Professor Aileen Fyfe

Professor Aileen Fyfe

MA MPhil PhD (Cantab.), FHEA, MYAS, FRHistS

Contact Details

E-mail -
Telephone - (0)1334 462996
Fax - +44 (0)1334 462914

Research Profile on Research@StAndrews





Teaching and Research Interests

My teaching focuses upon British cultural history in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, while my research interests are in the production, circulation and consumption of knowledge from the late seventeenth century to the present day. I currently lead a research team investigating the history of the world’s oldest scientific journal, and seeking to understand how academic publishing practices have been transformed by changes in technology and in the nature of academic careers. The team for 'Publishing the Philosophical Transactions: the social, cultural and economic history of a learned journal, 1665-2015' is funded by the AHRC, and works in the archives of the Royal Society in London.

My previous work focused on the popularization of science, and the technologies that made it possible. 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. In 2013, I led a collaborative AHRC-funded project called 'Recreating the Late Victorian Popular Science Experience', which involved eight public performances of a show (in costume, and with historical artefacts) introducing modern audiences to Victorian technologies of the future. You can watch a clip of ‘Victorian Technologies of the Future’ on YouTube.

As well as working on the history of academic publishing, I am currently trying to finish a book on the Victorian Information Revolution, which will build on my 2010 TEDx talk [YouTube]. And I’m excited about old typewriters…

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 (2014-15)

Director of Research (2015 to present)


External Administrative Duties

Aileen was co-chair of the RSE Young Academy of Scotland (2012-13), and then coordinator of the St Andrews local group (2013-16).

She currently serves on Council of the History of Science Society (USA); she was formerly 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 currently supervise the following PhD students:

  • Morag Allan Campbell
  • Anna Gielas, ‘Editorial Practices and Processes in Early Learned Journals in Germany and England, 1770-1830’ (2014–, co-supervised with the Royal Institution)
  • Min Bae, ‘Hygienic medicine in the Victorian medical marketplace’ (2014–)
  • Liza DeBlock, ‘Macmillan in New York: transatlantic publishing in the late 19th century’ (2015-)
  • Patrick Robey (part-time), ‘Robert Mudie and his publishers’ (2016-)

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