AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (PhD Studentship)

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Celestial Machines: 

Caroline Herschel, Astronomical Notebooks and the Material Culture of Predigital Communication Systems

AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership; PhD Studentship, three years, fees + living expenses

Durham University, Department of Philosophy, UK

Deadline: 1 April 2022

This PhD studentship is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and is a collaboration between Durham University Department of Philosophy and the Library of the Royal Society of London.  The successful candidate will write a PhD thesis that focuses on the scientific manuscripts of Caroline Herschel (1750-1848), one of the first women to publish articles in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society and to be a professional astronomer.  It will investigate how she used astronomical notebooks as paper machines; that is, as interactive information management devices that helped her interface with scientific instruments and various forms of predigital communications media. 

Rather than solely attributing the origins of Herschel’s data management devices to elite, and manifestly male, universities and scholarly societies, the project seeks to highlight how her methods originated from her own ingenuity, her early years as a musician, and her role as manager of the Herschel household.  It also examines the important role played by women in early scientific notekeeping as well as the influence of domestic science upon the rise of realtime technologies. In following this path, the project will extend our understanding of how Herschel played an essential role in developing the data management techniques that were used in the manuscript world of astronomy and celestial mechanics during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The successful candidate will be based Durham University Department of Philosophy and spend time researching in the Library of the Royal Society of London.  Further information about the funds provided by the AHRC CPD PhD award click here.

Applications will start to be reviewed on 1 April 2022.

If you have questions, please contact Prof Matthew Daniel Eddy (m.d.eddy@durham.ac.uk).