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The Working Life of Scientists: Exploring the Culture of Scientific Research through the Personal Archive of Donald Michie

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  • Full or part time
    Prof Gregory Radick
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This is a collaborative research project with the British Library.

The project will research the working life of Donald Michie, whose extensive personal archive, held by the British Library, offers rich resources for a reinterpretation of post-war British scientific culture. After working at Bletchley Park, Michie received a genetics degree at Oxford and was subsequently based at UCL and Edinburgh. He was a pioneer in code-breaking techniques, the development of techniques that ultimately led to in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), and the study of machine intelligence in Britain. In addition, Michie’s Communist sympathies expressed themselves in visits to the USSR in the 1950s (in the wake of the notorious Lysenko Affair) and in being the Daily Worker’s science correspondent for many years, followed by a lifelong commitment to socialism.

An archivally based, contextually embedded reconstruction of these activities, as well as of Michie’s entrepreneurial character (he established industry relations to derive funding for his unit’s research), promises to shed much light on British science in the post-war decades.

The successful applicant will have the opportunity to develop the project in line with their own interests, but indicative research questions might be:
• What can Michie’s career tell us about the shifting relations between science and politics during the second half of the twentieth century?
• How do Michie’s collaborations and networks with industry illuminate the development of relations between “pure” and “applied” science in post-war Britain, and the related question of government funding for scientific research?
• How does Michie’s multi-disciplinarity and pioneering research in computer science throw light on the transfer of scientific concepts to that science from biology and psychology, in areas including information, communication, intelligence and consciousness?
• What can Michie’s efforts in establishing not only the research field of machine intelligence but new institutional structures to support it – first with the Edinburgh Department of Machine Intelligence and Perception, then with the Alan Turing Institute – tell us about how new scientific disciplines emerge?

Entry requirements:

You’ll need a masters degree or equivalent professional experience in a relevant field which could include archival, curatorial or engagement work, or policy experience.

This scholarship opportunity is open to UK students including:

- British nationals who have lived in the UK since birth
- Non-British nationals who have settled status and have been resident in the UK for at least 3 years (prior to the course start date)

EU nationals who have been ordinarily resident in the UK and Islands for three years immediately prior to the date of start of the course are also eligible.

If you’re an EEA or Swiss national you should refer to the full RCUK guidance to check your eligibility. You may only be eligible for a fees-only award.

Funding Notes

As part of the Scholarship funding, you'll be fully funded for your tuition fees at the Home/EU rate. You'll also receive a maintenance grant in line with the UK Research Council's standard stipend(currently £15,009 for 2019/20). In addition, you'll receive a bursary of £550 awarded by the AHRC and you may be able to access other funding from project partners.

Please note you'll need to be able to commence your research studies on 1st October 2019.


As part of the application process, you'll require two academic or (relevant professional) references.

You'll also be required to submit:

- Curriculum vitae (no more than 2 sides of A4)
- Sample of writing (indicative maximum of 3,000 words)
- A covering letter including a 500-word research proposal based on the outlines above

How good is research at University of Leeds in Philosophy?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 25.00

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