School of Social and Political Science

Dr Rebekah Higgitt

Job Title

Honorary Fellow

Rebekah Higgitt



Dr Rebekah Higgitt is Principal Curator of Science at National Museums Scotland. A historian of science, she has published widely on British science from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. She is interested in the representation of science in images, museums and literature; in the relationships between science, institutions and wider society; and in the makers, users and ‘lives’ of scientific instruments.

After undertaking a PhD at Imperial College London, later published as Recreating Newton: Newtonian Biography and the Making of Nineteenth-Century History of Science (2007), Rebekah was an ESRC-funded postdoctoral research associate at the University of Edinburgh’s Institute of Geography. There she researched the histories and geographies of the peripatetic British Association for the Advancement of Science 1831-1931. From 2008 to 2013, Rebekah was Curator of History of Science at the National Maritime Museum, with responsibility for the history and heritage of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, and the museum’s astronomy collections. There she worked on displays about the transit of Venus and history of solar observation and the large temporary exhibitions Royal River (2012) and Ships, Clocks and Stars (2014). Since then, and before joining NMS, Rebekah was a Senior Lecturer at the University of Kent, where she supervised PhD students and taught modules at undergraduate and postgraduate level on history of science; science, technology and empire; science and religion; science and satire; science communication; and science, museums and material culture.

In 2010-2015 Rebekah was a Co-Investigator on an AHRC-funded project on the British Board of Longitude, 1714-1828. This research supported the international exhibition, Ships, Clocks and Stars, as well as events and publications aimed at academic and general audiences, including Finding Longitude (with Richard Dunn, 2014), Maskelyne: Astronomer Royal (2014) and Navigational Enterprises (ed. with Richard Dunn, 2015). While at Kent, from 2017-2020, Rebekah was Principal Investigator on a Leverhulme Trust-funded project, Metropolitan Science: Places, Objects and Cultures of Practice and Knowledge in London, 1600-1800, in partnership with the Science Museum. In 2021-2023 she will be Co-Investigator on Tools of Knowledge, a digital humanities project funded by the AHRC that will explore and represent the history of the scientific instrument making trade in Britain and Ireland, 1550-1914.

Selected Publications

  • Rebekah Higgitt, “Greenwich near London”: The Royal Observatory and its London networks in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries’, British Journal for the History of Science 52 (2019), 297-32
  • Rebekah Higgitt, ‘“In the Society’s Strong Box”: A visual and material history of the Royal Society’s Copley Medal, c. 1736-1760’, Nuncius 34 (2019), 284-31
  • Rebekah Higgitt, ‘Instruments and relics: The history and use of the Royal Society’s object collections c. 1850-1950’, Journal of the History of Collections 31 (2019), 469-485
  • Rebekah Higgitt, ‘Framing the transit: expeditionary culture and identities in Lieutenant E.J.W. Noble’s caricatures of the 1874 transit of Venus expedition to Honolulu’, Annals of Science 74 (2017), 214-39
  • Rebekah Higgitt ‘Challenging tropes: genius, heroic invention, and the longitude problem in the museum’, Isis 108 (2017), 371-80
  • Rebekah Higgitt, ‘Equipping expeditionary astronomers: Nevil Maskelyne and the development of “precision exploration”’ in Fraser MacDonald and C.W.J. Withers (eds), Geography, Technology and Instruments of Exploration (Ashgate, 2015), pp. 15-36
  • Rebekah Higgitt, ‘The building of the New Physical Observatory at Greenwich, 1890-99’, British Journal for the History of Science 47 (2014), 609-35
  • Richard Dunn and Rebekah Higgitt, Finding Longitude: How Ships, Clocks and Stars Helped Solve the Longitude Problem (Collins, 2014)
  • Rebekah Higgitt (ed.), Maskelyne: Astronomer Royal (Robert Hale, 2014)
  • Rebekah Higgitt, Recreating Newton: Newtonian Biography and the Making of Nineteenth-Century History of Science (Pickering & Chatto, 2007)