The British Society for the History of Science (BSHS) is delighted to award the 2013 Dingle Prize to David Wright for Downs: The History of a Disability. Published by Oxford University Press this excellent book is a genuine attempt to engage a wide audience of non-specialists in a way that reflects some of the major virtues of current historiography of medicine and science. The judges commented that Wright has produced “a terrific book” and “a little gem”, which “has valuable contributions to make to current debates” in the history of science and medicine. In dealing with the history of Down’s syndrome – a subject for which very few other wide-ranging historical studies exist, but for which there is a substantial secondary literature from other perspectives – Wright has also achieved the Prize’s requirement to “re-examine a well-known historical incident or achievement, or bring new perspective to previously neglected figures or fields in the past.” Wright’s book faced stiff competition from over sixty other nominations, and this represents the largest field of entries ever for this competition.

The judges also strongly commend both D. Graham Burnett’s The Sounding of the Whale (University of Chicago Press) and Jon Agar’s Science in the Twentieth Century and Beyond (Polity). Both books are truly extraordinary in their depth (Burnett) and breadth (Agar), and make significant contributions to the history of science and more broadly to our understanding of twentieth-century history. They are also remarkable in being books that, while written primarily with a scholarly audience in mind, are nevertheless accessible and of interest to a wider audience, and an excellent advertisement for the discipline.


Dr Simon Chaplin (Chair), Dr Tim Boon, Dr Sabine Clarke, Dr Sophie Forgan, Dr Melanie Keene, Dr James Stark (BSHS Outreach and Education Committee Chair).