festival 2014, which is highlighting 50 years of scientific discovery.

The summary you are preparing will be used to create exhibits and prepare activities for school children. You will need to be disciplined about working to a deadline: the first drafts will have to be completed by mid-January. But there will be a prize for the best summary!

For more information, please contact Dr Carsten Timmermann.


28 November 2013
Two £5000 bursaries for taught Master’s study

CHSTM is pleased to announce two £5000 bursaries (small grants) towards tuition costs for MSc students seeking to proceed to PhD study. This scheme is offered for full- or part-time students starting in September 2014; the deadline for applications is Monday 31 March 2014.


27 November 2013
Tuesday seminar postponed

Owing to industrial action, we regret to announce that Richard Tutton’s seminar, scheduled to take place on Tuesday 3 December, has been postponed. This seminar will now take place on Tuesday 6 May 2014.


Cover of A History of Lung Cancer

20 November 2013
New book on the history of lung cancer

A History of Lung Cancer: The Recalcitrant Disease, by Carsten Timmermann, is the first comprehensive history of lung cancer, once considered a rare condition and today the leading cause of cancer deaths world-wide. We are used to associating cancer treatment with scientific progress, but a patient diagnosed with lung cancer in 2013 is no more likely to survive the disease for five or more years than a patient undergoing lung cancer surgery in the 1950s. A breakthrough has remained elusive for this condition, now firmly associated with the smoking of cigarettes. Drawing on many unpublished and little-used sources, this book tells the history of lung cancer, of doctors and patients, hopes and fears, expectations and frustrations over the past 200 years, as a rare chest affliction transformed into a major killer. Suggesting that lung cancer is not the only recalcitrant disease, Carsten's book discusses what happens when medical progress does not seem to make much difference..


14 November 2013
Book by CHSTM researchers on the history of fungal disease is the first monograph published under the Wellcome Trust's new Open Access Policy

Cover of the book

Fungal Disease in Britain and the United States 1850-2000: Mycoses and Modernity, by Aya Homei (fomerly CHSTM, now in Japanese Studies) and Michael Worboys challenges one of the 'grand narratives' of twentieth-century medicine: that of the conquest of all infectious diseas, through public health measures, vaccines and antibiotics. The book charts the history of fungal infections over the course of the last century. It examines how some types of infection, for example invasive aspergillosis and systemic candidiasis, became more prevalent and serious. The authors highlight that these infections mostly affect patients who have benefited from medical advances, such as antibiotic treatment and transplantation, and those with conditions affecting immunity. By contrast, minor, chronic and mostly external fungal infections, such as ringworm and athletes foot, have remained common, although better controlled by anti-fungal medication.

The book is published by Palgrave Macmillan with funding from the Wellcome Trust, under a CC BY license, the most permissive open access license, meaning that readers can alter, transform, or build upon the text and then distribute the resulting work as long as the original work is correctly cited. The book is also available in print copy on demand.


21 October 2013
Public talk by John Pickstone for Manchester Science Festival: Germans and Germany in nineteenth-century Manchester

On Tuesday 29 October, CHSTM's Emeritus Professor John Pickstone will present a contribution to the 'Life Scientific' series of public talks as part of this year's Manchester Science Festival.

It is well known that Germans were important to the 'culture' of Victorian Manchester: Friedrich Engels and Charles Hallé are the usual examples. But why was Germany so important for Manchester's science, engineering and medicine? This talk will draw on the latest history of science and recent local research, to explain how and why this relationship became so important – and how it ended in the 1914-18 war.

The talk, to be followed by discussion, will be held in one of Manchester's key historic venues, the Portico Library on Mosley Street, 6.30 for 7pm. Tickets are £7.50 (£5 students/unwaged); booking in advance via the Festival website is recommended.


Staff and students after the speech

21 October 2013
White Heat revisited

1 October 2013 marked the fiftieth anniversary of Harold Wilson’s ‘White Heat’ speech, delivered at the Labour Party Conference in 1963. A group of students and staff from CHSTM visited the People’s History Museum in Spinningfields, where the anniversary was commemorated by an actor reading the speech in full. ‘Harold’ was introduced by Professor Steven Fielding of the University of Nottingham, who also took questions after the speech. The coincidence of the 2013 Conservative Party Conference taking place just down the road provided plenty of food for thought on the rhetorics and realities of technology-driven economic recovery.


16 October 2013
Conference: Working Atmospheres

On Thursday 21 and Friday 22 November 2013, CHSTM will host a conference discussing weather and climate services in contemporary and historical perspectives. The organisers are Vladimir Jankovic (CHSTM) and Samuel Randalls (UCL), and the event is sponsored by the International Commission on the History of Meteorology.


15 October 2013
British and Spanish scholars join forces to better understand why Gibraltar divides their governments

Sam Robinson, a PhD student at CHSTM, and Lino Camprubí, a research associate of the Centre for the History of Science (CEHIC) at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, have recently collaborated on an article for Political Science, the Guardian's science policy blog:

Their article they consider the Cold War legacy of Gibraltar as a military space, and in particular the importance that the pursuit of detecting nuclear submarines passing the Strait had on diplomatic relations then and now. Sam and Lino are both part of the Earth Under Surveillance (TEUS) project, sponsored by the European Research Council.


15 October 2013
New research project on science, religion and cinema

Dr David Kirby was recently awarded a New Investigator Award from the Wellcome Trust for a project entitled Playing God: Exploring the Interactions Among the Biosciences, Religion, and Entertainment Media.

The project will provide the first detailed investigation of how entertainment professionals convert the biosciences into cultural products, and how religious communities negotiate these texts. The results will shed new light on the interface between science and religion by demonstrating the ways entertainment media in the UK and US have served as a battleground over bioscientific knowledge's role in influencing morality, both positively and negatively, from 1930 to the present. Using cinema as a focal point David will examine how bioscience was, and is, utilized, negotiated and transformed in movies and how religious groups responded to, and appropriated, these texts through censorship and reviews written as guidance for religious audiences.

The project also provides funding for two postdoctoral researchers, introduced below.


15 October 2013
New staff

The Centre welcomed three new staff this semester.

Dr Jane Gregory joined on a three-year appointment as Lecturer in Science Communication. Jane previously worked at UCL and is the author of many seminal works in the field: Communicating Science (1991), with Michael Shortland; Science in Public (1998) with Steve Miller; and Fred Hoyle's universe (2005).

Two research associates joined David Kirby’s project on Science, Religion and Entertainment: Dr Amy Chambers and Dr Ray Macauley.

Amy was previously at Bangor University, where she completed her PhD in Film and US History. Her thesis investigated the position and potential for fictional film to be used as a historical document and focused on a case study of Planet of the Apes (1968). Amy's current project explores the reception and dissemination of post-classical Hollywood science-based fiction narratives and explore how religious groups interpreted and incorporated them into their own discourses. Ray, who was awarded his PhD at CHSTM in 2010, is returning from the Freie Universität Berlin where he was a postdoctoral fellow. Ray's research project focuses on the portrayal of science in film and television programs by faith-based media producers, particularly those associated the Christian entertainment industry.


15 October 2013
Ian Burney on 'The Conversation'

Following on from his recent media appearances, Ian Burney has contributed a short summary piece to 'The Conversation', a news analysis and opinion website written by academics:

This work is part of Ian's Wellcome Trust-sponsored research on the history of homicide investigation in twentieth-century England.


7 October 2013
CHSTM on the BBC

CHSTM staff have recently been sharing their expertise with viewers on BBC2 and BBC4. Michael Worboys was interviewed on the first part of The Wonders of Dogs (BBC2) on the origin of conformation dog breeds, first broadcast on 26 September, Ian Burney spoke on the William Palmer murders on A Very British Murder (BBC4), first shown on 30 September, and Stephanie Snow spoke on anaesthesia in the nineteenth century on Pain, Pus and Posion: The Search for Modern Medicines (BBC4), first broadcast on 3 October.


James with University Heritage hoarding

6 August 2013
Dr James Hopkins takes up new position as University Historian and Heritage Officer

After working in CHSTM for two years, James has been appointed as University Historian and Heritage Officer for the University. He will be responsible for researching and communicating the University's history as well as conserving our past. His role builds upon the success of the University Heritage Programme directed by John Pickstone, which over the past year has run a successful programme of events including very popular heritage tours and made an impact through the hoardings placed around buildings undergoing renovation work.


1 August 2013
CHSTM Seminars

The CHSTM seminar programme for the winter term (October to December) is now available.


30 July 2013
Dr Ian Burney's Forensic Histories in the News

Screenshot of Ian being interviewed on Sky News

Among the highlights of the academic programme of ICHSTM 2013 was a symposium on 'Forensic Histories in Global Perspective', organised by our colleague Ian Burney. 'Forensic Histories' brought together leading scholars from North America, Continental Europe and the UK whose presentations, ranging from 'Canine Forensics' to the identification of the unnamed dead, sought to place the unprecedented visibility that forensic medicine and science have attained in recent years in historical and cross-national perspective.

Ian's own contribution to the symposium received wide press coverage. He was interviewed for BBC radio and on Sky News, and accounts of his argument have been published on blogs and in print newspapers across the world. This unusual level of media attention stemmed from one of his claims: that in their scientific writings, early crime scene practitioners unabashedly embraced fictional detective heroes like Sherlock Holmes as inspirations for, and exemplars of, the regime of CSI that they were seeking to bring into being. Detective fiction showcased the core principles outlined by the early crime scene theorists: protecting the crime scene from contamination; preserving and recording the relationships between all objects in the scene, even the most trivial; and submitting minute trace evidence to scientific scrutiny. In this sense, Ian argued, Holmes and his fellow fictional sleuths helped to demonstrate the powers of an emergent model of forensic investigation, and its promise to make a world of invisible clues visible, and the seemingly inconsequential consequential.


30 July 2013
International Congress of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine

ICHSTM Banner outside University Place

The 24th International Congress of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, hosted by CHSTM, has concluded. It was the largest meeting in the history of our field. After listening to nearly 1400 papers in 411 sessions across 23 parallel tracks, and attending around 100 social and public events, nearly 1800 delegates have returned home, hopefully with positive memories of Manchester. For more about the Congress, see the following links:


The leeches stall at the FLS Open Day

8 July 2013
Leeches at the Faculty Open Day

On Saturday 6th July Rob Kirk and Neil Pemberton represented CHSTM at the annual FLS Community Open Day, discussing their recent research on the changing historical roles of leeches in medical history as well as their current uses in modern medicine. Displaying living leeches, together with antique nineteenth-century bloodletting equipment borrowed from Manchester’s Museum of Medicine and Health, they explained how and why patients in the past would have welcomed leech therapy for all manner of ills, challenging visitors to learn to love this fascinating little bloodsucker!


21 June 2013
MSc Bursaries

CHSTM is offering two £5000 taught masters (MSc) student bursary awards for suitably qualified candidates accepted for our full-time or part-time postgraduate taught MSc programme. The awards, which are tenable from September 2013, will cover the entire tuition fee for UK or European Union students, or partial support for students paying the higher international rate, who are equally eligible to apply. They do not include a stipend or support for accommodation.

Our innovative MSc programme aims to provide a comprehensive historical introduction to nineteenth- and twentieth-century science, technology and medicine in their wider social, economic, cultural and political contexts, including science communication and the relationship between science and the public. It also offers systematic training in historical approaches to a wide variety of scientific, technical and medical knowledge and practices. We have a lively postgraduate community of Masters and PhD students, and a large and successful group of postdoctoral researchers. Our study facilities are excellent, and we have an outstanding track record of progression from Masters to PhD, and from doctoral to postdoctoral study. We pride ourselves on the interdisciplinary nature of our programmes, and cater for students with a science background as well as those arriving with a humanities or social science undergraduate degree. We offer a range of MScs including the History of Science, Technology and Medicine; Medical Humanities; and Science Communication. Our Research Methods in History of Science, Technology and Medicine degree is an approved pathway to apply for ESRC-sponsored PhD study.

Application forms and further particulars for the bursary awards and for graduate study are obtainable from Dr David Kirby.


21 June 2013
History & Policy article by Jon Harwood: Development policy and history: lessons from the Green Revolution'

The text published on the prestigious History & Policy Website discusses the history of state-funded 'peasant-friendly' plant breeding initiatives in Central Europe and Japan around 1900, which were very effective in assisting small farmers, asking what lessons can be learned to help explain the failure of the so-called Green Revolution to alleviate rural poverty in developing countries. Harwood argues that key to the success of the initiatives in in Central Europe and Japan was strong support from regional governments, and knowledgeable staff at plant breeding stations who understood small farmers' concerns.

Cover of the Japanese translation of Blessed Days of Anaesthesia


18 June 2013
Now also in Japanese: Stephanie Snow's Blessed Days of Anaesthesia

Stephanie Snow’s book Blessed Days of Anaesthesia: How Anaesthetics Changed the World, which was highly commended in the Longman/History Today Book of the Year Awards 2009, has been translated into Japanese and published by Medical Sciences International Ltd, Tokyo. This account of the early days of anaesthesia unravels some key moments in medical history: from Humphry Davy's early experiments with nitrous oxide and the dramas that drove the discovery of ether anaesthesia in America, to the outrage provoked by Queen Victoria's use of chloroform during the birth of Prince Leopold. And there are grisly ones too: frequent deaths, and even notorious murders. Interweaved throughout the story, a fascinating social change is revealed. For anaesthesia caused the Victorians to rethink concepts of pain, sexuality, and the links between mind and body. From this turmoil, a profound change in attitudes began to be realised, as the view that physical suffering could, and should, be prevented permeated through society, most tellingly at first in prisons and schools where pain was used as a method of social control. In this way, the discovery of anaesthesia left not only a medical and scientific legacy that changed the world, but a compassionate one too.


5 June 2013
Witness Seminar on the History of the Health Protection Agency

To mark the transition of the Health Protection Agency into Public Health England in April 2013, former and current HPA staff gathered together in January 2013 to hold a Witness Seminar, organised in collaboration with CHSTM’s Stephanie Snow and supported by the Wellcome Trust. The event recorded memories and reflections on the HPA including its inception and early years, organisational developments, key achievements, major events and the Agency’s legacy. Stephanie Snow edited the transcript which will serve as a tribute to all those who worked for the Health Protection Agency over the past decade, as a contribution to the wider history of public health in Britain, and as an important legacy document for Public Health England: The History of the Health Protection Agency, 2003-2013.


30 May 2013
'Climate Science & Urban Design' graded 'Outstanding'

The research project Climate Science & Urban Design has been graded 'Outstanding' by the ESRC. The project was a collaboration between CHSTM's Dr Vladimir Jankovic, Professor Michael Hebbert of the Manchester Architecture Research Centre, and Brian Webb, Research Associate in Planning. Rapporteurs praised the combination of historical research with contemporary policy relevance, the bridging of physical and social sciences, the clarity of the findings, and the effective communication of results to practitioners. Work continues to flow from the project, with two papers forthcoming in Urban Studies, Wires Climate Change and IJURR, two more being presented at ACSP-AESOP this July, and an invitation to run a session for the American Meteorological Society conference early in 2014.


29 January 2013
CHSTM seminar programmes, February-May 2013

This semester's programmes of the CHSTM seminars and the lunchtime seminars are now available.


25 January 2013
Health, History and Policy Seminar: Perspectives on Cancer

The inaugural seminar in our new Health, History and Policy seminar series will take place next Thursday, 31 January, 10am-4pm, discussing Perspectives on Cancer. The series is co-organised with colleagues at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and sponsored by the Wellcome Trust.


Cover of Leech

23 January 2013
Leech: new book by Rob Kirk and Neil Pemberton

Leech is the latest edition to Reaktion’s awarding winning Animal Series.

A friend and a fiend, the leech is one of nature’s most tenacious yet mysterious animals. Armed with razor-sharp teeth and capable of drinking many times their own volume in blood, these formidable worms, often described as parasites, are an unlikely candidate to turn to as a cure for sickness. Yet this is the role leeches have played in Western and Eastern medicine throughout history. In ancient medicine leeches helped balance the bodily humors; by the early nineteenth century they were prescribed to cure all ills. Today, leeches continue to serve medicine, supporting the healing process by maintaining blood flow to bodily extremities after reconstructive surgery. Leech examines the surprising lives of these unique animals; from weather forecasting on eighteenth-century kitchen windowsills to helping us better understand the working of our brains and bodies in twentieth-century biomedical laboratories.

However, for every leech that brings hope there has been a sinister twin. In popular culture, from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, through twentieth-century cinema, to twenty-first-century video games, leeches have come to represent the worst in human nature. By embodying the monstrous, leeches have helped us to feel more human.

Lavishly illustrated and written for a broad audience, Leech reveals how these fascinating creatures have been one of humanity’s most enduring and peculiar companions.


21 January 2013
Postgraduate Open Day, Wednesday 6 February 2013

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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