Rebekah Higgitt: About me

On 3 August 2020 I took up the post of Principal Curator of Science at National Museums Scotland. I can also be found on Twitter @beckyfh and @rhiggitt@mstdn.social on Mastodon. From 2012-2017 I blogged at The H Word, part of the former Guardian Science Blog network.

After an undergraduate degree in History and MA in Seventeenth Century Studies at the University of Durham, I worked at UCL Library and Special Collections and at London Metropolitan Archives. I completed my PhD in the history of science at Imperial College London in 2004 and went on to postdoctoral research in the Institute of Geography at the University of Edinburgh.

From 2013-2020 I was Senior Lecturer in History of Science at the University of Kent, in the School of History‘s Centre for the History of the Sciences. Before that (2008-2013), I was Curator of History of Science and Technology at the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory, Greenwich (now Royal Museums Greenwich). My research and publications have focused mainly on scientific institutions, scientific biography and the relationship between science and the public in 18th- and 19th-century Britain. Between 2010 and 2015 I was one of the Co-Investigators on the AHRC-funded NMM/University of Cambridge project on the history of the Board of Longitude. I was Principal Investigator on the Leverhulme-funded project Metropolitan Science: Places, Objects and Cultures of Practice and Knowledge in London, 1600-1800 (April 2017-July 2020).

I published Recreating Newton: Newtonian Biography and the Making of Nineteenth-Century History of Science in 2007 and the co-authored Finding Longitude with Richard Dunn in 2014. For details of my other publications, see the Publications tab.

My blogging ventures

My first step into blogging took place in 2009, coinciding with the International Year of Astronomy. As part of a side-show for the Cosmic Diary project, I blogged entries from the working journals of the Astronomer Royal and Chief Assistant at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich at Cosmic Diary 1894.

All the posts on this blog that date before 9 July 2011 first appeared on the group History and Philosophy of Science blog, Whewell’s Ghost, now living on via Facebook and Twitter, where I post links to non-specialist history of science pieces. I also blogged between 2010-15 at the Longitude Project Blog, as one of a team working on a research project on the history of the Board of Longitude, 1714-1828. From 2012-2017 most of my blogging aimed at a general audience was posted on The H Word within the Guardian Science Blog network, and I also occasionally posted at Science Comma, the blog of the Centre for the History of the Sciences at the University of Kent.

REAL endorsements for my blogging! (why not?)

Dr Chris Chambers: “I find her articles supremely intelligent and provocative, and they often have the jarring effect of challenging my positivist assumptions. Sometimes they’re like eating brussel sprouts, but I’m convinced they’re good for me.” (Interview at Science Groupie)

Stephen McGann: “sci history writing at its best: pertinent and engaging.” (Tweet, 3 May 2013)

Philip Ball: “Rebekah nails it brilliantly” (Tweet, 14 March 2014); “Rebekah Higgitt has written a masterful article in her Guardian blog” (Homunculus)

If you want to contact me directly, please use this form:


8 thoughts on “About

    • Sorry for the delay in getting back to you on this. Historians of science have had plenty to say about Sobel’s Longitude! I discussed and linked to some of the commentary in this post. Over on the Longitude Project blog, we’ve also shown how one-sided and, of course, incomplete the usual longitude story is (see links from this post).

      The short answer is that Sobel’s book is well-done but greatly simplified journalistic history, in which she unashamedly creates a story by identifying heroes and villains, and by making astronomy and timekeeping rival rather than complementary methods for finding longitude. It has annoyed professional historians of science because it plays to some of the ‘sins’ of our field, typified by the notion of the “lone genius”, and causes angst because our preferred version of history is always richer and more complex, which makes writing short and popular works challenging (cf various of my posts on this blog!).

  1. Dear Rebekah,
    I haven’t had any luck finding an email contact for you, so pardon my getting in touch this way. I am writing on behalf of Isis, the Journal for the History of Science Society. We would like to send you a request to review a manuscript that has been submitted to us. Please reply to isis [at] yorku.ca. Many thanks!

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