October 2018 – HSS News

HSS Newsletter Editors Wanted

The HSS Newsletter first appeared in 1972, edited by Roger Stuewer and his team of volunteers (the Newsletter archive can be found here). One of the goals of the quarterly Newsletter was to advertise jobs in the field so as to level the playing field for all graduates, a goal that was achieved and now seems quaint in the age of the Internet. As the Society transitions to a new team of editors, who take over on July 1, we would like to return the Newsletter to its volunteer foundation, with a new goal of fostering solidarity among HSS members. This transition will likely involve a new title (HSS Newsletter does not evoke deep feelings) and an increased reliance on stories from our members. Although all HSS publications will remain under the purview of the Society’s Editors, we are looking for volunteers for tasks like, notably, the following:

  • managing editor
  • finding and editing stories of interest
  • advisory editors
  • helping us integrate the Newsletter into the Society’s website.

These would be two-year terms, and the Executive Office stands ready to assist all volunteers.

Land Acknowledgement Ceremony in Seattle

During the 2017 HSS meeting in Toronto, we formed a committee to expand the Society’s ongoing initiatives for inclusion, diversity, and equality. Our primary focus for the 2018 meeting in Seattle is to invite a tribal elder to open the conference with a land acknowledgment ceremony. We are also drafting guidelines to make land acknowledgment a regular practice at conferences and institutions for research and education. Anyone interested in joining us is very welcome. Please email us at hss.land.acknowledgment@gmail.com.

Rosanna Dent, McGill University; Felicia Garcia (Chumash), School for Advanced Research; Elaine LaFay, University of Pennsylvania; Khyati Nagar, York University; and Marissa Petrou, NYU

HSS’s Respectful Behavior Policy

Freedom of expression and vigorous debate are crucial to scholarly exchange. The History of Science Society strongly values mutual respect and strives to provide an environment for exchange that is free from bias and intimidation. The Society is dedicated to securing a safe, hospitable, and productive environment for everyone. Accordingly, the Society deplores all harassment and is sensitive to the harm suffered by persons who experience it. We expect speakers and questioners at our meetings to demonstrate self-control and civility, even in the midst of strong disagreement, and not to engage in ad hominem attacks. Furthermore, we expect those participating in the Society’s meetings and events to treat others with respect and not to engage in behavior that is discriminatory, intimidating, threatening, or harassing. This expectation applies to our speakers, staff, volunteers, and attendees.

Nondiscrimination and Anti-Harassment Standards

The Society prohibits any unwelcome conduct that is based on an individual’s sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, gender identity, race, color, religion, national origin, age, marital status, disability, or employment status and that creates an environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. Harassment may include such actions as: (1) inappropriate physical contact; (2) inappropriate jokes or verbal kidding or teasing; (3) verbal abuse and epithets; (4) degrading comments; (5) the display of offensive or sexually suggestive objects or pictures; (6) conduct or comments of a lewd or lascivious nature, including subtle pressure for sexual activity; (7) repeated offensive sexual flirtations, advances, or propositions; and (8) any other conduct that the individual (or group of individuals) might reasonably find to be intimidating, hostile, offensive, coercive, or threatening. Sexual harassment does not refer to occasional compliments of a socially acceptable nature or consensual personal and social relationships.


If an individual or group of individuals believes that they have experienced any violation of this policy at a Society meeting or event, the person or group should report the incident immediately to the Society Ombudsperson (ombudsperson@hssonline.org). Although anyone may seek advice from the Ombudsperson, only the individual or individuals alleging that they have been harassed may file a complaint. The Ombudsperson shall listen to the grievance, describe the policy and procedures, outline issues of privacy and confidentiality, and discuss possible courses of action regarding the filing or non-filing of a formal complaint. The Ombudsperson shall take all reasonable efforts to maintain in strict confidence the identity of individuals reporting an incident and the person or persons implicated in an incident. The Ombudsperson shall prepare for Council annually an aggregate, anonymized summary of all such reported incidents. If an individual elects to file a formal complaint, that person must describe the incident in a non-confidential written statement delivered to the Ombudsperson within sixty (60) calendar days of the alleged conduct and preferably immediately following the incident. The Ombudsperson will provide the statement concurrently to the accused party or parties and to the three-person Respectful Behavior Review Committee. The accused party may elect to file a written response, and if so, the written response must be filed with the Ombudsperson within sixty (60) calendar days of receipt of the initial written complaint. The Chair of the Committee shall contact both parties to discuss the incident and determine whether there is a mutually acceptable resolution. If no such resolution can be found, the Committee shall determine whether the incident constituted harassment under the terms of this Policy. If the Committee determines the incident constituted harassment, it shall furnish a report of the incident, the Committee’s findings, and a recommended sanction, if any, to the Secretary of the Council within sixty (60) days.


The Council shall consider the case. If a majority of the entire Council concurs with the recommendations of the Committee, the Council Executive Committee shall issue a written reprimand including any sanctions banning the individual from future meetings and/or revoking the individual’s membership. The Secretary of the Council will report the outcome to all parties involved, which is final. Society Ombudsperson: ombudsperson@hssonline.org.

Approved by HSS Council, 7 June 2017

[HSS’s Ombudsperson for the 2018 meeting is Sally Gregory Kohlstedt]

JSTOR for HSS Members

In its strategic plan, HSS identified professional development as one of our six goals. Specifically, the Society is focusing on supporting the “professional development of emerging history of science scholars in and outside the academy.” One of the ways in which the HSS can help our members advance their research and teaching is to facilitate access to the literature, and we are pleased to work with JSTOR to offer a 50% savings on a one-year JPASS subscription for members (regularly $199). JPASS, available as monthly or yearly plans, allows you to read whatever journal article you like and enjoy up to 120 PDF downloads a year from the JSTOR archive, an archive with over 7 million articles from 2 thousand journals (including Isis and Osiris), representing some 50 academic disciplines.

In addition to past issues of Isis and Osiris, members may find the following journals of particular interest:

  • The British Journal for the History of Science
  • Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
  • Science Progress
  • Science, Technology, & Human Values

JSTOR adds new titles to JPASS every month so you’ll have a growing collection of the world’s leading scholarly journals only a click away. Sign up here.

HSS’s Elizabeth Paris Endowment Achieves $100,000 Goal

The Elizabeth Paris Endowment for socially engaged history and philosophy of science was established in 2013 in celebration of the life and values of Elizabeth. A passionate and generous scholar who was committed to integrating the intellectual side of the history and philosophy of science with their social, institutional, and policy aspects, Elizabeth excelled in bringing people together and the endowment was formed with that in mind. We are pleased that we have now reached the $100,000 goal and plan to build on this amount. This is a permanent fund, the proceeds of which will be used to pursue the endowment’s central goal: to carry the history and philosophy of science to the public. In pursuit of this goal, the HSS sponsors the Elizabeth Paris social engagement events at its annual meetings.

In the first-Paris event in 2014, Peter Galison, the Pellegrino Professor in History of Science and Physics at Harvard University, built on his ground-breaking work in Einstein’s Clocks, Poincaré’s Maps. Professor Galison examined the quest for “pure time” and the impact this had on daily life, especially railroad travel. Galison also incorporated into his Paris talk some of the collaborative results with the artist William Kentridge, providing an exciting balance of science and art. This talk, co-sponsored by the 2014 Chicago Humanities Festival, sold out within a few weeks.

For 2015, HSS drew on the expertise of one of its members and invited Eric Conway, co-author of the book Merchants of Doubt, to host a screening of the movie by the same title. Dr. Conway provided valuable insights into how scientific expertise can be intentionally twisted to create doubt in the public forum. For example, scientists who created doubt about the harmful effects of tobacco also had a hand in manufacturing doubt about acid rain and climate change. This story is particularly important for democratic societies that rely on scientific expertise in making decisions.

At the Atlanta meeting in 2016, the Society invited Gregg Mitman (University of Wisconsin) and Evelynn Hammonds (Harvard University) to speak about their expertise on science in Africa and among minorities in the United States, respectively. The event, which took place in downtown Atlanta at a historically black church, featured footage of a 1920s scientific expedition to Liberia and the ripples it created that are felt even today.

The 2017 conference in Toronto highlighted the work of Alice Dreger, whose talk “Moral Witnessing in the History of Science” drew the largest audience to date. Using her work as a champion of those born with atypical anatomies as a springboard, Dr. Dreger explored how history can serve as a type of moral witnessing and how history can provide a powerful explanation for events as it warns against simplistic stories of good and evil.

HSS and PSA: “He Says He’s Not Dead”

By Jay Malone, HSS Executive Director

“In “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” John Cleese’s character brings an older man to the “dead cart,” which is being pushed through the mud in a bleak village to the sing song chant of “bring out your dead.” The old man protests that he’s not dead, which prompts the captain of the detail to exclaim, “He says he’s not dead,” one of the funnier lines in cinema. Some people are discussing the demise of the HSS/PSA relationship but it is not yet dead. Here’s the background of the co-located meetings.

In the mid 1990s, PSA faced a bit of a crisis with its biennial meeting, i.e. finding someone to organize it. HSS’s Executive Secretary, Keith Benson, stepped into the breach and pulled together the 1996 meeting in Cleveland. Keith did such a fine job that PSA asked that this relationship continue. Because it is doubly difficult to organize two separate meeting, it was decided that HSS and PSA would meet together, preferably in the same hotel. The 1998 meeting in Kansas City marked the beginning of that experiment and it worked fairly well for many years but change was inevitable.

When HSS began this relationship, a typical PSA meetings featured 5 parallel sessions spread over 2.5 days and about 325 attendees. HSS conferences would see over 700 delegates and 10 to 12 parallel sessions. Finding a hotel to fit both groups was always a challenge. Now some 20 years later, for the Seattle meeting, PSA is expecting over 700 attendees, with 10 parallel sessions spread over 4 days. This growth prompted the PSA governing board to find a new way to organize its biennial conferences, and this decision actually meshed nicely with HSS’s strategic plan where we were looking to invest more in programs outside of the annual meeting. PSA reconstituted its administration, appointing Jessica Pfeifer as their new Executive Director, and Jessica has done a fabulous job.

As part of the strategic plan, HSS’s Council expressed a desire to meet with other societies on a more regular basis, especially the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT). Accordingly, we are planning meetings with SHOT in 2020 and 2021. HSS Council also expressed a desire to meet outside of North America, which is the impetus for our Utrecht meeting next year in July (our first annual meeting in July). A combination of meeting more frequently with SHOT and outside of North America makes it increasingly difficult to coordinate meetings with PSA.

We will meet with PSA in Seattle but we will miss PSA in 2020 as we work towards a co-located meeting with SHOT. But this does not mean that we have ruled out future meetings with PSA and, in fact, we are looking at a possible co-located meeting in Pittsburgh in 2022. And cooperation between the history and philosophy of science will be evident at the 2019 Congress of the Division of Logic, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science and Technology in Prague. HSS included the DLMPST Congress in its NSF travel grants and will provide vital support for that meeting (the CFP for Prague is now live: http://clmpst2019.flu.cas.cz/).

We recognize the benefits of combining the history and philosophy of science and will keep our eyes on the future of that relationship, aware of Imre Lakatos’s belief that philosophy of science without the history of science is empty and history of science without the philosophy of science is blind.

Sponsor-a-Scholar Program

The History of Science Society (HSS) is calling for applications to its Sponsor-a-Scholar program. This program aims to help scholars who live in countries that are not party to the Convention on the Organization for the Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) become active members of the HSS.
Selected by a subcommittee of the HSS Committee on Membership, sponsored scholars receive a free electronic membership in HSS (renewable up to three years), which includes subscriptions to Isis, Osiris, and the HSTM Database, along with other benefits. In return, sponsored members are expected to help further the HSS’s international outreach efforts.

Interested applicants, please send:

  • 2-page application letter stating your experiences, interests in the history of science, and your proposal to publicize HSS in your region.
  • 2-page CV

Please submit all materials to Zuoyue Wang.

Why Isis?

A few years ago, the HSS Executive Office, which is based at the University of Notre Dame, sent a request to the University’s financial office to wire funds to Utrecht University. The funds were intended for the editorial team stationed at the Descartes Center, and “under reason for payment” we listed “publication of Isis.” Shortly after the request, we received a note of alarm from the financial department stating that we cannot send money to that group. Even though the terrorist group, commonly referred to as ISIS, has waned in the headlines, when people learn of the title of the flagship journal in the history of science, they are startled, and typically ask when the HSS will change the title. There are no plans to make any such alteration, and it is worth remembering why George Sarton chose that title and to recall that the HSS was formed in 1924 specifically to support Isis.

In the September 1953 Isis, Sarton published the article “Why Isis?” in order to give readers his reasoning for choosing the Egyptian goddess as the title for the journal, which he established in 1912. He began the article thus: “During the last forty years, I have often been asked “Why is your journal called Isis? I answered briefly and sometimes impatiently. The present article is written for the sake of providing my successors with a more complete answer.” (Isis, v.44, Sept. 1953, p. 232) Sarton then goes on to admit that he does not exactly remember when the idea of founding a journal devoted to the history of science (he called it a “review’ of the history of science) occurred to him. He was sure, though, that the idea came shortly after he received his doctor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Ghent on 11 May 1911 (his undergraduate degree, also from Ghent, was in chemistry).

He writes that he liked the title Isis because it was brief, requiring no abbreviations and representing a contrast to the growing number of wordy science journal titles. And though he thought that the names of people, journals, and institutions should be as brief as possible (his daughter’s name was May), he encouraged elaboration through a subtitle (presumably just for journals) and so Isis is rendered, as “An International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences.”

But brevity does not provide a sufficient answer to why Isis? and he admits it, albeit stubbornly: “The gestation of Isis lasted more than a year, but I do not remember having ever had the slightest hesitation about the name, or having ever thought of an alternative one. The query—”Why Isis?”—never occurred to me. It was to be Isis or nothing.” (p. 234) Members owe it to themselves to read this article, how someone trained in mathematics, who cared little about the humanities, especially the “oriental humanities” gradually, through “eastern dreams and velleities” (p. 235) settled on the title Isis.

Members have access to the full run of Isis. The Sarton article can be found here.

GECC Activities Update (October 2018)

The Graduate and Early Career Caucus is thrilled to announce that our search for diversity officers was a great success. We ask the HSS community to join us in welcoming Ellen Abrams (Cornell) and Charlotte Coull (Manchester) to our team. They are currently developing a diversity survey and would welcome any input. Are there questions that you think should be asked of the HSS/GECC community? Please send ideas, suggestions, or questions to our diversity officers at gecc.diversity@gmail.com. The survey will be made available online on the GECC website during and immediately following this year’s conference in Seattle.

The GECC Communications officers have been hard at work on the redesign of the GECC website. In addition to providing information about us and our activities, the new website features several new initiatives. Our mental health resources page is available and provides links to specific articles and studies on Graduate Student mental health as well as information on more general resources. We also have pages providing information on alt-ac careers and how to apply for post-doctoral positions. In October we will be debuting the GECC Advice column, “Ask a Grad Student.” This collaborative effort features answers from many GECC officers in order to provide different perspectives on a given question. Please leave a comment, or reach out to us directly at hss.gecc@gmail.com with feedback.

GECC is offering a wide array of programming this year in Seattle. In addition to our annual events, such as the CV review (Saturday 1:30-3:45 p.m.) and the GECC Mixer (Friday 8:00-10:00 p.m.), we will be debuting a new Mentorship Mixer immediately following the general reception on Thursday night. This event will be hosted by HSS President Bernie Lightman and will provide attendees with the opportunity to “pick the brains” of established scholars in a casual and convivial environment. Space is limited and interested parties should RSVP to hss.gecc@gmail.com to guarantee their place.

It should be emphasized that this mixer is scheduled in addition to other ongoing mentorship programs. The Women’s Mentorship Event will be a brown-bag-lunch format and will take place on Friday from 12:00-1:15 p.m. We are also continuing our one-on-one mentorship program, which pairs graduate students and early careerists with more senior scholars. The goal of this program is to facilitate conversations that would not otherwise have occurred. If our participants develop a rapport that continues beyond their initial conversation we are, of course, thrilled, but it is not required. We at GECC have a relaxed and inclusive understanding of mentorship. We believe in sharing information and encouraging conversations amongst academics at all career stages. We identify mentors as those with information to share and mentees as those that can benefit from the experiences and expertise of others. We are always seeking mentors to serve during the HSS Meetings. If you are interested in participating please contact our mentorship officers at hss.mentorship@gmail.com.

For more information about GECC and all of our programming, visit our website: https://hssgecc.wordpress.com.

Update on the May Sarton Fellowship in the History of Science

Members may be aware that the American Academy of Arts and Sciences approached the HSS earlier this year to help secure nominations for a fellowship in the history of science, a program with a somewhat lengthy history. May Sarton, the daughter and only child of George and Mabel Sarton and a renowned poet, had endowed a fellowship program in 1991, which was intended to support an emerging poet and an emerging historian of science on a three-year cycle. The fellowship was to alternate between a poet and a historian. Challenges plagued the establishment of the program and the first fellowship was not awarded until 1999, to Cristina Chimisso. The second award did not come until 2012 and went to Melinda Baldwin but the Academy has been able to stabilize the process with the full intent that a fellowship will go to an early-career historian of science every six years. After being approached by the Academy, the HSS agreed to help solicit nominations with an expressed goal in expanding the field of nominees. Although accommodating the Academy’s timeline required a much-too-short nomination period, we received over 60 nomination letters. An ad hoc committee from the HSS Executive Committee ranked these nominations and sent the top five to the Academy, which will make the final decision. Here is the proposed timeline:

  • 18 September 2018: Committee finalizes recommendations for the Sarton Award for History of Science.
  • 5 October 2018: Committee’s recommendations are presented to the Board of Directors for approval.
  • November 2018: Recipient is notified. Communication and press release announcing the awards.
  • 11 April 2019: Formal Award Program at the Academy.

The HSS has been in contact with the Academy and has offered a number of suggestions on the process. It is our hope that the 2024 prize will reflect these suggestions.

Copies of Isis and Osiris Wanted

This summer my departmental office was flooded after a tarp blew off an unfinished roof during a heavy rainstorm. Among the casualties of the flooding were my print runs of Isis and Osiris from 2004-2018. Since I am a fan of printed journals, but know many members are not, I am appealing to anyone who has been considering getting rid of their print copies of Isis and Osiris and has just been waiting for an opportunity to do so. You would have a grateful recipient. I am able to reimburse postage and shipping costs to Canada. Email Elizabeth Neswald.