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 variation 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 senior historian at History Associates, Inc. (HAI), based in Rockville, Maryland, where he researches and writes institutional histories and conducts oral history interviews for clients. The contents of this blog, however, do not relate to his work for HAI, nor do opinions expressed here necessarily reflect the views of HAI. Thomas received his PhD in the history of science from Harvard University in 2007. From 2007 to 2010 he was a postdoctoral associate historian at the Center for History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics in College Park, Maryland. There he created the Array of Contemporary American Physicists web resource. From 2010 to 2013 he was a Junior Research Fellow at the Centre for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine (CHoSTM) at Imperial College London. (CHoSTM is now located at King’s College London.)
Thomas’s academic interests relate mainly to the physical, mathematical, engineering, and economic sciences, as well as to intersections between science and policy. His work focuses mainly on twentieth-century Britain and the United States.
William Thomas, Rational Action: The Sciences of Policy in Britain and America, 1940–1960 (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 2015). Coming this April!
William Thomas, “Decisions and Dynamics: Postwar Theoretical Problems and the MIT Style of Economics,” History of Political Economy 46 (2014) (annual suppl.): 295-314. http://dx.doi.org/10.1215/00182702-2716208
William Thomas, “Research Agendas in Climate Studies: The Case of West Antarctic Ice Sheet Research,” Climatic Change 122 (2014): 299-311. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10584-013-0981-3
William Thomas, “The Mathematical Management of Uncertainty in Britain and America in the Second World War and After,” in Des Mathématiciens et des Guerres: Histoires de Confrontations (XIXe-XXe Siècle), edited by Antonin Durand, Laurent Mazliak, and Rossana Tazzioli (Paris: CNRS Éditions, 2013), pp. 71-79.
William Thomas, “Strategies of Detection: Interpretive Methods in Experimental Particle Physics, 1930-1950,” Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 42 (2012): 389-431. http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/hsns.2012.42.5.389
William Thomas, “Operations Research vis-à-vis Management at Arthur D. Little and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1950s,” Business History Review 86 (2012): 99-122. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0007680512000050
William Thomas and Lambert Williams, “The Epistemologies of Non-Forecasting Simulations, Part I: Industrial Dynamics and Management Pedagogy at MIT,” Science in Context 22 (2009): 245-270. (Will wrote most of this one.) http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0269889709002233
Lambert Williams and William Thomas, “The Epistemologies of Non-Forecasting Simulations, Part II: Climate, Chaos, Computing Style, and the Contextual Plasticity of Error,” Science in Context 22 (2009): 271-310. (Lambert wrote most of this one.) http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0269889709002221
William Thomas, “The Heuristics of War: Scientific Method and the Founders of Operations Research,” British Journal for the History of Science 40 (2007): 251-274. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0007087407009508
William Thomas, “Selling OR: An Historical Perspective” OR/MS Today, October 2004. http://www.orms-today.org/orms-10-04/frselling.html
Christopher Donohue completed his PhD in History at the University of Maryland in 2013. He is currently splitting time between the Poletayev Institute for Theoretical and Historical Studies in the Humanities in Moscow and the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. He has broad interests in intellectual history, but focuses primarily on intersections between the social and biological sciences and political and legal thought. His work attempts to find new ways of uncovering the richness of ideas running throughout the historical record, and presenting them in analytically useful ways.