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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 of 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. Those local to Edinburgh can join us in person in the Chisholm House board room, 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 dot Barany at ed dot ac dot uk).

The clinic is discussion-based and participant-led. It works best when all participants have had at least a brief look at one or more books related to the theme and if most participants have engaged with at least one book in greater detail. If this sounds daunting, one purpose of the clinic is to help participants develop and practice skills to make this amount of preparation much more efficient and tractable.

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

These will be fleshed out as we get closer to the week in question, based on how things are going in the clinic.

16 January 2024: Teaching and Studying History of Science

This week we introduce ourselves and talk about the polydiscipline of History of Science in (often quite mutually distinct and variegated) terms of teaching and scholarship. We discuss reading strategies and how and why we engage with the disciplinary literature.

  • 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.
    • In what contexts have you studied or taught history of science, how was the course organized, and how did it respond to its context?
    • Course purposes and goals.
    • Structures and formats.
      • Reading Shapin, 1980, A Course in the Social History of Science
      • Reading Delbourgo, 2019, The Knowing World
      • Reading Barany, 2024, A Kaleidoscopic Introduction to the History of Science (this is part of a special section of short essays on teaching history of science in Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences; we will have a look at the whole collection after it appears)
    • Textbooks and resources.
      • Reading: 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.

23 January 2023

Sessions will generally line up with the corresponding theme of the undergraduate course. This week's theme is Abstractions.

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: For 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.

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. Many more points of context and method will emerge organically from the book-driven discussion: we embrace tangents here!

30 January 2024

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.

6 February 2024

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 electricity.

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.

13 February 2024

Bodies: anatomy, monstrosity, cyborgs, automata, race, racism, sex, sexism, and more.

20 February 2024

This is a catch-up week, most likely focused on readings from Unit 1 (Cosmologies) of the undergraduate course.

27 February 2024

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 honours course on quantification and statistics in the history of science and medicine.

5 March 2024

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

12 March 2024

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

19 March 2024

Worlds: geography, geosciences, climate, ecology, planetary science, oceanography, and more.

26 March 2024

Objectivities: duck-rabbits, objectivity, revolutions, the history of the history of science, and more.

Note there may 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: 2024/03/12 14:03 by mjb