Manchester Science Festival 2009
Michael Brown – 19th century surgeon
The Faculty played a major role in the Manchester Science Festival, the city’s annual celebration of science, technology and engineering. With 100,000 delegates, it is now the UK’s most popular science festival.
Its Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine (CHSTM) sponsored three public talks by high-profile speakers. Thomas Dixon spoke on ‘Darwinism vs creationism: a very American conflict’ to a capacity audience at the Manchester Museum. James Moore gave a presentation based on his new book with Adrian Desmond, ‘Darwin's Sacred Cause: Race, Slavery and Human Origins’. And Patricia Fara spoke on the experience of writing her new book, ‘Science: A Four Thousand Year History’.
In addition CHSTM’s Director Michael Worboys chaired an evening debate at the Museum of Science and Industry, on the threat pandemics pose to society, how we are dealing with them and the measures in place for the future.
CHSTM researcher Kat Foxhall explained how nineteenth-century surgeons experimented with different remedies when scurvy broke out amongst prisoners, while Neil Pemberton described how leading nineteenth-century celebrity pathologist Bernard Spilsbury unravelled the mysteries of homicide.
In the Museum’s Biomedical Exhibition, a stall staffed by CHSTM researchers showcased different aspects of biomedical history suitable for all ages. Julie Anderson displayed a selection of artificial limbs from different eras – and younger visitors enjoyed the opportunity to design their own artificial limb! Vicky Long provided insights into innovations introduced in the 1920s and 1930s to transform factories into healthy and pleasant working environments and offered visitors a chance to take vocational aptitude tests from the era. Michael Brown stepped into the role of the nineteenth-century surgeon, displaying surgical instruments from the Manchester Medical School Museum and discussing how anaesthesia and antisepsis made surgery safer.
At the Cornherhouse cinema, CHSTM lecturer David Kirby participated in a discussion on ‘Thirst, Blood, Vampires and Science’ following a screening of vampire film Thirst. CHSTM postgraduate Emily Hankin led a walking tour of the University, revealing where Rutherford and Geiger probed the secrets of the atom, Marie Stopes began her trailblazing career, computers learnt to sing, and Manchester uncovered ancient Egypt. Finally, in the congenial setting of the Lass O’Gowrie CHSTM lecturer James Sumner led a crowded audience through a light-headed stagger of scientific understandings of alcohol since 1600, as Isaac Newton, Humphry Davy and others ponder the great questions: Is wine alcoholic? Does rotting fish belong in beer? And what’s more harmful – microbes, or thunder?
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