My interests span the history, ethics, and policy of science and technology. Formerly a bioscientist, a science teacher, and education adviser to ICI (the international chemical company), I became Head of the Science Museum in London and then Chief Executive of the British Science Association, and Executive Chair of Sciencewise.
I am now a Visiting Fellow at the Royal Institution and an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at University College London, where I concentrate on the history of nineteenth-century science. I am a general editor of the correspondence of John Tyndall, being published in 20 volumes by the University of Pittsburgh Press.
The Ascent of John Tyndall, my biography of this outstanding nineteenth-century physicist, mountaineer, and public intellectual, was published by OUP on 22 March 2018 in hardback and in 2020 in paperback.
The Poetry of John Tyndall, with Nicola Jackson and Daniel Brown, was published in 2020 by UCL Press.
My new book, Scientific Advice to the Nineteenth-Century British State, was published in November 2023 by the University of Pittsburgh Press.
It is accompanied by Case Studies in Scientific Advice to the Nineteenth-Century British State, containing 31 case studies, ranging from vaccination to public works, that could not find a place in the main book.
In a different vein, I have published my grandmother Ankaret Howard's two unpublished novels, The Miner and the Flockmaster and 'Pawn to Queen's Fourth'. The Miner and the Flockmaster is a tale of politics, class, and torrid relationships, written and set in the time and landscape of 1930s Cumberland, with its coal-mining and agricultural communities. 'Pawn to Queen's Fourth' is a story set in Cumberland and London, of an immoral ex-solicitor who changes identity and becomes involved in an illegal diamond trade, committing a variety of crimes in the process. At the same time, he becomes involved in defending a client in a notorious case, among civil unrest between the Jewish community and the vigilantes of the Citizen Army in 1930s Britain.
For other publications see Papers.
Beyond the history of science, my focus in the twenty-first century is on public dialogue to inform policy-making across Government on issues involving science and technology, through Sciencewise.
Some previous roles include:
2013-2019 Council member, Nuffield Council on Bioethics
2012-2016 Executive Chair, Sciencewise
2014-2016 Management Board, Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst
2008-2014 Science in Society Panel, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (Chair 2011-2014)
2009-2010 Chair, ‘Science for All’ Expert Group for Dept for Innovation, Universities and Skills
2004-2008 Director of SETNET (Science, Engineering and Technology Network)
2002-2009 Board of ECSITE-UK (the interactive science centre network)
1998-2002 Information and Public Access Committee for the National Museum Directors' Conference
1989-1993 CBI Education Policy Panel
1989-1991 Royal Society ad hoc Committee on Post-16 Science (which produced the report 'Beyond GCSE')