John Ruskin, Science and the Environment

The Victorian art teacher and social reformer John Ruskin died in 1900, but his ideas remain deeply relevant today. In honour of his 200th birthday, the museum hosted a symposium where experts on Ruskin, Victorian culture and the environment discussed his views on science and natural history, and on the impact of industrialisation on people’s health and the world around them. Speakers included Sandra Kemp, the Director of the Ruskin Research Centre; Kate Flint, professor at the University of Southern California; and John Parham, the new Professor of Environmental Humanities at the University of Worcester. 

The conference was accompanied by an exhibition of designs for the Museum by Ruskin and others held in the Director’s office. 

day exhibition of john ruskins designs for the museums windows on loan from the ashmolean museum 1000

Room view of the temporary exhibition of John Ruskin's designs for the Museum's windows, on loan from the Ashmolean Museum.



WA2013.67 John Everett Millais, 'John Ruskin’

Image © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford


The full programme for the day conference is listed below.

Ruskin, Science and the Environment Schedule

9.30-10.00 Registration

10.00-10.10 Opening Remarks
Prof Paul Smith (OUMNH), Prof Sally Shuttleworth (Oxford), and Prof John Holmes (Birmingham)

10.10-11.30 Session 1: Ruskin’s Futures
Ruskin: Museum of the Near Future – Prof Sandra Kemp (Lancaster)
Nature’s Uses: Ruskin on Trusteeship and Environmental Economy – Dr Marcus Waithe (Cambridge)

11.30-11.50 Tea and coffee

11.50-1.05 Session 2: Other Sciences, Other Environments
Ruskin Among the Psychologists – Dr Peter Garratt (Durham)
Ruskin’s “Unscientific” Environments – Prof Francis O’Gorman (Edinburgh)

1.05-1.50 Lunch

1.50-3.40 Session 3: Ecocritical Perspectives
Ruskin and Lichen – Prof Kate Flint (USC)
Rock of Ages and Ages: Past, Present and Future Geologies in The Stones of Venice – Prof John Parham (Worcester)
Divine and Defiled Waters: Ruskin, Environment, and Boundary Crises in the Victorian Age – Dr Mark Frost (Portsmouth)

3.40-4.00 Tea and coffee

4.00-4.30 Ruskinian Principles in Practice 1
John Iles on Ruskin Land

4.30-5.00 Break to explore the Museum

5.00-5.30 Ruskinian Principles in Practice 2
A tour of the Museum with Prof John Holmes (Birmingham)

5.30 Conference close. Delegates are invited to explore the Museum before the Public Lecture.

6.00-7.00 Public Lecture: Ruskin’s Trees
Prof Fiona Stafford (Oxford)