About me

I am a completing PhD candidate in the History of Science. I work on the life and diary of Charles Blagden (1748-1820), physician, natural philosopher, and secretary to the Royal Society between 1784 and 1797.

I have a passion for museums and public engagement, and work as a student engager within UCL’s three museums, the Grant Museum of Zoology, UCL Art Museum, and the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology. I talk about my doctoral research and its links to museum objects and exhibitions with museum visitors. I discuss some of these links, conversations, and ideas made in the museums in the student engagers’ blog.

I am currently working on a book project with colleagues in the STS department at University College London. We are creating a sourcebook that explores women’s involvement in knowledge production from around the world, designed to complement the teaching of undergraduate history of science courses. You can find out more about the project at Women in the History of Science: A Liberating the Curriculum Sourcebook.

About my research

Although a potentially rich source of information about the workings of English science and the Royal Society under its longest serving president, Sir Joseph Banks, Blagden’s difficult handwriting has meant that his diary has received relatively little attention from scholars. I am transcribing sections from Blagden’s diary, opening it up to the use of other historians, as well as using it to explore a number of themes in my thesis. I am particularly interested in examining how the secretary operated in the eighteenth century, and how information and time were managed on paper by Blagden, as seen in his diary and notebooks. My thesis will also explore the networks of individuals involved in scientific activities with and around Blagden and Banks, both in London and on the continent.

My project is funded by the AHRC and is a collaborative doctoral award (CDA). I am based jointly at the Department of Science and Technology Studies at University College London and the Royal Society.

You can find out more about my research on my academia.edu page.

Information management on paper: Lectures on Chemistry taken down by Sir Charles Blagden [1748-1820]. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images.



Cover image:  Lectures on chemistry. Holograph notes taken by Sir Charles Blagden [1748-1820], when a student at Edinburgh University. L0068238 Lectures on chemistry, Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images.



I’ve spoken about my work deciphering Charles Blagden’s infamously difficult handwriting, as well as some of the exciting things about working with his diary, in this video, on the YouTube channel ‘Objectivity’.


Cover image: Thomas Rowlandson, Sir Joseph Banks about to Eat an Alligator (‘The Fish Supper’), 1788; © Tate Photographic Rights © Tate (2014), CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported) https://www.tate-images.com/results.asp?image=T08469




Hannah Wills, ‘Charles Blagden’s diary: Information management and British science in the eighteenth century’Notes and Records: the Royal Society journal of the history of science (2018) (published online) DOI: 10.1098/rsnr.2018.0016.


Research Degree (PhD) in Science and Technology Studies, University College London (2015-present). Thesis title: ‘The Diary of Charles Blagden: Information Management and the Gentleman of Science in Eighteenth-Century Britain’, Supervisors: Dr Simon Werrett, UCL. Mr Keith Moore, Royal Society.

MSc History and Philosophy of Science, Distinction, University College London (2014-2015). Dissertation title: ‘A Tactile History of Public Science During the Eighteenth Century’.

BA History of Art, 1st class, St. Catherine’s College, University of Oxford (2011-2014). Dissertation title: ‘Illumination and Illusion: The Spectacle of the Phantasmagoria in 19th Century England’.

Conference and Seminar Papers

‘Exploring the relationship between Charles Blagden and Joseph Banks: scientific exchange between London and Paris’, Joseph Banks: Science, Culture and Exploration, 1743-1820, conference held at the Royal Society, London, 14-15 September 2017.

‘From Case Notes to Commonplace Books: Information Management and Charles Blagden’s Diary’, Annual BSHS Postgraduate Conference held at the European University Institute, Florence, 5-7 April 2017.

‘Marginalised Roles and Marginalised Sources: Charles Blagden as Secretary to the Royal Society, 1784-1797’, University of Leeds 18th Century Studies Seminar, 6 February 2017.

‘”Jan. 1 1795, Bd at Sir J. B’s”: Decoding the Diary of Charles Blagden’, Scientific Diaries Workshop held at the Royal Society, London, 27 January 2017.

Public Engagement Talks

‘Paper Technologies: 18th century notebooks and diaries’, public talk part of the UCL student engagers’ event ‘Materials and Objects: What do researchers at UCL study?’, UCL Art Museum, 18 May 2017 (link to event page) 

‘Legacy in Conversation: Scrapbooks, Albums and Diaries in the 18th Century’, public lunch hour talk, UCL Art Museum, 14 March 2017 (link to event page)

Panellist for ‘Why We Write’, public lecture event at the Royal Society, 27 January 2017 (link to video)

‘The Insider’s Diary’, an introduction to the diary of Charles Blagden at the Royal Society, YouTube video for the channel ‘Objectivity’, 29 March 2016 (link to video)


Postgraduate Student Engager, UCL Culture (2016-present) (link to website)

Postgraduate Teaching Assistant, Department of Science and Technology Studies, UCL (October 2016 – April 2017). Modules: Science Communication and Public Engagement, HPSC1008; Investigating History and Philosophy of Science, HPSC1012.


Cover image: Information management on paper: Lectures on Chemistry taken down by Sir Charles Blagden [1748-1820]. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images.