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AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (PhD Studentship)

Celestial Machines: Caroline Herschel, Astronomical Notebooks and the Material Culture of Predigital Communication Systems


AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership

PhD Studentship, three years, fees + living expenses

Durham University, Department of Philosophy, UK


This PhD studentship is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and is a collaboration between Durham University Department of Philosophy and the Library of the Royal Society of London.  The successful candidate will write a PhD thesis that focuses on the scientific manuscripts of Caroline Herschel (1750-1848), one of the first women to publish articles in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society and to be a professional astronomer.  It will investigate how she used astronomical notebooks as paper machines; that is, as interactive information management devices that helped her interface with scientific instruments and various forms of predigital communications media.  


Rather than solely attributing the origins of Herschel’s data management devices to elite, and manifestly male, universities and scholarly societies, the project seeks to highlight how her methods originated from her own ingenuity, her early years as a musician, and her role as manager of the Herschel household.  It also examines the important role played by women in early scientific notekeeping as well as the influence of domestic science upon the rise of realtime technologies. In following this path, the project will extend our understanding of how Herschel played an essential role in developing the data management techniques that were used in the manuscript world of astronomy and celestial mechanics during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.


The successful candidate will be based Durham University Department of Philosophy and spend time researching in the Library of the Royal Society of London.  Further information about the funds provided by the AHRC CPD PhD award see:


A full summary of the project is available at:


How to Apply

Submit a PhD application to Durham University Department of Philosophy at:


  • State in your cover letter that you wish to be considered for the Caroline Herschel AHRC CDP Studentship.
  • In your application, include a full CV, three reference letters, and two 3,000-5,000 word writing samples.
  • In lieu of a PhD proposal, submit a 1,000 word personal statement that explains why you are interested in the project and how your previous academic experience will bring insight to the historical themes the project will be addressing.


Applications will start to be reviewed on 1 April 2022.


Contact Information: Professor Matthew Daniel Eddy, Chair in the History and Philosophy of Science,