Dr Aileen Fyfe

Dr Aileen Fyfe

MA MPhil PhD (Cantab.), FHEA, MYAS - Reader

Contact Details

E-mail - akf@st-andrews.ac.uk
Telephone - (0)1334 462996
Fax - +44 (0)1334 462914

Research Profile on Research@StAndrews





Teaching and Research Interests

My teaching and research focus upon British cultural history in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with particular emphases on science and technology, religion, and the history of publishing and communication. I am currently leading two AHRC-funded projects. 'Recreating the Late Victorian Popular Science Experience' is almost completed, and has involved eight public performances of a show (in costume, and with historical artefacts) introducing modern audiences to Victorian technologies of the future. 'Publishing the Philosophical Transactions: the social, cultural and economic history of a learned journal, 1665-2015' is a major 4-year project to investigate the behind-the-scenes story of the world's oldest scholarly journal. The project team is using the Royal Society's archives to uncover the editorial and commercial processes which have helped make scholarly knowledge public and reliable.

In the past, I have written on the role of the Religious Tract Society in the publication of popular science in mid-nineteenth-century Britain (Science and Salvation); the adoption and innovative use of technologies in the Edinburgh publishing firm of W&R Chambers (Steam-Powered Knowledge); and on various forms of popular science, from children's books to tourist guidebooks.

I am currently writing a book on the Victorian Information Revolution; you can get a taster of the contents from the YouTube video of my 2010 TEDx talk.

Main Publications

Books and edited volumes
  • Steam-Powered Knowledge: William Chambers and the business of publishing, 1820-1860 (University of Chicago Press, 2012). Winner of the Edelstein Prize (2013) for best book on the history of technology (Society for the History of Technology); and of the Robert and Vineta Colby Prize (2013) for best book on periodical history (Research Society for Victorian Periodicals) [Details]
  • (ed. with B. Lightman) Science in the Marketplace: nineteenth-century sites and experiences (University of Chicago Press, 2007) [Details]
  • Science and Salvation: evangelicals and popular science publishing in Victorian Britain (University of Chicago Press, 2004) (ed.) [Details]
  • Science for Children, 7 facsimile vols with introductions (Thoemmes Press, 2003)
Selected Articles and Book Chapters
  • ‘Steam and the landscape of knowledge’, in M. Ogborn and C. Withers, eds., Geographies of the Book (Ashgate, 2010)
  • ‘The information revolution’, in D. McKitterick, ed., The History of the Book in Britain, vol. 6: 1830-1914 (Cambridge University Press, 2009)
  • ‘Tracts, classics and brands: science for children in the nineteenth century’ in J. Briggs, D. Butts and M.O. Grenby, eds., Popular Children’s Literature in Britain, 1700-1900 (Ashgate, 2008)
  • ‘Reading natural history at the British Museum and the Pictorial Museum’ in A. Fyfe and B. Lightman (eds.), Science in the Marketplace: nineteenth-century sites and experiences (University of Chicago Press, 2007)
  • ‘Conscientious workmen or booksellers’ hacks? the professional identities of science writers in the mid-nineteenth century’, Isis 96 (2005): 192-223
  • ‘Societies as publishers: the Religious Tract Society in the mid-nineteenth century’ Publishing History 58 (2005): 5-42
  • ‘Commerce and philanthropy: the Religious Tract Society and the business of publishing’ Journal of Victorian Culture 9 (2004): 164-188
  • ‘Reading children’s books in eighteenth-century dissenting families’ Historical Journal 43 (2000): 453-74

Administration Duties

Director of Postgraduate Studies (from January 2014)


External Administrative Duties

Aileen was co-chair of the RSE Young Academy of Scotland (2012-13), and is currently coordinator of the St Andrews local group.

She was Treasurer of the British Society for the History of Science from 2002-2007; and Chair of the Royal Irish Academy's subcommittee on the History of Science until 2010.

Teaching Duties

Teaches on the MO1008, HI2001, ID1004, MO2008 sub-honours courses.

Offers the following Honours courses:

Research Students

I would like to hear from students interested in working on:

  • the history of science, technology or medicine, particularly in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries
  • British social and cultural history, c.1750-1900
  • the history of authorship, journalism, editing, printing, publishing and reading, particularly as they relate to 'non-literary' topics (e.g. non-fiction, popular science, textbooks)
  • the history of scholarly publishing

Completed Doctorates

  • Juliana Adelman, ‘Communities of science: the Queen’s Colleges and scientific culture in provincial Ireland, 1845-1875’ (NUI Galway, 2007
  • Laura Kelly, ‘Irish medical women, c.1880s-1920s: the origins, education and carers of early women medical graduates from Irish institutions’ (NUI Galway, 2011)


Main Publications