#07 Recycling Has Always Been Key to Research, says Simon Werrett | WeAreSTS

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In this interview, Professor Simon Werrett discusses the main ideas of his book, Thrifty Science. In Britain of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the practices of reuse, re-purpose, and recycle were core to the work of what became science. More important, if you follow the trails left by these activities, you’ll find ideas that reorganise how we should think about the way science was done, where it was done, and who did the work. He also talks about other projects underway and some of the joys that come from a focus on material culture in the history of science and technology.

In our age of recycling, is thrifty science making a comeback? Professor Werrett argues it never went away. It simply is something we tend to let drift out of focus.

In his book, Professor Werrett also resurrects the old word “oeconomy,” putting it to work to help us understand why reuse was understood to be virtuous. And he explains how industrialisation in the nineteenth century substituted ideas related to consumption and specialisation.

Simon’s book

It was awarded the 2020 Paul Bunge Prize from the German Chemical Society and the German Society for Physical Chemistry.

Simon also talks about some of the main ideas from his book in a series of short films produced by STS.

The project described by Simon at The Institute of Making was Emotions, Transformations, and Restorations (2014).




Music credits

Podcast information

“WeAreSTS” is a production of the Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS) at University College London (UCL). To find out more, and to leave feedback about the show, visit us online:


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Editing and post-production by Professor Joe Cain.

“WeAreSTS” producer is Professor Joe Cain.

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