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 thirteenth Science in Culture Theme Ignite Speaker is:

VICTORIA PICKERING, Queen Mary, University of London, ‘Knowledge and Expertise in Exploring Sir Hans Sloanes’s Vegetable Substances’

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

‘Vegetable Substances’: originally, 12,523 botanical items belonging to Sir Hans Sloane gathered from around the world during the eighteenth century.

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

That a historian can be based in a School of Geography, be in collaboration with a science museum, and work with a material collection to study something that has otherwise been intellectually overlooked. Also, that you don’t have to be an expert in a particular scientific field to explore such a collection because it is the collaboration between science and the humanities that allows relevant and often surprising knowledge and expertise to be transferred between contributors.

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

My interest in the eighteenth century from a history of science and medicine perspective developed during my masters and guided me towards this project involving Sir Hans Sloane’s ‘Vegetable Substances’. I had never worked with a material collection before but was instantly engaged with this vast amount of material held at the NHM. On meeting the contributors involved in this project at the NHM, several items from Sloane’s collection had been arranged and put on display and I instantly had so many questions. This was both inspiring and exciting. In undertaking this AHRC funded project, I’ve become involved with inter-disciplinary research across history, geography, material culture, botany and medicine and because the contents of this collection are so vast, I think this list will continue to grow.

Tell us a bit about your academic background.

I completed my BA (Hons) in History at the University of Birmingham where I had written an undergraduate dissertation on the history of medicine, more specifically, children’s nursing. I enjoyed it so much that it propelled me forward into a MSc in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology at Oxford University. During this year I focused more and more on the eighteenth century, particularly in relation to disease and medicine in the Americas. I read about Sloane mostly because of his voyage to Jamaica between 1687 and 1688 and the links from this to the slave trade. From here I started to realise just how vast Sloane’s collections were and how rich they could be for studying the history of science and medicine during the first half of the eighteenth century.

A film of Victoria Pickering’s presentation at the AHRC Science in Culture Theme Ignite event is available here.