Ether Wave Propaganda is a history of science blog that specializes in historiographical issues. It’s a niche blog aimed at people working in the academic disciplines of the History of Science and Science and Technology Studies. Those looking for general science blogs are welcome to follow along and comment, but may find some of the posts a little esoteric. We do have a “primer” (formerly “hump-day history”) series designed to offer a sophisticated but accessible introduction to various historical topics. The archive of primers can be found on the “Finding Aid” page.
The title of the blog is a reference to the 19th-century understanding of the transmission of electromagnetic energy (such as light) as taking place by means of waves traveling through a universally pervasive fluid called the “ether”. Ether also commonly refers to the sea of communication inhabiting overlapping radiowaves, or, more recently, the cyberspace of the internet. Propaganda is a play on the word propagation, which is what waves do, they propagate. But it also refers to the fact that the blog welcomes opinionated commentary about what future scholarship in the history of science should look like.
A major aspect of this blog is its interest in opening up the “inside baseball” of historical scholarship. Many fine blogs present episodes from history to the public, while others are critical of popular representations of science and its history. This blog prefers an approach that opens up to scrutiny how little even professional historians know about and understand history, despite the fact that we have already made great strides. It aims to maintain candid conversations about the strengths and weaknesses of our portraits. This position is taken in the belief that, academically, it is much more exciting — both to ourselves and to outsiders — to confront problems and uncertainties, than it is to repeat what we think we already know.
Will Thomas is a junior research fellow at Imperial College London, conducting a survey of the types and uses of expertise in the British state between 1945 and 1975, focusing on the sectors of food production (agriculture and fisheries), construction (housing, transport, utilities), and defense (or “defence” as they call it here). He received his PhD in the History of Science in 2007 from Harvard University. His dissertation (and forthcoming book) are on a constellation of policy analysis sciences that were established during and after World War II, including operations research, systems analysis, and decision theory. He spent three years as a post-doc historian at the Center for History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics in College Park, Maryland, outside Washington DC, where his main project was developing a new means of navigating the history and historiography of physics: the Array of Contemporary American Physicists. His broad interests are in the relationship between expertise and governance, methods of scientific analysis spanning fields from physics to economics, and problems of historiographical progress and synthesis. He may be reached by email at g.thomas in the domain of imperial.ac.uk.
Christopher Donohue is a PhD student in the History Department at the University of Maryland with broad interests in the history of ideas. He plans to write a dissertation on 20th-century anthropological theory, and intellectual theories of technology and totalitarianism. He finished his master’s degree at Maryland with a thesis on the “American School” of antebellum American anthropology.