UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies is an interdisciplinary centre for the integrated study of science's history, philosophy, sociology, communication and policy, located in the heart of London. Founded in 1921. Award winning for teaching and research, plus for our public engagement programme. Rated as outstanding by students at every level.

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Bultitude Communicating Science to the Public

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Werrett, Simon

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Lecturer in History and Philosophy of Science


Simon Werrett taught history and philosophy of science at the University of Washington in Seattle for more than a decade. His first book was published by the University of Chicago Press in May 2010, on the history of fireworks, and he currently is researching projects on the history of sustainable science and the chemistry of explosives in the nineteenth century.

2012-13 teaching

HPSC1001 History of Science: Antiquity to Enlightenment (video | Moodle)

HPSC3022 Science, Politics, and the State in Russia and the Soviet Union (link)


selected bibliography

'Watching the Fireworks: Early Modern Observation of Natural and Artificial Spectacles,' Science in Context, Special Issue: Lay Participation in the History of Scientific Observation, ed. Jeremy Vetter, Vol. 24, no. 2 (2011): 167-182.

'Technology on Display: Instruments and Identities on Russian Voyages of Exploration,' Russian ReviewVol. 70, no. 2 (July 2011): 380-396.

'The Schumacher Affair: Reconfiguring Academic Expertise Across Dynasties in Eigheenth-century Russia,' Osiris, vol. 25: Expertise and the Early Modern State, ed. Eric Ash (2010), pp. 104-125.

Fireworks: Pyrotechnic Arts and Sciences in European History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010.

‘The Astronomical Capital of the World: Pulkovo Observatory in the Russia of Tsar Nicholas I,’ in The Heavens on Earth: Observatory Techniques in Nineteenth-century Science, Charlotte Bigg, Otto Sibum, and David Aubin, eds. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010.

‘Enlightenment in Russian Hands: The Inventions and Identity of Ivan Kulibin in Eighteenth-Century St. Petersburg,’ History of Technology, vol. 29 (2009).

‘William Congreve’s Rational Rockets,’ Notes & Records of the Royal Society, vol. 63 (2009).

‘Sparks of Life,’ Cabinet, vol. 32 (2009).

‘The Panopticon in the Garden: Samuel Bentham’s Inspection House and Noble Theatricality in Eighteenth-Century Russia,’ Ab Imperio, No. 3 (Nov 2008).

‘The Techniques of Innovation: Historical Configurations of Art, Science, and Invention, from Galileo to GPS,’ in   Artists as Inventors: Inventors as Artists, eds. Dieter Daniels, Barbara U. Schmidt. Stuttgart: Hatje Cantz, 2008.

‘Explosive Affinities: Pyrotechny, Knowledge, and the Sciences in Early Modern Europe,’ in   Making Knowledge in Early Modern Europe: Practices, Objects, and Texts, 1400 – 1800, Benjamin Schmidt and Pamela Smith, eds. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

‘The Finest Fireworks in the World’: Chinese Pyrotechnics in Early Modern Europe,’ in   Variantology 3: On Deep Time Relations of Arts, Sciences and Technologies in China and Elsewhere, eds. Siegfried Zielinski, Eckhard Fuerlus. Cologne: Walther Koenig, 2008.

‘Making Fire Work: Pyrotechnics and Natural Philosophy,’   Endeavour, vol. 32, no. 1 (2008).

‘From the Grand Whim to the Gasworks: Philosophical Fireworks in Georgian England,’ in Peter Dear, Lissa Roberts, and Simon Schaffer, eds.,   The Mindful Hand: Inquiry and Invention from the Late Renaissance to Early Industrialisation. Amsterdam and Chicago: Edita; University of Chicago Press, 2007.

‘Transit and Transition: Astronomy, Topography, and Politics in Russian Expeditions to View the Transit of Venus in 1874,’   Cahiers François Viète, vol. 11-12 (2007).

'Russian Responses to the Voyages of Captain Cook' in   Captain Cook: Explorations and Reassessments, Glyn Williams, ed. New York: Boydell & Brewer Press, November 2004.

‘Wonders Never Cease: Descartes' Meteores and the Rainbow Fountain,’ British Journal for the History of Science, vol. 34 (June 2001).

'Das Feuer und die Höfe der Spätrenaissance' in   Feuer, Bernd Busch, ed. Bonn: Kunst- und Austellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 2001.

‘Healing the Nation's Wounds: Royal Ritual and Experimental Philosophy in Restoration England,’ History of Science , vol. 38 (December 2000).

current research

Remaking Natural Knowledge: Recycling in the History of Science and Medicine

Recycling has played an important role in post-war environmentalism, yet practices of salvage, re-use, and recovery have a long history. This project seeks to recover the history of recycling and to assess its significance in the history of the sciences and medicine. Exploring sites such as chemical laboratories, coffee-house auctions, flea markets and dust heaps, I examine the changing historical relationship between recycling, science and medicine from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries. I ask how different and often competing cultures of recycling, taking in various practices of thrift, repair, re-use, and recovery, have helped to shape scientific and medical ideas, techniques and instruments in this period.

Page last modified on 06 nov 12 17:37 by Simon Werrett

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