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The Blind Teacher

  • Free
  • Seminar
  • Speech-to-text
Audience seated in a a room with white walls. They are listening and smiling at the speaker who is out of shot.
Event in the Forum at Wellcome collection, Steven Pocock. Source: Wellcome Collection. Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0).

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Join Professor Chris Mounsey to find out about the life of blind teacher Nicholas Saunderson, who was a Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University between 1711 and 1739. Chris will draw on his own experiences as a partially sighted Professor in Eighteenth-Century English Literature at the University of Winchester.   

You will learn how the sources available about Saunderson, written by six sighted men, have been used to construct the idea of him as a teacher. Chris will explore a set of lecture notes by Saunderson on Isaac Newton’s ‘Principia Mathematica’, held within Wellcome Collection, Denis Diderot’s ‘Lettre sur les Auvergles’, and Saunderson’s own ‘Elements of Algebra’.  

The talk will reveal how Saunderson helped his students to think in a spatial way about mathematics through his own experience of sight loss. Chris Mounsey will also introduce his concept of ‘variability’ as a way of understanding disability.

The event took place in our building and was livestreamed on Wellcome Collection’s YouTube channel.



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This event will be live-transcribed, which may be useful for people who are D/deaf, hard of hearing, deafened or neurodivergent. The captions will be displayed on a large screen in-venue. Ticketholders for the livestream will receive a link to view the captions in a separate window.

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About your contributors

Chris Mounsey


Chris Mounsey is a Professor of Eighteenth-Century English Literature at Winchester University and has a special interest in the histories of sexualities and disabilities. Before Chris’s vision was impaired, he wrote and directed a number of plays. At the same time he organised the annual conference for the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies and edited their journal. Chris co-organised the Queer People series of conferences at Christ’s College, Cambridge and continues to organise the Variabilities conferences at worldwide venues. He is also editor of two book series which explore the body in all of its variable forms: Peculiar Bodies for the University of Virginia Press, and the Routledge Advances in the History of Bioethics. 

Black and white photograph of Declan Kavanagh

Declan Kavanagh


Dr Declan Kavanagh is a Senior Lecturer in Eighteenth-Century Studies at the University of Kent with research interests in the literary history of sexuality, 18th-century British literature and culture, masculinity, disability studies, Irish literature, and representations of Western queer cultures.