Making Histories: Thrifty Science and the Lucas Plan
Wednesday, 10 July 2019
6 – 8pm
Many of the questions makers are asking today have been asked before. How can we work more sustainably? How can we make a fairer world? This month, we invite two guests to STEAMhouse who can offer a new perspective on present day challenges by looking back to the past.
Simon Werrett shows us how, in the 17th and 18th centuries, scientific experimenters used the tools and materials readily available to them to make some of the most important scientific discoveries of the day. In this ‘thrifty’ approach to science, experimenters transformed their homes into laboratories as they recycled, repurposed, repaired, and reused their material possessions to learn about the natural world. What can small-scale experimental makers and technologists working today learn from these pioneers?
Adrian Smith tells the story of the Lucas Plan, the bold, utopian project forged in 1976 by workers from the failing Lucas Aerospace plant to re-organise their work to make ‘socially useful’ products. While their plan received a hostile response from management, their ideas lived on to inspire a new generation of utopian makers who want to manufacture a more just world.
This event is part of a regular series at STEAMhouse, programmed with Maker Assembly which explore a range of themes that take making in new directions.
Adrian Smith is Professor of Technology and Society at the Science Policy Research Unit at Sussex University, where he collaborates in a variety of different research projects. Much of that research investigates different aspects of the politics of technology and innovation. One important aspect in recent years has beeen work with bottom-up initiatives for sustainable development in Europe and Latin America – some of that work is covered in the book, Grassroots Innovation Movements published by Routledge.
Simon Werrett is a senior lecturer in history of science in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at University College London. Werrett’s work explores interactions between the arts and the sciences in the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. Werrett’s current research explores the history of what he calls “thrifty science” an experimental approach to natural inquiry foregrounding re-use, adaptation, repair and exchange. This project examines thrifty science in Britain and North America between the seventeenth century and the present, and contributes to a broader interest in relations of science and environmental history.
Maker Assembly aim to make a home for critical discussion about maker culture: its meaning, politics, history and future.
*What do we mean by “making”?
We’re talking about people who craft, design, manufacture, tinker with, engineer, fabricate, and repair physical things. Art, craft, electronics, textiles, products, robots. Hi-tech and low-tech, amateur and professional, young and old, with digital tools or by hand. Historical perspectives, what’s happening here and now, and how things might change in the future. We aim to be diverse and inclusive. If what you make, or how you see yourself, is a little bit on the fringes, you’re doubly welcome.
Maker Assembly are supported by the Comino Foundation
STEAMhouse is a new centre for creative and collaborative innovation developed by Eastside Projects in partnership with Birmingham City University.