The Blind Teacher: University of Winchester academic presents lecture at Wellcome Collection

13 Oct 2022

The life of a blind professor of mathematics is the focus of a talk by a University of Winchester academic at Wellcome Collection on Tuesday 25 October.

Professor Chris Mounsey draws on his own experiences as a partially-sighted Professor in Eighteenth-Century English Literature to tell the story of Nicholas Saunderson, who was a Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University between 1711 and 1739.


In his talk, The Blind Teacher, Chris will explore a set of lecture notes by Saunderson on Isaac Newton's 'Principia Mathematica', held within Wellcome Collection, Denis Diderot's 'Lettre sur les Auvergles', and Saunderson's own 'Elements of Algebra'.

As well as revealing how Saunderson helped his students to think in a spatial way about mathematics, through his own experience of sight loss, Chris will also introduce his own concept of 'variability' as a way of understanding disability.

Wellcome Collection is a free museum and library that aims to challenge how we all think and feel about health.

Chris said: "I am proud to have been asked to speak at the Wellcome as part of their exhibition In Plain Sight, which explores the experience of blindness. I am also delighted that my Access to Work research associate, Stan Booth will read my lecture before I answer questions on it, just as Nicholas Saunderson always taught with his demonstrator, Mr Williams, at his side."

Chris Mounsey is a Professor of Eighteenth-Century English Literature at the University of Winchester and has a special interest in the histories of sexualities and disabilities. Before Chris's vision was impaired, he wrote and directed a number of plays. At the same time, he organised the annual conference for the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies and edited their journal. Chris co-organised the Queer People series of conferences at Christ's College, Cambridge and continues to organise the Variabilities conferences at worldwide venues. He is also editor of two book series which explore the body in all of its variable forms: Peculiar Bodies for the University of Virginia Press, and the Routledge Advances in the History of Bioethics.

The talk takes place at 3.30pm to 5pm on Tuesday 25 October at Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE. It will be livestreamed on Wellcome Collection's YouTube channel. Tickets are for the live and livestreamed events are available on the Wellcome Collection website at this link. The original texts discussed will be on display for those attending in person.

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