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 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Jaipreet Virdi – email@example.com