Melanie Keene

Fellow, Graduate Tutor and Director of Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Contact number: 
(+44)1223 747302
Contact email address:
Year Joined Homerton: 
Research Interests: 

History of science; history of education; history of childhood; science for children; science and literature; material culture; science and music. I am currently working on science in juvenile periodicals; on elementary medical education and children’s bodies; and on Noah’s Ark in Victorian culture. I am also compiling a brief booklet exploring the history of science teaching at Homerton.

Teaching And Professional Interests: 

I supervise for Part IB of the Natural Sciences Tripos on the History and Philosophy of Science course, and lecture and supervise for Part I and Part II of the Education Tripos on history of education topics.

From 2009-2014 I was the editor of Viewpoint, the magazine of the British Society for the History of Science, and from 2006-2015 part of their Outreach and Education Committee. Work with this committee included developing projects on Georgian astronomy, Amazonian travels, and object autobiography; judging the Dingle Prize, Great Exhibitions Prize, and Ayrton Prize; and performing in role-play dramas about seventeenth-century plague, body-snatching in Liverpool, and the Victorian séance (with the BSHS Strolling Players). More recently I have been involved with recreations of a scientific conversazione and Victorian magic lantern shows. I am currently on the History of Science Section of the British Science Association.


Science in Wonderland: the scientific fairy tales of Victorian Britain (Oxford University Press, 2015).

‘Dinosaurs Don’t Die: the Crystal Palace monsters in children’s literature, 1854-2001’, in Kate Nichols and Sarah Victoria Turner (eds.), After 1851: The material and visual cultures of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham (forthcoming from Manchester University Press, 2017).

'Familiar science in nineteenth-century Britain', History of Science 52 (2014), 53-71.

'An active nature: Robert Hunt and the genres of science-writing', in Ben Marsden, Hazel Hutchison, Ralph O'Connor (eds.), Uncommon contexts: encounters between science and literature, 1800-1914 (Pickering & Chatto, 2013).

'From candles to cabinets: "familiar chemistry" in early Victorian Britain', Ambix 60 (February 2013), 54-77.

‘Playing among the stars: Science in Sport, or the Pleasures of Astronomy (1804)’, History of Education: Sources and Interpretations 40 (July 2011), 521-542.

‘“Every Boy & Girl a Scientist”: Instruments for Children in Interwar Britain’, Isis 98 (2007), 266-289.

Selected Journalism & Media:

Contributor to ‘Dinosaurs’, part of BBC Radio Four series on Natural Histories, 2015.

Contributor to ‘I is for Iggy the Iguanodon’, part of University of Cambridge Animal Alphabet, 2015.

Science for the People interview about Science in Wonderland, and accompanying web article.

Cosmic Genome interview about Science in Wonderland

Science in Wonderland at the Page 99 Test blog.

‘Cinderella Science’, and ‘Alice down the microscope’, Oxford University Press blog.

'Fairylands of science', Nature (19th December 2013), 374-5.

'The Victorian-era Fairy Science Books - "Making Science Instructive and Amusing"', recorded at the Chemical Heritage Foundation, Philadelphia, July 2012.

‘Once upon a time...’, New Scientist (25th December 2010-1st January 2011), 40-42.

‘The Science of Common Things’, Royal Society, October 2009.

Selected Book Reviews:

Donald L. Opitz, Staffan Bergwik and Brigitte Van Tiggelen, (eds.), Domesticity in the Making of Modern Science, forthcoming in British Journal for the History of Science.

Sally Gregory Kohlstedt, Teaching Children Science: Hands-On Nature Study in North America, 1890-1920, Metascience 21 (2012), 497-499.

Sally Shuttleworth, The Mind of the Child: Child Development in Literature, Science and Medicine, 1840-1900, BSLS book reviews website (January 2011).

Peter Bowler, Science for All: Popular Science in Early Twentieth-Century Britain, Centaurus 42 (2010), 355-356.

Selected Recent Talks:

‘Histories of the sciences for children: past, present, and future’, ‘Science in Public: past, present, future’ conference, Kent, July 2016.

‘Noah’s ark-æology and nineteenth-century children’, keynote speaker at ‘Packaging the Past for Children, c. 1750-1914’ conference, Durham, July 2016.

‘Life after death: geological resurrection and extinction in Victorian children’s books’, ‘Horrible Histories? Children’s Lives in Historical Contexts’, inaugural conference of the Children’s History Society, London, June 2016.

‘Quadruped. Graminivorous. Equine facts in Victorian children’s literature’, ‘Pony Tales: Writing the equine’ conference, Cambridge, May 2016.

‘Begin with the girls: narratives of science and education in juvenile periodicals, ca. 1860-1910’, Departmental Seminar, Centre for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, Manchester, April 2016.

‘The elephant in the room: presence, practice, and pachyderms in Victorian education’, History of Science Society Annual Conference, San Francisco, November 2015.

‘Alice’s Adventures Under Glass: microscopic practice, science education and travel writing in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries’, ‘Alice Through the Ages’ conference, Cambridge, September 2015.

‘Heads, shoulders, knees, and toes: embodied anatomy for children in the nineteenth century’, British Society for the History of Science Annual Conference, Swansea, July 2015.