Science and the Victorian Séance

Homerton fellow Melanie Keene was one of 1758 delegates at the largest ever meeting of historians of science, the 24th International Congress of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine (iCHSTM), which recently took place in Manchester from 21st-28th July 2013.

Alongside the iCHSTM academic programme, in which she presented her research on ‘the familiar solar system’, she was also involved in running public events which brought the history of Victorian science to new audiences.

The Tables Turned, an interactive drama, was performed at the Portico Library on Friday 26th July. Developed by Sabine Clarke (University of York) and members of the British Society for the History of Science, the event uses film, costumed characters and role-play participation. Focussing on investigations Victorian men of science actually made into the contemporary craze for holding spiritualistic séances, it invites audience-members to consider a series of questions, including: How are facts and observations made in science? Are there things about the world the sciences will never be able to explain? Should men of science be public authorities on all subjects? From the lively conversations both during and after the event, it appears that debates over the role and remit of the sciences are still very much alive today.