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Plant Science Panel

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'The Ugly Truth'

by Tracey Brown, director of Sense About Science

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Annual lecture 2011

Epidemics and refuseniks: the birth of state responsibility

by Professor Richard Evans

Chair: Tracey Brown

Our sixth annual Sense About Science lecture took place on Monday 9th May 2011, at the Royal Society of Medicine and was delivered by Professor Richard Evans, Regius professor of modern history at the University of Cambridge.

Professor Evans delivering lectureProfessor Evans compared historical case studies such as cholera epidemics in the 19th century, with recent public health crises including the cholera epidemic in Haiti and the 1980s outbreak of BSE in the UK.

He posed questions about how the relationship between science, politics and society influences the acceptance of new scientific theories, and critical decisions about public health.

Annual Lecture audienceThis prompted much discussion about the use of scientific evidence in unfolding public health crises, when the need for decisive action coincides with unclear evidence. Can overreaction to an epidemic be riskier than the epidemic itself?

You can read the transcript and listen to the Guardian's podcast of the lecture.

Read Professor Richard Evans writing for the Guardian ahead of the lecture.

See more pictures from the night here. Photos by Kelly Haddow.


Further Coverage

Times Higher Education Public ‘caught between the aims of scientists and politicians’

The British Ecological Society Sense About Science Annual Lecture

Humanists4Science Enemies of science


Professor Richard Evans

Professor Richard EvansRichard is Regius Professor of History and President of Wolfson College, University of Cambridge. He studied at Oxford and has taught at a variety of universities, including Birkbeck, University of London, where he was Vice-Master. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a Fellow of the British Academy, and is currently Gresham Professor of Rhetoric at Gresham College, London.

Among his many books is “Death in Hamburg: Society and Politics in the Cholera Years, 1830-1910”, published in 1987, as a result of which he was asked to help organise the centenary commemoration of the great cholera epidemic of 1892 in the city. He has also delivered the Pump-Handle Lecture of the John Snow Society, of which he is an honorary member.

More recently, he has written a three-volume history of Nazi Germany; the final instalment, “The Third Reich at War”, was published by Penguin Books in 2008.


Annual Lecture 2011 Sponsors


Photography by Kelly Haddow www.kemaha.co.uk