Profile: Simon Werrett
Simon Werrett's work explores interactions between the arts and the sciences in the 16th to 19th centuries. His first monograph Fireworks: Pyrotechnic Arts and Sciences in European History (University of Chicago Press, 2010) examined exchanges of skills and techniques between early modern pyrotechnists and natural philosophers in Britain, France and Russia.
Werrett’s current research explores the history of recycling in science and medicine, incorporating practices of material re-use, adaptation, repair and exchange.
He has also published articles on science, technology, and empire, including articles on Captain Cook, Russian voyages of exploration, and the development of the Congreve war rocket in India and Great Britain in the 19th century.
Simon Werrett trained in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science in Cambridge University before taking postdoctoral fellowships at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin and the Getty Research Center in Los Angeles. From 2002 he was a member of the Department of History at the University of Washington, Seattle, before joining UCL in 2012.
NoteStreams By Simon Werrett
Fireworks, as everyone knows, were invented in ancient China.
The details of their actual origin are lost to history, but they were probably developed as a way to keep mountain men and spirits at bay using loud bangs. Dried bamboo stalks would emit a noisy crack when thrown on a fire, and gunpowder, another Chinese invention, rammed into bamboo may have first been used to magnify this startling effect.