As a scientist and a writer, I’m fascinated by history. The past shapes so much of who we are and how we understand the world, and only by knowing how we got to where we are can we hope to move forward. As a reader, I devour history books: both factual and fiction. However, my training as a scientist, and as an analytical reader of published research I find myself constantly searching for bias and looking out for the untold stories.
At school, my biology teacher was keen to remind us of the key, and still under-acknowledged, role that Rosalind Franklin played in the research leading to our understanding of DNA’s double-helix structure. Hearing that story influenced me both in studying science and in seeking out books on women’s history, not just in relation to their scientific contributions but also in relation to the roles they played throughout society in all periods of history.
And that leads me on to my other great love in the historical field, the history of buildings and the people who built them, as well as those who lived and worked in them. Buildings evolve as society evolves, and as both fashions and functional needs change. We can’t ignore any part of a building or its inhabitants when studying how it was constructed and used, just as we can’t ignore any of the researchers that brought our understanding of science up to the level it’s at today.