Talks in London on the 28th October 17, 2010Posted by Will Thomas in Uncategorized.
If you happen to be in London these days, and you are free on the 28th, you could make your way over to Greenwich, and pay six-to-eight quid to hear Simon Schaffer’s talk, “Acting at a Distance: The Venus Transit Expeditions and the Establishment of Empire” at the National Maritime Museum. It is part of the Royal Society’s lecture series, Science and the Maritime Nation, which is running this month.
Or, you could skip the obligatory inspirational lesson on “how fraught and fragile” the transit expeditions’ “attempts to make science and empire work together” were, download his Tarner lectures on astronomy, hear/read his take on the transit expeditions here, read Thony C’s very nice summations of the frustrations of an 18th-century transit expedition here, and then feel free to come and see me, free-of-charge, at Imperial College in South Kensington, as part of the Centre for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine’s seminar series.
My talk will be entitled “Some Facets of the 20th-Century-Problem in Historiography: Scientists, Policymakers, Experts, and Analysts”, and will be at 4:15pm, Sherfield Building, 5th Floor Seminar Rooms. Hopefully drinks afterward. My talk will begin with an overview of my work on operational research, policy analysis, and decision theory, and some of the new conclusions I was able to draw from that research. However, it will then move into the difficulties of studying very big topics (i.e., the “20th-century problem” which is a term that has gained a modicum of traction in discussions around here), the dangers of adhering to classical historiographical expectations of what tensions will inhabit those topics (science! politics! where-oh-where will the boundaries be drawn this time?) and some possible strategies for dealing with this historiographical problem, i.e., the internet. I will discuss blogs as a way of keeping the historiographical pot stirred, and ACAP as an example of addressing a big topic in a preliminary way. This will lead into an introduction of my brand new research project: a broad survey of forms of expertise used in the British state, 1945-1975, on which much more anon. It’s a whirlwind, but I figure it will be more interesting than a boring old lecture on a single topic.
By the way, Whewell’s Ghost contributor Rebekah Higgitt will be doing a lecture, “The Admiralty’s Observatories: Greenwich, Cape, Rossbank” on November 4th at the NMM. I will not be lecturing on that day, so by all means do go and check it out.