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Why we write

History of science

Event video


18:00 - 19:00


The Royal Society, London, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG


Page from Charles Blagden’s diary, volume 3, 1794-1802

In any kind of writing, whether by scientists or novelists, there are decisions to be made about how to represent the world. Should the author show readers the world, describing its features so they might draw their own conclusions? Or should the author guide readers to the points of interest, telling them what they should see?

While it might seem that science is firmly in the telling camp and literature in the showing camp, scientific diaries and autobiographies seem to be spaces in which scientists have decided to show rather than tell. 

To explore how scientists write and why they write, we’ve invited a novelist and scientist, Professor Sunetra Gupta (University of Oxford), to share her experiences of writing in different ways and for different reasons. We then turn to a panel of historians of science, to ask them why some notable scientists of the last three centuries (Boyle, Hooke, Petiver, Banks, Solander, Blagden and Tyndall) kept a diary and how they went about it.

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Constructing scientific communities logo

In association with the Constructing Scientific Communities project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

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Why we write The Royal Society, London 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK