Let me begin by thanking Alix and Matt for inviting me to be the Book Review Editor for Isis. I first came to truly appreciate the academic book review in the Fall of 1999. It was my first semester as a Master’s student at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. Keen to earn my academic spurs, I had just written a rather precocious and needlessly critical review of an aging classic in the field for a class assignment.
I picked up a copy of Stephen Jay Gould’s collection Hen’s Teeth and Horses Toes (1983), on the recommendation of an old friend and was hooked immediately. I loved Gould’s characteristic trick of beginning with a tiny, apparently insignificant detail. He would then contextualize and analyze, explaining and clarifying, but never over-simplifying. When he pulled back from that initial tightly framed close-up, it was usually to reveal a vast vista of time—geological, evolutionary or historical—giving his reader the chance, as William Blake put it, “To see a world in a grain of sand.”
If ever there was a time to participate in the Genoa Science Festival (25 Oct.–4 Nov.), I figured, it was this year, following the catastrophic collapse of a bridge in the heart of the city last August. This was a major infrastructural failure that caused the death of 43 people and substantial material damage. The sudden disappearance of the 1967 cable-stayed motorway bridge from the skyline of the city has left an open wound, whose practical and symbolic significance is still in plain sight.
From November 9 to 11, 2018 around twenty historians of science and technology accompanied by a few international studies scholars met in SOKENDAI, Japan to discuss what nuclear science has to do with diplomacy.