LSTM host first of three talks reflecting on the intersection between history and science

News article 18 Apr 2023

Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine has hosted its first talk reflecting on the connection between history and science. The event took place at the University of Liverpool’s Central Teaching Hub, in partnership with the University’s Continuing Education Department, with over 70 people joining the hybrid event. LSTM’s Karen Blower and Amina Ismail delivered a lecture on the Influence and Legacy of Mary Kingsley on the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, bringing the talk up to date with a case study about working with communities for health equity in Liverpool, based on successful learnings from work carried out in Africa.

First to speak was Karen Blower a qualified archivist who works in LSTM’s Library and, is one of many of the custodians of the institute’s archives. Karen said: “It was a privilege to speak at the first public lecture in this series reflecting on LSTM's history. Mary Kingsley's story gives us an insight into the early days of LSTM's founding. In this our 125th year, the LSTM Past-Present-Future project will enable us to reflect, share and build upon our complex and rich history.”

Amina Ismail followed Karen reflecting on her work as a Senior Community Mobiliser within LSTM’s department of International Public Health. Amina currently supports multidisciplinary Community Innovation Teams (CITs) working across areas of Liverpool to identify reasons for vaccine hesitancy. She said “Talking about my work as part of LSTMs 125th anniversary past and present series of lectures, it gave me the opportunity to explore the legacy of Mary Kingsley. I began to understand that although she was viewed as a female pioneer in Victorian times, travelling across West Africa alone, there was another more challenging narrative to her past. I discovered that she was also an imperialist who believed in white racial superiority, her privilege and power supported her ability to lobby for the British empire. This lecture presented a real opportunity for LSTM to decolonise the curriculum, whilst exploring the role of influential people in LSTMs past”.

The speakers did a fantastic job of taking the audience, both in person and online, on a journey from Liverpool to West Africa exploring the legacy and influence of Mary Kingsley - an ethnographer, writer, and explorer - on the work of LSTM. 

Born in London in 1862 Mary came from a family of writers and despite having limited education, she had access to her father’s large library and loved to hear his stories of foreign countries, this ultimately led to her travel to the Canary Isles, West Africa, and Sierra Leone. It was through these experiences that she acquired a detailed knowledge of African society and politics and was regarded as an expert in government circles. She died at just 38 in South Africa, nursing soldiers injured during the Boer War.

Dr Elli Wright, Public Engagement Manager and lead on the LSTM-Past, Present and Future project said: “These talks are important to begin telling the whole story behind LSTM’s founders to move our thinking forward, celebrating our past, but understanding some of the dark aspects of our history. I want to say a special thanks to Amina and Karen for their honesty and bravery in telling Mary’s story and for shedding light on the views at the time.”

This talk is part of a wider National Lottery Heritage-funded project called LSTM-Past, Present, and Future. You can find out more about where the next LSTM-Past, Present, and Future event will be by following LSTM on social media (@LSTMnews on Twitter and LSTM on Facebook). You can also find out more about the other events marking LSTM’s 125th anniversary, by visiting here.

LSTM would like to thank National Lottery players for their support, in enabling LSTM-Past, Present, and Future to go ahead.