Jour fixe: Funding Programme Winners

Jour fixe talks on 4 February 2020 by Michael Smith and Moritz von Brescius

Michael Smith (Biology / Associated Fellow) explained "How honey bees move within their nest".

Moritz von Brescius (History and Sociology / former Associated Fellow) reported on "Anticipations and Disruptions of the First Synthetic Age: Rubber, Science and Resources, c.1839–1945".

This project examines the contested beginnings of the current age of synthetics through an exploration of the interconnected histories of natural and synthetic rubber between 1839 and 1945. By proposing a new framework for writing resource histories, it asks how synthetic surrogates of natural materials and later entirely unknown polymers found acceptance with contemporaries and were subsequently integrated into every-day life applications since the 19th century in rapidly increasing quantities. The project also probes for the first time the strong cultural, economic and even medical resistance to the spread of synthetics in industrial societies. What makes this project unique and highly relevant hopefully for various disciplines is that it argues that the disruptions of synthetic chemistry were both material and intellectual, profoundly affecting and transforming modern resource regimes but also contemporary understandings of the shifting ‘nature–culture’ divide. It seeks to prove that natural rubber, with its uncanny properties that both fascinated and disgusted contemporaries, was a key bridging material with the world of synthetics. Its unique properties helped consumers accept ever more blurred boundaries between the natural and the fabricated – thus paving the way for the efflorescence of synthetic materials that pervade the modern world.