I am a lecturer in 19th-century British history at the University of St Andrews. I teach courses at honours level on ‘Charles Darwin and the politics of progress’, ‘The Victorians: Religion and respectability’ and ‘Print culture in Britain, 1750-1900’, as well as contributing to a number of sub-honours modules.
Before taking up my current post I was a research fellow at St Andrews, working on the natural philosophy strand of the ‘After the Enlightenment‘ project with the School of History. My main research interest is science in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Scotland. The principal focus of my work is currently the career of the natural philosopher and scientific author and editor David Brewster (1781–1868). Brewster’s life spanned the period from the end of the Scottish Enlightenment to the middle years of the Victorian age. His long life and varied career make him the ideal lens through which the view the profound changes in Scottish intellectual and scientific culture during this crucial period.
I’m the author of Evolution Before Darwin: Theories of the Transmutation of Species in Edinburgh, 1804–1834, published by Edinburgh University Press in October 2019. This book is based largely on the research for my PhD at the University of Edinburgh, which I completed back in 2015. Other published work has included articles on phrenology, the plurality of worlds debate in the early nineteenth century and the circulation of natural history specimens in the 1820s (for a complete list of my published work, see my publications page).
Before coming to St Andrews I was a teaching fellow and course coordinator for History of Science at the University of Edinburgh from 2016 to 2018. At the same time I also worked as a cultural engagement fellow on the Curious Edinburgh cultural engagement project, also at Edinburgh. This involved developing an app to create historical walking tours of the city. Working with a variety of partners the project produced a variety of tours exploring the rich cultural heritage of Edinburgh, focussing in particular on the history of science, medicine and technology. The project is still ongoing under the direction of Niki Vermeulen of Science, Technology and Innovation Studies, whose original idea it was, and new tours are added from time to time. To find out more, I’d recommend visiting the project website. I’ve recently secured funding from the St Andrews Knowledge Exchange and Impact Fund to develop a similar app to explore the history of St Andrews.