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Seminars in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology – Week 5, 11th November

Who? Next Monday’s seminar will be given by Professor Harvey Brown (University of Oxford), who will be speaking about ‘What was Einstein’s real achievement in his 1905 theory of special relativity?’

What? ‘Several years before Einstein published his 1905 theory of special relativity, ether theorists had essentially discovered the main relativistic effects predicted by the theory: length contraction, time dilation and the relativity of simultaneity. In this lecture I will argue that Einstein’s work was more than a novel exercise in packaging (providing a “principle” rather than “constructive” approach). It also introduced a completely unprecedented way of understanding the physical meaning of the mathematics of motion.’

Where? History Faculty Lecture Theatre, George Street, Oxford

When? Monday 11th November 2019, 16:00.

This lecture has been organised by the Oxford Centre for the History of Science, Medicine and Technology as part of the Seminars in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology series.

All welcome to attend!

Opening hours w/b 14th October

To our new students: Welcome! To our returning students: Welcome back!

We hope you have a wonderful Michaelmas term.

Our opening hours in Week 1 will be:

Monday: Unstaffed
Tuesday: 2.15pm-5pm
Wednesday: 2.15pm-4.30pm
Thursday and Friday: 2.15pm-5pm

The Library’s books on the history of medicine are available to search on SOLO, or you can view our newest arrivals on LibraryThing! New readers are always welcome; if you would like to visit please contact us by email or phone to arrange your appointment.

Have a splendid weekend!

A sailor being toasted by a group of his friends in a tavern as he is about to depart for New Zealand. Pencil, ink and wash, by S. Jenner. Credit: Wellcome CollectionCC BY

So long, farewell…

Today our Library Assistant for the past two years, Mary, leaves the unit library for a new job as Senior Library Assistant with our colleagues at the Radcliffe Camera! We are incredibly sad to lose her cheery and helpful presence around the library, but wish her all the best in her new post – we’re sure she will be fantastic!A wife sending her husband away on holiday in order to pursue an affair with a "nerve specialist" who has got the husband out of the way by recommending a change of scene for him. Colour process print, c. 1920.

Opening Hours w/b 25th June

The library will be open next week at the following times:

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday: 2.15pm-5pm
Wednesday: 2pm-4.30pm

If you would like to visit the library, do contact us by email or phone to make an appointment.

Our books from shelfmarks RC to RM have now returned to the library following conservation treatment. However, please excuse our slightly jumbled state over the next week as we rearrange our shelves! If you find that a book you need isn’t in the right place on the shelf, let a member of staff know and we will locate it for you.

Have a great weekend!

Ayer’s Cherry Pectoral Trade Card, Lowell, Mass. : Dr. J.C. Ayer & Co., [between 1870 and 1879?]. This medicine contained opium or morphine which were on sale legally at the time in America. It was supposed to rapidly cure “colds, coughs, sore throat, influenza, laryngitis, quinsy, hoarseness, croup, bronchitis, asthma and catarrh” and provide relief from whooping cough and consumption. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

Opening Hours w/b 26th February

Our opening hours next week will be:

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday: 2.15pm-5pm
Wednesday: 2pm-4.30pm

If you would like to use our collections, please contact us to arrange a visit to the library.

Please note that unfortunately the computers and study table in Room 2 are unavailable due to ongoing refurbishment works. However, books are still accessible and library users can read them in the Wellcome Unit’s lovely Resource Room!

Enjoy the weekend!

‘Advert for Beaufoy & Co., 1840.’ . Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

Opening Hours w/b 12th February

The Library’s opening hours next week will be:

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday: 2.15pm-5pm
Wednesday: 2pm-4.30pm

Please note that our ongoing refurbishment of Library Room 2 means that the study space is still out of action and there are no Reader PCs available. However, readers are welcome to use the Unit’s excellent Resource Room to consult our books!

If you’d like to visit us, call or email to arrange an appointment.

Have a lovely weekend!

‘Love Sick. The Doctor Puzzled’. ‘A baffled doctor taking the pulse of a love-sick young woman, her maid slips a billet-doux secretly into her hand. Coloured lithograph.’ . Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

Opening hours w/b 8th January

The Wellcome Unit Library will soon be opening again after our Christmas break!

Our opening hours for next week will be:
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday: 2.15pm-5pm
Wednesday: 2pm-4.30pm

If you would like to consult any of the library’s materials, please contact us to arrange your visit.

We wish you a Happy New Year and a lovely weekend!

‘A maid bringing medicine and soup to her master who has a cold. Lithograph, 1857, after W.H. Simmons after J. Collinson.’ by James Collinson. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY


Swansea University PhD opportunity – Writing Disabled Lives in Nineteenth-Century Britain

History & English Literature: Swansea University Research Excellence Scholarships: Writing Disabled Lives in Nineteenth-Century Britain

Closing date: 22 January 2018

Key Information

Start date: 1 October 2018

See the website for full details

Project details:

During the nineteenth century there were a series of developments that helped to shape ‘disability’ in its modern form. The administrative categorisation of the ‘defective’ poor in workhouses served to identify physical incapacity as a distinctive cause of poverty requiring particular responses, whereas the valorisation of ‘normal’ ranges of human size, strength and intelligence in eugenic thought marked out as deviant and inferior those who failed to meet these standards. Industrialisation, and subsequent struggles over reform (such as campaigns to limit child labour or restrict the length of the working day), promoted an abstract idea of the worker, whose capacities and needs were assumed to be the same as others.

Such developments have begun to attract attention, but considerably less is known about how people with impairments made sense of their experiences within evolving concepts of ‘disability’ and ‘able-bodiedness’. The aim of this PhD studentship is to explore ways in which contemporaries narrated physical difference using a variety of biographical and autobiographical writings. The nineteenth century is significant for a proliferation of texts that explored the lives of people with disabilities. Some, such as the autobiographical writings of Harriet Martineau or John Kitto, are relatively well-known, but many others such as James Wilson’s Biography of the Blind (1820) – arguably the first work of ‘disability history’ – have received very little attention from historians or literary scholars. Accounts of illness and disability abound in working class autobiographies, while pauper letters weave these themes into compelling narratives of need. Life histories of freak show performers, ‘eccentric’ biographies, newspaper obituaries, and new forms of investigative reporting characteristic of the ‘new journalism’ all shed light on experiences of physical and intellectual difference.  Such texts employed a variety of rhetorical strategies for capturing the experiences of ‘disabled’ women and men, yet have not yet been researched systematically from a disability perspective.

The recipient of this PhD studentship will have the opportunity to determine the scope and direction of their research within the broad parameters of the project. Their work will examine how disability is constructed within particular cultural contexts and how these relate to social, religious and medical frameworks for understanding physical difference. Their work will examine critically how narratives of disability are shaped by – and in turn shape – gender, class and racial identities. As part of their project, the PhD student will work with the interdisciplinary supervisory team to develop a programme of public engagement exploring life writing as a tool for promoting health and wellbeing, while also raising awareness of experiences of disability in modern Wales. This may include producing a public engagement blog that uses historical evidence to engage in dialogue with disabled people’s experiences in the present, and other public-facing activities. The supervisors, who won a Research and Innovation Award in 2016 for their work on the exhibition ‘From Pithead to Sickbed and Beyond: the Buried History of Disability in the Coal Industry before the NHS’, will bring their experience in leading disability projects to provide mentoring for the recipient of the studentship to build a public profile for their work and develop its impact potential. The project falls under the auspices of CREW, Centre for Research into the English Literature and Language of Wales, and the cross-campus Research Group for Health, History and Culture (RGHHC), which will provide supportive research clusters.  Since its founding in 2010, members of RGHHC have secured grants totalling £1.5 million for individual or collaborative projects. Swansea University is an internationally renowned centre of excellence in disability history. Recent funded projects include ‘Disability and Industrial Society 1780-1880’ (Wellcome Trust) and an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Scholarship on ‘Correcting Vision in Nineteenth-Century Britain’ (with the Science Museum).

Supervisors / Academic Contacts: Professor David Turner and Professor Kirsti Bohata

Seminars in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology: Week 2, 16th October

Speaker: Dr Julie Parle (University of KwaZulu-Natal)

Title: The okapi, the wolf, the fellow, and the baboons: thalidomide in South Africa, 1956-1976

Abstract: Responsible for ‘the world’s worst and most poignant medical disaster’, thalidomide was first formally marketed on 1 October 1957, in West Germany. Instructions for its withdrawal were issued 49 months later, by which time thalidomide-containing products had reached more than 50 countries across the world, including 18 in Africa. Following a pharmaceutical okapi, and via fragmentary histories – those of a man called Wolf, a WHO Travelling Fellow, and several hundred baboons – I focus on the surprising presence and uses of thalidomide in South Africa, 1950s to 1970s. I suggest that tales of this teratogen may be of significance for widening global histories of this drug and for those of medical science and the state in South Africa in the twentieth century.

Conveners: Professor Rob Iliffe, Dr Sloan Mahone, Dr Erica Charters, Dr Roderick Bailey, Dr Atsuko Naono

When: Monday 16th October at 16:00, coffee available from 15:30 in Common Room

Where: History Faculty Lecture Theatre, George Street, Oxford

More information: