Spring / summer 2017

Clockwise from top left: the Japanese, Taiwanese and French Sick Rose, and the Taiwanese Crucial Interventions

Clockwise from top left: the Japanese, Taiwanese and French Sick Roses, and the Taiwanese Crucial Interventions

The big news: the third and final instalment in the Sick Rose ‘illogy’ – The Smile Stealers, on the history of dentistry – came out on 27 April. This is the last in the series that began with my award-winning and best-selling The Sick Rose, and it’s another gorgeously-designed and lavishly-produced collaboration with Wellcome Collection and Thames & Hudson. Matthew Sweet interviewed me about The Smile Stealers on BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking, and I discussed the book with Terry Gross on NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’The Times called it ‘gory, beautiful, probing’, the Times Literary Supplement (paywall) called it ‘thoroughly compelling’, Will Self in the London Review of Books said it was ‘excellent’, the Guardian called it ‘fascinating – and frequently shocking’, and published a gallery of images from the book, the Tatler said it was ‘Magnificent … All human life is here – the pain, the suffering and the happiness summed up in the ecstasy of a toothsome smile’, and Monocle Radio said it was ‘a beautiful book, a witty book, a well-made book’.

So this is a good moment to boast about all the gorgeous translated editions of The Sick Rose & Crucial Interventions (see the picture on the left, and there’s already an Italian edition of The Smile Stealers out with Logos Edizioni). I spoke about The Sick Rose at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh on Weds 15 Feb, and you can listen to a podcast of my talk here. And while this isn’t exactly news, I’ve been reminded that Sarah Perry, author of the world-bestriding The Essex Serpent, said in her acknowledgements to the novel that ‘The Sick Rose shows the troubling beauty that can be found in sickness and suffering’.

My Dedalus Book of Gin came out in paperback in February, and was Nicholas Lezard’s choice in the Guardian, who said ‘Barnett’s adjectives are to his work as botanicals are to gin: they give it its piquancy and flavour’. So there. New Literary Review in Moscow published a rather gorgeous Russian translation too.

And I’m getting to work on a new history book, one that’s pulling me out of my scholarly / literary comfort zone. Watch this space …

New Literary Review's Russian translation of my history of gin

New Literary Review’s Russian translation of my history of gin

I joined the Department of Science and Technology Studies at UCL for the spring, to teach a course on the history of disease, and I’m writing a new course for the 2017 Pembroke / Kings Programme – ‘Apocalypse! Visions of the End of the World’. And I’ve written entries for ‘Case Histories’, my monthly Lancet column, on alcohol use disorders and obesity.

I’m historical consultant for Quacks, a new BBC comedy series written by James Wood (of Rev. fame) and Matt Baynton (of Horrible Histories), which should be airing in autumn 2017. Kevin Fong interviewed me for ‘The Split Second Decision’, a BBC Radio 4 documentary on emergency medicine. I spoke on the Gin Craze for the V&A’s ‘London Life & Times’ programme. And I’ll be leading lots of guided walks for all kinds of folk. Do drop me a line if you’d like to book one: as the days get longer, spring is always a lovely season for walking around London.

Finally, I’m keeping on with the follow-up to Seahouses, my award-winning first poetry collection. It’s going to be brutal.

Autumn / winter 2016

I’m promoting my Crucial Interventions: An Illustrated Treatise on the Principles and Practice of Nineteenth-Century Surgery, the richly-illustrated follow-up to my award-winning and best-selling The Sick Rose, and another collaboration with Wellcome Collection and Thames & Hudson. I’ve finished the text for the third and final instalment in the Sick Rose ‘illogy’ – The Smile Stealers, on the history of dentistry. And I’m getting to work on a new history book, one that’s pulling me out of my scholarly / literary comfort zone. Watch this space …

Delighted to say I’ve joined the Department of Science and Technology Studies at UCL, to teach a course on the history of disease, and I’m writing a new course for the 2017 Pembroke / Kings Programme – ‘Apocalypse! Visions of the End of the World’. And I’ve written entries for ‘Case Histories’, my monthly Lancet column, on infective endocarditis, liver transplant and typhoid fever.

I’m historical consultant for Quacks, a new BBC comedy series written by James Wood (of Rev. fame) and Matt Baynton (of Horrible Histories), which should be airing in spring / summer 2017. I travelled to Paris, to film a an episode of France 2’s ‘Aventures de medécine’, and spent a few days filming in London for China Central TV’s ‘200 Years of Surgery’. I gave the Monckton Copeman lecture – on ‘Death by Water: Rethinking John Snow and Cholera’ – at the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries, and was delighted to receive their Faculty Medal. And I’ll be leading lots of guided walks for (amongst others) Regent’s College, INKTAL, the UCL Institute of Neurology, and the Chevening Leadership Program at KCL. Do drop me a line if you’d like to book one: autumn is always a lovely season for walking around London.

I’ve also been helping to launch Sophie Churchill’s Wellcome Trust-funded Corpse Project, which is exploring ways to lay the dead to rest in ways that help the living and the Earth. Sophie commissioned me to write a report on the history of practices around disposing of the dead, which you can read here. There’s a summary of my findings and recommendations in a beautiful infographic here.

Finally, I’m keeping on with the follow-up to Seahouses, my award-winning first poetry collection. It’s going to be brutal.

Summer 2016

I’m promoting my Crucial Interventions: An Illustrated Treatise on the Principles and Practice of Nineteenth-Century Surgery, the richly-illustrated follow-up to my award-winning and best-selling The Sick Rose, and another collaboration with Wellcome Collection. I spoke about the history of surgery and anatomy with Alice Roberts & Roger Kneebone at the Cheltenham Science Festival, and about Crucial Interventions at the York Festival of Ideas at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I’ve finished the text for the third and final instalment in the Sick Rose ‘illogy’ – The Smile Stealers, on the history of dentistry. And I’m getting to work on a new history book, one that’s pulling me out of my scholarly / literary comfort zone. Watch this space …

As usual, I’ll be spending most of the summer teaching on the Pembroke / Kings Programme in Cambridge (where the air positively crackles with the sound of flip-flops on flagstones). I’m writing a new course for PKP 2017 – ‘Apocalypse! Visions of the End of the World in Art and Science’. I’ve written entries for ‘Case Histories’, my monthly Lancet column, on malaria, suicide, and Cushing’s syndrome. I spoke about the history of madness in animals at the Eroica Britannia festival in Bakewell, Derbyshire. I’m historical consultant for an exciting new BBC1 comedy series written by James Wood (of Rev. fame).

I’ve also been helping to launch Sophie Churchill’s Wellcome Trust-funded Corpse Project, which is exploring ways to lay the dead to rest in ways that help the living and the Earth. Sophie commissioned me to write a report on the history of practices around disposing of the dead, which you can read here. There’s a summary of my findings and recommendations in a beautiful infographic here.

Finally, I’m keeping on with the follow-up to Seahouses, my award-winning first poetry collection. It’s going to be brutal.

Spring 2016

I’m promoting my Crucial Interventions: An Illustrated Treatise on the Principles and Practice of Nineteenth-Century Surgery, the richly-illustrated follow-up to my award-winning and best-selling The Sick Rose, and another collaboration with Wellcome Collection. Press attention so far in 2016 includes this image gallery and perceptive short review at Hyperallergenic, and The Lineup has called it ‘a truly captivating feast for the mind and eyes’. I spoke about Crucial at the National Archives (as part of my stint as their Writer of the Month), and Carianne Whitworth interviewed me for the National Archives blog.  And I’ve finished the text for the third and final instalment in the Sick Rose ‘illogy’ – The Smile Stealers, on the history of dentistry – due out at the end of this year. Watch this space …

Lots of festival talks & events coming up in the summer. I’ll be revisiting The Sick Rose at the Hunterian Museum on the evening of Thurs 12 May (details here). I’ll be talking about the history of surgery and anatomy with Alice Roberts & Roger Kneebone at the Cheltenham Science Festival on Fri 10 June (event code S107). I’ll be exploring the poetry of the dead body with Kass Boucher as part of ‘Death, Art and Anatomy’ at the University of Winchester on Fri 3 June. And I’ll be talking about Crucial Interventions at Carlyle’s House in Chelsea on Thurs 2 June, at the York Festival of Ideas on Sun 12 June and the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Tues 23 Aug.

Also delighted to say that I’m writing a new monthly column for the Lancet – ‘Case Histories’, exploring the cultural history of disease, in association with their new Lancet Clinic online resource. So far I’ve written columns on Parkinson’s disease, ADHD, ovarian cancer, systemic lupus erythematosus, and autism. I spoke about the Gin Craze for the V&A’s ‘London Life & Times’ course, about gin and alchemy at the Salon for the City in Feb, about The Sick Rose at the Hunterian Museum in London, about Crucial Interventions at Carlyle’s House in Chelsea (and apologies to the lady who fainted), about the poetry of the dead body and gave an introductory lecture on historical thinking for students on the IF Project’s ‘Thinking: A Free Introduction’ programme. I talked scandal – medical, political, sexual – with Juliet Gardiner and Kate Mosse in a ‘Platform’ talk before a performance of Granville Barker’s Waste at the National Theatre. I gave more masterclasses on the cultural history of plague at The Prince’s Teaching Institute New Teacher Subject Days, and I spoke about John Snow and cholera to students at the University of Geneva Medical School. I’m historical consultant for an exciting new BBC1 comedy series written by James Wood (of Rev. fame). I spent some time as an adjunct professor on the University of California spring programme, teaching a course on urban health in London. I’m writing a report for Sophie Churchill’s Wellcome-funded Corpse Project on the history of rituals and practices for disposing of the dead.

Finally, I’ve started work on the follow-up to Seahouses, my award-winning first poetry collection. It’s going to be brutal.

Autumn 2015

Thames & Hudson have published my Crucial Interventions: An Illustrated Treatise on the Principles and Practice of Nineteenth-Century Surgery, the richly-illustrated follow-up to my award-winning and best-selling The Sick Rose, and another collaboration with Wellcome Collection. I talked about Crucial Interventions at the Hampstead and Highgate Literary Festival and Wellcome Collection, and will be speaking at the National Archives on 21 Jan 2016 (as part of my stint as their Writer of the Month) – tickets here. We also held an informal celebration for the book at the High Holborn branch of Blackwell’s. Joanna Bourke gave it a nice review in the Telegraph, and Rebecca Onion chose it as Slate Pick. The Guardian Culture website is hosting a gallery of images from the book, as is BuzzfeedHere’s a short film about it, set in Wellcome Collection’s Reading Room. The Lancet published ‘Between survival and wholeness’, – a reflection, prompted by the publication of Crucial Interventions, on my own experiences under the knife and the place of patients in the history of surgery. Rachel Humphries interviewed me for ‘Fresh cuts’, the first episode of Funhouse magazine’s podcast.

Lots of media work, too, which is always fun. I appeared with BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner on BBC1’s ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’, broadcast on 24 Sept. I’ve filmed a segment on John Snow and cholera for ‘The Crowd & The Cloud’, a major PBS science documentary slated for 2017. I filmed a talking-head interview for a Discovery Channel series on twentieth-century warfare, which will be broadcast some time in 2016. I provided some quotes for a BBC News piece on naming diseases. And I’m doing historical consulting work for an exciting new BBC1 comedy pilot – more on this if it goes to series.

I’ll be giving more masterclasses on the cultural history of plague at The Prince’s Teaching Institute New Teacher Subject Days, and leading lots of guided walks for various groups. I also gave a talk on ‘Magic & Medicine’ for London schoolteachers at an evening event in Wellcome Collection. The Lancet Psychiatry published my essay review of Andrew Scull’s Madness In Civilisation (free to read, but you have to register & log in). I spoke on the history of gin for ‘London Is Drinking’, an exploration of London’s drinking history and culture at Conway Hall.

In Oct-Nov I led another series of ‘Blood Lines’, a weekly poetry reading group in Wellcome Collection’s spiffily refurbished Reading Room. I read from Seahouses at the Poetry Book Fair on Sat 26 Sept, and have a couple of poems in the first issue of Funhouse magazine. Quarterday Review gave Seahouses a glowing five-star review in their Samhain edition, calling it ‘unnerving, disturbing and utterly brilliant’.

Summer 2015

As usual, I’ll be spending most of the summer teaching on the Pembroke / Kings Programme in Cambridge (where the air positively crackles with the sound of flip-flops on flagstones).

The big news: Crucial Interventions: An Illustrated Treatise on the Principles and Practice of Nineteenth-Century Surgery, the richly-illustrated follow-up to my award-winning and best-selling The Sick Rose, and another collaboration with Wellcome Collection and Thames & Hudson, has gone to press. We’ll be revealing more about Crucial Interventions over the summer, in advance of publication in late October. More soon – and if you’re really keen you can pre-order it here (Amazon).

I took part in ‘Discussing Disfigurement’ – a half-hour video discussion on the history of facial disfigurement with Henrietta Spalding, the inspiring and eloquent Head of Advocacy at Changing Faces, and Mosaic commissioning editor Mun-Keat Looi. I also filmed an interview for the next series of BBC1’s ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’, and led guided walks for students from the University of Arizona.

Spring 2015

The big news: Valley Press have published Seahouses, my first poetry collection. Jamie McGarry (who runs Valley) has turned my manuscript into a beautiful and deeply covetable book, of which I’m as proud as Lucifer. We launched Seahouses at Blackwell’s Holborn on 27 May, and I read from collection at the Inpress Books Poetry Pavilion in the London Book Fair, and East Leeds FM broadcast a recording of me reading three poems from the collection. Through March & April I led ‘Blood Lines’, a weekly poetry reading group in Wellcome Collection’s spiffily refurbished Reading Room, and we’ll be running another series in Oct-Nov.

Former National Forest CEO Sophie Churchill has launched the Corpse Project, a new initiative to encourage debate around the options for our bodies after death. I’m delighted to be part of Sophie’s team for this, and we held our first discussion on 21 May at the Cartoon Museum in London. We’ll be holding more events over the summer – details on the Corpse Project website, and even if you can’t come along, you can follow the Corpse Project on Twitter.

I’ve completed the manuscript for Crucial Interventions, another book in collaboration with the Wellcome Library and Thames & Hudson, this time on the history of surgery in the nineteenth century; more soon. The Book Depository picked The Sick Rose as one of their Covers of the Year, and I spoke about The Sick Rose at Barts Pathology MuseumWords By The Water in Keswick,the Edinburgh Science Festival, Westcliff High School for Boys, and a New Generations workshop at the Wellcome Library for early career researchers in the medical humanities. I also spoke on the cultural history of plague at The Prince’s Teaching Institute New Teacher Subject Days, and led a seminar on health and disease in early modern London for Museum of London Archaeology. I led guided walks for students from the University of Delaware, Nova Southeastern University, Regent’s College, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Beefeater Gin, UCL’s Centre for Global Health, and the QMUL students’ union.

My long essay on Nikola Tesla, big science and bullshit came out in the London Review of Books, and the Lancet published my reviews of Lee Jackson’s Dirty Old London and Melanie Keene’s Science in Wonderland.

Autumn 2014

Back in London after a summer in Cambridge, and back to work on lots of projects (more on which soon).

I’m continuing to work with Valley Press on my first poetry collection, Seahouses, which will be published in the spring. I read from Pocket Horizon and Seahouses, alongside Kelley Swain, as part of the Lichfield Literary Festival on 11 Nov.

The Sick Rose continues to prosper, and was named Book of the Year at the 2014 British Book Design Awards. I talked about The Sick Rose at the Institute of Medical Illustrators conference, Blackwells in Oxford and the Brompton Cemetery Chapel (as part of the London Month of the Dead). I’ll also be speaking at Barts Pathology Museum on 28 January 2015, and at Words By The Water in Keswick on 8 March 2015, and discussing the history of medicine at The Prince’s Teaching Institute New Teacher Subject Days in Jan-Feb 2015. My review of the National Gallery’s ‘Rembrandt: The Late Works’ came out in the Lancet. Also happy to say that Audible are turning my Book of Gin into an audiobook, release date TBC.

I spoke to the City of Westminster Guide Lecturers Association on John Snow and cholera and to Big Ideas on the meaning of normality in science and medicine, opened the Footprints of London Literary Festival at the Guildhall on 1 Oct with a talk about the Gin Craze, led guided walks for the Foundling Museum (on medicine for the poor in Bloomsbury), for students from Imperial College (on John Snow and cholera), and for UCL’s Institute of Neurology (on life and death in literary Bloomsbury), and was interviewed by Flora Allen of the Foundling Museum to mark their exhibition on the Georgian physician Richard Mead. I appeared in a Channel 4 Time Team Special on bodysnatching, in episode 2 of ITV’s ‘Secrets from the Asylum’, and in BBC4’s ‘The Beauty of Anatomy’, and Desiree Schell interviewed me for Science For The People.

Summer 2014

I’m spending most of the summer teaching on the Pembroke / Kings Programme in Cambridge (where the air positively crackles with the sound of flip-flops on flagstones).

I’m delighted to announce that my first full poetry collection, Seahouses, has been accepted by Valley Press and will be published in the spring. Watch this space for updates.

It’s a pleasure to see The Sick Rose doing so well around the world. It’s been shortlisted in the 2014 British Book Design Awards, and we’re planning lots of readings and events over the next few months. Georgia Cherry & Frankie Kubicki of Unmaking Things interviewed me about the book, as did the remarkable and delightful Mark Dery, and it received yet another sparkling review from Niall Boyce in the Lancet. I spoke about the history of anatomy on Australian Broadcasting Corporation Radio’s The Body Sphere, and on Sunday 10 August I’ll be talking about ‘The Theatre of Anatomy’ at the Edinburgh Fringe.

The first episode of BBC4’s ‘The Beauty of Anatomy’, to which I was a major contributor, will be broadcast on Weds 13th Aug. Laura Ashe interviewed me about the Black Death and the Great Plague for a BBC Radio 3 documentary made by Loftus Media, to be broadcast in November.  My review of Joanna Bourke’s The Story of Pain came out in the Lancet, I wrote a little piece (right at the bottom of the page) on the poet Geoffrey Hill for Remedia, and I’ve been invited to compile an entry for Who’s Who. I’ve also been discussing possibilities for new projects with the artist Tom de Freston.

After nearly three extraordinary years my Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellowship is finally coming to an end. Sad as I am to be leaving this remarkable programme, it’s a great pleasure to be joining the growing community of Fellows emeritus, and to be thinking in earnest about what comes next. More and better, I hope: more books, more teaching, more radio & TV, more of the collaborations that made the Fellowship so enjoyable.

Finally: without the fine folk of the Brooklyn Hospital Center I would not be alive, and without Obamacare I would not be solvent. Heartfelt thanks.