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14 February 2024 - 14 February 2024

12:00PM - 1:00PM


  • Free

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Part of the Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing Guest Lecture Series 2023/24 Please note this session will now take place over Zoom.

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Laby, Sierra Leone

Information is often characterized as facts that float effortlessly across time and space. But during the nineteenth century, information was seen as a process that included a set of skills enacted through media on a daily basis.  Media systems, like buildings and roads, had to be designed and, like architects, information engineers had to think about a host of material and social issues when they created data.  This was especially the case in colonial settings such as British West Africa, where the structural inequalities of race influenced the design of health models and the collection of inadequate medical and climatological data. But there were a number of nineteenth-century black physicians who challenged this architecture.  One such physician was Dr James Africanus Beale Horton (1835–1883) and this essay examines the role he played as an informatic architect who sought to re-engineer the relationship between data and disease in the media systems the British used to manage health in mid nineteenth century colonial Sierra Leone.

An Abstract Booklet featuring all events in this series is available here. 


Matthew Daniel Eddy is a historian of science and information in Europe and its former empires. He is Durham University’s Chair and Professor in the History and Philosophy of Science and Co-Director of the Institute for Medieval and Early Modern Studies.  He writes about communications media and information technologies used to judge medical and scientific knowledge. His newest book is Media and the Mind: Art, Science, and Notebooks as Paper Machines, 1700-1830 (Chicago: 2023). He is presently working on a new book that explores how African physicians recalibrated colonial information systems to expose the immoral usage of bioscientific data.



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