Dr Stephen Johnston, Senior Research Curator


Email: collections@hsm.ox.ac.uk

Research summary

My research is centred on the practical mathematical arts – from geometry and arithmetic to astronomy and naval architecture – especially in the Renaissance, but also extending to 18th- and 19th-century topics. I have a particular interest in the history of mathematical instruments and in digital approaches to their analysis and interpretation. I am currently working on astrolabes, astrology and timetelling from the 14th to 16th centuries. My books include The Geometry of War, 1500-1750, with Jim Bennett (Oxford: MHS, 1996) and Compass and Rule: Architecture as Mathematical Practice in England, 1500-1750, with Anthony Gerbino (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009)


Stephen Johnston became Senior Research Curator at the History of Science Museum in 2022.

From 2018-2022 he was Head of Research, Teaching and Collections at the History of Science Museum, having first joined the Museum as Assistant Keeper in 1995. He has curated exhibitions on a broad range of themes within the history of science, from Al-Mizan: Sciences and Arts in the Islamic World (2010) to Geek is Good (2014). Previously he was a curator and special projects officer at the Science Museum London.

He studied History and Philosophy of Science at both undergraduate and graduate level at the University of Cambridge, completing his doctorate on Elizabethan practical mathematics under the supervision of Jim Bennett.

Recent publications

  • ‘“Preciseness and Pleasure”: the Astrological Diptychs of Thomas Hood’, in Richard Dunn, Silke Ackermann and Giorgio Strano (eds), Heaven and Earth United: Instruments in Astrological Contexts, Scientific Instruments and Collections, vol. 6 (Leiden: Brill, 2018)
  • (with Silke Ackermann and Elizabeth Bruton) “Artefacts and Archives: Presenting Moseley in a Museum Context” in Roy MacLeod, Russell G. Egdell and Elizabeth Bruton (eds), For Science, King & Country: the Life and Legacy of Henry Moseley (London: Uniform, 2018), 258–83.