We’re delighted to introduce the 15 Early Career Researchers who have been selected to present their cutting edge research at the AHRC Science in Culture Theme Ignite event on 26th March 2014. The event will be held at the Natural History Museum and limited tickets are still available.

The fourteenth Science in Culture Theme Ignite Speaker is:

Ignite speaker image WoloshynDR TANIA WOLOSHYN, University of Warwick, ‘Eating Sunshine: Consuming and Selling Light Therapies c. 1900- 1940′

In the spirit of Ignite can you describe your topic in 140 characters?

I look at the British history of light therapy, c.1890-1940, through images and objects, offering a fresh perspective on a complicated past.

What would you like people to take away from your Ignite talk?

I’d like the audience to reconsider the popular belief that we are instinctively drawn to sunshine and sunny locations – that we have a ‘natural’ connection with the sun. By looking at images and objects of the past, specifically advertisements for ultraviolet health lamps offering ‘sunshine on tap,’ I propose instead that this belief has a history, one deeply-rooted within early 20th-century therapeutic practices revolving around the desire to consume radiation. Light therapy is still very much in practice, albeit in modified form, and the tanning bed industry continues to flourish as much as the tourism industry does. Why should this be so when we are bombarded with warnings about ultraviolet light’s carcinogenic properties? I think the past can help us understand this current conundrum.

How did you get involved in interdisciplinary research across Sciences and Arts and Humanities?

My interest in the visual culture of medicine began during my MA in Canada, whilst studying the late paintings of Pierre-Auguste Renoir (who famously suffered from rheumatoid arthritis). This interest developed further during my PhD, undertaken in the UK. My dissertation explored the work of modern artists, especially the Neo-Impressionists, on the Côte d’Azur – a landscape famously visited as a site of health and tourism. I became increasingly fascinated with 19th-century representations of climate therapy and sun therapy: how does one visualise a ‘healthy’ landscape, what does that look like?

My first Postdoctoral fellowship explored the earliest developments of natural sun therapy (heliotherapy) on the Côte d’Azur, primarily through photographs and medical dissertations. My current, second Postdoctoral fellowship, funded by the Wellcome Trust and held at the University of Warwick, is British-focused and includes both natural and artificial (phototherapy) light therapy over a broader period (extending into the 1940s). More and more my research concentrates on medical photographs and illustrations, past and present

Tell us a bit about your academic background.

My BA (Carleton University), MA (Queen’s University), PhD (University of Nottingham), and first Postdoctoral Fellowship (SSHRC, McGill University) are all in Art History. I am now based in the Centre for the History of Medicine at the University of Warwick, where I have the delightful advantage of being an interdisciplinary art historian surrounded by medical historians! Indeed crossing these disciplinary boundaries is a necessity to do my research, and in practice I have become a scholar within the exciting and growing field of the Medical Humanities.

A film of Dr Tania Woloshyn’s presentation at the AHRC Science in Culture Theme Ignite event is available here.