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Cheltenham Science Festival

The Secret Lives of the Elements

6pm Wednesday 8th June 2022 – Town Hall, Pillar Room

When we think of the periodic table, we picture orderly rows of elements that conform to type and never break the rules. Kathryn Harkup reveals that there are personalities, passions, quirks and historical oddities behind those ordered rows. The elements in the periodic table, like us, are an extended family – some old, some new-born, some shy and reticent, some exuberant or unreliable. Get to know the elements like you never have before.

Book tickets here

Death by Shakespeare: Snakebites, Stabbing and Broken Hearts

8.15pm Thursday 9th June 2022 – The Cube

Was death by snakebite as serene as Shakespeare makes out? Could lack of sleep have killed Lady Macbeth? Can you really murder someone by pouring poison in their ear? William Shakespeare found dozens of different ways to kill off his characters, finding inspiration in the latest scientific advances of his day, but how realistic are these deaths? Kathryn Harkup investigates in a rollercoaster of Elizabethan carnage, poison, swordplay and bloodshed, with an occasional death by bear-mauling for good measure.

Book tickets here

York Festival of Ideas

Death by Shakespeare: Snakebites, Stabbings and Broken Hearts

8pm Thursday 16th June 2022 – Online

William Shakespeare found dozens of different ways to kill off his characters, and audiences today still enjoy the same reactions – shock, sadness, fear – that they did more than 400 years ago when these plays were first performed. But how realistic are these deaths? And did Shakespeare have the knowledge to back them up?

In the Bard’s day, death was a part of everyday life. Plague, pestilence and public executions were a common occurrence, and the chances of seeing a dead or dying body on the way home from the theatre were high. It was also a time of important scientific progress. Shakespeare kept pace with anatomical and medical advances, and he included the latest scientific discoveries in his work, from blood circulation to treatments for syphilis. He certainly didn’t shy away from portraying the reality of death on stage, from the brutal to the mundane, and the spectacular to the silly.

Join Kathryn Harkup, chemist and author of Death by Shakespeare, as she turns her discerning scientific eye to the Bard and the varied and creative ways his characters die. 

Discover the actual events that may have inspired Shakespeare, what the accepted scientific knowledge of the time was and how Elizabethan audiences would have responded to these death scenes. Learn all about Shakespearian deaths as Kathryn discusses questions such as:

Was death by snakebite as serene as Shakespeare makes out? 

  • Could lack of sleep have killed Lady Macbeth? 
  • Can you really murder someone by pouring poison in their ear? 

Don’t miss this rollercoaster of Elizabethan carnage, poison, swordplay and bloodshed, with an occasional death by bear-mauling for good measure.

This event will take place live on Zoom Webinar. You’ll receive a link to join a couple of days before the event takes place and a reminder an hour before. During the event, you can ask questions via a Q&A function, but audience cameras and microphones will remain muted throughout.

Tickets available here

The Secret Lives of the Elements

Published 7th October 2021!

You can order a copy here

The perfect book to escape our human-sized existence and take a tour of the atomic world instead. Witty, well-researched and packed full of skilled storytelling, this book is one secret I won’t be keeping to myself.

Helen Arney

Vampirology; The Science of Horror’s Most Famous Fiend

Out now!

You can get a copy from here or here.

Our fascination with the vampire myth has scarcely diminished since Bram Stoker’s publication of the classic Dracula tale in 1897, but how much of that lore is based on fact and can science explain the origins of horror’s most famous fiend? Vampirology charts the murky waters of the vampire myth – from stories found in many cultures across the globe to our sympathetic pop-culture renditions today – to investigate how a scientific interpretation may shed light on the fears and the phenomenon of the vampire myth.

About

Science communicator, chemist & vampirologist.

Kathryn is a chemist and author. She completed a doctorate on her favourite chemicals, phosphines, and went on to further postdoctoral research before realising that talking, writing and demonstrating science appealed a bit more than hours slaving over a hot fume-hood. She writes and gives regular public talks on the disgusting and dangerous side of science.

Kathryn’s first book was the international best-seller A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie, which was shortlisted for a Mystery Readers International Macavity Award and a BMA Book Award. She has also written Making the Monster: The Science of Mary Shelley’s FrankensteinDeath by Shakespeare: Snakebites, Stabbings and Broken Hearts and Vampirology: The Science of Horror’s Most Famous Fiend. Her most recent book is The Secret Lives of the Elements.

Contact

If you would like to book me for a talk or just want to say Hi please fill in the form below or get in touch on Twitter @RotwangsRobot.