Professor Jon Topham

Professor Jon Topham


I joined the School in 1999, initially as an AHRB Senior Research Fellow on the Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical (SciPer) Project, before becoming a lecturer and subsequently a professor.

I obtained my PhD in History from the University of Lancaster in 1993, having previously graduated in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge in 1987. 

Before moving to Leeds I held several research fellowships in the University of Cambridge and worked as an editor on the Darwin Correspondence Project.

Research interests

My research relates mainly to the cultural history of science in late Georgian Britain. One particular focus of my research is on the history of scientific communication, drawing on the historiography of the book. A second major research focus on science and religion in Regency and Victorian society, particularly in regard to natural theology and theologies of nature. 

I recently completed a monograph entitled Reading the Book of Nature: How Eight Best Sellers Reconnected Christianity and the Sciences on the Eve of the Victorian Age (Chicago University Press, 2022) [free preview].

Among my co-publications are Science Periodicals in Nineteenth-Century Britain: Constructing Scientific Communities (Chicago University Press, 2020) [free preview], Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical: Reading the Magazine of Nature (Cambridge University Press, 2004) and Culture and Science in the Nineteenth-Century Media (Ashgate, 2004). 

I have just commenced a new research project, generously funded by a Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant, entitled “Science for the People”.

I am also currently researching a monograph on Publishing Science in the Age of Revolutions, 1789–1832.

Recent talks

Editorial commitments

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching for Higher Education
  • PhD History
  • MA Natural Sciences

Professional memberships

  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Fellow of the International Society for Science and Religion
  • British Society for the History of Science
  • History of Science Society
  • Society for the History of Authorship, Readership, and Publishing

Student education

Taught course teaching

I teach a range of undergraduate and postgraduate modules relating to the history of modern science, drawing on my research expertise concerning science in nineteenth-century Britain (including the history of evolution) and concerning history of science communication. I also teach MA students about different approaches to history (historiography) and about the practice of historical research.

Research supervision

I have supervised more than 20 research students over the last 15 years. I am especially keen to supervise students working in the following areas:

  • Science, technology, and medicine in periodicals and newspapers, esp. 1750–1850
  • Scientific and medical authorship, reading, and publishing, esp. 1750–1850
  • Scientific and medical education and textbooks, esp. 1750–1850
  • Science and religion, esp. natural theology and theologies of nature

Current research students

  • Alex King, “Redrawing the Map of Knowledge: The Penny Cyclopaedia (1833–43) and the Reform of Science in Early Victorian Britain” (2022–Present; jointly supervised with Jim Secord).
  • Grace Exley, ‘Coming Out of the Shadows: Women and Geology in Oxford, 1813–1914’ (2021–Present; jointly supervised with Graeme Gooday).
  • Joshua Hillman, ‘Experiencing Coal and Embodying Mining: Science and Industry in South Yorkshire in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries’ (2020–Present; jointly supervised with Graeme Gooday).
  • Susan Newell, 'Museum Collections, Academic Teaching, and the Making of Geology in the Nineteenth-Century University' (2018–Present)

Completed research students

  • Polina Merkulova, ‘Pedagogy and the Building of British Psychiatry, 1870–1930’ (2023 award; jointly supervised with Mike Finn).
  • Claire Coleman, 'Plant Hybridisation before Mendelism: Diversity and Debate in British Botany, 1837–99' (2021 award; jointly supervised with Greg Radick).
  • Caroline Avery. 'Making the Pulse: the Reception of the Stethoscope in nineteenth century Britain, 1817–70’ (2021 award; jointly supervised with Adrian Wilson).
  • Mark Steadman, 'A History of the Scientific Collections of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society's Museum in the Nineteenth Century: Acquiring, Interpreting & Presenting the Natural World in the English Industrial City' (2019 award; jointly supervised with Greg Radick).
  • Richard Bellis, 'Making Anatomical Knowledge about Disease in Late Georgian Britain, from Dissection Table to Printed Book and Beyond: Matthew Baillie's Morbid Anatomy and Its Accompanying Engravings' (2019 award; jointly supervised with Adrian Wilson and Richard Checketts).
  • Konstantin Kiprijanov, 'Printing Lines and Letters: How Structural Formulae became the Standard Notation of Organic Chemistry' (2019 award; jointly supervised with Graeme Gooday).
  • Jincheng Shi, 'Pantheism and Science in Victorian Britain' (2018 award; jointly supervised with Geoffrey Cantor).
  • Laura Sellers, 'Managing Convicts, Understanding Criminals: Medicine and the Development of the English Convict Prison 1837–1886' (2017 award; jointly supervised with Mike Finn).
  • Alan Mackintosh, 'The Potency of Print: Selling Patent Medicines in Late Georgian England' (2015 award; jointly supervised with Adrian Wilson).
  • Rebecca Bowd, 'The Purposes of Reading in Late Georgian Britain: Science, Medicine, Industry, and Intellectual Culture in Leeds Subscription Libraries, 1768–1815' (2015 award; jointly supervised with Adrian Wilson).
  • Juan Manuel Rodriguez Caso, 'Anthropology in Transition: A Study of the Sciences of Man at the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1866–1870' (2014 award; jointly supervised with Greg Radick).
  • Archana Kapoor, A 'New World' in the 'New World': The Microscope in America (MA by Research, 2014 award; jointly supervised with Graeme Gooday).
  • Efram Sera-Shriar, 'Beyond the Armchair: Early Observational Practices and the Making of British Anthropology, 1813–1871' (2011 award; jointly supervised with Greg Radick).
  • Claire Jones, 'Between Commerce and Professionalism: The Form, Role and Significance of the Medical Trade Catalogue in Britain, 1880–1914' (2010 award; jointly supervised with Graeme Gooday).
  • Leucha Veneer, 'Practical and Economic Interests in the Making of Geology in Late Georgian England' (2010 award; jointly supervised with John Christie).
  • Josep Simon, 'Communicating Physics in Nineteenth-Century France and England: The Production, Distribution and Use of Ganot's Textbooks' (2009 award; jointly supervised with Graeme Gooday).

Visiting PhD students

  • Lachlan Meikle (2016), ‘Experience between past and present: natural history and antiquities in Britain, 1660–1820’ (Department of History, La Trobe University, Melbourne, 2019 award).
  • Fernando García Naharro (2014), ‘Science Publishing during Franco´s Dictatorship (1939–1975)’ (Department of Contemporary History, Complutense University of Madrid, 2016 award).
  • Thomas Palmelund Johansen (2013), ‘Diffusing Useful Knowledge: Science, Economy, and Print in the 1830s England’ (Dept of History of Ideas &  Scandinavian Literature, Aarhus University).
  • Stine Slot Grumsen (2007–08), ‘Casting for Good Will: Profession, Trade and Identity in American Dentistry, c. 1910–1950’ (Department of Culture and Society, Aarhus University, 2012 award).

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for History and Philosophy of Science
  • History and Philosophy of Science
  • Centre for the Comparative History of Print

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>