Public activities


Puritan parson (second right) perceives plague as providential provocation: "Death and the City", York, 1631 and/or 2007.

I'm involved in a range of work based on historical research but aimed at non-academic audiences: talks, guided tours, and various other things. Here's a selection...

Beer and alcohol history events. Surprisingly popular, for no reason I can readily determine.

History of science in Manchester. Mostly walking tours.

Media. I have occasionally been allowed onto the television or radio, which pleases my parents.

The BSHS Strolling Players. A militant splinter of the British Society for the History of Science's Outreach and Education Committee which produces short costumed performance pieces and in-character discussion events. Serves a serious and carefully documented purpose in getting school and family audiences to think about questions of scientific authority in historical context. This has to no degree reduced the tendency of various august colleagues to refer to the group as "those mad people with the wigs". I was a providentialist parson in Death and the City (2007-8), and a supercilious barrister in The Business of Bodies (2008-9).

Science and the Short Story. In 2010, the inventive indie publisher Comma Press commissioned a clump of short stories based on scientific "Eureka moments", with established fictioneers working to briefs informed by academic scientists, who also served as advisors. My colleague David Kirby was rash enough to recommend me to this project. I immediately pointed out (as people like me tend to do) that "Eureka moments" don't really exist, except as after-the-fact reconstructions which usually help to explain the science whilst badly fogging the history. Rather unexpectedly, I was taken seriously, and ended up contributing proposals for areas to cover: the result of this has been a story on the Meitner-Frisch/Hahn-Strassmann "discovery of fission" episode by local author Zoe Lambert, with me doing my best to stand in as 1930s nuclear physics/chemistry pundit. The collection was published as Litmus: short stories from modern science in 2011. Some of the results of the collaboration are captured on the Comma Press site.

The usual disclaimer | Last modified at 09:38, Tuesday 31 December 2013