Dr Mat Paskins

Dr Mat Paskins

Research Officer, Narrative Science

Department of Economic History

Room No
SAR 5.05

About me

Mat Paskins is an historian of science. He is interested in the relations between narrative and material practice in the sciences, especially in chemistry and natural history, and how their entanglements produce different ways of narrating possible futures. How, especially, do scientists, writers, and practitioners drawing on scientific topics construct accounts which deal with the immense and irreducible local particularity of subjects like the management of trees, the production of dyes, and keeping silkworms? And how do these little stories become caught up in wider public, industrial and policy narratives? He is currently working on a study (tentatively titled TIME’s Futures) which explores ways of reading claims about the future made in popular science coverage in mass market newsmagazines, focusing on the twenty thousand or so articles which TIME magazine dedicated to these subjects during the twentieth century, and drawing on techniques from corpus linguistics. His next project will focus on how visions of material substitution were mobilised in technical and popular contexts in twentieth century Britain. Between 2015 and 2017 he was employed at Aberystwyth University on the AHRC-funded Unsettling Scientific Stories website, during which time he compiled a database of scientific visions of scientific and technological futures from across the twentieth century. He has previously overseen an oral history project on wild food foraging during world war two (together with the Tree Council), and has taught at UCL, Imperial College London and Dickinson College.


Review, Roberto Simanowski, Data Love: The Seduction and Betrayal of Digital Technologies, trans. Brigitte Pichon, John Cayley and Dorian Rydnystsky https://www.bsls.ac.uk/reviews/general-and-theory/roberto-simanowski-data-love-the-seduction-and-betrayal-of-digital-technologies/

Review, Sheila Jasanoff and Sang-Hyun Kim, eds.Dreamscapes of Modernity: Sociotechnical Imaginaries and the Fabrication of Power (British Society for Literature and Science https://www.bsls.ac.uk/reviews/modern-and-contemporary/sheila-jasanoff-and-sang-hyun-kim-eds-dreamscapes-of-modernity-sociotechnical-imaginaries-and-the-fabrication-of-power/

“The Woods for the State” in Technology, Environment and Modern Britain, ed. Jon Agar and Jacob Ward (London, forthcoming)

“One of these things is just like the others: Substitution as a Motivator in Eighteenth Century Chemistry”, in Theory Choice in the History of Chemical Practices, ed. Emma Tobin and Chiara Ambrosio, (Zurich, 2016)

“The Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce and the Material Public Sphere, 1754-1766”, in Social Networks in the Long Eighteenth Century: Clubs, Literary Salons, Textual Coteries (Cambridge, 2014)

 “Hill and Gillian Rose”, in Geoffrey Hill and his Contexts,(Oxford, 2011) 


Broadcasts and Interviews

Interview with Katerina Teaiwa:http://www.commodityhistories.org/research/testimonies-dispossessed-culture

Hedgerow Harvest Histories, available at: http://www.hedgerowharvest.org.uk/Oral-History/Oral-History-Map

“The future in materials”, BBC Radio 4, “Four Thought”, 24 April 2013recording available at: https://soundcloud.com/bbcfourthought/mat-paskins-the-future-in


Conference Organisation

Co-organiser: “A Many sided crystal: the many facets of physicist and electrical engineer Silvanus Phillips Thompson”, Westminster Friends Meeting House, 16 September 2016 (one-day workshop on the legacies of SPT).

Convenor: Hidden Histories of Things, Institute of Making, UCL 26 January 2015 (one-day international workshop on histories of commodities and materiality)

Convenor: “Theatres of Science”, University College London, 27 November 2012 (one-day international workshop on relations between theatrical performance and science)