BSHS President Sally Horrocks writes…

From conferences to theatrical performances, from a travel guide to museum and book prizes, the BSHS has been busy as ever during the last few months supporting and promoting the history of science.

2010 saw the first ever BSHS Great Exhibitions competition. 12 entries of extremely high quality were submitted by institutions in Italy, Germany, the US and UK. First prize was awarded in November 2010 to the Museo Galileo in Florence; second prize went to the Thackray Museum in Leeds for the exhibit “How William Astbury’s X-Ray Vision Changed the World”.

From museums to theatres … the BSHS Strolling Players, took their special brand of history of science to around 450 AS-level students at the Big Bang Festival of Science and Engineering at the ExCel Centre in East London earlier this year.  They also performed at two locations in Cambridge with their latest show, ‘The Tables Turned’.

The BSHS postgraduate conference was held at the University of Manchester in January this year. With 70 delegates present, the future of History of Science is looking good in the UK. Later this year (20th July), the growing field of Literature and Science will have its own BSHS event at the Royal Society in London when Sally Shuttleworth will chair a discussion between two eminent novelists who have been inspired by the history of science: Pat Barker (Regeneration) and Philip Sington (The Einstein Girl).

Preparations are well underway for this year’s annual conference at University of Exeter (14-17 July 2011). Highlights of the programme (now available online) include plenary addresses by Martin Rudwick on the Devonian controversy and Mark Jackson on ‘The Twilight Zone’. The sense of place in Martin Rudwick’s history will also be reflected by Andy Bowman discussing his research in Zambia, and by Carol Reeves on her work with the former inhabitants of a sanatorium in Wales. The methods and challenges of oral history will also feature strongly at the conference thanks to the participation of the Oral History of British Science team at the British Library, which I have recently joined. The latest BSHS monograph is ready for launch at the conference.  He Is No Loss, by Emily Steel, is about the Beagle’s surgeon Robert McCormick and includes McCormick’s never-before-transcribed diary.

Meanwhile, the BSHS website  has been undergoing a fundamental redesign during the last year, the better to serve both its members and the general public. One new feature of the site is already up and running: the BSHS Travel Guide. With accessibly written and illustrated entries, this open-access wiki is rapidly becoming the ‘go-to’ site for history-of-science travel, with an average of 2,000 views per months and climbing. The site gives historians of science a public platform for their research, and caters for the large number of people who are interested in the history of science and want to see gems of Victorian engineering, or the birthplace of positivism, or Mexican geology …

Who knows where the BSHS will go next? Wherever it may be, we hope that you’ll come with us! You can get on board by coming to the Society’s EGM on 15th June at 5.30pm at the Wellcome Library, London. There’s a special tour of the museum’s new ‘Dirt’ exhibition beforehand; afterwards, in a talk hosted by Radio 4’s Quentin Cooper, Hugh Pennington discusses Joseph Lister and beginnings of infection control in hospitals. Email [email protected] to secure your member’s place at these limited-number public events.