Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Author talks at the Wellcome Collection


How exciting! The Wellcome Collection is starting a programme of author-led evenings, with writers coming to the Library to discuss their work. Both events are free, although booking in advance is advised to secure a place.

The first event on Thursday 23 April, 19.00-20.30 will feature Philip Hoare. In his 2001 book 'Spike Island', Philip Hoare drew on the resources of the Wellcome Library as part of his attempt to reclaim the memory of a vast Victorian military hospital at Netley (pictured above), on the shores of Southampton Water, close to where he grew up. In this lecture, Hoare will use archive images and film to re-imagine Netley's history through its ruins, and the disparate and sometimes surprising company of men and women who worked or visited there: from Queen Victoria and Florence Nightingale to Almroth Wright, Wilfred Owen, Noel Coward and RD Laing. Details of the event, and how to book a free ticket, here.

The second will feature Mike Jay discussing his new work on Thomas Beddoes, 'The Atmosphere of Heaven'. on Thursday 21 May, 19.00-20.30. At the Pneumatic Institution in Bristol, founded in the closing years of the eighteenth century, dramatic experiments with gases precipitated a revolution not only in scientific medicine but also in the modern mind. Propelled by the energy of maverick doctor Thomas Beddoes, the Institution was both laboratory and hospital - the first example of a medical research institution. But when its researchers discovered the mind-altering properties of nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, their experiments devolved into a pioneering exploration of consciousness, with far-reaching and unforeseen effects. Beddoes' papers were destroyed around the time of his death. Jay's latest work has drawn heavily on the remaining sources the Wellcome Library holds, including the journal Hygeia, and the 'Manual of Health' textbook to tell the story of Beddoes and the brilliant circle who surrounded him. The event will discuss the chaotic rise and fall of the Institution, and reveals for the first time its crucial influence - on modern drug culture, attitudes toward objective and subjective knowledge, the development of anaesthetic surgery, and the birth of the Romantic movement. Details here.

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