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Science Historiography Clinic

Welcome to the Science Historiography Clinic!

This is a weekly workshop for advanced students and researchers in the history of science, based at the University of Edinburgh and open to all. The clinic runs in January-March of each year, during Edinburgh's semester 2 teaching period. In 2021 and 2022 it was sponsored by the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science.

Clinic participants collectively explore a different area of the science historiography each week by examining and contextualizing recent and classic work in the field. The topics approximately follow the thematic sequence of Edinburgh's introductory undergraduate course in history of science.

Having a sense fo the literature is helpful for teaching, for engaging with the field as a researcher and reviewer, and for other kinds of professional activity as someone whose work relates to the history of science. The clinic is also a great place to meet fellow scholars in the field.

Participation Expectations

The clinic is aimed primarily at UK postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers who are developing their academic profiles and intending to teach at some point in their career. But anyone who finds it useful is welcome to join as capacity allows (which has not been a problem yet). Those local to Edinburgh can join us in person, and there is an option to join remotely using MS Teams. For a joining link and announcements from the email list, please contact Dr Michael Barany (M.Barany at ed dot ac dot uk).

Regular participation is encouraged, but sporadic participation (e.g. just for topics of special interest) is fine. Repeat participation in different years is also very welcome: there is always more to read and discuss!

Participants are encouraged to share their reading notes and improve peers' reading notes at our companion History of Science Literature Wiki.

Weekly Plans

17 January 2023

  • Preparation:
    • Please have a look at the readings noted below and read to whatever level of detail is useful and practical for you.
    • Please be prepared to discuss this week's topics based on your personal experience of studying and/or teaching the history of science.
    • If interested, make an account on the History of Science Literature Wiki and have a look at what last year's participants produced.
    • Think of a book related to your interests in history of science (recent or classic) that you know well, and be prepared to explain its topic, periodization, sources, and context in the literature, to the extent you know them.
  • Welcome!
  • Introductions: who are you? what is your disciplinary home and what brings you to history of science? what are you working on? any subjects or methods you are keen to explore in the historiography clinic this year?
    • Discussion: what is history of science as a research field? as a teaching field? as an academic literature? how are these different/interrelated?
  • The History of Science Survey/Introduction as a teaching genre.
    • Course purposes and goals.
    • Structures and formats.
    • Textbooks and resources.
      • Readings: there are five books in the Textbooks section of the History of Science Resource List. Have a quick look at these and think of any others you have encountered that you might share.
  • Reading, Gutting, and other ways into the literature
    • There is a rough guide to getting started with some further links on the History of Science Literature Wiki here.

24 January 2023

Location Note: this week I (Michael) am (is) not able to be on campus on Tuesday morning; the meeting room is still available for anyone who wants to log in and join from a shared location, but you may alternatively want to just join remotely this week.

Preparation: please be prepared to introduce at least one book if possible. If you are new to gutting, probably start with a book you have encountered before, but consider choosing an unfamiliar book if you have time for a second. Set a timer and focus on what you can determine about the book in 2-3 hours. Take notes and consider sharing them on the Lit Wiki.1) If there is already a page (or draft) for the book you prepared, use your notes to revise/improve the ones already posted.

Topics: The week's theme is Abstractions. The materials in the resource list focus on:

  • Mathematics, especially ancient mathematics and calculus
  • Theoretical physics
  • Computing and informatics

Feel free to read things that are not on the list that seem potentially relevant. Some of my favourite historiographically interesting and well-written books from the list, if you are having trouble choosing where to start, are Robson, Kaiser, Abbate, Jones, Breard, and Mullaney. As we are likely to lose some meetings to the UCU strikes (dates still to be announced), you might also consider the books under Cosmologies (unit 1) on the Copernican Revolution or a few other topics.

Agenda: For this and future weeks, the agenda will always be to spend a few minutes grouping and ordering the books people have prepared, then discussing them according to that grouping/ordering. Please also feel free to suggest methodological or other topics to incorporate (and many more will emerge organically from the book-driven discussion).

31 January 2023

Back to hybrid this week.

This week's theme is Collections: natural history, Baconian science, museums and material culture, archives, the Enlightenment, Empire, materia medica, atlases, the fun part of Darwin, big data, and/or anything else participants bring to the table on this theme. Starting points if you need them: Cultures of Natural History (ed vol, old and new version), Daston & Park, Marcon, Cook, Nappi, Browne; if you just have time for an article, Daston & Galison’s and Star & Griesemer’s are very very oft-cited.

Note the planned meetings for 14, 21, and 28 February and 21 March are at risk due to the strike. Feel free to bring readings on the themes of Bodies (anatomy, monstrosity, cyborgs, scientific racism and sexism – though we'll return to these latter on 7 March) or anything missing from Cosmologies. Some items from Quantities (28 Feb) relate to the history of (big) data and would be suitable for this week, too.

7 February 2023

This week is “Lives”: life sciences, likely focusing on the historiography of evolution but we’ll follow the interests of whoever attends. In the pre-honours course we treat the life sciences very broadly, including subjects like alchemy, iatrochemistry, and electrochemistry.

Suggested readings, but of course follow your own interests from the Resource List (or elsewhere): Secord, Victorian Sensation; Richards, Descent of Woman (chapter); Kohler, Lords of the Fly; Creager, Life of a Virus.

14 February 2023

We don't meet on strike days. Please do explore this week's readings on anatomy, automata, race, and sex and bring them to another session of the Historiography Clinic.

21 February 2023

UPDATE: this is no longer a strike day! This has always been a catch-up day in the programme, so please bring any readings from Units 1-5 and we'll figure out a way to make sense of them together.

28 February 2023

UPDATE: no longer a strike day! This week's topic is Quantities: statistics, anthropometry, politics and finance (as sciences), accounting, demography, actuarial science. The list of sources is a bit shorter this week, but lots of very high profile classic and recent books. You can find more sources on the resource list for this year's new honours course on quantification and statistics in the history of science and medicine.

7 March 2023

Meeting as usual. Key themes this week include metrology, scientific instruments, energy physics, and the non-atomism parts of the Chemical Revolution.

14 March 2023

This week is Particles: atoms, molecules, subatomic particles, genes, and a little Euclidean point as a treat.

21 March 2023

A strike day, see you next week.

28 March 2023

Last meeting! Topics may include climatology, geology, cartography, objectivity, revolutions, and the history of the history of science.

Note there appears to be a bug in the account generation confirmation email, but the process itself appears to be working and I (Michael) can add privileges to view/edit “draft” pages once you are signed up.
clinic/start.txt · Last modified: 2023/03/17 17:15 by mjb