Originating as a presidential address during the seventieth birthday celebrations of the British Society for the History of Science, this essay reiterates the society's long-standing commitment to academic autonomy and international cooperation. Drawing examples from my own research into female scientists and doctors during the First World War, I explore how narratives written by historians are related to their own lives, both past and present. In particular, I consider the influences on me of my childhood reading, my experiences as a physics graduate who deliberately left the world of science, and my involvement in programmes to improve the position of women in science. In my opinion, being a historian implies being socially engaged: the BSHS and its members have a responsibility towards the future as well as the past.
Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
Søren Kierkegaard, Journals and Papers, 1843