News from the Profession: October 2014

Kluge Center Announces Call for Applications for Chair in Astrobiology

The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress is now accepting applications for the Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology. The application deadline is 1 December 2014.

The Astrobiology Chair is a distinguished senior research position in residence at the Library of Congress for a period of up to twelve months. Using research facilities and services at the Library of Congress, the scholar engages in research at the intersection of the science of astrobiology and its humanistic and societal implications. The appointment ensures that astrobiology’s role in culture and society receives considered treatment each year in Washington, D.C. A stipend during the term of appointment supports the scholar.

The Chair is open to scholars and leading thinkers in the fields of philosophy, history, religion, astrobiology, astronomy, planetary science, the history of science, paleontology, Earth and atmospheric sciences, geological sciences, ethics, or other related fields. The Chair may undertake research on a range of societal issues related to how life begins and evolves, or examine the religious, ethical, legal, cultural and other concerns arising from scientific research on the origin, evolution, and nature of life in the universe.

Apply for the Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology by visiting: http://www.loc.gov/kluge/fellowships/NASA-astrobiology.html. For more information, email scholarly@loc.gov.

The John W. Kluge Center was established at the Library of Congress in 2000 to foster a mutually enriching relationship between the world of ideas and the world of action, between scholars and political leaders. The Center attracts outstanding scholarly figures to Washington, D.C., facilitates their access to the Library’s remarkable collections, and helps scholars engage in conversation with policymakers and the public. Learn more at: http://www.loc.gov/kluge.

Columbia—CHF Scholars

Columbia University and the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) are pleased to announce the beginning of a collaboration to train the next generation of scholars in the history of science. This partnership aims to foster advanced scholarship in interdisciplinary work between the natural sciences and humanistic inquiry and research. Outstanding young scholars—the Columbia-CHF Scholars—who hold a PhD in history, history of science, or cognate disciplines, in combination with a background in laboratory science research or artistic workshop experience, will pursue their own research while gaining experience in teaching.

The Columbia-CHF Scholars will co-teach the course, “Craft and Science in the Early Modern World,” in the Department of History, Columbia University, which combines seminar-style discussion with work in a laboratory. This course is one component of a research and pedagogical initiative—the Making and Knowing Project—established by Pamela H. Smith, Seth Low Professor of History, to explore making practices, texts, and materiality in early modern science. The Scholars will also teach part-time in Columbia’s signature Core Curriculum. In addition, as members of the postdoctoral Research Group on Matter, Materials, and Culture within CHF’s Institute for Research, the Scholars will focus on materiality, the laboratory, and culture, sharing their work through outreach opportunities available through CHF’s museum and public events.

Bringing the CHF together with Columbia University will have benefits for joint work among the sciences, the humanities, and social sciences, and will provide opportunities to combine laboratory and humanistic research, as well as to explore digital dimensions of research on early modern history of science that can be shared beyond the two institutions.

Columbia-CHF is especially pleased to announce the appointment of the Columbia-CHF Scholars for 2014-17, selected after an extensive international search:

  • Jenny Boulboullé whose 2012 PhD (Maastricht), “In Touch With Life—Investigating Epistemic Practices in the Life Sciences from a Hands-On Perspective,” combined a range of methods to investigate hands-on notions in relation to knowledge making. Dr. Boulboullé comes to the Project from her position as Research policy advisor to the executive board of the Free University Amsterdam, after postdoctoral work on the Art History Foresight Committee, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, Amsterdam.
  • Donna Bilak, presently finishing a year as the Edelstein Postdoctoral Fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation, is conducting an interdisciplinary research project on Michael Maier’s Atalanta Fugiens. Dr. Bilak received her PhD in 2013, from Bard Graduate Center, New York, with a dissertation on the American Puritan alchemist, John Allin. Dr. Bilak is also a practicing jeweler.
  • Joel Klein completed a PhD (2014) on Daniel Sennert under Professor William Newman at the University of Indiana, after a B.S. in chemistry and a stint as a research chemist. Dr. Klein is completing a year of research as an Edelstein Fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation.

Midwest Junto 2015

The next meeting of the Midwest Junto for the History of Science will take place on 17-19 April 2015 at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. See the Junto’s new website at http://midwestjunto.wordpress.com/ for more information.

Sokol Books on Fulham

We would like to update HSS members on the new shop Sokol Books Ltd has opened on Fulham Road in London. The address is 239A FULHAM ROAD, LONDON, SW3 5HY. Sokol Books has also just released a new catalogue, which is accessible at – http://www.sokol.co.uk.

The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) History Project

By Kate MacCord, Jane Maienschein, Wes Anderson, Marci Baranski, Florian Huber, Valerie Racine, and Jonathan LaTourelle

The MBL History Project has entered its second season of collecting and digitally archiving materials from the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Led by Jane Maienschein, the director of the Center for Biology and Society at Arizona State University (ASU), and supported by funding from the National Science Foundation, the project seeks to bring to public attention the history of the Marine Biological Laboratory. The MBL has been home to many award-winning scientists and has incubated excellent scientific work since it opened in 1888. This project documents that history for the public by digitizing the MBL’s archives, adding interviews and new documents, and creating visually rich and interpretive digital exhibits that put the history and science of the institution into context for the public.

The MBL History Project is run through a collaboration between ASU’s Center for Biology and Society and the MBL, with the support of the National Science Foundation. Over the past two years, researchers have digitized thousands of objects from the MBL archives and members of the Woods Hole community. Dozens of interviews with MBL scientists and long-term Woods Hole community members have been filmed to document the ever-changing history of this institution and the people who have been a part of building it. All of these documents and interviews are stored in the HPS Repository (http://hpsrepository.asu.edu/) and made available under creative commons license on the MBL History website (http://history.archives.mbl.edu/). The interviews are also hosted on the MBL History Project’s YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNAiaXcCLyIHgmwcRUwj9oA).

2014 marks the second season of data collection for the project, and graduate researchers from ASU are joined in their laboratory in the MBL’s famous Lillie building by an international group of graduate researchers and scholars, including Michael Dietrich from Dartmouth. The core team of the MBL History Project for the summer of 2014 consisted of: Jane Maienschein, Project Director (ASU); Kate MacCord, Project Coordinator (ASU); and graduate student researchers: Wes Anderson (ASU), Marci Baranski (ASU), Florian Huber (University of Vienna), Jonathan LaTourelle (ASU), and Valerie Racine (ASU). The graduate researchers are busily working on several important projects:

  • Wes Anderson is gathering information from the MBL’s annual reports to compile a list of all the investigators who have worked at the MBL. This work has unearthed information on the research presence of Stephen Jay Gould, as well as Nobel Prize winners Thomas Hunt Morgan, George Wald, H. Keffer Hartline, Sydney Brenner, Albert Szent-Györgi, and Eric Kandel (among many others), and complements a list of all MBL course participants that was created by the MBL History Project in 2013. Computational tools reveal interesting patterns that raise new historical questions.
  • Marci Baranski is developing a history of research at the Ecosystems Center. Founded in 1975, the Ecosystems Center was the first year-round research program at the MBL. Using annual reports, NSF grants, scientific publications, and oral histories, Baranski is tracing several research projects from their inception to the present day. These projects include the development of terrestrial carbon and nitrogen models by Center researchers, the use of stable isotopes in ecosystem research, and the three major Long Term Ecological Research projects. Baranksi’s work serves as the inaugural entry of the MBL History Project into the rich history of ecosystems and biodiversity work that has occurred at the MBL. In future years, this locus of interest will be expanded to include data and exhibits on the biodiversity of the MBL’s Marine Resources Center and long history of collecting experimental organisms. We expect this expanded research area will grant insights into how the biodiversity of the area surrounding Woods Hole has changed, and how researchers’ organismal needs have varied over the years.
  • Florian Huber is digitizing the Viktor Hamburger correspondence. Viktor Hamburger (1900–2001) was a German-born experimental embryologist whose work and mentorship led to a Nobel Prize for Rita Levi-Montalcini and Stanley Cohen for the discovery of nerve growth factor. Beginning in 1933, Hamburger was a regular investigator at the MBL, where he taught and directed the embryology course for many years. After his death in 2001, Hamburger’s scientific papers were donated by his daughter to the MBL archives, including 140 folders of scientific and private correspondences with leading biologists of the 20th century, such as Johannes Holtfreter, Frank R. Lillie, Jane Oppenheimer, Rita Levi-Montalcini, Florence Moog, Hans Spemann, and Paul Weiss. Huber’s Hamburger project opens many avenues for exploring the history of embryology and cell biology, as well as regenerative biology.
  • Jonathan LaTourelle is engaged in the history of physiological (photochemical and neurological) and ethological theories of vision at the Marine Biological Laboratory: from Hecht and Hartline to Hanlon. He is also developing a history of molecular theories of memory at the MBL as well as actively researching the contemporary history of the study of neurological regeneration. Oral histories are central to the MBL History Project, and LaTourelle has interviewed many current and former MBL investigators and teachers, including: John Dowling, Steven Treistman, John Lisman, and Roger Hanlon. Over the next few years, the focus within the MBL History Project on neurobiology will expand to cover the research conducted within the Eugene Bell Center for Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering as well as the Grass Lab (an initiative at the MBL funded by the Grass Foundation—www.grassfoundation.org).
  • Valerie Racine is digitizing parts of the John Philip Trinkaus correspondence. John Philip Trinkaus (1918-2003) was an embryologist at Yale University who spent most of his summers at the MBL, studying the mechanism of gastrulation in Fundulus heteroclitus, a species of teleost fish. Racine is also preparing an online digital exhibit of Trinkaus’s life and work on Fundulus epiboly. This exhibit will emphasize Trinkaus’s remarkable ability to delineate a general research problem in embryology, leading to a long career of fruitful research on a simple model organism. Trinkaus’ archival materials at the MBL contain over 50 folders of correspondence with leading biologists of the 20th century, including: James Weston, Cheryl Tickle, and Michael Abercrombie. The efforts of Huber and Racine to digitize the correspondence of famous MBL-affiliated embryologists will continue to expand over the next several years to include the archives of Johannes Holtfreter, John W. Saunders, and cell biologist Shinya Inoue. They have also enjoyed watching embryos develop (thanks to Mt. Holyoke biologist Rachel Fink) and see many more questions about the Marine Resources Center to be pursued further.

All of the digitized materials and exhibits will be made available to the public through the MBL History Project website (http://history.archives.mbl.edu/) and the MBL History Project YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNAiaXcCLyIHgmwcRUwj9oA). The MBL History Project will continue to accumulate materials that record the rich history of biology at the MBL, and store them in the open-access HPS Repository (http://hpsrepository.asu.edu/), where they are readily available for all researchers and members of the public. The future plans of the MBL History Project include expanding the digital correspondence projects to include the letters of Johannes Holtfreter, John Saunders, Shinya Inoue, and many more, incorporating biodiversity materials and data harvested from the MBL and local specimen collectors in order to grasp both the changing biota of the Woods Hole region as well as the histories of the scientists’ connections with different organisms, and increasing the number and types of digital exhibits. The digital archives also benefit from the computational tools being developed by Julia Damerow and Erick Peirson in Manfred Laubichler’s lab at Arizona State University. These tools allow analysis and representation of the data in new ways that reveal patterns calling for further research. We also have benefited from the support of MBL leaders and from working with the MBL archivist Diane Rielinger and librarian Matt Person and other MBL library staff.

Notre Dame Opens Search for Assistant Professor

The University of Notre Dame Department of History invites applications for a tenure-track position in the history of science at the assistant professor level. Geographical and chronological specialty is open, but applicants must be prepared to offer survey courses on the history of science. A successful candidate will also be expected to contribute to the graduate program in the History and Philosophy of Science. Review of applications will begin on 15 October 2014.

Candidates should send a letter of application, C.V., and three letters of recommendation to history@nd.edu. Digital dossiers are preferred but we will accept applications on paper sent to Professor Patrick Griffin, Chair, Department of History, 219 O’Shaughnessy Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556. The University of Notre Dame is an affirmative action employer with a strong commitment to fostering a culturally diverse atmosphere for faculty, staff, and students. Women, minorities, and those attracted to a university with a Catholic identity are encouraged to apply. Information about Notre Dame is available at http://www.nd.edu, and about the department at http://history.nd.edu.

NARSES—Nature and Religion in South Eastern European Space: Mapping Science and Eastern-Christianity Religions in South Eastern Europe and Eastern Mediterranean

NARSESA project funded by the National Strategic Reference Framework, Greece, 2012-2015
Implemented by the History, Philosophy and Didactics of Science and Technology Program
National Hellenic Research Foundation and University of Athens
http://narses.hpdst.gr

The NARSES project will examine the multiplicity of relations between science and religion in South-Eastern Europe and the East Mediterranean. The focus will be on the social formations influenced by the Orthodox Christian world, from the 4th century AD to the 20th, with an emphasis on Christianity and the relevant sources in Greek language. NARSES’ principal aim is to track the changes, renegotiations, and reconceptualizations of nature and God, as well as that of their relation, while mapping the development of secular learning and demonstrative knowing in conjunction with established or emerging traditions of faith and worship. The sociocultural space within which the research will take place is defined by the social formations of the Byzantine Empire and its successor, the Ottoman Empire, and the National States in Southeastern Europe engendered by the latter’s collapse. The main religions that have influenced this area are Christianity (Greek Orthodox, Armenian, and other Eastern Christian Churches), Islam, and Judaism. In this space, the state was highly involved with religion, both in terms of what role religious ideology played in the establishment and in the safeguarding of a viable coherence between the different levels of narratives, and in terms of how religious practices correspond to subject-positions or inter-subjective enclaves inhabited by individuals acting within a given society.

More specifically, the project aims to:

  1. collect, critically examine, and catalogue the texts where the conceptualizations of God intersect with the conceptualizations of nature (religious texts on nature, and scientific texts evincing theological concerns);
  2. collect, critically examine, and catalogue the canonical texts concerning the limits of knowledge and the status of sciences and arts;
  3. map the debates and the controversies in which different conceptions of God and nature are employed, reconstructing their histories and their interactions with narratives and practices of the era;
  4. map the different religious groups active in debates and controversies on nature and God in each period;
  5. map the different institutions responsible, in each period, for the production, circulation, and negotiation of knowledge about nature and God.

Traditions of faith and worship will not be regarded merely as part of an external context, implying a set of boundary conditions under which sciences and arts may flourish or fall into decay. Instead of such an approach, we will treat religions as dynamical entities sensitive to influences stemming from other fields of social experience, and especially those pertaining to the production and circulation of knowledge. From this angle, a whole range of possibilities lurking in the relation between sciences and religions, in different conjunctures, comes to the fore, from overlapping or complementarity to open conflict. As John Hedley Brooke and Ronald Numbers have recently put it, “historically, according to time and place, the relationship has been constructed in all of these ways, which is why the sound bites we so often hear should be resisted” (2011: 2). Following this thread, emphasis will be placed on these multiple possibilities, as well as on cases where secular knowing had significant impact on religious beliefs, on modifying theological discourse, or even on setting new standards for the assessment of theological arguments.

Social context itself will also not be considered as essentially external, already described by previous historiographical representations, detailed or not. The NARSES project aims to go beyond the state of the art in relevant scholarship in both methodological and interpretational levels and, as such, move beyond contextual rough lines. Situating the sciences in their relation with religions within a specific social context will also require a renegotiation of the historical entity itself. Thus, as with the concepts of science and religion themselves, the sociopolitical and cultural spaces that this research will situate itself in are to be treated as heuristic axes of analysis, not historiographical posits.

In order to accomplish the above objectives, particular emphasis is to be given to public theological debates in periods of crisis. It is precisely in these instances that traditional conceptualizations of God or nature were being relativized, reshaped, or re-interpreted, and it is in these periods that the problem of knowledge acquires a dimension of actuality in close connection with the question of what forms of worship should be considered proper. The examples of Iconomachy and the controversy over Byzantine pietism are illustrative in this regard.

The explicit recognition, from the outset, that an additional objective to be achieved is the enrichment of our historical understanding of social formations emerging in a specified geographical and temporal scope, has as a consequence that the project is not confined to a history of debated ideas. Mapping the controversies is not to focus only on mapping conflicting ideological contents, forms, and strategies of enunciation. The reconceptualization of God and nature is to be examined through the practices and narratives emerging within political, religious, or educational institutions. Thus, the basic analytical category of the project will be the active human subject participating in social movements. Such exemplars are to be religious communities, groupings branded as heretic, movements permeating, traversing, opposing, and more generally affecting official professional-intellectual strata, and forms of collective action that promote or obviate reformations.

Achieving the objectives of the NARSES project is key to understanding the relationship between sciences and the societies of Southeastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. This geographical area comprises newly integrated countries in the European Union. Science is a main constituent of European civilization and the relationship between societies and sciences plays a major role in the European integration.

An important goal of NARSES is its expected impact beyond the implementation of the project. Indeed, a NARSES database, conferences, and publications are expected to constitute a solid foundation in order to develop the interdisciplinary research on the historical relations between religions and sciences to the whole of Eastern Europe, including Ukraine and Russia. It will also open the field for interdisciplinary comparative studies on science and religions between West and East, facilitating the dialogue between societies with different cultural histories and roots.

Join the Graduate and Early Career Caucus to Advance Your Career in Chicago!

Roommate Finder

Need a roommate for the annual meeting? Use our forum to find one. http://hssgecc.wordpress.com/hss-2014-annual-meeting/hss-2014-roommates/

Mentorship

Make a meaningful connection to your career though professional mentorship. Let GECC help you connect. http://hssgecc.wordpress.com/hss-2014-annual-meeting/

CV Review

Get your CV reviewed by a professional in the field. Get advice, avoid fatal flaws and polish your CV ahead of the job hunt. http://hssgecc.wordpress.com/hss-2014-annual-meeting/hss-2014-cv-review-sign-up-now/

GECC and PSA mixer at HSS 2014—Thursday, 8:45 p.m.

Join the PSA and GECC for an early careerists mixer following the opening night reception. The event will be at a location TBD from 8:45 p.m. onward. Appetizers will be provided.

GECC and HSS At Work—Friday, 7:30–8:30 p.m.

HSS At Work features History of Science careerists in fields outside the academic track. Come share a drink and conversation with them and the Graduate and Early Career Caucus on Friday from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. at a location TBD.

GECC Business Meeting and Negotiation Workshop—Saturday, noon

Negotiation and participation are the themes of the combined Graduate and Early Career Caucus (GECC) Business Meeting and Negotiation Workshop featuring a member of the Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (HERC). Attending the business meeting gives you a chance to grow GECC and participate in the coming year’s events. Following brief business, participants will enjoy the workshop, “Everything You Wanted to Know about Negotiating a Job Offer, But Were Afraid to Ask.” This workshop will be led by a representative of (HERC) who is also an expert on self-promotion and negotiation, specifically as they relate to race and gender in STEM and higher education fields.

For all of these events, check the GECC Twitter, Facebook, and Blog for more up-to-date information.

2014 Elizabeth Paris Lecture: Peter Galison at the Chicago Humanities Festival

Harvard University historian of science and Festival favorite Peter Galison will deliver the 2014 Elizabeth Paris Endowment for Socially Engaged History and Philosophy of Science Lecture on 9 November. [Please note that at press time, this event was sold out.]

Building on his groundbreaking work in Einstein’s Clocks, Poincaré’s Maps, which charts the cultural implications of the quest for “pure time,” his most recent endeavor is his collaboration with renowned visual artist William Kentridge. Using their installation “The Refusal of Time” as a springboard, Galison revisits his work’s key issues, from the social history of nuclear power to the historical meanings of time.

This inaugural public event, sponsored by the HSS, honors the memory of Elizabeth Paris, and is presented in partnership with the Chicago Humanities Festival. The Elizabeth Paris Endowment for Socially Engaged History and Philosophy of Science honors the life and interests of Elizabeth Paris (1968–2009), a historian and philosopher of science and HSS member. The Endowment aims to provide for a regular public event that will bring to a wider audience an understanding of the value of the history and philosophy of science. For more information on Elizabeth, the Endowment, and how to give, please click this link: https://hssonline.org/about-elizabeth-paris/.

American Philosophical Society 2014-15 Grant and Fellowship Competitions

APS Research Programs

Information and application instructions for all of the Society’s programs can be accessed at our website, http://www.amphilsoc.org. Click on the “Grants” tab at the top of the homepage.
Franklin Research Grants

This program of small grants to scholars is intended to support the cost of research leading to publication in all areas of knowledge. The Franklin program is particularly designed to help meet the cost of travel to libraries and archives for research purposes; the purchase of microfilm, photocopies or equivalent research materials; the costs associated with fieldwork; or laboratory research expenses.

Applicants are expected to have a doctorate or to have published work of doctoral character and quality. PhD candidates are not eligible to apply, but the Society is especially interested in supporting the work of young scholars who have recently received the doctorate. Awards range from $1,000 to $6,000. Deadlines: October 1, December 1; notification in January and March.

Library Resident Research Fellowships

The Library Resident Research fellowships support research in the Society’s collections.

Applicants must demonstrate a need to work in the Society’s collections for a minimum of one month and a maximum of three months. Applicants in any relevant field of scholarship may apply. Candidates whose normal place of residence is farther away than a 75-mile radius of Philadelphia will be given some preference. Applicants do not need to hold the doctorate, although PhD candidates must have passed their preliminary examinations. Stipend is $2,500 per month. Deadline: March 1; notification in May.

John Austin Society’s 50th Anniversary

In the 2014-2015 academic year the John Austin Society for the History of Medicine and Science at Queen’s University, Kingston, will celebrate its 50th Anniversary. Speakers include Neil Hobbs (“In Praise of Eponyms. A League of Medical Nations”), Paul Manley (“Gastric Ulcers and Cancer-Stress, Napoleon and Helicobacter Organisms”), Robert Kisilevsky (“The Amyloid Story. Some Steps Forward and Some Steps Back”), and Greg Baran (“’A Journey through Hell.’ The Firsthand Account of Kingston Physician Dr. Cumberland through the Trenches of World War I”). For further information please see: http://post.queensu.ca/~forsdyke/john_austin_society.htm

Seeking Podcast Hosts

“New Books in Medicine” (http://newbooksinmedicine.com) is currently seeking hosts interested in conducting interviews with authors of new books on medicine and the history of medicine. Hosting the channel is a good way to bring the work of scholars of medicine to the attention of large audiences. Interested parties should write Marshall Poe at marshallpoe@gmail.com.
“New Books in Medicine” is part of the New Books Network, a non-profit consortium of 100 author-interview podcasts focused on serious non-fiction and academic books.

Letter from Ghent: HOPOS2014

By Gary Hardcastle (HOPOS President), Bloomsburg University

What is now the International Society for the History of the Philosophy of Science—HOPOS, in short—began in conversations. The conversations begat conference sessions (at meetings of societies like the HSS, among others), and the conference sessions begat a conference, held in Roanoke, Virginia, in the summer of 1996 and sponsored by “The History of Philosophy of Science Working Group,” soon renamed HOPOS. HOPOS has met biennially ever since, in the summer and on the campus of an idle (and therefore idyllic) college campus. And although HOPOS has grown and launched a journal of its own, conversation remains at its core. That was evident this past July 3–5, when, on the comfortable and very welcoming campus of Universiteit Gent in Belgium—sacred ground for HSS members—over one hundred and forty scholars met for HOPOS2014, the 10th biennial HOPOS meeting.

HOPOS Attendees

HOPOS Attendees

The opening reception set not only the perfect tone for an academic meeting, but a high standard for all future HOPOS receptions. The Local Organizing Committee, a collection of Ghent-based faculty and graduate students twenty strong and chaired by Maarten van Dyck, received the arriving members of HOPOS, or HOPOI, in the truly glorious Pacificatiezaal of Ghent’s Stadhuis, site of the 1576 Pacification of Ghent. As HOPOI gathered, pacification—in the form of a flurry of greetings, an official welcome from the Office of the Mayor, wine, and Belgian beer—issued forth.

The next three days saw the delivery of nearly 130 papers over twelve blocks of four or five concurrent sessions, fifty-six sessions in all. Morning and afternoon coffee breaks, combined with a generous community lunch in the conference facility (included with registration), fueled participants not just through the sessions but through two plenary keynote sessions, the first a fascinating exploration of Figura in natural philosophy by Washington University’s Dennis Des Chene, and the second a provocative and enlightening discussion of philosophies of the normal from Christini Chimisso of the Open University. The coffee breaks and lunch, and much more besides, were in turn enabled by generous support from the Universiteit Gent, the University of Chicago Press, Springer, and Brill, all HOPOS2014 sponsors secured by Maarten van Dyck and the local organizing committee. A significant portion of the students, independent scholars, and younger scholars in attendance benefitted as well from travel support provided by HOPOS and by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), the latter via an NSF travel grant administered by the HSS on behalf of a consortium of eight academic societies, HOPOS among them.

HOPOS2014 drew scholars from near and far, and from all career levels. Approximately 25% of HOPOS2014 participants were students. 58% were affiliated with North American institutions, while only slightly more—59%—located their institutional homes elsewhere: Europe. Asia, Israel, South America, and Russia were all represented by at least one participant. 28% of those participating were women, a figure HOPOS takes especial note of in a time when attention in academia has rightly turned to women’s and minorities’ access (or lack thereof) to scholarly communities, and to the visibility of accomplished women and minorities within those communities.

The grandeur and good cheer that marked the opening reception of HOPOS2014 was exceeded only by the banquet at its close. Amidst outstanding food and an apparently unending parade of wines and beers, HOPOI gathered at Salons Carlos Quinto less to end the meeting than to continue conversations, some dating back to 1996. And those conversations will continue in Minneapolis in June of 2016, at the next meeting of HOPOS.

Dissertation Abstracts

You can view the latest batch of recent doctoral dissertations harvested from the issues 75-04 A and B of Dissertation Abstracts pertaining to the history of Science and Medicine at the following URL: http://www.hsls.pitt.edu/histmed/dissertations

ProQuest has altered how they put out their individual issues. No longer do they correlate to one month, so the dating is more random. Our thanks to Jonathan Erlen for preparing this list.

Instructive Myths in the History of Science

In May of 2014, an international group of historians, philosophers, and educators descended on the campus of Washington & Lee University, in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley (U.S.), to take part in a conference on popular misconceptions in the history of science. “Newton’s Apple and other Historical Myths about Science” was organized in order to prepare a collection of essays aimed at a general audience, particularly teachers. Organized by Kostas Kampourakis (University of Geneva), Ronald L. Numbers (University of Wisconsin-Madison), and Nicolaas Rupke (Washington & Lee University), the conference examined more than two dozen “myth bustings” and generated insightful discussions, with topics ranging from details of specific historical episodes, to the impact of modern scientific myths, to questions of how one designates a narrative as a myth in the history of science.

The conference began on the morning of May 9 with a welcome from Daniel Wubah, Provost of Washington & Lee University, followed by two solid days of history of science myth busting. For each of the 26 myths, the author gave a brief exposition of the popular story and the flaws and falsehoods contained therein, followed by a brief commentary from another participant. A short question-and-answer session, often quite lively, ensued. The tales under discussion ranged from the early modern period to the 20th century and included specific episodes, as well as general views of the operation of science and its broader social relations. A list of the myths that were discussed is provided below.

The collegial and vigorous discussions were complemented by frequent breaks for coffee, food, conversation, making new acquaintances, and simply wandering around the campus of Washington & Lee, which may have been the real star of the conference.

The plenary lecture, “Myths about Science and its History,” was delivered by John L. Heilbron (University of California-Berkeley) at the Lee Chapel on the evening of May 9 and was attended by several dozen Washington & Lee students and faculty in addition to the conference participants. In his thoughtful, challenging, and entertaining address, Professor Heilbron warned against labeling any mistaken claim as a myth but rather to consider only those “errors” that have maintained an enduring and significant cultural relevance. He also described truly interesting myths as those that contain an element of truth “usefully exaggerated.” He then highlighted three examples:

  • The “counter-myth” that science and religion are not in a state of constant warfare
  • Theories of Everything in physics
  • That there is or was a history of science

The plenary lecture can be viewed in its entirety at http://new.livestream.com/wlu/historical-myths-john-heilbron, and readers are encouraged to take the time to view it.
Acknowledgment for the conference and its success go to the organizers mentioned above, and we eagerly anticipate the book’s appearance. Gratitude is due especially to the hosts at Washington & Lee: Nicolaas Rupke and Carolyn Wingrove, who were so generous with their time and energy.

A List of the Myths:

  • That no science was done between Greek antiquity and the Scientific Revolution
  • That before Columbus geographers and other educated people thought that Earth was flat
  • That the apple fell and Newton invented the law of gravity, thus removing God from the cosmos
  • That Wöhler’s synthesis of urea in 1828 destroyed vitalism and by implication a spirit-based understanding of life
  • That William Paley raised scientific questions about biological origins that were eventually answered by Charles Darwin
  • That geologists were divided into opposing camps of catastrophists and uniformitarians
  • That Lamarckian evolution relied largely on use and disuse and that Darwin rejected Lamarckian mechanisms
  • That Darwin fully developed his theory in 1839 and kept it secret for 20 years
  • That Wallace’s and Darwin’s explanations of evolution were virtually the same
  • That Darwinian natural selection, perhaps complemented by Lamarckian influences, was the only scientific explanation for the origin of organic diversity on Earth
  • That sexual selection (Darwin, 1871) received such a frosty reception from Wallace and others that it was virtually forgotten
  • That Louis Pasteur disproved spontaneous generation
  • That Gregor Mendel was a pioneer of genetics, being ahead of his time
  • That “Social Darwinism” had a profound influence on social thought and policy, especially in America
  • That the Michelson-Morley experiment paved the way for the special theory of relativity
  • That the Millikan oil-drop experiment was simple and straightforward
  • That the Modern Synthesis consists of random genetic mutation plus natural selection
  • That melanism in peppered moths is not a genuine example of evolution by natural selection
  • That Linus Pauling’s discovery of the molecular basis of sickle cell anemia revolutionized medical practice
  • That the Soviet launch of Sputnik caused the revamping of American science education
  • That religion has typically impeded the progress of science
  • That the “scientific method” accurately reflects what scientists actually do
  • That science has been largely a solitary enterprise
  • That a clear line of demarcation has separated science from pseudoscience