Spotlight on Julie McDougall-Waters

JMW image 1 (2)Julie McDougall-Waters came to the School of History at St Andrews in May 2013 as a research fellow on a four year AHRC-funded project, ‘Publishing the Philosophical Transactions, co-ordinated by Dr Aileen Fyfe. Despite previously living for four years in Edinburgh, Julie, rather shamefully, had never stepped foot on St Andrews soil before her appointment. Even now, she gets to enjoy the scenic setting only every two to three months as she is based at the Royal Society in London, where most of the relevant archives are held. Working on the economic, social and cultural history of the Philosophical Transactions (the oldest science journal in the world) has augmented her interest in the history of science and book history. As part of her research, Julie is concerned with the economic history of the journal—published by the Royal Society of London and produced by different presses over time—as well as the editorial practices and individuals behind its pages.

Julie’s current career in history was not quite what she had in mind when she first began her university studies. She realized very quickly that studying physiotherapy in Newcastle was not for her, and returned to Northern Ireland and to a subject that she had always felt strongly about; geography. It turned out that geography in higher education was exceedingly more diverse than she had expected. Her interest in historical research stems from this revelation, and during her final year at Queen’s she embedded herself in the study of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century travel writing, economic and environmental histories of Britain, and historical geographies of memory and memorialisation.

Referee reports on papers submitted to the Philosophical Transactions in 1873.

Referee reports on papers submitted to the Philosophical Transactions in 1873.

Her historical perspective continued to expand during her PhD at the University of Edinburgh, which focussed on British school atlases and their place in the development of geography as a modern discipline. This was a perfect union of historical geography and book history. Through this she also engaged in a history of cartography, focusing on an Edinburgh mapmaker, and considering the style and content of atlases produced for pupils in distinct locations in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. She hopes to publish her thesis as a monograph, and is publishing articles based on aspects of her PhD research.

She is currently organizing several events at the Royal Society with Noah Moxham and  Aileen Fyfe, in preparation for the 350th Anniversary of the Philosophical Transactions in 2015. These include an exhibition on the history of the journal, opening at the Society in late November 2014, and an academic conference, Publish or Perish? Scientific periodicals from 1665 to the present, which will take place in March 2015 and which aims to highlight transformations and challenges in the publishing of scientific journals over the last three and a half centuries, raising questions on peer review, editorial practice, printing processes, and distribution.

When she is not elbow deep in dust and manuscripts at the Royal Society, she enjoys spending time with her — relatively new — husband, often taking advantage of the many cultural attractions London offers, including classical concerts, ballets, and plays. One thing she also enjoys is doing yoga, especially her class at the Royal Society in rooms covered from floor to ceiling in portraits of well known scientists. She sometimes wonders if they would approve.