XXXIX Scientific Instrument Symposium

14-19 September 2020
London, UK

Symposium theme: Spaces for Instruments

The ‘spatial turn’ in history of science and historical geography has seen fruitful exploration of the situatedness of knowledge production and practice. Instrument historians have paid close attention to how instruments have been made, used and understood in a variety of spaces.

This year’s theme reflects some current interests of our host institutions. The Science Museum’s new Science City 1550-1800 gallery explores how scientific instrument making and experimental practice shaped, and were shaped by, the growing city of London. The forthcoming Royal Museums Greenwich Royal Observatory 350 project will explore the legacy of one of the most iconic sites in instrument history. Museums are also in their own right significant spaces for the preservation, study and public interpretation of scientific instruments.

The theme also builds on excellent discussions at recent SIC Symposia which have explored instruments at the crossroads, infrastructure, global/local and east/west narratives.

We welcome proposals for 20-minute papers that address this theme.

Topics to explore could include, but are not limited to:

  • Case studies of particular spaces of practice, including laboratories, observatories, workshops and factories, teaching spaces, instruments in the field

  • Instruments crossing between spaces during their lives (from manufacture, to different uses, to obsolescence)

  • The uses and roles of instruments in contested spaces and encounters, including perspectives on colonialism and conflict

  • Instruments in public and popular spaces, including how such spaces feature instruments today

  • Instruments in religious and secular spaces

  • The role of instruments in crossing intellectual spaces

As always, we will also welcome proposals for sessions, papers or posters on any topic dealing with the material culture of science.

Abstracts should be submitted by 29 February 2019.
Please send your abstracts using the SIC abstract template.

Abstracts should be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with the subject heading Scientific Instrument Symposium – Submission.

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