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Welcome to The Irish Giant

Inside the Irish Giant

Byrne in streetInside the Irish Giant: History, Science and Art was conceived and convened by Dr Claudia Stein, Director of the Warwick Centre for the History of Medicine, as a two day public engagement event combining Cartoon de Salvo’s theatrical production, ‘The Irish Giant’, with expert panel discussions exploring two separate themes from the piece.

In January 2011, after viewing Cartoon de Salvo’s ‘Irish Giant’ at Battersea Arts Centre (London), and Ronan McCloskey’s BBC ‘Irish Giant’ production (involving Brendan Holland [a pituitary patient genetically linked to the original Irish Giant, Charles Byrne – the Irish Giant], and Professor Márta Korbonits [an endocrinologist at St Bart’s & Queen Mary University], Stein began organizing an event that would merge the arts with academia.

With the assistance of Ed Collier and Paul Warwick (China Plate) and Warwick Arts Centre, she planned to bring the tragic Enlightenment intersection of Charles Byrne’s life and John Hunter’s quest for scientific and anatomical discovery to the University of Warwick. Using panel discussions to frame the theatrical production, Stein’s proposed programme would combine discursive themes -- ‘what it is to be human? who owns our bodies? are we just flesh and bone?’ --with contemporary debates about the relative merits of medical breakthroughs and individual choice (in this case about what happens to the body after death). With these themes in mind, the first panel addressed questions of ‘Enlightenment science, religion and commerce’, while the second panel considered the scientific theme ‘Gigantism, genetics and history’.

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