Forthcoming event

This talk explores major aspects of the life and work of Charles Piazzi Smyth: one of the best-known and most fascinating scientists in Victorian Edinburgh.

Charles Piazzi Smyth was one of the best-known and most fascinating scientists in Victorian Edinburgh. Brilliant and quizzical artist, astronomer, designer and traveller, he helped make the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh a major centre of scientific culture and enterprise. His relationships with government, colleagues and associates were not always happy: controversy and crisis wracked his career. 

This talk explores major aspects of his life and work, focusing especially on Smyth's fascination with Egypt and Egyptology, a major fashion of nineteenth century Scottish culture and a vital element both in the arts and sciences of the period. Smyth's passion for Egypt, which brought him into violent conflict with the Royal Society of London and many other organisations, reveals much of what drove the sciences in the nineteenth century and the way they advanced. 

The talk will feature some of Piazzi Smyth's original artefacts from the Museum's collections. There will also be a chance to see the Museum's slice-of-life character of Piazzi Smyth's (fictional) 2nd assistant.

This event is part of the UNDERSTANDING TECHNOLOGY series of public lectures, which presents leading international research and ideas in the history, philosophy, politics and sociology of technology.

Thursday, 11 November 2010





Early People Gallery, National Museums Scotland


Please register with Maureen Kerr on 0131 247 4274 or m.kerr [at]


Free and open to all


Professor Simon Schaffer


University of Cambridge University

Event Type: 

General Event