skip to primary navigationskip to content

Joshua Nall

Curator of Modern Sciences, Whipple Museum of the History of Science

Joshua Nall joined the Whipple Museum in 2013, having previously completed his MPhil and PhD in Cambridge HPS. His research focuses on mass media and material culture of the physical sciences after 1800. He has curated a variety of exhibitions and displays, including on globes, science and industry in Cambridge, and most recently, the most curious and controversial objects lurking in the Whipple Museum's stores.

In 2017 he was the lead curator on the Whipple Museum's special exhibition Astronomy and Empire, which critically addressed the practices and uses of the astronomical and navigational sciences in the British Empire from Cook's voyages in the late 18th century through to its breakup in the 1950s.

Nall's book, News from Mars: Mass Media and the Forging of a New Astronomy, 1860–1910, will be published by University of Pittsburgh Press in autumn 2019. It analyses the varied and often close relationships forged between astronomers and new forms of transatlantic mass media in the fin de siècle. Its focus is the era's most public astronomical debate, over whether or not there was evidence of life on Mars. With Boris Jardine he is also currently editing a primary source volume, Victorian Material Culture: Science and Medicine, to be published by Routledge.

Research interests

Scientific instruments and models; forgery in the instrument trade; history of astrophysics; history of astrobiology and ET life debates; popular science; Victorian scientific journalism; material culture; museums, exhibitions, and expositions in the 19th and 20th century.

Selected publications

'"Certainly Made by Ramsden”: The Long History of the Whipple Museum’s Dividing Engine’, Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society, No. 137 (June 2018): 40–43.

'Constructing Canals on Mars: Event Astronomy and the Transmission of International Telegraphic News', Isis, Vol. 108 (no. 2, June 2017): 280-306.

'More Than Mensing? Revisiting the Question of Fake Scientific Instruments', with Boris Jardine and James Hyslop, Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society, No. 132 (March 2017): 22–29.

'Three-Dimensional Models', with Liba Taub, A Companion to the History of Science, edited by Bernard Lightman (Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2016): 572–586.

'Selling by the book: British scientific trade literature after 1800', with Liba Taub, How Scientific Instruments Have Changed Hands, edited by A.D. Morrison-Low, Sara J. Schechner and Paolo Brenni (Leiden: Brill, 2016): 21–42.

The Dyson Perrins Laboratory and Oxford Organic Chemistry, 1916–2004, with Rachel Curtis, Catherine Leith and John Jones (Oxford: John Jones, 2008).

The Whipple Museum holds an internationally important collection of scientific instruments and models, dating from the Middle Ages to the present.