CHHS + IWD event: Dr Coreen McGuire and Dr Jaipreet Virdi

To mark International Women’s Day at the CHHS we were joined by Dr Coreen McGuire (Bristol) and Dr Jaipreet Virdi (Delaware), who discussed  ‘Dr Phyllis Kerridge and the Politics of Disability in Inter-War Britain’.
McGuire and Virdi explored questions such as how and why are women scientists remembered? How and why are they forgotten? What is the historian’s role in public commemoration of scientific achievement? The Bank of England’s recent list of candidates to be the face of the new fifty-pound note was designed to highlight individuals who had made significant contributions to British Science. It was notable for its prominent inclusion of famed women scientists such as Rosalind Franklin and Dorothy Hodgkin. The debate about which individual should be celebrated in this manner has focused not only on the scientific achievements of the candidates, but also on what lessons we ought to take from their history. Who we choose to remember and celebrate tells us a great deal about our cultural values. Yet, these debates reveal little about why individuals who have not been celebrated in this kind of process have been forgotten by the annals of history. This talk illuminated this process of forgetting and the importance of remembering.
Dr. Phyllis Margaret Tookey Kerridge (1901-1940) was a chemist and physiologist who contributed significantly to inter-war science. Armed with an impressive list of postgraduate credentials—including a M.S., a Ph.D., and a M.D. from University College London—Kerridge earned a stellar reputation as a prominent scientist and renowned collaborator. Her work was influential in shaping new ideas about measuring the body, and she collaborated with scientists in the U.K., Denmark, India, and the United States on projects relating to deafness, artificial respiration, nutrition, and color blindness. Her research was characterized by use of precision medical tools for measuring and standardizing sensory phenomena and she particularly relied on measurement instruments to negotiate disputed measures of “invisible disabilities:” disabilities that are not (culturally) apparent unless medically framed. In this talk, we recover the life and works of Phyllis Kerridge to outline her scientific contributions while also recognizing the nuances of disability history and women’s history, focusing specifically on the relationship between power and instrumentation.
Contact: Coreen McGuire –
                 Jaipreet Virdi –

CHHS Research Seminar: Dr Arthur Rose

Members of the Centre for Health, Humanities and Science were joined by Dr Arthur Rose on 13/02/19 who spoke on ‘Transhistorical approaches to Breath in Literature’.

Rose noted that breathing is an autonomic function essential to life. As we attend to it, so its significance seems to magnify. But, when our breath does not demand our attention, we barely register it. It remains a background murmur to our lives, as we pursue other things. For this paper, he considered how returning to the breath, as a formal conceit, patterns a relationship between literature and the body. Since this relationship recurs as a point of concern for literary thinkers, from Chaucer to Rushdie, it serves, in turn, as the basis for a transhistorical comparison of breath’s meaning. Drawing on Reading Breath in Literature, a collection of essays he edited with Stefanie Heine, Peter Garratt, Naya Tsentourou and Corinne Saunders, Rose presented brief vignettes of his, and colleagues’, insights into breath as it appears in Chaucer, Shakespeare, Lee, Kerouac and Rushdie, before suggesting ways in which these several approaches might be useful for future work.

The book may be found here:

Contact: Arthur Rose –

CHHS research seminar: Dr Robert Chapman

We were joined by Dr Robert Chapman on 05/12/18, who gave a talk on ‘The Reality of Autism: Beyond the Biomedical Paradigm’.

Chapman noted that, typically, autism has been represented as a natural kind that can be usefully investigated by biomedical science. In recent years, however, problematic findings regarding the biological underpinnings of autism; historical research examining the shifting nature of the categorisation; and a lack of biomedical utility, has led some to suggest abandoning the concept of autism. Chapman’s interest here is the possibility that autism may remain a meaningful and helpful classification even if it lacks scientific validity and biomedical utility. He argued that we should understand autism in the context of a disabled minority that arises in a specific material and social context. The concept of autism thus has value for political and ethical, rather than biomedical, reasons. After arguing that accounts of autism as a natural kind are misguided, Chapman drew on feminist philosopher Iris Marion-Young’s distinction between groups and serial collectives in order to account for the reality of autism as a social category, best framed in terms of a social model of disability.
Contact: Robert Chapman  –