history of science


Are you coming to Pittsburgh in November? The History of Science Society will be meeting with the Philosophy of Science Society Nov 7-9, 2008 in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood.

The session I organized, F26, To Market: A New Look at the Medical Marketplace, will take place Friday afternoon at 3:30 pm. You can check it out on the preliminary program (note: we’ve had some personnel changes in the session that the program doesn’t yet reflect; our final panel includes Deborah Levine, Jeremy Greene and me, and will be commented by Gwen Kay.)

Also, for emerging professionals, we’ll be having the second ever meeting of the Graduate and Early Career Caucus at Friday lunchtime. Show up and meet fellow early career folks and get stuff done.  It is also likely that we’ll be sponsoring a happy hour. GECC is also sponsoring a session on publishing:

From Dissertation to Book: A Roundtable on First-Time Scholarly Book Publication
HSS 2008, Pittsburgh, PA
Friday, 12-1:15pm

*Jacqueline Wernimont, Brown University
*Roger Turner, University of Pennsylvania
Karen Darling, The University of Chicago Press
Doreen Valentine, Rutgers University Press
Marguerite Avery, The MIT Press

*session organizer

Dissertations are written to demonstrate advanced mastery of a discipline and are an important step toward full participation in the scholarly community. The dissertation is often the first extended piece of scholarship produced by a student, and it is likely to have been conceived and executed within constraints shaped by the student’s institution and its faculty. Moving from dissertation to book involves shedding these constraints and revising the work to make it valuable to a broader readership. At this roundtable, editors from the University of Chicago Press, MIT Press, and Rutgers University Press will share their insights into particular issues in first-time scholarly book publishing, including understanding the difference between a book and a dissertation, finding and working with an editor, submitting a book proposal or manuscript, and the future of the print monograph in scholarly publication. In addition to participant presentations, there will be time devoted to discussing pre-submitted questions, as well as questions that arise during the session. The Graduate and Early Career Caucus is sponsoring this session, which will be chaired by GECC co-chair Jacqueline Wernimont.  Please submit advance questions to Jacqueline Wernimont (Jacqueline_Wernimont@brown.edu) by October 27th, 2008.

Looking for other familiar historians presenting at HSS? Here is my exclusive and probably not complete list of papers from Minnesota HSTM students, alums and faculty at HSS 2008, based on a glance through the preliminary program. Each person’s name is followed by the session number (coded as follows:  day (F, S, Su) and number in that day).

Hiromi Mizuno F2

David Sepkoski F3

Megan Barnhart F5

Deepanwita Dasgupta F21

me F26

Al Martinez F29

Tania Munz F30

Christine Manganaro S3 (don’t miss this awesome talk about the science of race in Hawai’i!)

John Jackson S3

Ioanna Semendeferi S12

Georgina Montgomery Su1

Michael Reidy Su4

Requests for emendations are encouraged.

I also counted exactly 3 history of medicine sessions, though a number of sessions have one Hmed paper included. Not a huge deal, since it’s obviously not the focus of the conference. I may yet go through and count all the independent scholars and public historians.  Stay tuned and see you in Pittsburgh.

Here’s an interesting job posted recently at Museum Professionals, to manage Jim Watson’s papers.  It would be a good fit for a historian of biology who knows XML, or an archivist who cares about recent biology and genetics.*
Archivist – Cold Spring Harbor , NY, USA

Position Title: Archivist
Job Category: Archives
Employer Name: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Library and Archives
Street Address: 1 Bungtown Road
City, State, Country: Cold Spring Harbor , NY, USA
Postal Code: 11724 [Map It!]
Contact E-Mail Address: jobline@cshl.edu
Contact Website: www.cshl.edu

Position Description/Responsiblities: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Library and Archives seeks an enthusiastic candidate to fill the position of the JD Watson Special Collection Archivist. The position involves working primarily with the extensive and rapidly expanding collection of scientific and personal materials of CSHL Chancellor, Nobelist James Watson (formerly CSHL Director 1968-94 and CSHL President 1994-2003). This is an extraordinary opportunity for an individual with career aspirations in archives to work on a collection of high historic and research value.

Description of the collection: As an active writer and outspoken scientist, James Watson continues to receive correspondence, produce manuscripts and other historic materials, and to donate these materials to the archives. The collection at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory contains: scientific and personal correspondence (1949-present), manuscripts and typescripts, teaching files and administrative files (Harvard, CSHL, Human Genome Project), financial records, scientific reprints, photographs, personal gifts, and memorabilia.

Responsibilities and Duties:
1. Process, arrange, and describe new accessions to the collection (and to some extent the materials in the existing collection and the digital collection).
2. Provide reference assistance to scientific staff, scholars, students and other patrons and visitors to the J.D. Watson Collection.
3. Develop and update the JD Watson web site, http://library.cshl.edu/watsoncollection/index.html
4. Prepare EAD (Encoded Archival Description) finding aids for the archives.
5. Address copyright issues in the physical and digital collection.
6. Maintain in-house databases of reference and usage statistics.
7. Participate in the development of archival projects, i.e. exhibits, conferences, etc

Desired Qualifications: MLS from an ALA accredited library institution and three years of professional experience in an archival setting (processing, arranging, describing, and providing reference for archival/manuscript collections) is required. Knowledge of computers and programs, such as Excel, Access, PowerPoint, Adobe PhotoShop, etc., is preferred. Also a strong knowledge of descriptive standards, such as Dublin Core, MARC, METS, EAD, and XML, is necessary. The candidate should also have the ability to establish goals and priorities and to work both independently and cooperatively with other archivists and librarians on the staff. Excellent oral and written communication skills are needed. This position will report to the Director of Libraries and Archives.

Salary is dependant on qualifications and experience.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, located on the North Shore of Long Island, NY, is a world-renowned research and educational institution with programs in cancer, neuroscience, plant biology, genomics and bioinformatics. The Laboratory is recognized internationally for its excellence in research and educational activities.

POSITION # AJDW

Please apply to: jobline@cshl.edu

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Department of Human Resources
1 Bungtown Road
Cold Spring Harbor , NY 11724

* (I’m only going to post job stuff occasionally from now on, since I’m now officially off the market.)

The 51st Annual Midwest Junto for the History of Science was held last weekend here at Minnesota.  Here’s a report from Steph, and one from Nathan.  There was a real diversity of presentations and research areas, as well as some geographic diversity, with our usual folks from Minnesota, Wisconsin, various places in Missouri, Iowa State and Oklahoma, and visitors from elsewhere  around the Midwest and the country.  My paper went well, fyi, and I got lots of great questions.

Some standout papers:

  • Samuel Spence, from Oklahoma, talked about the role of the sf writer Jerry Pournelle in the development of Reagan’s Star Wars project.
  • Judith Kaplan from Wisconsin gave a paper on James Henry Breasted, the Egyptologist who founded the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago.  I don’t know anything about the history of Egyptology (at least after Napoleon) and found it a totally fascinating story.
  • Krystal Rose from Eastern Illinois spoke on the course of the 1918 flu pandemic in rural Illinois, with particular attention to how it progressed in the local newspapers.  Comics in the local papers provided jokes about the flu, eg:  Did you hear that they quarantined the library?  They found influenza in the dictionary!
  • Amy Bix talked about the gendering of home repair, from household equipment classes at land-grant universities to pink hammers.

Also worth mentioning was the presentation of Eric Ward of the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City (home of next year’s Junto), who discussed a book setting scientific color standards for ornithology; the LHL has digitized the book, and it’s online.  They also have online a great collection of star atlases and materials relating to the building of the Panama Canal.  Next year in Kansas City!

Come one, come all to the Midwest Junto for the History of Science, the regional history of science/technology/medicine conference, held this weekend at the University of Minnesota.

The program is not online as yet, so I can’t point you to it, but suffice it to say that there will be lots of terrific and diverse papers on Saturday April 5 and Sunday, April 6.  All papers will be given in EE-CSCI 3-230 (Electrical and Computing Engineering, University of Minnesota, East Bank, on Washington Ave).

I’ll be talking on Sunday morning.  Here’s the plan of my session:

Session 2:         20th Century Medicine

10:30-10:55 a.m.:    Suzanne Fischer (University of Minnesota)
“’Say ‘Yes’ to the General’: How Advertising and Organizing Saved a Hospital.”

10:55-11:20 a.m.:    Cara Kinzelman (University of Minnesota)
“Twilight Sleep and the Professionalization of Obstetrics.”

11:20-11:45 a.m.:    Krystal Rose (Eastern Illinois University)
“Called to Death: A Case Study on the 1918 Influenza Pandemic in Coles County, Illinois.”

11:45-12:10 a.m.:    Kirstin Lawson (University of Missouri)
“Healthcare as a Citizen’s Right: Public Health at the Hayward Indian School, Wisconsin, 1901-1920.”

I’ll be talking about how Minneapolis General Hospital became Hennepin County General Hospital.  One reason to come to my talk is that I’m going to play a record on my 1980s portable record player.

Stick around for the rest of the afternoon on Sunday, and you can hear a talk by my pal Christine:

2:10-2:35 p.m.:    Christine Manganaro (University of Minnesota)
“Race Biology in Hawaii: Harry L. Shapiro, the Station for Racial Research, and the Chinese-Hawaiian Project, 1920-1937

You can still register for the conference by contacting Jole Shackelford at shack001@maroon.tc.umn.edu.

CFP hit parade:

Midwest Junto for the History of Science, University of Minnesota, April 4-6. Abstracts are due on Friday, 2/15, to Jole Shackelford at shack001@umn.edu.

Web 2.0/History 2.0: Making History Together:  The Annual Meeting of the American Assoc for History and Computing, April 20-22.  Abstracts due Feb 28.

Other news:

At Hanging Together, an interesting post on virtual collections in the 19th century, that is, plaster reproductions of famous sculpture and architecture,  made by the V and A.

Regarding legislative advocacy for museums, Richard Urban at Museumatic gives a list of resources and encourages us to think about IT and digital access issues in our considerations of how we want to support museums politically.

Harvard’s Open Collections Program (OCP) has launched a new online collection, Contagion: Historical Views of Diseases and Epidemics:

…the new Contagion collection brings carefully selected historical materials from Harvard’s renowned libraries, special collections, and archives to Internet users everywhere. The collection, which includes more than 500,000 pages of digitized books, serials, pamphlets, incunabula, and manuscripts, contributes to the understanding of the global, social-history, and public-policy implications of disease and offers important historical perspectives on the science and the public policy of epidemiology today.

The University of Warwick in the UK is holding a summer workshop in July on Medicine and New Media:

Medicine and New Media, the first postgraduate Summer School organized by the Centre for the History of Medicine at the University of Warwick will explore the history of medical imaging from the Renaissance to present times. Participants will trace technological developments and their consequences in medicine, alongside consideration of how these new ways of ’seeing’ the human body reflected and were shaped by the concerns of scientists, physicians, artists, and the general population.

The aim of the Summer School is to bring together current and recently completed postgraduates from the humanities and sciences with experts from a number of different fields to engage with a range of technologies for making scientific images of the human body, including the fine arts, drawing and painting, as well as film, photography, X-ray and the current medical imaging techniques of digital biomedicine. Moreover, it addresses itself to students who are investigating questions about the meaning of images of the human body and how agreement about such meaning is negotiated (in the laboratory, in modern mass-media, public displays in museums, in university anatomy teaching). What are the epistemological, moral and philosophical consequences of our desire to picture all functions of the human body? What does it mean to be human in a world of global mass media in which the individual body is central, yet increasingly public and commercialised? Are there alternatives to the understanding in Western science since the nineteenth century that vision is the primary avenue to knowledge and sight takes precedence over the other senses as a tool in the analysis of living things?

Blogospheric news:

Students, faculty and staff of the Program in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine at the University of Minnesota, of which I will soon be a proud alumna, now have a blog for news, events, etc. It’s inspired by the Logan Lounge, UPenn’s program blog, but will hopefully be updated more frequently; that basically everyone in the program is free to post will hopefully ensure that. There’s a post up right now about the HSTM team, “Maxwell’s Demons,” in last weekend’s pond hockey tournament.

It was also brought to my attention that HSS’s Forum for the History of Science in America has a blog which is at least in part masterminded by my erstwhile colleague Susan Rensing. It has various fellowship announcements and also keynote speeches from the Forum’s annual meeting. Of note is the blogroll there, a brief snapshot of many of the blogs I can think of that are written by historians of science (including PH, natch).

Over on the Minnesota Sesquicentennial blog, it’s looking like they’ll post a “on this day in Minnesota history” post every day of the year. January is apparently brought to us by an elementary school class in Edina. I learned last week that Tippi Hedren was a Minnesotan.

That’s all for now; I’ll be talking about the Hinckley fire later in the week.

Are you a member of more history organizations than you can keep track of? Do they all send you newsletters, so many that you can’t find a clear space on the floor? Or would you like to read these publications, but can’t find them on the web? The PH Magazine Rack* will solve all your problems by giving you a guided tour through various recent hardcopy publications. Suggestions for publications are always accepted!

NCPH Public History News 28(1), December 2007

This issue has a number of articles about the spring meeting in Louisville (registration is open now!) and a piece by Ben Filene, formerly of the MHS, about a public history project he did with his students at UNC Greensboro. In collaboration with a small museum interpreting the history of an African-American Seventh-Day Adventist school in High Point, students used a 1963 photo of 46 black students at the school and tracked down as many of the former students as possible for a community-curated exhibit on local history. Good stuff, especially if you’re interested in pedagogy. Other news of note is that 2008 is the 75th anniversary of the New Deal, and the National New Deal Preservation Association is sponsoring a number of events. The NCPH is also inaugurating a number of awards: for consultants, for emerging professionals, and for outstanding public history projects: the deadline is January 11, so look sharp.

Newsletter of the History of Science Society 37(1) January 2008

The HSS Newsletter continues to become more and more interesting and readable. This edition includes two first person columns on alternative careers for historians of science; or, as columnist David Attis writes, “what academics refer to as ‘alternative careers’ and everyone else just refers to as ‘careers.'” Attis went into consulting and seems to have had an interesting and varied career so far. The other article is from Pamela Long, writing fascinatingly about the precarious business of making a living as an independent scholar. Amazingly, she has never adjuncted. There’s a piece on the work of my brilliant colleague Hyung Wook Park on the history of the science of aging (he won the Reingold Prize this year). Taner Edis contributes a great article about Islamic creationism. There are also program profiles of the University of Athens and UCSB (where historians of science apparently surf together) and an article about Wikipedia by Sage Ross.

AASLH Dispatch January 2008

This Dispatch is mostly announcements about AASLH programs (which are great, but you can find them on the website). There’s an interesting article about a survey of museum-going habits of families with children done by Reach Advisors (who have a great audience research blog). History museums are at the bottom of other kinds of museums in terms of visitation by families with young children, but their ranking rises as children reach a certain age. History museum going is correlated with education, but such that people with only some college are the most likely to take their kids to museums: “It was a pleasant surprise that history-based museums have lower perceived barriers of entry for those with less education and income.”

Terry Davis’ article on the front page is about the Federal Formula Grant Initiative, an effort to get museums funded in the same way libraries are. AASLH is on the front lines of lobbying to get this program passed–basically it would mean more money for IMLS, which would be passed directly to the states to give to museums. I am not sure what I think about this project at all. “We need you to pull together as a community that works as a team to improve the state of your field. Libraries did, and through the efforts of the ALA and many years of work, today libraries are among the most technologically sophisticated and nationally linked cultural organizations in the country. and museums can be too!” I’m skeptical. (Most) libraries are certainly more technologically sophisticated than (most) museums at the moment, but there’s definitely a crisis in library funding happening all over the country. Note those libraries in Minneapolis closed all of 2007 that I discussed yesterday. Or the possible plan to consolidate most libraries in Indiana. I definitely need to read more about this project, but I’d love to hear feedback from folks who know more about federal formula grants, how they’ve worked for libraries, and how they might work for museums.

*”Newsletter rack” doesn’t have much of a ring to it.

Today and tomorrow, every public library in the Twin Cities metro is closed (and public librarians deserve a break!), so I thought I’d give you all something to read while you wait.  Theme:  all new!

There’s a new online history and philosophy of science journal with an excellent title, Spontaneous Generations (which would also make a good band name), published by grad students at the University of Toronto.  The first issue looks heavy on the philosophy side, and also has Sage Ross talking about Wikipedia.  I admire his ability to get published talking about HST and Wikipedia in every possible forum.
The Chemical Heritage Foundation has a new podcast, also with an excellent name.  Distillations: Extracts from the Past, Present, and Future of Chemistry covers contemporary scientific issues, with a focus on the history of chemistry.

Nina Simon announced that the Tech Museum in San Jose has launched their Virtual Museum Workshop.  This would be a great opportunity to play in Second Life.

The Tech Virtual is a project that allows people to conceptualize and prototype exhibits online. The online platform has two parts: a website, where all projects originate, and a Second Life presence (“The Tech” in Second Life), where participants can communicate in real-time, share ideas, and build virtual prototypes. All participation is under a Creative Commons attribution license, which means that all ideas are available for use by anyone with no financial obligation–only an obligation to credit the originators of said ideas.

For The Tech, this is a new way to conceptualize exhibits. We don’t have traditional designer/developers on staff; instead, we have a team facilitating this process and liaising between project participants and fabrication staff to develop these virtual ideas into physical reality. To that end, there’s an added incentive for this pilot stage (through June 2008): $5000 to any exhibit concept deemed spectacular enough to develop into a real exhibit here at The Tech. To be eligible for the prize, your exhibit must be on the theme of “Art, Film, Music & Technology.”

Metadata 4ever!:  A new list of metadata events.  Collect them all!  (via hanging together)

History Nexus is like digg for history articles and places on the web.  For some reason, the tags are divided into these categories: “England and Wales,” “Scotland,” “Ireland” and “Rest of the World.”  And they say Americans are parochial!  (via found history)

Happy holidays to all.  I’m going to go read the new Kiki Strike.

Suzanne Harper, The Secret Life of Sparrow Delaney

Wendy Corsi Staub, Lily Dale: Awakening

Christine Wicker, Lily Dale: The True Story of the Town that talks to the Dead

Lily Dale, a small town in Western New York, is possibly the last remaining spiritualist outpost–not (necessarily) New Age-y spiritualist, but practitioners of Swedenborgian spirtualist religion like it was 1879, which was, in fact, when the town was founded. Two young adult novels set in Lily Dale just recently came out, and while there has been a resurgence of YA supernatural fiction in the last few years (Twilight, etc.), two books set in a small town near Buffalo seemed like more than coincidence. After reading Suzanne Harper’s charming Secret Life of Sparrow Delaney (as well as Rob McDougall’s recent posts on spiritualism), I set out to read all the recent books on Lily Dale.

Sparrow Delaney has a problem. She lives in Lily Dale, and her mom, grandma, and all six sisters are mediums, and they want her to be one too. As the seventh child, she’s supposed to have special gifts, but she hates the attention and she doesn’t tell them that she sees and talks to ghosts all the time–and they’re extremely irritating. They won’t stop talking to her and asking her to do trivial, boring things for them, like tell someone’s granddaughter she’s putting too much garlic in the soup! Sparrow is starting at a new school where no one knows she’s from “Spookyville” and she wants to pass as a ‘normal teenager,’ but one spirit proves unexpectedly persistent and involves her in the life of a boy at the new school. I won’t run the down the plot, but Sparrow ends up accepting her gifts, learning to be true to herself, finding happiness and so on, and there will hopefully be a sequel. Lily Dale in this book is like the Delaney family’s ramshackle Victorian, sprawling, charming, a little chaotic, filled with people and spirits who may be persistent or inconvenient, but they’re family. Harper also gets points for putting a funny set piece in the local history museum, which is filled with old spirit trumpets and spirit photography. Sparrow Delaney comes closest to how I think of spiritualism in the nineteenth century, full of earnest enthusiasm.

Lily Dale: Awakening is a pretty straightforward teen horror story. Calla Delaney (I don’t know how she got the same last name as Sparrow) grew up in Florida, but when her mother dies unexpectedly and horribly she is sent up to Lily Dale to stay with her grandmother, who she barely knows, who turns out to be a medium. There are various waverings about whether or not ghosts exist, whether Calla is going crazy or not, and then she ends up saving the day but putting herself in danger. There are various teenager things included, such as going to WalMart and worrying about how to get email access. It reminded me of Meg Cabot’s 1-800-Where-R-You? books, plot-driven scary paranormal mysteries. Lily Dale in LD:A is more modern than in Sparrow Delaney, like a contemporary small town.

The only non-fiction I’ve found on Lily Dale is the religion journalist Christine Wicker’s Lily Dale: the Town that Speaks to the Dead, which is very interesting as a book about how Lily Dale has changed through the years as well as as a memoir of Wicker’s time there. Now as in the late nineteenth century, during the summer season the town is filled with visitors, seekers after all sorts of things. Wicker explores spiritualism as a religion, as its residents and founders described it, rather than as a cultural popular science movement, as I’ve always considered it. Recommended for the stories, the journalistic style, and the depth of Wicker’s research (though she starts the story with the Fox sisters, rather than in Europe). You can still visit Lily Dale to see a medium, attend a “message service,” or, as I might do, visit their library and museum, which has excellent collections around spiritualism, metaphysics, and local history, including suffrage and pacifist history. I’m still on a mission to put marginalized stuff, “pseudoscience,” “quackery” and so on, back into the history of science and medicine: historians should pay attention to Lily Dale.

Come by the U of M’s history of science colloquium this week for a talk by Evelynn Hammonds on the underrepresentation of women of color in science/technology/engineering/medicine.  She may discuss U of M’s own gender-equity class action suit, the Rajender case (a woman chemist, repeatedly passed over for tenure-track jobs, sued for gender discrimination in hiring in 1977.  The case became a class action suit under which over 300 people sued the university, particularly from the departments in the Institute of Technology).  (I regret that I won’t be able to make the talk, due to travel to an undisclosed location.)

Friday, November 30
Room 131, Tate Lab of Physics
3:35 p.m. (refreshments at 3:15 in Room 216)

Evelynn Hammonds
Holyoke Center
Harvard University

“The Marginalization of Experience”

ABSTRACT: This talk addresses the problem of the underrepresentation of women of color in STEM fields from a historical perspective.

For further information about the Colloquium, please contact Barbara Eastwold at (612) 624-7069 or eastwold@physics.umn.edu. For updates and changes check the web at http://groups.physics.umn.edu/hsci.

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