January 2016 – From the President: Janet Browne

Publication of this January 2016 Newsletter provides a welcome opportunity for the officers of the Society to wish members a very happy new year, and to thank our outgoing president Angela Creager most sincerely for her inspired leadership. Presidents come and go, but Angela has been special. She brought a unique combination of insight, commitment, and sunny good nature to every meeting of the various committees and phone calls that her position entailed and has been an important guide in steering the Society through a number of structural revisions and essential long-term strategic planning. Many of these adjustments were on view to members during the HSS meeting in San Francisco. And as president she has dedicated herself to making sure that every potential change is thoroughly justified, examined, and supported by consensus. The strategic plan is now completed and gradually coming into play through her tireless work on our behalf. It is a far-sighted and useful document that will truly help the Society to meet members’ needs more effectively. It is a genuine pleasure for me to be able to thank her, in this public venue, for all that she has done for us—and for the gracious clarity she brings to even the most knotty of problems. On the officers’ and council members’ behalf, please join me in congratulating Angela very warmly on a task carried out superbly well.

It is usual at this point in the cycle of Society business for the incoming president also to write a few forward-looking words. As I take up this role it is heartening to be able to say that I am the eighth female in this position since the Society’s foundation, and the third in a row. The dramatic increase of women in HSS’s structure and as speakers and organizers at the annual meeting, from the time I first attended a meeting, perhaps reflects a larger recalibration of the field as a whole. It is a pleasure and a huge honor for me to represent members of this Society—an international Society dedicated to understanding science, technology, and medicine in historical context. Founded nearly ninety years ago, it is the oldest such Society. It is also good to note (after researching the HSS list of former presidents) that I appear to be the first British person in this role and only the third non-North American. This must say something about the history of our discipline and the Society’s current expressed wish to internationalize. The others were the Swiss medical historian Henry Sigerist, who was president in 1939, and Berthold Laufer, the German born émigré, a great expert in Anthropology and East-Asiatic Languages at Columbia University. I hope everyone in the next few years will increasingly come to feel that the Society is more extensive in geographical scope and intellectual interests than these scant statistics indicate. Looking ahead, as we move forward into 2016, there are many business items on the Society’s agenda that will help us in implementing the strategic plan and perhaps in mapping out a development campaign. We look to you, the membership, for input and counsel, and thank you in advance for your support. Last but not least, the Society’s elected Council members and Officers are very fortunate in the invaluable assistance given by the Society’s Executive Office—Jay, Greg, Jessica, and our willing volunteer helpers, are each and every one a tremendous asset and work extremely hard on our behalf. You will hardly believe how much they do. They deserve our heartfelt thanks!

– Janet Browne, HSS President, 2016-2017