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Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine

Dr James Sumner

PhD

Research Interests

I have broad interests in science-technology relations and communication from the eighteenth century to the present day.

Brewing science

In 2013 I published a research monograph, Brewing Science, Technology and Print, 1700-1880, which charts how beer-brewing consultants, chemical analysts, and others used a range of strategies of public and private communication -- book publication, confidential manuscripts, lecturing, demonstration -- to make a systematic discipline of "brewing science" credible to sceptical audiences in Britain and Ireland across the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The analysis uses the brewing industry as a case study to explore wider themes of scientific reputation and credibility: the importance of original research to instructors' authority, the double-edged status of chemistry in the age of adulteration fears, and the gap between laboratory demonstration and workplace application.

Computers

I also work on the role and image of the computer in everyday British life, chiefly in the early period of mass domestic personal computing (roughly 1980-1990). I am particularly interested in questions of use, promotion and reputation, and in the rhetorical use of the computer as an indication of national policy priorities.

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