HSS 2020 Virtual Forum: Preliminary Program

We are excited to share the preliminary program for the HSS 2020 Virtual Forum from October 8-11. The HSS Virtual Forum is co-hosted with SHOT. (See SHOT’s preliminary program

Registration will open soon. The registration fee will be $75 US (regular attendance) and $25 US (attendance for graduate students, retirees, and lower income participants). The institutional tier for participants who have support to pay the full rate will be $150 US. Registration includes access to all HSS and SHOT programs and provides closed captioning service and other features to enhance accessibility. 

The HSS/SHOT 2020 Virtual Forum will be held on the OpenWater video conferencing system, which uses Zoom. Further information will be provided on the registration page.

Authors’ Book Pitch: New Releases, Straight from the Source

Call for Submissions

HSS is getting ready for the 2020 Virtual Forum from October 8-11, 2020. Our program will be published shortly.

The HSS 2020 Authors’ Book Pitch is a central feature of our Virtual Forum. At a time when in-person interaction and exchange is limited, the Authors’ Book Pitch provides a platform to share new and exciting scholarship. Everyone who has registered for the Virtual Forum and published a monograph or edited a collective volume in the history of science, technology and medicine in 2019 or 2020 is warmly welcome to participate!

How It Works

If you plan to attend our meeting and have published a monograph or edited a collective volume in the field of history of science, history, and medicine (broadly construed) in 2019 or 2020, we invite you to  

  • self-record a short, three-minute video about the book (see instructions below). 
  • upload your video on a cloud storage service of your choice (Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, or your institutional cloud storage service.) 
  • copy the shareable link to the video file that your cloud storage service will give you.
  • provide the link and other information via the HSS video upload form no later than October 1, 2020

Our HSS video upload form will also ask you to provide: 

  • a transcript in doc, docx, or txt format, or a link to such a transcript. If you provide the transcript itself, this will be made available for a limited time during and after the conference, and may be available for download. If you prefer to offer a transcript available only during your presentation, please send the link on the upload form, and also provide the link for your audience during your presentation. Offering a transcript will assist audience members who require more time to process the information or would like to return to certain points and thus enhance genuine and engaged scholarship. 
  • a short blurb (twitter-length) that will serve as the title/teaser for your pitch in our Authors’ Pitch playlist. 
  • a link to your publisher’s book web page (and, if applicable, discount information)

 Your video will be displayed on the HSS Virtual Forum Platform during and for a limited time after the conference. All video will  be deleted after we close the event platform. All authors must register for the meeting. Please note that HSS will not provide video editing. Videos must be upload ready. Videos longer than three minutes will not be displayed.  

Instructions for Production 

Structure and Content 

The format of your short book presentation is deliberately simple. In order to help structure your presentation, please answer those of our five questions that you can speak to with ease. You don’t have to keep to the exact wording – take our questions as an offer to keep it basic, crisp, and easy to follow. Your HSS audience will browse through many of our Authors’ Pitches. Make yours memorable! Be clear, light-hearted, and engaging. 

  1. What’s the title of your book, and the tale behind it?
  2. Whom of your actors, objects, or sources surprised you the most?
  3. What are your book’s main arguments and how do they stand out/fit in?
  4. Which chapter would you recommend us to read first? 
  5. Why should your book be on desks and bedside tables far and wide? 


In order to make for an engaging recording, please consider our instructions for recording at home/on your own:

  • Start the video with a slide of your book cover or show a copy of your book. The cover/material object of your book is important for people to remember what you say. 
  • Choose a spot with a lot of (day)light. The source of light must not be behind you. At the same time, please do not sit in bright sunlight as this will overexpose your face.
  • Be mindful of your background—it should be quiet and in light colors. A bookshelf in the background is also suitable.
  • Ensure you are seated at an angle from the camera so that glasses do not reflect light, which can obscure the viewer from seeing your eyes. At the same time, try and stay in the middle of the screen.
  • Your environment should be as quiet as possible: no humming refrigerators, washing machines, traffic noise, pets making sounds, etc. Close all doors and windows.
  • To reduce reverberation, choose a location with plenty of furniture and few smooth surfaces. Fabrics swallow reverb, so carpets, curtains, and couches are beneficial.
  • If you record on your computer, be aware that the typing on the keyboard and clicking of the mouse will also be heard and thus recorded—if possible, try to avoid it.
  • If you record on your computer and you have an external audio recording device (such as an external microphone or headphones), use that to record your presentation, as it usually has better audio quality. 
  • You can also record your presentation by using a digital single-lens reflex camera or your cell phone. These devices usually have better in-built cameras than computers.  
  • Finally, always test your setup before the actual recording.

We look forward to learning about your latest work!   

Soraya de Chadarevian, Christine von Oertzen 
HSS 2020 program co-chairs, and the Virtual Forum Committee

For any questions, please use our contact form

HSS 2020: The Virtual Forum

HSS is planning a Virtual Forum from October 8-11. This event will not replace our in-person meeting we had planned for this fall with SHOT in New Orleans. This in-person joint meeting with SHOT is now postponed. It is planned to take place in New Orleans in late November 2021. Everyone who has been accepted to the 2020 meeting (as published in our 2020 HSS program in May) may find further instructions about their options to present next year

For this year’s HSS 2020 Virtual Forum, the HSS Executive Committee has worked closely with the HSS Council and the program meeting co-chairs. To re-envision the meeting and deal with all aspects this involves in a swift and transparent manner, we have formed a Virtual Forum Committee (VFC), drawing on expertise from many of our committees. In order to make this meeting a success, we will also be depending on volunteers for technical assistance before and during the meeting. If you are willing to help, please contact us.   

Together with the VFC, our 2020 program co-chairs Soraya de Chadarevian and Christine von Oertzen are preparing for an exciting HSS virtual event that keeps with the agenda of a joint endeavor with SHOT. At the same time, our Virtual Forum will speak to the current moment, discuss themes of broad interest, and address urgent matters that affect our members and the society at large. 

The preliminary program is now published. Registration and additional information will be available soon. Our 2020 Virtual Forum follows a new format. It will run for approximately five hours each day. Sessions will be shorter with more breaks in-between. We will have only a few concurrent sessions. The meeting will be mainly live-streamed, with some features available for accessibility. For those who cannot participate in real-time, playback recordings will be available for attendees for a limited time. As usual, dependent care grants will be available for which you can apply when you register for the meeting. Registration details will be posted with the program next week. 

The HSS 2020 Virtual Forum will draw on select sessions from our exciting 2020 program published in May. Among the few sessions that we were able to include, the Virtual Forum will feature sessions that speak to the general themes of the meeting and seem most suitable for the virtual format. Additionally, the program will include sessions organized by Special Interest Groups and by various HSS constituencies. The latter consist of a series of newly curated events in response to the global pandemic, social and racial injustice, and the economic outcomes that affect members’ jobs and education. 

We are confident that this will be an experience that will be of value and interest to many HSS members. And we are taking this opportunity as a learning experience as we plan for what will likely be a ‘new normal’ of holding hybrid meetings.

Emergency Pandemic Fund

Dear Friends of the HSS,

Back in May, we made an unusual request. The current pandemic was upending many of our members’ lives, and we asked for your support. Your enthusiastic response enabled us to aid many students and independent scholars, helping them take care of basic needs, such as rent, to more advanced challenges, such as replacing lost research funds. We believe that this support aligned with our mission – “To foster interest in the history of science” – and since the pandemic is still with us, we are renewing our call for help.

The system that we used last time to distribute funds – a five-member committee, with representatives from Council, from the Development Committee and from the Finance Committee – worked well and we will continue with that model. Because the Society’s finances have been shaken by these events, we will only award amounts based on donations we receive in response to this 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. (If this link does not work, you may give through the University of Chicago Press site: https://subfill.uchicago.edu/JournalPubs/Donation.aspx?webpub=isi. Simply write “Pandemic Fund” in the note field).

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 18 September 2020. If you are not an HSS member, we will deduct the membership dues from any award. Scholars who reside in non-OECD countries, will be eligible for our Sponsor-a-Scholar program (see https://hssonline.org/membership/sponsor-a-scholar-program/ for details).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

New Books Received: Apr – June 2020

Check out the latest titles in the history of science. See the full list of books.

Previous Isis Books Received Lists

This site contains affiliate links to books. HSS may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.
New IsisCB essay

The Isis Current Bibliography has a new bibliographic essay on its site by Vivek Neelakantan. It’s the first in IsisCB’s Pandemics series, and it deals with work on Southeast Asia in the colonial and post-colonial periods.

The essay is still under review, as an experiment in an “upside-down” review process where finished drafts are published immediately and the peer review happens in the open—which you can follow here.

Vivek Neelakantan, “History of Pandemics in Southeast Asia: A Return of National Anxieties?”

Isis submissions and gender

A report to the membership from the Co-Editors of the History of Science Society.

Within weeks of the pandemic-enforced closures of universities, reports began circulating that women’s scholarly productivity was being directly and disproportionately affected. At first anecdotal, these accounts quickly acquired data that affirmed a general trend across the spectrum of academic disciplines: that female researchers were abruptly submitting fewer journal articles than they had been relative to previous years, and relative to their male counterparts.

Many of the root causes of this apparent decline were obvious. Women in and out of academia are disproportionately burdened with the care of children, the sick, and the elderly—responsibilities which only increase during a public health crisis. In both history and other fields, women are more likely to work as contingent faculty, or in academic jobs where research work is a low priority in a crisis.

Was Isis similarly affected? The short answer is yes. The better answer involves an acknowledgement of what we do and don’t know about our contributors and the factors that have affected them during the pandemic…

[Read more]

Statement on Shared Governance

HSS Council has endorsed a statement issued by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) on the importance of shared governance during the pandemic: 

Changes to curriculum and instruction, radical shifts in labor and employment conditions (including declarations of financial exigency, furloughs, and terminations), and concerns relating to health protocols for in-person instruction during the pandemic are all issues that involve shared governance. These issues are directly impacting many of our members in their professional capacities as instructors and scholars employed in a wide range of universities and colleges. 

The HSS leadership recognizes the challenges many of our members are facing as a result of the pandemic and wishes to support all of those who must contend with uncertainty, irrespective of their institutional setting.  

July 2020 Newsletter
Pages from July 2020 Newsletter

We hope that all our members continue to keep safe and sane as our trying times continue. Certainly this longer-than-usual issue provides good evidence that our community has been busy and active.  We have a few treats in store, with two meaty interviews of distinguished, prizewinning scholars from our ranks, and we have more than one contribution attesting to the creativity of educators in times of crisis. Our regular sections are brimming over, as well, with more news than ever of individual members, the community, and the Society as a whole. Keep safe everyone.

Read the Newsletter. Download the PDF.

History of Science Society Awards Sarton Medal to James Bennett
2020 Sarton Medalist, James A. Bennett

Prof. James (Jim) A. Bennett’s work as a historian of scientific instruments, curator of world-class collections, museum leader, and teacher has had a remarkable impact in the field of history of science and beyond. Jim was one the earliest historians of science to foster the “material turn,” i.e., to argue that historical scientific instruments and apparatus not only serve as historical sources, but also provide insights not gained from paper documents. The relevance of scientific instruments and material culture is now almost undisputed, and Jim’s work was crucial for this shift of attention from ideas and paradigms to everyday practice and artisanal cultures.

His fundamental 1986 article on “The mechanics’ philosophy and mechanical philosophy” (History of Science 24, 1-28) made it clear that major changes associated with the Scientific Revolution emerged from the domain of instrument-making and practical mathematics. This article lifted the veil on the 16th-century practitioners who, by engaging with the practical problems posed by artillery, navigation, and surveying, had recorded and addressed several inconsistencies of Aristotelian physics. This lesson has been so deeply absorbed in the decades following the publication of Jim’s seminal article that it is now easy to forget where it originated.

The Divided Circle: A History of Instruments for Astronomy, Navigation and Surveying (Phaidon-Christie’s, 1987)

His early book The Divided Circle: A History of Instruments for Astronomy, Navigation and Surveying (Phaidon-Christie’s, 1987), which surveys European instruments for measuring angles made from the 16th through the 19th centuries, showed the profound importance of the circle and its measure for the history of science, highlighting how instruments provide valuable and unique insights into the worlds of theory and practice.

Jim’s sharp historiographical approach to science and its material culture was aptly summarized and illustrated in his influential 2002 presidential address to the British Society of the History of Science (BSHS), “Knowing and doing in the sixteenth century: What were instruments for?” (BJHS 36, 129-150). The latter remains a compelling invitation to use instruments as resources for research, constituting an obligatory passage point to all those who engage with this line of inquiry.

As the curator of world-class collections such as those at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, the Whipple Museum of the University of Cambridge, and the History of Science Museum in Oxford, Jim cultivated innovative dynamics of object-based teaching and research, while seeking to mediate among the worlds of the museum, the instrument collector, and the professional historian of science/technology. He has overseen and supported a substantial number of carefully curated and thought-provoking exhibitions such as “Empires of Physics” (1993, Whipple Museum, Cambridge), “Geometry of War, 1500-1750” (1996, History of Science Museum, Oxford) and “Steampunk” (2010, idem), just to mention a few examples. These exhibits have inspired students, researchers, curators, and the general public alike, bringing fresh perspectives from artifact-based research into the public sphere while setting a benchmark for other exhibit projects and permanent displays in institutions on both sides of the Atlantic.

Throughout his career, Jim has always stood out as an active, influential, and generous member of the museum and scholarly communities. He has held many distinguished leadership positions, including those of President of the BSHS, President of the Scientific Instrument Commission of the International Union for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, Vice-President of the International Academy of the History of Science, and more recently, President of the Hakluyt Society. He has also acted as an associate editor of leading academic journals and served on the advisory boards of the Nobel Museum and the Science Museum.

For his pioneering scholarship and curation in the field of instrument studies, his leadership in the history of science on an international stage, and his attention to the needs of faculty, students, and the public, the HSS is pleased to bestow its most distinguished award, the Sarton Medal, on Prof. Jim Bennett. 

The History of Science Society (est. 1924) is the world’s largest society devoted to the study of the history of science. The HSS’s mission is to foster interest in the history of science, promote discussion of science’s social and cultural relations, and bring this understanding to others worldwide. For further information, please contact Robert J Malone at jay@hssonline.org.