News From the Profession – April 2020

EASTS: An Intellectual Bridge from the History of Science to Science Studies and East Asia

Science and technology have played active roles in the making of modern East Asia and its transformations. Founded in 2007 with the support of Taiwan’s National Science Council (now the Ministry of Science and Technology), East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal (EASTS), the first English-language journal dedicated to this exciting field, has attracted Asia specialists and experts from many disciplines.

Compared to the intellectual orientation of its Western counterpart, STS in East Asia has deep intellectual roots on the history of science, a point well-recognized in Volume 13 of Osiris, titled “Beyond Joseph Needham: Science, Technology, and Medicine in East and Southeast Asia.” Historically, whereas STS in Japan began with socialistic criticisms of Cold War science and now directs attention to alternative forms of social organization grounded in ideological pluralism, STS in China embraced traditions of natural dialectics and is backed up by state ideology. Taiwan and Korea take yet different disciplinary orientations. Influenced by Joseph Needham’s account of science and civilization, and developing their research agendas from the history of Chinese science, scholars in both these countries have structured their criticism of science as a necessary step toward democratization.

As a collective effort to make East Asia visible to mainstream scholarship, EASTS has integrated all the traditions it inherited. Founding editor-in-chief Daiwie Fu specializes in the history of Chinese science, and the current editor-in chief Wen-Hua Kuo works on the history of public health and Asian medicine. In just its first decade, EASTS has invited such renowned historians of science as Warwick Anderson, Francesca Bray, Pingyi Chu, Gregory Clancey, Fa-ti Fan, Sungook Hong, Sean Lei, and Togo Tsukahara to serve as associate editors. Through its editorial board, EASTS has also succeeded in building a global intellectual network that incorporates leading authorities both within and outside of East Asia and encourages conversations between the history of science and other disciplines, as well as the history of science in East Asia and beyond. A full list of the current editorial board can be found on the journal’s webpage.

EASTS Covers

A quarterly publication, the majority of whose issues are thematic, EASTS continues to contribute to the study of history and science, technology, and medicine in East Asia. In the past five years, for example, it has produced issues on the following themes:

  • Transnational psy-science in East and Southeast Asia
  • Population control and reproductive politics in Cold War Asia
  • Science and politics in Indonesia
  • Post-colonial medicine and sub-imperial formations of Taiwan and Korea
  • Medicine and public health in the twentieth century, and
  • Science and technology in Mao-era China

It has also actively engaged in discussions on the history of science in non-Western societies, including a forum on language and science; research notes and their responses on science fictions in East Asia; and the methodological contribution of Southeast Asia to STS.

Though our journal is still young, we as editors are committed to high-quality scholarship, and our efforts have been recognized by winning the Infrastructure Award given by the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) and by inclusion in key academic metrics, notably the Arts and Humanities Citation Index and the Social Sciences Citation Index. We analyze contemporary science and society while paying equal attention to how it was created and has transformed East Asia. We are always looking out for more scholarly collaborations, in particular those on the history of science, to help us accomplish this. So, please join us in contributing your own work to the living archive that is EASTS!

Information about EASTS was provided by the current editor Wen-Hua Kuo, who teaches social studies of medicine and public health at National Yang-Ming University, Taiwan.

Physicist Roland Eötvös’s PhD Thesis Unearthed

Presentation of the Eötvös file from the Archives of Ruprecht-Karls University, Heidelberg, on 23 January 2020. In the middle: the University’s Prorector Matthias Weidemüller, himself a distinguished physicist; on the right Ingo Runde, Director of the Archives; on the left: Henk Kubbinga (EPS-History of Physics Group). Picture: Oliver Fink (Press-Department)

Presentation of the Eötvös file from the Archives of Ruprecht-Karls University, Heidelberg, on 23 January 2020. In the middle: the University’s Prorector Matthias Weidemüller, himself a distinguished physicist; on the right Ingo Runde, Director of the Archives; on the left: Henk Kubbinga (EPS-History of Physics Group). Picture: Oliver Fink (Press-Department)

Henk Kubbinga (University of Groningen) made an interesting discovery while preparing a “Tribute to Roland Eötvös (1848-1919)” for the European Physical Society. At the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and in the Eötvös Museum, both in Budapest, he studied surviving materials (publications, instruments, photographs, bullae, etc.,) to find out that a crucial item was lacking, namely Eötvös’ PhD dissertation, defended in 1870 at the Ruprecht-Karls University of Heidelberg. The doctor’s bulla signed by none less than Gustav Kirchhoff, is still there, however, so some kind of misunderstanding seemed to prevail. Kubbinga subsequently contacted the Board of the Ruprecht-Karls University explaining the situation and asking for eventual souvenirs of Eötvös’ student days at Heidelberg. As it became clear in due course, he had hit bull’s eye. As the oldest University of today’s Germany, the Ruprecht-Karls University was lucky enough to survive two World Wars virtually undamaged, and its Archives preserved in a perfect state. Kubbinga was graciously received and quickly found out that in 1870, a PhD-ceremony in Heidelberg, was not a tradition. Indeed, presenting a dissertation was the exception rather than the rule. Like most of the other candidates, Eötvös was subjected to a 2-3 hour oral examination in German before the staff of the Faculty of Philosophy, all assembled formally gowned. His results, on that July 7th, were quite impressive: indeed, he received the distinction summa cum laude. The complete PhD file is there. It features the original request by Eötvös to be admitted to the examination, with an enclosure—fully unexpected—of an autographed curriculum vitae covering his three years at Heidelberg, of which one semester was spent in Königsberg (today, Kaliningrad). The three examiners—Bunsen, Königsberger, and Kirchhoff—added their impressions of the candidate’s answers; Kirchhoff, as Dean of the Faculty, specified the judicium. After the examination, each of the staffers in the audience signed the proceedings of the ceremony. The file concludes with a copy of the doctor’s bulla, dated July 8. With Eötvös’ detailed curriculum vitae and all the other papers on the table, a revised biography seems imperative.

New Consortium for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine Working Group

Penelope Hardy, Daniella McCahey, and Katharina Steiner are pleased to announce the formation of a new working group in the history of ocean science, technology, and medicine under the aegis of the Consortium for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine (CHSTM) in Philadelphia. The group will meet monthly beginning in Fall 2020 to discuss recent publications and workshop papers in progress. The conveners invite anyone interested in participating to sign up.

2020 HIST Award of the American Chemical Society Recipient: Lawrence M. Principe

Lawrence M. Principe, Drew Professor of the Humanities, with Chairs in both Chemistry and the History of Science, at Johns Hopkins University was named the recipient of the 2020 HIST Award of the History of Chemistry (HIST) Division of the History of Chemistry of the American Chemical Society. The HIST Award recognizes outstanding achievement in the history of chemistry and is international in scope. This award is the successor to the Dexter Award (1956-2001) and the Sydney M. Edelstein Award (2002-2009), also administered by the Division of the History of Chemistry (HIST) of the American Chemical Society. The award consists of an engraved plaque and a check for $1500 and will be presented to Prof. Principe at the fall national meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco in August 2020. Read the press release. Additional information about the award can be found on the HIST website.

Announcing the Newly Digitized Dr. Robert Matz Hospital Postcard Collection

The New York Academy of Medicine Library is very pleased to announce the launch of the Dr. Robert Matz Hospital Postcard Collection, a pilot digitization project that provides access to 118 hospital postcards from the five boroughs of New York City. Spearheaded by Dr. Robin Naughton, Senior Digital Program Manager, the collection offers a window into the history of hospitals in the New York area as well as some of the visitors to those hospitals. Many of the postcards have messages and postmarks, allowing the viewer to ascertain the time period when the cards were created. View the Matz Collection.

Quantum of Interest

The  University of Notre Dame recently restored a cache of letters featuring debates on matters of physics among scholars. Read the full story, complete with illustrations in HSS Member News.