UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies


Werrett, Simon

Senior Lecturer in History and Philosophy of Science

Dr Simon Werrett, UCL Science and Technology Studies

Contact details

email: s.werrett@ucl.ac.uk

tel: 0207 679 3261


Simon Werrett (MPhil PhD (Cantab.)) joined the UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies in 2012 after ten years teaching and research in the Department of History at the University of Washington, Seattle. He has been the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, including visiting positions at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, and the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in Munich. In UCL, Simon has been the Director of Research in the STS Department since 2012.


Werrett’s research focus on the history of the physical sciences in Britain, France, and Russia in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with an emphasis on the circulation of knowledge and material culture across different regions and different cultural domains. His first book explored exchanges between the art of fireworks and natural philosophy in Britain, France, and Russia in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He is currently writing a book on “Thrifty Science”, the ways domestic practices of recycling, repair, and care for materials shaped experimental philosophy in early modern England. He has also published on British and Russian exploration and empire.

Dr. Werrett is also a co-ordinator of the AHRC-funded Network Project “Joseph Banks and the Remaking of the Indo-Pacific World”. For more information on this network, please visit the homepage at:


Main publications


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

Recent articles

“Matter and Facts: Material Culture in the History of Science,” in Material Evidence: Learning from Archaeological Practice, eds. Robert Chapman and Alison Wylie (New York: Routledge, 2014), 339-352.

Ambix: “Green is the Colour: St. Petersburg’s Chemical Laboratories and Competing Visions of Chemistry in the Eighteenth Century.” Vol. 60 No. 2 (May 2013): 122–138.

British Journal for the History of Science: “Recycling in Early Modern Science” Published online, August 2012. Print copy: BJHS vol. 46, part IV. no. 161 (December 2013): 627-646.

Technology and Culture: “Technology on the Spot: Congreve and Parlby Rockets in India, 1815-1830.” July 2012 (vol. 53, no. 3), 598-624.

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

Russian Review: “Technology on Display: Instruments and Identities on Russian Voyages of Exploration”. Vol. 70, no. 2 (July 2011): 380-396.

Osiris: “The Schumacher Affair: Reconfiguring Academic Expertise Across Dynasties in Eighteenth-Century Russia” Vol. 25: Expertise and the Early Modern State, ed. Eric Ash (Chicago, 2010): 104-125.

Recent essays

The Conversation “A History of Fireworks” <http://theconversation.com>

Study Group on Eighteenth-Century Russia Newsletter: New Series vol. 2 (2014) “Science on display in eighteenth-century Russia.” <http://www.sgecr.co.uk/newsletter2014.html>

Public Domain Review Essay: “Picturing Pyrotechnics,” <http://publicdomainreview.org/>

Viewpoint: the Newsletter of the British Society for the History of Science Short essay: “Full Colour Fireworks” issue no. 102 (November 2013): 4-5. <http://www.bshs.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/102-Werrett-Fireworks.pdf>

External activities

  • I served on the Joan Cahalin Robinson Prize Committee of the Society for the History of Technology, in 2010.
  • I served on the Nominating Committee of the History of Science Society in 2012.
  • Since 2013 I have been the Honorary Secretary of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry.
  • I am a member of the steering committee and an organizer of the international project “Situating Chemistry, 1760-1840”, headed by Lissa Roberts (Twente) and John Perkins (Oxford) exploring the locations of chemical practice in the age of the chemical revolution.
  • I serve on the editorial boards of Endeavour (2008-) and Notes and Records of the Royal Society (2013-).

Teaching at UCL

  • HPSC1001 History of Science: Antiquity to Enlightenment
  • HPSC2026 Science and Empire
  • HPSC3040 Science and Politics in Russia and the Soviet Union
  • HPSCGA22 Early Modern Science (MSc course)
  • HPSCGA01 Introductory course for the MSc in Science and Technology Studies
  • HPSC3004/3026 Undergraduate Dissertation

Research students

I would like to hear from students interested in researching:

  • history of science and technology, particularly in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
  • science, exploration, and empire
  • history of Russian and Soviet science and technology

Dr Simon Werrett

Dr Simon Werrett


22 Gordon Square, room 1.2
UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies
Gower Street


  • Senior Lecturer
    Dept of Science & Technology Studies
    Faculty of Maths & Physical Sciences

Joined UCL


Werrett's work explores interactions between the arts and the sciences in the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. His first monograph Fireworks: Pyrotechnic Arts and Sciences in European History (University of Chicago Press, 2010) examined exchanges of skills and techniques between early modern pyrotechnists and natural philosophers in Britain, France and Russia. Werrett’s current research explores the history of recycling in science and medicine, incorporating practices of material re-use, adaptation, repair and exchange. This project examines recycling in Britain and North America between the seventeenth century and the present, and contributes to a broader interest in relations of science to sustainability. Werrett also has a longstanding interest in Russian and Soviet sciences and has published numerous articles on this topic. He has also published articles on science, technology, and empire, including articles on Captain Cook, Russian voyages of exploration, and the development of the Congreve war rocket in India and Great Britain in the nineteenth century.

Award year Qualification Institution
2000 PhD
Doctor of Philosophy
History of Science
University of Cambridge
1996 M.Phil
Master of Philosophy
History of Science
University of Cambridge
1994 BA Hons
Bachelor of Arts (Honours)
History of Science
University of Leeds

Simon Werrett trained in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science in Cambridge University before taking postdoctoral fellowships at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin and the Getty Research Center in Los Angeles. From 2002 he was a member of the Department of History at the University of Washington, Seattle, before joining UCL in 2012.