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Department of Philosophy


Professor David M. Knight, MA, D.Phil

Emeritus Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science in the Department of Philosophy

Contact Professor David M. Knight


Professor David M Knight is past editor of Cambridge University Press's scientific biography series and currently the General Editor of the Ashgate Series on the History of Science & Technology. He is also on the editorial boards of Annals of Science, Ambix and Archives of Natural History and he has served on a wide variety of scholarly committees, including a term as the president of the British Society for the History of Science. In 1998 he received a Templeton Foundation award for teaching a module on ‘Science & Religion in the 19th century’ and in 2003 he was given the American Chemical Society’s prestigious Edelstein Award for History of Chemistry. In recent decades he has published numerous edited volumes and journal articles.

Born in 1936, he studied at Oxford University between 1957 and 1964. His BA degree was in Chemistry, with a dissertation on Humphry Davy's electrochemistry. After a Diploma in History and Philosophy of Science, he did a DPhil on theories of the chemical elements in the 19th century (1964).

In 1993 he was President of the History of Science Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. He is on the editorial boards of Annals of Science, Ambix, Foundations of Chemistry and Interdisciplinary Science Reviews. From 1994-7 he served on the Royal Society's Scientific Unions Committee, and he was the British Representative on the European Science Foundation's programme on The Evolution of Chemistry, 1789-1939 involving workshop conferences and publications. He was with Sally Gregory Kohlstedt  Editor of the Cambridge Science Biographies, and is with Trevor Leverea Editor of the Ashgate series in the history of science and technology. He has edited three series of reprints for Routledge, one on 19th century chemistry, and others on evolution debates, and scientific travellers. He was a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry's Committee for the Promotion of Chemistry to the Public. In 2007 delivered the Wheeler Lecture at the Royal Society of Chemistry (on Davy and potassium).

His course on 'Science and Religion in the Nineteenth Century' was given a prize by the Templeton Foundation in 1997, and in 1998 he won an award from the Foundation and the Center for Theology and Natural Sciences in Berkeley California for 'Quality and Excellence in Teaching Science and Religion'. He has done a stint as Chairman of the Philosophy Department, and a term of six years as the first Chairman of the Ethics Advisory Committee of Durham University. He has now retired, but retains an office and does some teaching as well as research.

In 1964 he was appointed to a new Lectureship in the History of Science in the University of Durham, and in 1991 promoted to Professor of History & Philosophy of Science. He retired in 2002. He was Editor of the British Journal for the History of Science from 1982-8; and from 1994-6 was President of the British Society for the History of Science.

He is writing a book on the scientific revolution commissioned by Yale University Press for completion in 2012.

Research supervision

Prof Knight will be happy to be a co-supervisor on something to do with science from the C18 or C19.

Undergraduate modules

History of Science
Science & Religion

Research Interests

  • History and bibliography of science between about 1600 and 1900
  • History of popular science
  • Nineteenth-century chemistry, including biography of Humphry Davy.
  • Science & spirituality in the 19th century


Authored book

  • (2011). New P/B Edition: Public Understanding of Science: A History of Communicating Scientific Ideas - Knight, DM, (London) Chinese translation imminent.
  • (2009). The Making of Modern Science: Science Technology, Medicine and Modernity 1789-1914. Cambridge: Polity.
  • Knight DM (2004). Science and Spirituality: the Volatile Connection *. London New York: Routledge.
  • Knight DM (1998). Science in the Romantic Era. Aldershot: Ashgate Variorum.
  • Knight DM (1998). The making of the chemist: the social history of chemistry 1789-1914. Cambridge: Cambridge Unversity Press.

Chapter in book

  • Knight, D.M. (2002). ‘Scientists and their Publics: Popularization of Science in the Nineteenth Century’. In The Cambridge History of Science. Vol. 5, The Modern Physical and Mathematical Sciences. Nye, M.J. Cambridge New York: Cambridge University Press. 5: 72-90.
  • Knight DM (2002). Then and Now. In Morris P London: Royal Society of Chemistry.
  • Knight DM (1999). Seeing and believing in chemistry. In Video ergo sum: Reprasentation nach innen und aussen zwischen Kunst- und Naturwissenschaften. Hamburg: Hans-Bredow Institut. 181-193.
  • Knight DM (1998). The case of 'Annals of Science'. In Journals and history of science. Beretta, Marco, Pogliano, Claudio & Redondi, Pietro Olschki. 32: 153-166.

Edited book

Journal Article

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Religion: science and religion
  • Science: Education, industry & the community: History & Philosophy of Science
  • Science: Education, industry & the community: History of Science since 1600
  • Science: Education, industry & the community: 19th century science
  • Science: Education, industry & the community: scientific illustration
  • Science: Education, industry & the community: scientific language & its development
  • Science: Education, industry & the community: history of scientific institutions