News From the Profession – January 2020

Two Historians of Science Elected to APS Membership

The American Philosophical Society, the oldest learned society in the United States, has elected two historians of science as members in 2019: Karine Chemla, who is a historian of mathematics in China, is currently director of research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in France; and Naomi Oreskes, an environmental historian who is professor of the history of science and affiliated professor of Earth and planetary sciences at Harvard University.

Karine Chemla

Naomi Oreskes

Naomi Oreskes

Founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1743, the APS’s main mission is to “promote useful knowledge” through research, fellowships, and public outreach in different a wide variety of scholarly disciplines. Membership, which is possible only through election, honors individuals who have made extraordinary accomplishments to their fields. The accomplishments of this year’s history of science members are indeed extraordinary and prolific scholars and HSS Newletter heartily congratulates them for this honor. More information about each new member and their election many be found by clicking on their names.

December 2019 Issue of HoST: Journal of History of Science and Technology

The December 2019 issue (13.2) of HoST: Journal of History of Science and Technology is now available online. HoST is a peer-reviewed open access journal, available online, published in English by De Gruyter/Sciendo, as a result of a partnership between four Portuguese research units (CIUHCT, CIDEHUS, Institute for Social Sciences, and Institute of Contemporary History).

New Website: Fingerprinting in the Modern World

Rutgers University has launched Fingerprinting in the Modern World, a website that provides resources for teaching the history of fingerprinting in secondary and college-level humanities, life sciences, and forensic science classes.

The website provides instructional materials (short narrative modules, video lectures, online quizzes) on the following topics:

  • the development and use of fingerprint identification in policing and forensics,
  • how fingerprint patterning has been studied in the modern life sciences, including anthropology, human genetics, and medical genetics,
  • the history of race in science, especially how disciplines such as physical anthropology and dermatoglyphics (the scientific study of fingerprints and palm patterns) have constructed notions of racial identity and difference in modern times.

The website is part of a project funded by the National Science Foundation (Note: Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF). Any and all feedback (a feedback form is available at the bottom of the page) is most welcome!

Information about the website was provided by Daniel Asen, Associate Professor, History, Rugers University-Newark.

HPS&ST Newsletter

The latest issue of the HPS&ST Newsletter is now available on the web.

Dissertation Abstracts 79-01 A and B

Below are the latest batch of recent doctoral dissertations harvested from the issues 79-01 A and B of Dissertation Abstracts related to the history of science.

Our deep thanks to Jonathan Erlen for faithfully compiling these lists.

The Value of Academic Societies

A recent Chronicle of Higher Education article questioned the value of academic societies and Joy Connolly, the new President of the American Council for Learned Societies penned a response, “The Value of Academic Societies” as a Letter to the Editor.
HSS has been a member of the ACLS since 1927, joining soon after its own founding in 1924. This rapid linking reflects the hunch of HSS’s leaders that associating with ACLS would pay dividends, and so it has. The HSS, and the HSS Executive Director in particular, have enjoyed enormous benefits from interaction with the now 75 sister societies. Few problems are novel and the combined experience and wisdom of the chief executive officers of the ACLS has often provided insights that led to solutions. We are confident that this relationship will continue to prove mutually beneficial to both societies and their members.

Introducing: HPS.CESEE Online Platform (History of Science in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe)

We are delighted to be able to share with you the new online platform HPS.CESEE, which aims to facilitate the exchange of information about the history of scientific knowledge in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe. Our aim is to serve as a resource for the history of scientific knowledge in the region stretching from Prague to Perm and from Tallinn to Tirana, or from (present) Albania and Austria to the (former) Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. We will keep you updated about conferences, events, new publications, journals and positions in our field—via our blog, newsletter, and social media: Facebook group and Twitter @hpscesee.

As HPS.CESEE is a community project, inspired by H-Net and H-Soz-u-Kult, we will rely on the information we receive from our members and followers—so please forward this information to colleagues, students and other members of the history of science community broadly construed. Please read our blog, subscribe to our newsletter, and follow us on social media, and send us information you would like to be circulated. And please contact us if you are interested in joining our editorial team.

HPS.CESEE editors
Friedrich Cain (Erfurt), Lucie Čermáková (Prague), Vedran Duančić (Zagreb), Daša Ličen (Ljubljana), Martin Rohde (Innsbruck), Timofey Rakov (Tyumen), Katalin Stráner (Southampton), Jan Surman (Moscow)

Announcement from the AAAS Board of Directors

The AAAS Board of Directors is thrilled to announce that effective 6 January 2020, Dr. Sudip Parikh joined AAAS as Chief Executive Officer and Executive Publisher of the Science family of journals. For complete details of the appointment and Dr. Parikh, please see the announcement on the AAAS website here.

2019 ISHPSSB Biennial Conference

Now in its thirtieth year, the International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology (ISHPSSB—“ISH” for short and fondly called “Ishqbibl” by its founders) held its biennial conference in Oslo between the 7th and 12th of July 2019. With more than 560 participants from 41 countries, the meeting brought together a large and diverse group of scholars—almost half of them postdocs or PhD students—for bio-focused sessions on everything from “Art’s Take on CRISPR” to “Where are we after 160 Years of Communication between Evolutionary Biology and Economic and Social Sciences? Perspectives from History, Philosophy and Social Sciences.”

First plenary session of the meeting against the backdrop of Alma Mater, a mural by the Norwegian artist Edward Munch (of The Scream fame). Photo by Luis Campos.First plenary session of the meeting against the backdrop of Alma Mater, a mural by the Norwegian artist Edward Munch (of The Scream fame). Photo by Luis Campos.


Ana Barahona, Chair of the ISHPSSB Hull Prize Committee, awarding the 2019 prize to Jonathan Hodge. Photo by Luis Campos.

A highlight for many was the two-part session organized in tribute to Jean Gayon (1949-2018), whose work and life exemplified the Society’s ideals of cross-disciplinary scholarship and cross-generational friendliness. Another highlight was the awarding of the Society’s prizes at the General Meeting, including a new Interdisciplinary Organized Session Prize and the David L. Hull Prize “to recognize extraordinary contributions to scholarship, and service that promotes interdisciplinary connections between history, philosophy, social studies, and biology,” which this year went to Jonathan Hodge (pictured left).

Members attending the General Meeting unanimously supported a proposal to hold the 2021 conference in Milwaukee, from 11–16 July. Please watch for the Call for Papers! And if you’d like to find out more about the Society in the interim, please go to our website.

Meeting details shared by Gregory Radick (President) and Ageliki Lefkaditou (Chair of the Local Arrangements Committee, Oslo).

Successful Campaign to Save the Notebooks of Charles Lyell (1797-1875)

From Jim Secord, University of Cambridge

Great news about the campaign to save Charles Lyell’s notebooks: the target of £966,000 has been achieved. David McClay, the fundraiser for the University of Edinburgh Library, has announced that nearly 1200 pledges were received, together with further donations from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the University of Edinburgh.

If you have not already fulfilled your pledge, you can do this online. UK taxpayers, if you are able to add Gift Aid, please do; this increases the value of your donation by 25%.

Although the notebooks have been secured, fundraising will continue to support the work of scanning the documents and developing a website to make them and much other Lyell material available.

We thank everyone on this list who has pledged—the number of donors greatly surpassed expectations and was a key factor in obtaining support from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and other bodies.

Doing Darwin Down Under

Doing Darwin Down UnderThere are probably more scholars today from Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand working in and around the Darwin “industry” than from any other place except Britain and the United States. At a workshop (23–24 August 2019) at the University of Sydney, jointly sponsored by the School of History and Philosophy of Science and the Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science, more than twenty of these researchers gathered to share their work on Darwin, the past and present of evolutionary theory, and its many cultural and scientific afterlives in both the antipodes and the rest of the world. What historical or methodological insights can be gained when considering Darwin and Darwin scholarship from “down under”? How does the place of Australia in the world, both presently and historically, shape our scholarship and our reading of Darwin and Darwinism in diverse, globalized contexts? In other words: how does Darwin travel, and what happens when he arrives?

Organized by Evelleen Richards (University of Sydney) and Mark Micale (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), the eight panels and roundtable brought together historians, philosophers, anthropologists and social scientists, as well as authors working in literary, media, cultural, environmental, gender and indigenous studies for lively discussions that often spilled over into the coffee breaks and evening meals. From the first panel, “Charles Darwin in Australia,” retracing Darwin’s own forays in New South Wales during the Beagle voyage, the panel topics expanded ever outward.

There were papers that considered the intellectual history of Darwinism in Australia in the arts, the natural sciences, and in the public conversation about the antiquity of humankind, a topic that continues to resonate in Australia in the twenty-first century in one session, and others that presented research at the intersection of race, science, and indigeneity, examining the work of Darwinian race scientists who conducted anatomical and physiological research on Indigenous Australians in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. There was a session on “Gender and Sex in Evolutionary Theory,” which tackled such topics as sexual selection, materialist feminist philosophy, and the strange concatenations of Darwin, gender, and the ideal entrepreneur in modern management science; one on the place of Darwin and Darwinism in nineteenth-century European thought, and still another that explored the relationship between evolutionary ideas and the cultural arts, with a particular focus on photography and film. A final session considered theoretical, ideological, and philosophical issues, origins, and endpoints of Darwin’s theories in contexts that ranged from the nineteenth-century quest for the cradle of man to the politics of knowledge in the Cold War, and the generic and philosophical implications of contemporary popular evolutionary writings. The workshop concluded with a roundtable chaired by Richards, with Warwick Anderson, Roderick Buchanan, Barbara Anne Creed, and Micale as leading discussants. (Visit the site for details of the complete program of sessions and speakers).

The definition of “Darwinists Down Under” encompasses scholars born, educated in, or currently working in Australia and New Zealand, and as a relatively recent transplant from the United States, I am both very happy to get to be a part of this lively intellectual community and struck by the ways that, yes, there is something different about doing Darwin from down under. Practically, moving countries and joining new intellectual and professional communities has a way of rearranging your mental hierarchies and locally informed senses of what questions are vital and what methods are interesting and innovative. Intellectually, being in Australia has made me consider Darwin as an actor in a global world in a very different way—as a thinker who operated in and alongside multiple imperial systems of power and knowledge.

A second workshop took place at the annual meeting of the Australasian Association for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science (AAHPSSS) in Wellington, 13–15 November. This workshop continued the lines of conversation and inquiry raised in Sydney and showcased the work of Aotearoa New Zealand-based or -born scholars, alongside that of colleagues from across the Tasman Sea.

This workshop report was shared by Emily Kern, a postdoctoral fellow in the New Earth Histories Project at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.