Imperial College London

What can a surgeon learn from a taxidermist?


Taxidermist with a magpie for a round table discussion.

Experts in science, medicine and the arts explore the work they do with their hands at "The Art of Performing Science."

On the 24 October 2017, top academics at Imperial College joined experts from the Victoria & Albert Museum, Natural History Museum, Royal College of Music and other institutions to celebrate and explore the work which professionals do with their hands.

Talks by invited speakers were facilitated by Imperial’s Professor Kneebone and project researcher Claudia Schlegel (Berner Bildungszentrum Pflege, Switzerland). Cross-disciplinary ideas were shared between professions. A leading chef demonstrated the concept of ‘mise en place’, showing how the setup of a professional kitchen can be transferred to the laboratory of a molecular biologist. A Swiss astrophysicist and Imperial’s mechanical instrumentation workshop manager of the Solar Orbital talked collaboration for success. Further talks showed how methods of work from different disciplines could be incorporated into experts’ individual practices.

Guests included Imperial Provost James Stirling, Vice Provost (Research and Enterprise) Nick Jennings and Olympic Silver Medallist Melanie Wilson. A ‘textile body’ created by 3D embroiderer Fleur Oakes transported visitors to the operating theatre, using yellow wool as subcutaneous fat and antique lace to represent the frail skin of an elderly patient. An immersive film using virtual reality headsets captured an artist’s studio, underlining Imperial’s commitment to technological innovation.

Interactive workshops with more than 60 clinicians, artists and scientists prompted wide-ranging discussions around shared experience. Jewellery designers sat with dentists, dance therapists with taxidermists, surgeons with letter-cutters and many more.

The Art of Performing Science – Analogies across Disciplines opened new ways to think about knowing and new opportunities for collaboration. The discussion will continue through social media and a podcast, and future Embodied Knowing events are in the pipeline. Please follow us on Twitter via the Imperial College Centre for Engagement and Simulation Science twitter page @ICCESS_Imperial and the LinkedIn page Embodied Knowing. #embodiedknowing. 


Sarah Yorke

Sarah Yorke
Department of Surgery & Cancer

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