Workshop: Disability, Prosthesis, and Patenting in Historical Perspective (Leeds)

Disability, Prostheses, and Patenting in Historical Perspective
An international and interdisciplinary workshop
Leeds City Museum, Leeds, UK
18th-19th September 2014

As part of the AHRC Research Network “Rethinking Patenting Cultures”, colleagues are invited to attend this two-day workshop on the history of patenting cultures with particular regard to disability and prostheses. This event will see scholars from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds come together to examine the relationship between physical impairment and commerce and the ways in which the commodification of disability affected everyday life and health from the eighteenth century.

The workshop will also include a public panel debate on historical and current representations of disability within museums and heritage organisations.

The symposium will take place at Leeds City Museum in the centre of Leeds. The full programme is appended below, and is also available through the website:

A very limited number of places are available at the workshop for non-speakers and these will be allocated on a first-come first-served basis. Please visit the project website to register, specifying “Workshop 3”: A registration fee is payable to cover catering costs. Please address any queries to the Network Administrator, Carl Warom:

We would be grateful if you could circulate this email to other colleagues and students who may be interested.


Day 1, Thursday 18th September

12.30 – 1.15pm, Lunch

1.15 – 1.30pm, Introduction and Outline

Claire Jones (University of Leeds/KCL)

1.30 – 2.30pm, Session 1: Hearing aids in the Nineteenth Century (Chair/commentator: Mara Mills, NYU)

  • ‘Use, Wear and Adaptation: Interpreting aids to the deaf In Victorian Britain’ – Karen Sayer (Leeds Trinity)
  • “You can’t see them—they’re invisible!” Patenting Artificial Eardrums in Britain and America, 1850-1930 – Jai Virdi (University of Toronto)

2.30 – 2.45pm, Coffee

2.45 – 4.15pm, Session 2: Hearing aids in the Twentieth Century (Chair/commentator: Karen Sayer, Leeds Trinity)

  • Zenith’s Patents and Hearing Aid Costs – Mara Mills (New York)
  • ‘Amplified telephony: the Contest Between Post Office Provision and Unpatented Invention’ – Coreen McGuire (University of Leeds)
  • Recovering the Early Rhetorics of Disability, Prosthesis, and Intellectual Property: the Discourses of the 19th and Early-20th Century Hearing Aids in Britain and the United States- Sushil Oswal (University of Washington)

4.30 – 6pm, Public Panel Debate

Museums and the Display of Disability

  • Jocelyn Dodd, (Research Centre for Museums and Galleries, School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester)
  • Nicky Reeves, (The Hunterian, University of Glasglow)
  • Emma Shepley, (Reframed, Royal College of Physicians, London)
  • Rosie Sherrington, (English Heritage, Disability in Time and Place project)

Day 2, Friday 19th September

9.30 – 10.30am, Session 3: Disability and Prostheses in the Nineteenth Century (Chair/commentator – Zorina Khan (Bowdoin College, Brunswick ME))

  • Derenzy’s “One-Handed Apparatus” and the Publication of Material Technologies for Disability in the Early Nineteenth Century – Laurel Daen (College of William & Mary, Williamsberg, Virgina)
  • “Non-medical men, or medical speculators in patents”:The Business and Ethics of Antebellum Artificial Limbs – Caroline Lieffers (University of Alberta)

10.30 – 11.30am Session 4: Disability and Prostheses in Nineteenth Century Literature (Chair/commentator: Jamie Stark)

  • Disabling the Stigma: Charles Dickens and Disability in Victorian London – Kristen Starkowski (Princeton University)
  • “Twas a Splendid, Brilliant, Beautiful Leg”: Bespoke and Patented Prostheses in Victorian Marriage Plots- Ryan Sweet (University of Exeter)

11. 30 – 11.45am, Coffee

11.45 – 1.15pm, Session 5: Disability and Prostheses in the Twentieth Century (Chair/commentator: Graeme Gooday)

  • Amputation in the First World War and Patented Practice- Julie Anderson (University of Kent)
  • The “Moment of Recovery” in American Campaigns Against Colon Cancer in the 1950s- David Cantor (NIH)
  • Access to Assisting Technologies for Disabled Persons: Role of Patent System- Rujitha Shenoy (Gujarat National Law University)

1.15 – 2.15pm Lunch

2.15 – 3.15pm, Closing Discussion: ‘What can we learn from the history of patenting and disability?’ (Chair: Graeme Gooday)

Panelists: Mara Mills, Zorina Khan, Claire Jones

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