On Friday 18th January 2013, Leeds University will host the second in a three part series of workshops on ‘Public Science’ organised by the Science Museum and iPUP (Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past). As part of the preparations for that one day event, the HPS Museum has been putting together an exhibition. This is our exhibition text so far. I hope you find something that inspires you to take a closer look. For those involved in creating the display, please have a look through, check for mistakes, and see what we can change between now and the 18th to make the exhibition even better. Thank you.
Introduction: Science without heroes
For some time now historians of science have been moving away from the old traditional heroic stories of elite progressive science. However, the media, including museum displays, have taken a while to catch up. One of the reasons for this is undoubtedly that it is the heroic, progressive stories that seem most easily to lend themselves to an uncomplicated and dramatic narrative. Where do you put your focus, where do you direct your audiences’ sympathies if not toward the supposed creator or discoverer of the scientific idea you want to explain? Well, one technique historians of science have increasingly begun to use is to direct attention away from the practitioner and towards the audience, and that is what we’ve tried to do here. This is not to lose the drama of the race narrative, but rather to replace it with a new drama, that of the everyday. These are objects not reserved for the inspired genius, but used, sometimes on a daily basis, by people like us. They allow us to use the experience of our own lives to evaluate how things have changed.
Case 1: Teachers and Pupils
Using teaching apparatus we look at some of the different ways in which young people – both in the schoolroom and in certain homes – were first introduced to science. By examining this type of material we can begin to unpick what, at certain moments in history, were considered the key lessons in science, what constituted science and how that was seen to relate to other subjects. How did these lessons change? What does that tell us about the changing definition of science?
Layers taken from a Victorian object lesson box
This box contains samples of various materials each selected to inspire a lesson on several different topics. A child might learn the history of the East India Company from a tea leaf, for example. They might also learn some botany and economics in that same lesson as well as how to observe.
For more information see on youtube:<a href="http://www.youtube.com/user/hpsmuseumleeds?feature=watch" title="our youtube video on the Victorian object lesson box“>
Samples from our Biblical Herbarium
Religion formed the core of many lessons in the Victorian schoolroom and in no object is this more explicit than in the Biblical Herbarium. Like the object lesson box, each sample could lead to a range of subjects. However every object here is mentioned in the Bible, ensuring religion featured in every lesson.
Here we have a number of textbooks from the late 1800s offering suggestions to teachers on how to teach an object lesson. In one, the writer gives a long list of suggested questions, in another the writer gives a summary, per object, of topics to cover and facts to convey.
Case 2: Medics and patients
What made the medics using this apparatus and the patients receiving treatment believe it would work? Were the reasons the same for both audiences? In this case we see some objects that continue to be used in much the same form to the present day. We also see material that today seems comical but at the time was thought to save lives. Would anyone from the 1850s have been able to guess which would be which do you think?
Obstetric forceps, Weiss, London, c. 1880
The use of obstetric forceps dates back to at least the 1600s when most births took place in the home. Midwives adopted forceps to aid safe delivery during difficult births. By the end of the 1800s, obstetricians could choose from a hundred different forceps designs as births moved from the home into the hospital.
Tobacco Resuscitation Kit, maker unknown, c. 1850
This kit was designed for reviving a “temporary lapse of animation” and was recommended by the Royal Humane Society during the late 1700s. Kits were kept by the side of rivers and reservoirs in cases of drowning. Users pumped tobacco smoke into the drown victim’s mouth or rectum with bellows. This kit was owned by Thomas Scattergood, first Dean of the Medical School at Yorkshire College.
Artificial teeth, bottom denture, c. 1895 Oil of Clove
Many dentures came in velvet lined and leather coated boxes allowing customers to carry them when not wearing them. Dentures could be very uncomfortable to wear. Oil of clove had long been a common aid for tooth ache by the late 1800s.
Advertisement for artificial teeth, Mallinson & Mansley, Bradford, 1895
Dentistry was big business in the nineteenth century. Those who lost their teeth through ill health or poor diet looked to the many retailers to provide them with manufactured replacements. Mallinson & Mansley was a popular retailer of artificial teeth in Bradford in the late 1800s. It sold sets of dentures made from ivory or from human teeth.
Potted hair ball, University of Leeds, Institute of Pathology, c. 1920
This unusual specimen is a ball of human hair removed from the stomach of a young woman. The woman suffered from a psychological disorder called trichophagia, which meant she compulsively ate her own hair. Surgeons were forced to operate when the hair filled her stomach leaving no room for food or liquid. – NB would this be better in the mental health case?
Case 3: Professors and students
Collections of microscope slides can prove hard to interpret or find interesting. However, uncovering their social and cultural context can load the artefact with meanings. It throws light on the nature of student life in the Department of Biology, and on the role of the Professor. More broadly it offers insights into the complexion of natural science at the start of the Twentieth Century. The collection of slides that form the centrepiece of this display belonged to Muriel (Molly) Dymond. Molly read for a degree in Biology during the 1920s and became a Research Assistant and Assistant Demonstrator in the Department of Zoology after she graduated in 1925. She studied under Professor Garstang. After she married, Molly left paid employment and instead directed her scientific energies toward raising and educating her children. Molly died in 1996 but her son John remembers her fascination with botany and her abilities as a botanical illustrator as being defining influences behind becoming a biologist himself.
Biology Department 1904
Taken twenty years before Molly’s attendance, this image illustrates the scale of teaching that took place. It also gives us a glimpse of those involved and the equipment used. At the time microscopes, like the ones shown, were beginning to provide new research opportunities within biology and were fully established for everyday work when Molly attended.
Microscope Slides by Muriel (Molly) Dymond and Photograph of her on Graduation Day
Made by Molly Dymond (pictured) during her time as a student in the Zoology Department run by Garstang, these microscope slides depict a variety of specimens. Like students then and now, Molly would have produced these slides as a result of her practical laboratory work.
Slides – Biology Collection, BIO:0101
A photograph of Garstang and various students during field trip to Robin Hood’s Bay 1929-1930
Garstang established a marine station at Robin Hood’s Bay allowing students such as Molly to gather specimens to study under microscopes and experience science outside of the lab. At this time practices within the natural sciences were moving away from active field work and towards laboratory based studies.
A photograph of Garstang at Robin Hood’s Bay in 1932.
Professor Walter Garstang was already a well respected marine embryologist when he came to Leeds University. He established extensive laboratory based breeding programs and field based environmental surveys while here. In overseeing the development of biometric and genetic research approaches he assured the Department of Biology’s role as a scientific centre in the 1900s.
Copy of Garstang’s The Student Opera with signatures of participants, including Molly Dymond and Garstang’s daughter, Copy of Larval Forms by Garstang
Although Garstang was a leading marine embryologist he also understood the importance of the social development of his students. This play, adapted by him, featured Molly and one of Garstang’s own daughters. Another of Garstang’s interests was in writing verse, often comical, concerning zoological subjects. He believed that these, such as Larval Forms, served among other things as an entertaining aide memoire for his students.
Case 4: Travelling lecturers and their audiences
Travelling lecturers were people who perhaps had been to university, or were former teachers, or instrument makers who from around the late 1700s onwards, were able to make a living travelling around the country giving public lectures. For the lecturers, the incentive must in part have been the need to earn a living, in part to use the skills they’d trained for, but what was it that prompted the public to attend?
Hand-painted Astronomical Slides, Carpenter & Westley, c.1850
These slides cover some of the basic principles commonly demonstrated in public astronomical lectures in Britain up until the mid-1800s, when the subjects shown on slides became more complex and involved. Originally owned by a travelling lecturer (probably), these slides were later used at Bradford Grammar School to teach pupils about planets and the solar system.
History of Education Collection, ScAp/A1
Un Autre Monde by J.J. Grandville, Paris: H. Fournier, 1844
Astronomy was a popular topic for public lectures during the late 1700s and 1800s. Lectures were delivered in lay language and used non-scientific representations (such as the signs of the zodiac). Astronomy also featured in popular contemporary literature, as exemplified here in the work of the French illustrator and caricaturist J.J. Grandville.
Special Collections, Illustrated Books Collection F-2 GRA
Outline of Five Lectures on Astronomy, and of an Introductory Lecture, Sheffield: J. Montgomery, 
These lecture notes would have accompanied magic lantern slides similar to those on display here. The notes describe a lecture to be “delivered in the lecture room, Milk-street, Sheffield.”
Special Collections, Pamphlets Brotherton Collection Yorkshire H-She-5.6 GOO
Case 5: Public Information
Our collections contain a number of public information posters from the mid-1900s telling ‘the public’ everything from what time their children should go to bed, to how often they should change their underwear, but who exactly did they envisage as ‘the public’? Did they mean everyone? Was it all down to class? Or gender?
For more information see on youtube: <a href="http://www.youtube.com/user/hpsmuseumleeds" title="our youtube video on public health posters“>
‘Keep it covered’ public information poster, c.1950s
During the 1900s posters like this one were popular as a method of disseminating health and safety messages to the public. The use of bright colours and playful images makes them eye-catching and memorable.
‘Coughs and sneezes spread diseases’ public information poster, c.1950s
Part of a series concerning the spread of germs, this poster features the famous phrase “coughs and sneezes spread diseases’. Catchy slogans are commonly used tools for communicating messages and influencing behaviour. First introduced during WW2, this phrase was reintroduced in 2007 by the Department of Health.
‘Rules of Health’ public information poster, c.1940s-50s
This poster comes from the Ministry of Health’s ‘Seven Rules of Health’ series. Offering guidance on aspects of life including food, sleep, clothing, exercise and even leisure time, this series gives an insight into how varied public information posters were. Like many such posters, the focus was on prevention. It was hoped that encouraging a healthier lifestyle would limit the cost of the recently established National Health Service.
Case 6: Mental Health
Mental health covers a wide range of conditions and yet so often gets lumped together as a single entity. Here in our collections we can see evidence of the very different ways treatment for mental health could be experienced by the patient. From physical restraints to electric cures for nervous conditions, we catch a glimpse of just how broad that range was.
The Newly Invented Improved Electric Magneto Machine for Nervous Diseases – 1885
This machine was used as a home treatment for conditions such as headaches, toothache or neuralgia (pain caused by nerve pathways). The leads were applied to the area affected and the handle turned, generating an electric current. This produced an electric shock in the patient which was thought to cure them.
Restraints such as these fingerless gloves were used in Victorian insane asylums to prevent patients hurting themselves or others. They were often used to control particularly violent or uncooperative patients so that the attendants could treat or feed them safely.
Wakefield Asylum Reports
These reports were presented at monthly meetings to show the estimated expenditure of West Riding Pauper Lunatic asylum, one of the largest and well known Victorian asylums. They include details such as patient’s maintenance accounts, salaries and wages, rates and taxes, and building and repairs funds.
Case 7: Electricity
Sometimes an idea in science truly inspires and many people in many different areas find ways of using it. The traditional history of science story of electricity is to tell of Volta and Galvani, and of Maxwell and Edison but none of those stories really show how their work was experienced and manipulated outside the elite world of science. Here in this case we look at some of the disparate uses electricity has been put to, often by unnamed, certainly uncelebrated inventors and practitioners.
Advertisements for home lighting
Up until as late as the mid-1900s it was not unusual to find the odd home still using by gas lighting. Electric lighting in the home first became possible in the 1880s but it took a long time to convince the public. Some took longer than others. Advertisers for both gas and electricity shamelessly played on peoples fears for the safety of their competitors’ products.
Physics crystal set
Crystal sets are a very simple form of radio receiver, first developed before World War One. With the advent of broadcast radio in the mid-1920s, home-made crystal sets became popular. They were cheap and easy to make, required no external power source, and had great potential for experimentation.
Material from psychology
While we tend to think of electricity as an example of applied physics, other disciplines were quick to catch on, manipulate and apply. In psychology for example, electricity was used in a variety of devices from those used to test reaction times to supposed cures for nervous disorders.