This conference is hosted by the Biodiversity Institute, an Oxford Martin School Institute
50 years ago, two books were published that changed not just public attitudes but the direction of scientific research. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) was a wake-up call for the environment and helped to turn conservation into the mainstream scientific and public concern it is today. Ruth Harrison’s Animal Machines (1964) was a wake-up call for the conditions of farm animals and helped to turn animal welfare into the mainstream scientific and public concern it is today. Rachel Carson wrote the foreword to Ruth Harrison’s book, which provides a tangible and personal link between them.
Both of these books were written by women, neither of whom held academic posts, and yet they had an immense impact on the way science itself developed. Conservation and animal welfare were, at the time of the publication, not scientific subjects at all. Now they are scientific disciplines in their own right, and even held up as some of the most important kinds of ‘impact’ that biological research can have. But the work they started is not yet done. There are still major issues confronting us today in animal welfare, in conservation, in the use of pesticides and, more pressingly, in resolving the conflicting demands between them. This conference is to celebrate two women whose books had such an immense and lasting influence all over the world and then to look to the future to see how we might take forward the work they inspired but could not finish.
- Professor Kathy Willis, Director, Biodiversity Institute and Tasso Leventis Chair in Biodiversity, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford
- Professor Marian Dawkins, Professor of Animal Behaviour, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford
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