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Durham University

Department of History

Events and Seminars


Upcoming events

History of Science, Technology and Medicine Research Cluster

30th October 2020, 15:00 to 16:00, Online Zoom Meeting

The History of Science, Technology and Medicine Research Cluster is pleased to announce its programme for 2020–2021, which will consist both of a reading group and a series of guest speakers. We will meet on alternate Fridays during term, from 3–4 p.m., via zoom. The reading group will be focusing on Lee Vinsel and Andrew Russell’s new book The Innovation Delusion: How Our Obsession with the New Has Disrupted the Work That Matters Most, which will be available through the library as an ebook shortly. We will also address some foundational readings relevant to the book’s argument.

Guest speaker: John Tresch (Warburg Institute) - October 30th - title: “Edgar Allan Poe and American Science: Between Barnum and Bache.”


This talk explores the relations between science and its publics in the early 19th century United States. It focuses on the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. Poe invented stunning forms of literary sensationalism; yet he had trained at West Point Military Academy and wrote constantly about the sciences. His work reflected two opposed tendencies in science: an explosion of unruly public claims in new periodicals and lecture halls, and elite strategies to control knowledge through centralised institutions. P. T. Barnum’s “American Museum” typified the first; the U.S. Coast Survey, directed by Franklin’s great grandson, Alexander Dallas Bache, exemplified the second. Seen in context, Poe’s works offer incisive, prophetic, and dramatically conflicted commentary on science and the stories it tells.


The full, tentative schedule for the term is as follows:

October 30 – Reading Group: The Innovation Delusion, chapters 1 and 2

November 6 – Reading Group: The Innovation Delusion, chapter 3

November 13 – Guest Speaker: Alex Aylward, University of Leeds

November 27 – Reading Group: The Innovation Delusion, chapter 4

Meetings will take place over zoom, at:

Contact for more information about this event.


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