Dr James SumnerPhD

Lecturer in the History of Technology

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Overview

Imagine it is 1762, and you are a brewer. Another brewer offers to sell you a book he has just published, describing improvements to the brewing process. What are you thinking? Perhaps you are impressed that he has written a book. Perhaps, though, you are suspicious. If his improvements work, why doesn’t he keep quiet and use them to get rich? And even supposing his improvements have worked for him: can you copy them successfully with only the book for guidance? Now imagine a chemist invites you to a lecture course. Like the brewer, he claims to have knowledge that will improve your brewing; to stop too many rival brewers getting hold of it, he charges very large fees. You ask him how he can understand the brewing process, not being a brewer. He replies that the lessons of chemistry are universal, and include ideas no brewer would ever think of. Do you believe him? These questions of credibility were at the heart of interaction between trade communities and the emerging professional sciences. My research looks at the various strategies used by both brewers and scientists to overcome them and create, by around 1880, a specialist discipline of "brewing science."

Biography

1995-8
BA Hons Natural Sciences (History and Philosophy of Science), University of Cambridge

1999-2000
MA History and Philosophy of Science, University of Leeds

2000-4
PhD, Division of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Leeds. Supervisor Dr Graeme Gooday. Title "The Metric Tun: standardisation, quantification and industrialisation in the British brewing industry, 1760-1830"

2004-present
Lecturer in History of Technology, Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of Manchester

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