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Lost in History - Adriano Shaplin in conversation with Simon Schaffer

Adriano and Simon will recount how Hooke and Boyle played a key part in the emergence of modern science.

Arranged in collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company

The Tragedy of Thomas Hobbes written by award-winning playwright Adriano Shaplin brings vividly to life a period of history which saw the emergence of what we today understand as modern science. This newfound passion for understanding the world around us through experiment and demonstration brought people we would now recognise as scientists to the public attention and crystallised in the establishment of the Royal Society in 1660.

Adriano Shaplin and Simon Schaffer, Professor of History at the University of Cambridge and co-author of Leviathan and the air pump: Hobbes, Boyle and the experimental life, will discuss the germination of the play and expand on how it reflects the history of the period. Adriano and Simon will recount the major struggle between men such as Robert Hooke and Robert Boyle who sought knowledge through experimentation and Hobbes, a well-known and influential philosopher. It was this struggle that saw the value of experimentation, a central part of modern science, come to the fore.

For many it would be assumed that the headline name at the time would have been Isaac Newton. A widely recognised figure he has even appeared on our bank notes but Adriano and Simon will recount how people such as Hooke and Boyle played a key part in the emergence of modern science.

The Royal Shakespeare Company play is being performed at Wilton's Music Hall, which nestles in the streets that provide the backdrop against which the story is told. The story explores the growth of public scientific demonstrations and debate and pits Thomas Hobbes, England's most famous philosopher of the time against a group of young scientists led by Robert Hooke and Robert Boyle as philosophy and science battle it out for the public's attention.

The Tragedy of Thomas Hobbes is at Wilton's Music Hall from 12 November to 6 December 2008. Visit www.rsc.org.uk/london for details.

Royal Society events are frequently broadcast live on the web. Visit the video archive at royalsociety.tv.


Adriano Shaplin | talks
Professor Simon Shaffer | talks


Date and Time:

24 November 2008 at 6:30 pm


1 hour



The Royal Society
6-9 Carlton House Terrace
+44 20 74 51 2500

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This lecture is free - no ticket or advanced booking required. Doors open at 5.45pm and seats will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

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