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Something Completely Different March 13, 2010

Posted by Will Thomas in Uncategorized.
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I’m off to Berlin this afternoon for a small conference at the Max Planck Institute for History of Science on decision theory and some related areas of theoretical-conceptual inquiry (the conference is billing these as the “Strangelovean Sciences”, which is a nomenclature I oppose).  I’ll be back in DC on Wednesday.  I was hoping to get in Part 2 of my last post before I left, but the week has been busy, so I’ll have to get on this when I return.  In the meantime, the American Institute of Physics’ History Center and Niels Bohr Library and Archives is currently putting together its spring newsletter, which means it’s time for my biannual literature review in the history of physics.  (See my last review here).  The history of physics, especially physics proper, continues to be underrepresented in major journals, whatever its traditional reputation for journal-hogging; though Helge Kragh continues his remarkable rate of output.

Probably my favorite thing about my biannual literature review is trolling around journals that are totally outside of the things that I normally do; sometimes this means looking at what physicists are up to and interested in, such as via the CERN Courier.  But I confess to having the most fun with Studies in History and Philosophy of Science (Part A, and Part B Modern Physics). One will usually find the history & philosophy of the quantum revolution industry alive and well, as the papers on Born, Bohr, Heisenberg, Dirac, Pauli, and friends continues to pile up.  Much of the fun comes from flipping through pieces that don’t make the newsletter, but which bear witness to the existence of some alternate universe where commentary on canonical works of science and philosophy still exists, and where people argue about things like the Kuhnian model and Bayesian representations of scientific method (speaking of postwar decision theory….)

This time out, I found Oscar Moro Abadía’s essay review of Christina Chimisso’s Writing the History of the Mind, entitled “Connecting Historiographical Traditions” (available for free).  Hey, I’m interested in that!  Digging into the piece, I found that I had little idea what the hell it was talking about: something about a split between French and Anglophone traditions of history of science, which diverged circa 1960 (!), and results in us Anglophones worrying obsessively about Whiggish history.  Anyway, I’d be interested to learn more, and maybe this is a doorway to something we can look at here in the future.

(All links below this point lead to content behind paywall)

Finally, speaking of essay reviews, the essay reviews have become for me easily the best part of Isis.  The latest issue has three:

Nick Hopwood on The Tragic Sense of Life: Ernst Haeckel and the Struggle over Evolutionary Thought, by Robert J. Richards.

Andy Pickering has an insightful and entertaining review of The Scientific Life by Steven Shapin.

Kenneth Taylor on Martin Rudwick’s Worlds Before Adam.

(I will pause briefly to crow that this blog reviewed the last two over a year ago (Shapin Part I, Part II, and corollary; Chris Donohue on Rudwick here).

Meanwhile, in the December BJHS, there are a number of reviews that will be of interest to regular readers of this blog. John Pickstone adds to the historiographical caveats surrounding the arguments in Objectivity (reviewed on this blog; Part I, Part IIa, Part IIb, Part III).  In the same issue are reviews of Edgerton’s Warfare State by Roy MacLeod, and Shapin’s Scientific Life by Robert Bud.  Finally, we have an instructive clash of old-school and new-school in Charles Gillispie’s review of Patricia Fara’s Science: A 4000 Year History.

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This latest edition of The Giant’s Shoulders celebrates the birthday of Caroline Herschel who was born on 16 March 1750. In the early 1770s she moved to Bath to join her brother William. Initially she helped him teaching and performing music. On …


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