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Lines of Thought: understanding anatomy

September 2016

A hand-coloured copy of Vesalius' Epitome – one of the most influential works in western medicine – and the first written record of a dissection carried out in England are among the objects in the latest film celebrating Lines of Thought at Cambridge University Library.

Article and video

Haeckel's Embryos cover image

Haeckel's Embryos highly commended for 2016 DeLong Book History Prize

July 2016

Nick Hopwood's book Haeckel's Embryos: Images, Evolution and Fraud has been highly commended for the 2016 DeLong Book History Prize, awarded by the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing.

Article

Charles Darwin

Lines of Thought: from Darwin to DNA

July 2016

Darwin's stuffed pigeons, the letter which first coined the term 'genetics' and a paper by Crick and Watson which helped decode DNA all feature in the latest film to celebrate Cambridge University Library's 600th anniversary.

Article and video

Angels have the phone box. Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

Why be human when you can be otherkin?

July 2016

In an essay looking at the groups that exist on the edge of conventional boundaries, and are often subject to prurience and ridicule, Pedro Feijó considers those who feel different, other than human.

Article

Flowers

The flower breeders who sold X-ray lilies and atomic marigolds

May 2016

Helen Anne Curry discusses the history of our fascination with floral novelties.

Article

The 'empericum that never fails' in the margin of the Compendium of Gilbertus Anglicus. By permission of the Master and Fellows of Pembroke College, Cambridge.

Remedies for infertility: how performative rituals entered early medical literature

January 2016

A study of one of the most important medieval texts devoted to women's medicine has opened a window into the many rituals associated with conception and childbirth.

Article

Nikolaus and Krampus in Austria (Wikimedia Commons)

Frankenstein or Krampus? What our monsters say about us

December 2015

Natalie Lawrence discusses the history of monsters and what they say about the people who invent them.

Article

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John Forrester

November 2015

Professor John Forrester, the distinguished historian of psychoanalysis and former Head of Department, died on 24 November 2015.

Obituary

The European in India, 1813 by Charles D'Oyly (Bridgeman Images)

A world of science

October 2015

The history of science has been centred for too long on the West, say Simon Schaffer and Sujit Sivasundaram. It's time to think global.

Article

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Fungus Hunt

October 2015

Nick Jardine reports on the Cabinet of Natural History Fungus Hunt at Bradfield Woods.

Photos and report

'Monstrum marinum daemoniforme' from Ulysse Aldrovandi's 'Monstrorum Historia' (1642, Bologna), p.350

What is a monster?

September 2015

In the outrage that erupted when an American dentist killed a lion, the trophy hunter was branded a 'monster'. Natalie Lawrence explores notions of the monstrous and how they tie into ideas about morality.

Article

Distillation in the 15th century, from Liber de Arte Distillandi de Compositis by Hieronymus Brunschwig, Credit: Wellcome Library, London

Men in stripes: spot the difference in early modern woodcuts

July 2015

Sixteenth-century woodcuts often depict young men wearing striped doublets or striped hose. When Tillmann Taape embarked on a journey into the meaning of stripes, he discovered that artists used them to mark out people who were neither rich and educated nor poor and illiterate – but something in between.

Article

Comparison of embryos of fish, salamander, turtle, chick, pig, cow, rabbit and human embryos at three different stages of development. Credit: Lithograph from Haeckel, Anthropogenie (1874), plates IV–V

Haeckel's embryos: the images that would not go away

July 2015

Nick Hopwood's new book tells, for the first time in full, the extraordinary story of drawings of embryos initially published in 1868. The artist was accused of fraud – but, copied and recopied, his images gained iconic status as evidence of evolution.

Article

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Book launch and garden party

June 2015

The Department celebrated the launch of Nick Hopwood's book Haeckel's Embryos: Images, Evolution and Fraud with a talk by Dr Hopwood followed by a party in the grounds of Peterhouse.

Photos

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Pilkington Prize for Jim Secord

June 2015

Jim Secord – 'one of the outstanding teachers of his generation' – is among the winners of this year's Pilkington Prizes for teaching.

Article

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Cabinet Garden Party

June 2015

The Cabinet of Natural History garden party, featuring a talk by Natalie Lawrence, was held in Gonville & Caius Fellows' Garden.

Photos

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Cabinet trip to Down House

May 2015

For its annual field trip, the Cabinet of Natural History visited Down House in Kent, the home of Charles Darwin.

Photos

R100 at mast in Canada

The 'flying scientist' who chased spores

February 2015

A passion for fungi led Cambridge mycologist Dr Dillon Weston to ever-more inventive means of trapping fungal spores, even from the open window of an airship on its maiden flight. Ruth Horry tells his story.

Article and video

Title page of Jane Squire's proposal for determining longitude. Credit: Cambridge University Library

The lady of the longitude

November 2014

In 1714, the British Parliament offered large rewards for finding longitude at sea. Men around the world submitted schemes but only one woman, Jane Squire, published a proposal under her own name. Alexi Baker has been investigating the life story of this remarkable trailblazer.

Article

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Fungus Hunt

October 2014

Nick Jardine reports on a successful visit to Wangford Warren.

Photos and report

Image from a popular French guidebook for infertile couples, published in 1888. Credit: Gerard, J., Nouvelles causes de stérilité dans les deux sexes

Tiny sperm, big stories

September 2014

Sperm takes centre stage at a conference in Cambridge as researchers from a wide range of disciplines gather to consider the narratives that surround the male gametes necessary for human reproduction.

Article

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Tim Lewens's Inaugural Lecture

June 2014

Tim Lewens gave his Inaugural Lecture, 'Nature, Culture and Philosophy', on 20 June 2014.

Photos

Equatorie of the Planetis. Credit: University of Cambridge Library

Heavens above

May 2014

A 600-year-old astronomical document is now moving into the modern era, with a symposium at the Whipple Museum to mark its digitisation.

Article

'The March of Intellect', etching c.1828, Robert Seymour ('Shortshanks'). Credit: Oxford University Press

Driving a harpoon deep into the floating carcass of Humbug

April 2014

In his latest book, Jim Secord explores seven scientific books that made a lasting historical impact. Visions of Science concentrates on the 1830s, an era that witnessed an often passionate clash of viewpoints.

Article

Samuel George Morton's 'Crania Americana'

Skulls in print: scientific racism in the transatlantic world

March 2014

James Poskett's research has revealed how racist ideas and images circulated between the United States and Europe in the 19th century.

Article and video

Reclining female figure, Clemente Susini, late 18th century. Credit: La Specola, University of Florence

Skeletons in the cupboard of medical science

February 2014

Margaret Carlyle explores the fascinating (often gruesome) development in 18th-century Paris of anatomical models and the remarkable woman who made her name in a field dominated by men.

Article

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Sarton Medal awarded to Simon Schaffer

November 2013

Simon Schaffer has been awarded the Sarton Medal, the highest honour of the History of Science Society.

Article

Woodcut of hell from 'A voice from heaven, the youth of Great Britain' (1720). Credit: The British Library Board, 731.a.23 (2) page 16

Never too young to talk about death?

November 2013

Talking to children about death is a difficult and delicate task, but it is sometimes also necessary. While many adults shy away from discussing the loss of a friend or relative with children, some health professionals argue that we should be more proactive. Hannah Newton explains why this is one area where the past may offer valuable lessons for our own time.

Article

Aristotle's compleat and experienc'd midwife. Credit: Wellcome Library, London

Much ado about babies

July 2013

The management of childbirth and care of newborns have always been hotly-debated topics. Leah Astbury looks at narratives of reproduction in the 16th and 17th centuries and finds evidence for many of the same concerns.

Article

Board of Longitude Collection

The longitude problem: 300-year-old archive opened to the world

July 2013

It was the conundrum that baffled some of the greatest and most eccentric experts of the 18th century – and captivated the British public during an era of unprecedented scientific and technical transformation. Now, for the first time, the full story of attempts to solve the longitude problem – unravelling the lone genius myth popularised in film and literature – will be made freely available to everyone via Cambridge University Library's Digital Library.

Article and video

Image from Johann Amos Comenius, Orbis sensualium pictus quadrilinguis (Nuremberg, 1679), p. 374. Credit: By permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library

How notes and jottings contribute to the history of science

July 2013

An examination of historic notebooks shows that physicians, and the families who called on their services, made consistent efforts to learn from their experiences at the bedside.

Article

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Midsummer Garden Party

June 2013

The Department held a garden party to mark Eleanor Robson leaving and John Forrester stepping down as Head of Department.

Photos

Porträt des Eduard VI. als Kind by Hans Holbein the Younger (1498-1543), Denver Art Museum. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Born to rule: two public talks look at royal births of the past

June 2013

The hype surrounding the birth of a royal baby is nothing new. Two public lectures explore the Tudor and Stuart obsession with producing a male heir.

Article

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Cabinet Garden Party

June 2013

The Cabinet of Natural History's end-of-year garden party for 2012–13 included a talk by José Ramón Marcaida.

Photos

Charles Towne, Hilly Landscape, Oil on canvas, 38.7cm x 51.1cm (detail). Credit: Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Views of the landscape

May 2013

Simon Nightingale explores how painterly interpretations of the countryside were embedded into the literature of agricultural improvement in a way that might surprise modern readers.

Article

Detail from 'The ornithology of Francis Willughby' (London, 1678). Credit: Trinity College Library (Q.13.16) by kind permission of the Master and Fellows of Trinity College Cambridge

The world of Francis Willughby: the man who compiled the first ornithology

May 2013

In his short life Francis Willughby immersed himself in the study of natural history yet he has been overshadowed by more famous peers. Richard Serjeantson draws attention to a remarkable man and his contribution to the beginnings of modern science.

Article

Credit: Felix Bennett

Written in the stars

February 2013

A major digitisation project is under way to develop a detailed online record of the thousands of casebooks of Simon Forman. A doctor and self-proclaimed master of the 'hidden' arts of the occult, Forman's notes give a remarkable insight into Elizabethan society – and one of its most controversial characters.

Article

Credit: Felix Bennett

So much stuff, so little space

February 2013

Old champagne bottles and beer cans sound like the contents of a Cambridge college rubbish bin, but they could be part of our scientific heritage.

Article

Globe c.1907. Credit: Whipple Museum. Photographer: Jacqueline Garget

The world inside a Spanish globe

December 2012

Research by Seb Falk has brought us closer to understanding a mysterious 100-year-old interactive toy.

Article and video

Credit: Dr José Ramón Marcaida

Circling the heavens: visual culture and the bird of paradise

November 2012

As voyages of exploration opened up the world from the 15th century onwards, European culture delighted in encounters with exotic items. José Ramón Marcaida shows how portrayals of the spectacular bird of paradise reflect the intersection between art and science.

Article and video

Detail from the Ripley Scroll housed at the Fitzwilliam Museum. Credit: Fitzwilliam Museum

Body, soul and gold: quests for perfection in English alchemy

November 2012

From the elixirs of legend to transmutation of base metals into gold, medieval medical practice and social mobility were steeped in alchemy. Jennifer Rampling's research traces the thread of English alchemy through hundreds of texts and manuscripts.

Article

The Sick Child. Credit: Collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Heart-breaking history: voices of sick children from the past

April 2012

A new study by Hannah Newton into the grim and frequently heart-breaking history of childhood sickness and death has opened a window onto a surprisingly tender world of close families and devoted parenting in early modern England.

Article

Katy Barrett. Credit: CD Wylie

From pamphlet to pixel: the humanities in transition

March 2012

The humanities have been quick to embrace the potential of computer technology but universities have been reluctant to accept digital projects as bona fide scholarship. Katy Barrett argues for a change in attitude.

Article

Hannah Newton. Credit: Hannah Newton

A spoonful of sugar or a bitter blocker?

February 2012

Hannah Newton, an historian of science with an interest in how previous generations coped with childhood illness, digs up some 17th century tips for making medicine taste better and finds evidence for common sense and compassion among the doctors of the day.

Article

Vanessa Heggie. Credit: Vanessa Heggie

What the Olympic Games have done for us

January 2012

The genuine scientific benefits that have emerged from the modern Olympic Games have often been lost in the hype surrounding these high profile international events. Vanessa Heggie puts the record straight.

Article

Katy Barrett. Credit: Katy Barrett

Things are getting complicated

October 2011

In the recent riots looters made off with some of the items that have come to symbolise our materialistic society – trainers, track suits and flat screen televisions. Katy Barrett is co-convening a series of seminars which will look at the powerful role that possessions play in society, past and present.

Article

From Illustrated London News, September 16, 1845

Past versus present in an age of progress: the Victorians

October 2011

Interdisciplinary research has to be the answer when it comes to understanding the Victorians, writes Simon Goldhill, one of the researchers involved in a £1.2 million project on Victorian Britain that is reaching the end of its five-year programme.

Article

A painting thought to be of Simon Forman. Credit: Wellcome Library, London

Magic and medicine

September 2011

A digital resource dedicated to Simon Forman, the notorious, self-styled astrologer-physician, later dubbed the 'Elizabethan Pepys', has been launched to mark the 400th anniversary of his death.

Article

Isaac Newton's Index Chemicus. Credit: Keynes Collection, King's College Library

All is not what it seems: the blurred boundaries between alchemy and medicine

September 2011

An international conference reveals that for many centuries alchemy and medicine were deeply intertwined – both in theory and practice.

Article

Image from the Books and Babies exhibition at Cambridge University Library. Credit: Cambridge University Library

Let's talk about sex!

July 2011

The history of human reproduction – via its communication through the ages – is examined in a ground-breaking exhibition at Cambridge University Library.

Article

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Cabinet Garden Party

June 2011

The Cabinet of Natural History's end-of-year garden party, which was held at Christ's College, included a talk by Vanessa Heggie.

Photos

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Cabinet trip to Sutton Hoo

May 2011

For its annual field trip, the Cabinet of Natural History visited the Anglo-Saxon burial site of Sutton Hoo in Suffolk.

Photos

Kalhu from A.H. Layard 'A Second Series of the Monuments of Nineveh' (1853). Credit: Dr Eleanor Robson

Reading the world's oldest libraries

November 2010

Examples of the world's oldest science and literature – 2,500-year-old clay writing tablets – hold clues as to how ancient scholars acquired and used knowledge, as Eleanor Robson explains.

Article

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Fungus Hunt

October 2010

Nick Jardine reports on the Cabinet of Natural History's 22nd annual fungus hunt, this year held at Bradfield Woods.

Photos and report

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The Seven Ages of Nick Jardine

June 2010

The Department held a special event at Peterhouse and in the Botanic Garden to celebrate the work of Nick Jardine.

Photos

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Cabinet trip to Stowe

May 2010

The Cabinet of Natural History visited Stowe Landscape Gardens in Buckinghamshire.

Photos

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Fungus Hunt

October 2009

Nick Jardine reports on the Cabinet of Natural History Fungus Hunt, which took place in the King's Forest.

Photos and report

Rupert Hall

February 2009

Professor A.R. (Rupert) Hall, a founder member of the Department and the first Curator of the Whipple Museum, died on 5 February 2009.

Obituary

Model embryo making. Credit: Deutsches Hygiene-Museum, Dresden

Making visible embryos

January 2009

A new online exhibition explores the visual culture of embryology as part of a research initiative on the history of reproduction.

Article

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Cabinet trip to Orford Ness

October 2008

The Cabinet of Natural History visited Orford Ness nature reserve in Suffolk.

Photos

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New Whipple Library

October 2008

The Whipple Library moves into a new space, which had previously been the Heycock Lecture Theatre.

Photos

Penderecki. Credit: Selva from Flickr

Science of music exhibition goes on schools roadshow

October 2008

Hundreds of schoolchildren in South Cambridgeshire learn about the science of musical sound as part of a touring outreach exercise by the Whipple Museum.

Article

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Cabinet trip to Stowe

May 2008

The Cabinet of Natural History visited Stowe Landscape Gardens in Buckinghamshire.

Photos

Tom Whiteside

April 2008

Professor Derek Thomas (Tom) Whiteside, FBA, a long-standing member of the Department, died on 22 April 2008.

Obituary

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Peter Lipton

November 2007

Peter Lipton, the first Hans Rausing Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science and long-serving Head of the Department, died on 25 November 2007.

Obituary

Growing olives. Credit: Stew Dean from Flickr

Food and medicine in classical Greece: the 'blurred boundary'

April 2007

What distinguishes a drug from food? Laurence Totelin traces the emergence of a definition in ancient Greece.

Article

Match making. Credit: brizzle born and bred from Flickr

'What have the Victorians ever done for us?'

February 2007

Modern Britain was invented sometime between 1830 and 1900. It's not just a question of industrialization, compulsory education, the right to vote (at least for men) or the growth of towns, important as all those particular processes were. The 19th century has also given us almost all our most familiar institutions, our ideas about ourselves and our history, and the very fabric and rhythm of our lives.

Article

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Fungus Hunt

October 2006

Nick Jardine reports on the remarkable display of fungi at this year's Cabinet of Natural History Fungus Hunt.

Photos and report

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Cabinet trip

May 2006

The Cabinet of Natural History visited the Horniman Museum and Crystal Palace Gardens.

Photos

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Fungus Hunt

October 2005

Nick Jardine reports on the uncommon fungi discovered during the Cabinet of Natural History Fungus Hunt.

Photos and report

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Cabinet trip to Down House

June 2005

This year's Cabinet of Natural History expedition was to Down House, the home of Charles Darwin.

Photos

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Cabinet Garden Party

June 2005

The Cabinet of Natural History's end-of-year garden party, which was held at King's College, included a talk by Melanie Keene.

Photos

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BSHS Postgraduate Conference

January 2005

The annual British Society for the History of Science Postgraduate Conference took place in the Department in January 2005.

Photos

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Cabinet Garden Party

June 2003

This year's Cabinet of Natural History Garden Party featured a talk by Sujit Sivasundaram on the curious history of captive elephants.

Photos

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Fungus Hunt

October 2002

Thirty species, including the rare Leccinum carpini, were found during the Cabinet of Natural History Fungus Hunt.

Photos

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Roger French

May 2002

Roger Kenneth French, University Lecturer in History of Medicine, died on 14 May 2002.

Obituary

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Discover gallery opening

June 2001

The Whipple Museum's 'Discover' gallery was officially opened on 21 June 2001.

Photos

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Cabinet Garden Party

June 2001

This year's Cabinet of Natural History Garden Party featured a talk by Helen Macdonald on hawks and doves.

Photos

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Gerd Buchdahl

May 2001

Gerd Buchdahl, one of the principal architects of History and Philosophy of Science in Cambridge and our first Head of Department, died on 17 May 2001.

Obituary