Dear Friends of the History of Science,
In these unusual times, we write with an unusual request. The History of Science Society has always viewed our mission statement as our highest priority: “To foster interest in the history of science, promote discussion of science’s social and cultural relations, and bring this understanding to others worldwide.” We traditionally do these things by publishing scholarly work, by awarding prizes for exceptional scholarship, by hosting an annual meeting, performing outreach, and dozens of other activities. The pandemic has forced us to look anew at what we have traditionally done and ask ourselves, what can we do now to further interest in the history of science? We recognize that promotion of this interest demands practitioners, those like you who love the history of science, and that the pandemic has created a unique challenge to many of our members. To help those who are struggling to meet that challenge, we are creating a fund to provide emergency financial assistance. A five-member committee, composed mostly of Council members, will accept applications for support and make awards. But because the Society’s finances have been buffeted by this storm, we will only award amounts based on donations we receive in response to this special appeal. Through this unique program, we especially hope to help those who are early in their careers, as well as those whose future in the history of science has been dimmed. If you are able to give any amount, please go to this link: http://weblink.donorperfect.com/pandemic-emergency-fund
And if you are one of those members in need, you may go to this link to request help: https://hssonline.formstack.com/forms/pandemic. We will accept applications through 26 May.
Please remember that our funds are limited, but we will help as best as we can. All applications reviewed by the committee will be anonymized.
Thank you for your membership.
Jan Golinski, HSS President
Jay Malone, HSS Executive Director
To our friends and colleagues in the history of science community:
Like all of you over the last several weeks, we at the HSS Editorial office have resigned ourselves to the fact that we do indeed live in interesting times. We are reasonably certain that, as you adjusted to the new realities of teaching, working, and living through this pandemic, you did not devote much time wondering when you would hear from us. Nevertheless, we’d like to take a moment to address how these extraordinary circumstances will affect the Society’s publications and those of you who make them possible, through your writing, editing, reviewing, and patronage.
As historians, we naturally look to our present circumstances with an eye towards what elements of them will survive into subsequent generations’ retelling of them. Will the articles in Volume 211, Issue 3 of Isis—which we note for the benefit of our distant successors should be reserved for the centennial of these events—be able to appreciate the emotional range many of us are now experiencing on a daily basis? The absurdities of ten teleconference neophytes on a Zoom call coexist from moment to moment with desperate fears for our loved ones and our students and our professional futures. We are lonely, and then we are grateful, and then we are cynical, and then we are bored. We grant ourselves imaginary degrees in epidemiology. We cautiously revise our estimates of when it might all be behind us.
But we don’t, for the most part, rush to finish our book reviews.
Perhaps, like us, you very briefly entertained the idea that working from home—away from the distractions of your normal routine, whether it be in a classroom or a library or an administrative setting—would be invigorating in some way. Perhaps under other circumstances it might have been. Suffice it to say that most of us are finding no such silver lining. To that end, we’d like to be clear about a few points.
First and foremost—and this is true in all times—our publications exist solely because of a thousand acts of individual generosity on the part of you, our colleagues. This is, of course, not a secret, but it is a debt that we freely acknowledge. A career’s worth of person-hours, very few of them ours, go into every issue of Isis. We will continue to publish, and we have no reason to think any of our publications will be delayed. But if you are one of our anonymous referees, or Advisory Editors, or contributors, or book reviewers, or if you play any of the other contributory roles that our publications rely on, we recognize that your ability to perform those tasks may be affected.
As usual, we will send e-mail reminders when those tasks are due. If you know that you will no longer be able to fulfill an assignment you’d previously accepted, we understand, and ask only that you let us know that as soon as possible. Similarly, if you need more time than you otherwise would, please let us know. If you can identify a point in the future when you expect you’ll be able to complete it, that too is useful. We may reassign reviews based on that information. Please be assured that no judgment is implied if we do. Our obligation is to our authors and readers, but your own well-being, and that of your communities, must always come first for you.
That said, we would be professionally remiss as editors if we did not use this space to beg other favors. First of all, if ever there were a time when volunteers to serve as article referees, or book review authors, or contributors to our Newsletter were especially wanted, it’s now. We’re not particularly worried that scholarship in the history of science will somehow grind to a halt and leave us with nothing to publish (though we have noticed a sudden downtick in article submissions for Isis) but we are keenly aware of how many people besides an author it takes to turn a submission into a finished article. We are careful always to match articles and books with qualified reviewers, a standard we are confident we can continue to uphold. But we’re always looking for volunteers who are eager to be a part of the process. It’s work, but it’s the work we’ve collectively chosen. Please reach out, if you can.
We are genuinely grateful to be a part of such a generous and collegial community of scholars. Until we can express our gratitude for your work in a less socially distant fashion, please accept our best wishes for your health. Stay in touch.
Editor, History of Science Society
Editor, History of Science Society
We hope everyone is keeping well, safe and calm in our strange and uncertain time of the coronavirus. The April HSS Newsletter leads with two articles on the scientific and the historical perspectives of the pandemic. Other articles offer historical perspectives on more issues of global concern–food and our environment–and bibliographies take a double bow in this issue, both in a tribute to a deceased former colleague and in our “Innovations in Education” column. And of course, there is news as usual about the doings of our members, of HSS and of the profession. Thank you for your membership!
Dear Members and Friends,
We will keep this short, since you don’t need us to tell you about the disruptive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on all aspects of our lives at present. We simply want to assure you that the HSS is functioning and continuing our activities even as circumstances change.
As many colleagues manage the transition to an online environment, we look with admiration at those who have used their training to address the history of epidemics and other emergencies. We have been pleased to hear of members who have contributed to webcasts, who have published op-ed pieces and blogs, and who have converted exhibits, teach-ins, and public lectures to a remote audience. In these activities, we draw on our scholarly expertise to provide accurate information and historical perspectives—precious resources at a time of uncertainty and distress.
The Society continues to make plans for our annual meeting in New Orleans, 8-11 October. We are working toward a conference that brings us together—as colleagues, friends, and members of a unique society—after months of isolation. Ideally, this gathering will be in person and we will be joined by SHOT, but we are also looking at multiple scenarios. We will provide you updates as this special challenge unfolds.
At a time like this, we are reminded that the Society is a community and a network for mutual support. We are exploring ways to assist members affected by the present crisis, such as graduate students and early-career scholars whose funding and employment prospects have diminished.
In the meantime, the Executive Office of the Society remains open, albeit with the staff working from home. The Executive Committee and the Council will hold online meetings this spring. Elections to these bodies and other posts will go ahead next month. And the Newsletter and the Society’s other publications will continue to appear.
We thank you for your membership and support of the History of Science Society. We cannot yet determine the impact of the crisis on our financial well-being, but we are sure that we will continue to thrive with members like you.
With sincere best wishes for your good health, and that of your families and communities.
Welcome to the new year and a new edition of the HSS Newsletter, with a welcome message from the new HSS President, Jan Golinski, and two new sections that we hope to feature more or less consistently in future issues (there’s a lot of “new” here): a corner for showcasing innovations in education, and an op-ed type column to which you, the readers, are invited to contribute. Also, in this issue are two interviews with authors of prize-winning books about our discipline and a photo-essay from a museum curator. As always, you can read about the doings and achievements of individual members, of the Society, and of our profession at large. Last, but not least, we bid farewell to those whom we said goodbye.