Innovative Bradford: Victorian science at the cutting edge

Saturday 10th September, 10am-12noon

E59 Lecture Theatre: Richmond Building

Free event, but you need to book

Victorian Bradford was both a vibrant industrial city and a centre of scientific creativity. This session explores Bradford’s key contributions to the diagnosis and treatment of anthrax, to innovative uses of X-rays, and to knowledge about past ice-ages.

Jamie Stark (Centre for History & Philosophy of Science,  University of Leeds and Thackray Medical Museum)

Identifying Anthrax: cutting edge medical research in Bradford, 1850-1920

Death in the woolpack

Death in the woolpack, from "The Yorkshireman'. A mysterious hooded figure rises from bales of wool to strike down the innocent sorter. The spectre is flanked by his two shadowy accomplices - "poison" and "fever".

For most of us, the word “anthrax” conjures up ideas of biological warfare, terrorism, and a killer white powder which can be sent through the mail. However, anthrax is in fact one of the oldest diseases on the planet, affecting both humans and animals. During the nineteenth century wool was imported to Bradford from regions where anthrax occurred naturally, and this lethal, previously unknown, disease sprang up in the factories of West Yorkshire. It was so closely associated with Bradford that the French called it la maladie de Bradford. Physicians were puzzled as to what caused this rapidly fatal illness, but the woolworkers themselves were not: they pointed universally to something deadly lurking in the bales of wool, which emitted “a stench like the grave” when opened. This talk tells the story of anthrax in Bradford, where some of the most important research was carried out into a fearful disease.

A painting of anthrax by F.W. Eurich

F.W. Eurich, anthrax painting c1910 - showing the "classical" appearance of anthrax on the skin

Dr Annie Jamieson (Learner Development Unit, University of Bradford; Visiting Research Fellow, Centre for the History and Philosophy of Science, University of Leeds)

X-rayted: New Photographies in Victorian Bradford

Victorian Bradford was a very modern, forward-thinking city, keen to absorb the latest scientific and technological developments. As a local newspaper of the time put it: ““We are used to Bradford leading the way.” This was as true in photography as in other fields. This talk will describe developments in and around Bradford in two kinds of ‘new photography’ – cinematography and the X-rays. We will see that some of the leading technological developments in early cinematography took place in the city, including the invention of the first combined camera, printer and projector – Richard Appleton’s cieroscope. We will also look at public demonstrations of the mysterious new X-rays in Bradford, in 1896, and see that both individuals and commercial companies played important roles in the development of this revolutionary technology.

During her talk, Annie showed two early cinema clips, both available from the Yorkshire Film Archive. Bradford Town Hall Square, 1896 and Queen Victoria Visits Sheffield, 1897.

Jack Morrell (Visiting Lecturer, Centre for the History and Philosophy of Science, University of Leeds (and formerly, University of Bradford, Department of History – retired)

Late Victorian Glacialists in the Bradford Area

Views of past ice ages underwent a major change in the late Victorian period. While geologists accepted that glaciers had once covered mountainous areas of Britain, few believed that ice had spread extensively to lowland areas. That radically new view was proposed by a group known as the glacialists. In the late 1890s three such glacialists from Bradford, A.Jowett H.B Maufe, and J.E. Wilson realised the significance of the unusual high-level valleys in the Bradford area. They interpreted these valleys as relics of  ice-age overflow channels for water escaping from lakes dammed by ice in the Aire Valley.  From the heights of those channels they inferred that the ice must have spread across that valley and into adjacent lowland areas, leaving the Bradford basin as the lowest lake. In this paper I examine the important findings that that they presented to the British Association for the Advancement of Science at its 1900 meeting in Bradford.

Participants at Innovative Bradford session

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