Abstracts Archive

In April 1973 m, Lawrence Lerner and I published an article in Scientific American in which we argued that Giordano Bruno was not a scientist in the Galilean sense of the word. In November 1986. Lerner and I published another article in Scientific American, arguing that a root cause of Galileo’s Trouble with the Inquisition in 1632...

HistoriographyIndividual Paper

Following British officials’ recommendation to stop prescribing oral contraceptives linked to blood clots, US Senator Gaylord Nelson began collecting testimony from experts in 1970. He asked: Is the pill safe? Do women have enough information to make informed decisions? Histories of the pill and the women’s health movement remember these hearin...

Medicine and HealthFlashtalk

At a time when the learned public of Paris was increasingly captivated by the wonders of science and new discoveries, the publication of books and pamphlets became a means a choice for any “savant” to get the readers’ attention and, hopefully, gain recognition from the members of the Académie des Sciences. The story of Pierre-Joseph Buc’ho...

Human and Social SciencesPart of Organized Session

At the end of the nineteenth century, the kingdom of Siam was beset by the threat of foreign imperial intervention. Unequal treaties restricted its sovereignty in matters of trade and finance and established extraterritorial legal protections for foreign residents. As the external threat of imperial incursion rose in the 1890s, the Siamese state tu...

Non-Western SciencePart of Organized Session

The early decades of the twentieth century were marked by widespread optimism about biology’s ability to improve the world, catalysed by promising new theories about inheritance and evolution (particularly Hugo de Vries’ mutation theory and Mendel’s newly rediscovered ideas). In Britain and the USA particularly, an astonishingly diverse varie...

Life SciencesIndividual Paper

This panel examines how in the second half of the 20th century, the human sciences employed mathematical, engineering, and computer sciences to model, formalize, and control the human mind and behavior. The simulation of social and mental processes was relevant for computer programming, the scientific study of human nature, and the development of n...

Human and Social SciencesOrganized Session

What makes one research program croak, and another purr? Touted as the origin point of second-order cybernetics, the 1959 paper “What the Frog’s Eye Tells the Frog’s Brain” emerged from attempts by MIT’s Warren McCulloch, Jerome Lettvin, and others to apply cybernetic logic to living brains. It claimed that fibers in the frog optic nerve ...

Life SciencesPart of Organized Session

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or feedlots, are sites in which animal bodies are produced through the systematic application of scientific knowledge, state regulations, and the logic of capitalism. It is where cattle are “finished” on genetically-modified grains laced with hormones and antibiotics, for a four-to-six month period, befor...

Environmental SciencesPart of Organized Session

In recent years, historians of both science and the arts have recognized the vital role of craft knowledge and artisanal practice in the development of the premodern sciences. Nevertheless, unraveling the complex relationships between speculative/intellectual and practical/artisanal traditions in the premodern world has often proven to be a maddeni...

Practical KnowledgeOrganized Session

This panel aims to consider the contributions of Asian traditions of scholarship to the formation of modern disciplines commonly seen as Western in origin. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, academic disciplines now grouped as the humanities and social sciences took shape in new university departments, academic journals, and other inst...

Non-Western ScienceOrganized Session

The play “Watts” in a Home, written by Britain’s Electrical Association for Women (EAW) and first performed in 1930, stages a history of domestic electrical lighting in Britain between 1880 and 1930. The play bears similarities to other triumphalist “electrical propaganda” produced in a range of media during the same period. However, anal...

Practical KnowledgePart of Organized Session

The modern research university is divided into three distinct branches: the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities. This particular constitution is far from evident, as the nature of knowledge and the relations between different realms of knowledge have been regularly redefined throughout history. In this session, we trace the sh...

Human and Social SciencesOrganized Session

In the face of both decolonization and the threat of human extinction, many anthropologists in theCold War sought to shake the discipline out of what they saw as its post-Boasian doldrums. In thispaper, I use Man’s Role in Changing the Face of the Earth, the massive cross-disciplinary symposium ofboth social and natural scientists organized by th...

Environmental SciencesPart of Organized Session

  Presented in 1869, the Periodic System is still an icon in contemporary science, even though the understanding of elements and chemical reactions has evolved tremendously over the last 150 years. The resilience of the Periodic System to conceptual changes is remarkable, and the fine structure of how this frame of reference was perpetually r...

Physical SciencesIndividual Paper

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Physical SciencesIndividual Paper

Knowledge is more than the sum of its facts. Historians have shown how intuitions, beliefs, rituals, fictions, and other ways of knowing bolster the cultural authority of scientific thinking in every era. Despite the ubiquity and importance of these alternatives to fact, knowledge claims still tend to rest explicitly on forms of evidence cemented i...

Human and Social SciencesOrganized Session

This paper addresses questions about the current shape of the humanities raised through two experimental jewelry arts workshops held at a vocational school in the Canadian Arctic. These workshops investigated the idea of an artisanal epistemology in early modern enquiries into the natural world in relation to contemporary modes of indigenous knowle...

Practical KnowledgePart of Organized Session

As it transited from tech to university in the late 1960s, Carnegie Mellon started the School of Urban and Public Affairs (SUPA) with the ambition to “deal in a scientific manner with problems of the public sector” and help build the “civil-industrial complex.” Funded by gifts from the Richard King Mellon Trusts and the Aluminum Co. of Amer...

Environmental SciencesPart of Organized Session

Prosthetic hands in early modern Europe were singular objects of artifice designed to supplement the natural body.  With moveable fingers and flesh-toned paint, they incorporated practical and aesthetic functions in ways impossible for other kinds of prostheses.  After all, silver noses could not smell, nor enameled eyeballs see.  Iron hands, by...

Practical KnowledgePart of Organized Session

In early modern Europe, many princes saw enormous value in supporting natural knowledge at court, regularly supporting experts who could extend the power of the state over nature and sustain the health of the sovereign. In the mid-sixteenth century, however, a disturbing cluster of incidents at several courts in the Holy Roman Empire suggested that...

Natural PhilosophyPart of Organized Session

  The publication of Hayek’s principal work in “theoretical psychology” – The Sensory Order – was the end of a thirty-years-long endeavor, that begun in Monakow’s Zurich neurological laboratories, passed through Vienna, and London, and was concluded at the Committee of Social Thought of the University of Chicago. In my paper, I wil...

Human and Social SciencesIndividual Paper

This session explores architecture’s place in the postwar research university. Specifically, it examines academic architects’ adoption of scientific ideals and methods, their crafting of a scientific imaginary of architecture, and these trans-actions’ lasting effects on the discipline’s ever fluctuant intellectual and institutional definiti...

Environmental SciencesOrganized Session

This paper focuses on a significant cluster of scientists based in the United Kingdom whose engagement with China stemmed from a mixture of socialism, scientific internationalism, and scholarly friendships. Some, like Joseph Needham and J.D. Bernal, were ‘ideological notables’ as well known for their left-wing politics as their academic achieve...

Physical SciencesPart of Organized Session

The modern interdisciplinary field of neuroscience is often thought to have begun as a result of the efforts of the biophysicist F. O. Schmitt, who spearheaded the growth of the Neurosciences Research Program (NRP) at MIT in the 1950s. This historical understanding is largely incorrect. At the same time that Schmitt was developing his ‘mind-brain...

Medicine and HealthIndividual Paper

One might expect that our knowledge about a figure as well known and influential as Isaac Newton would be in a settled state after some three hundred years of historical research.  The present session reveals the reality to be quite the contrary.  The world of Newton scholarship is in a state of radical ferment.  Online, digitized ed...

Natural PhilosophyOrganized Session

The production of alum crystal constituted a major manufacturing and international trading market in Europe from late medieval times onward. Its major use was as a mordant, a dye fixative, which had the further property of brightening the colours which it fixed. It had additional uses in leather tanning, paper-making, and medicine. From its early d...

Physical SciencesPart of Organized Session

The papers in this session examine some of the attitudes and beliefs that various religious liberals held in conversation with science in England and America, from the mid-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. The first paper demonstrates that American Unitarians used “natural law theodicy,” an explanation of suffering and evil roote...

HistoriographyOrganized Session

Between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century art history arises as a scientific discipline, taking part in the process of systematization of the human sciences in their relationship to the natural sciences. From the perspective of the history of science this period can be seen as the most productive for art history, as it is co...

TechnologyPart of Organized Session

On a Sunday morning in 1805, Father Andrés Rosillo y Meruélo preached about a marvelous new discovery—a vaccine that promised to save his parishioners and their families from disease. The priest proclaimed in his sermon that day that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross not only enabled man’s eternal salvation but also freed him from the scourge...

Medicine and HealthPart of Organized Session

Beginning in the 1950s, two laboratories – one in the United States and one in the Soviet Union – engaged in the synthesis of elements with an atomic number greater than 100 (a third laboratory, in West Germany, began production in the 1980s).  Each relied on different methods for synthesis and detection of atoms of these elements which re...

Physical SciencesPart of Organized Session