At the beginning of the nineteenth century, there was no such thing as a scientist. While professional careers in science were gradually formalised, many scientific practitioners aspired to none at all. Lacking blueprints to guide their behaviour, practitioners of all descriptions had to carve out their own identities to demonstrate expertise, prestige, taste, authority.
Scholars of nineteenth-century science and culture have revealed diverse scientific identities, including romantic geologists, chemical-wielding showmen, and poetic physicists, alongside artisan botanists, unpaid draughtswomen, and husband-and-wife collaborations. Recent scholarship complicates rigid distinctions between amateur and professional, populariser and primary researcher, and scientific writing and imaginative prose, producing increasingly nuanced studies of the ways in which scientific practitioners sought to shape their own identities.
Stephen Greenblatt’s now-classic study of ‘self-fashioning’ demonstrated how one might carve out for oneself ‘a distinctive personality, a characteristic address to the world, a consistent mode of perceiving and behaving’. The speakers at this one-day workshop will examine how complex changes in scientific culture can be considered through the lens of self-fashioning. Their papers cover an array of topics that include discussions of disciplinarity, life writing, authority, and the popularisation of science.
Please see the programme below. Those interested in attending should email firstname.lastname@example.org with any dietary or access requirements. The workshop is free and the deadline for registration is May 23rd.
Funding for this day has been provided by the generous support of the Constructing Scientific Communities project.