May 8th, 2013
by Laura Cray*
As a self-professed library nerd, I was excited to attend Robert Fox’s lecture, Mapping the Universe of Knowledge, on Monday, May 6, 2013. The lecture focused on work of Paul Otlet, Henri La Fontaine, and Hendrick Christian Andersen and their vision for a world united by knowledge. Robert Fox is professor emeritus from Oxford University and currently visiting Oregon State University as this year’s Horning Visiting Scholar. Monday’s lecture was the first installment in his three part series of lectures entitled, Science International: Universalism and National Interest in the Industrial Age.
Having spent most of my life in the age of Google, I think that it is easy to take Otlet’s vision for the Bibliographic Institute founded in Brussels in 1895 for granted. But, his incredibly detailed Universal Bibliographic Repertory (a variation of the Dewey Decimal System) and the over 15 million entries in his card catalogue represent a vision which extended far beyond his ordered library shelves. As Fox argues, Read the rest of this entry »
April 24th, 2013
Congratulations to Mina Carson, whose biography of Ava Helen Pauling provides a long-awaited study of a crucial yet often-neglected figure in the history of science and peace activism. Among its many merits is how well the book highlights the rich collections we have at Oregon State University. Here’s the book the description. It is so wonderful to see this book come to fruition. Thank you, Mina Carson!
The story of Ava Helen Pauling—her rich career as an activist first for civil rights and liberties, then against nuclear testing, and finally for peace, feminism, and environmental stewardship—is best told in the context of her enduring partnership with her famous husband, Linus Pauling. In this long-awaited first biography of Ava Helen Pauling, Mina Carson reveals the complex and fascinating history behind one of the great love stories of the twentieth century. Read the rest of this entry »
March 26th, 2013
by Kelsey Kennedy
Oregon State’s Valley Library is home to many resources, including the Special Collections and Archives Research Center (SCARC). There, students (and the curious-at-large) can find archives covering the university’s history, as well as a number of rare books, many of which are notable in the history of science. The two volumes of Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier’s Traité élémentaire de chimie (originally published in 1789) are among these delicate old tomes, and these books provide an insight into the beginnings of modern chemistry. Read the rest of this entry »
March 13th, 2013
Reliquaries of St. Elzéar and Bl. Delphine
by Tracy Jamison*
Words are potent. Words can awaken memories, stir emotions and quiet the mind. Words have been used in the creation of groundswells that burst forth to bring down stalwart walls of injustice as well as to buttress vast empires: Word-for-word, Brick-by-brick. In her lecture, Dr. Nicole Archambeau examined the concept of the voice as a relic. How ‘mere words’ of admittedly melodic meter, manifested within the human body, and alleviated physiological and psychological distress during an era rife with mercenary invasions that razed fifteen cities, populations forced to languish under waves of plague and that eventually saw the erosion of the Treaty of Brétigny and the continuation of the Hundred Years’ War.
After parsing through medieval canonization inquests and Articles of Interrogation in order to divine how people foresaw and negotiated the curative continuum from medico to physico in their attempt to heal and restore the spirit, Dr. Archambeau chose the life of Delphine of Glandèves, more commonly known as the Blessed Delphine, as a paragon of 14th century healing pluralities. Delphine was a countess who was alleged to have the ability to mediate miracles through the melodic meter of her voice. As a miracle mediator, Delphine offered a distinctive healing option from the ‘despairing doctor trope’ that did not sanction the giving of false hope to those suffering from illness. The wife of newly canonized Saint Elzéar of Sabran, Delphine was not a doctrinaire and did not tout that she possessed any medicinal knowledge. Nevertheless, during her canonization inquest, Master Durand Andre testified that through her voice, Delphine touched him from the inside and he felt contrition, compunction and consolation. As Archambeau articulated in her lecture, witnesses for Delphine’s candidacy for canonization related to the papal court that Delphine ministered miraculous healing that actively managed the care of their soul, a vital part of personal health. Read the rest of this entry »
March 8th, 2013
Godfrey Kneller’s 1689 portrait of Isaac Newton
By Jindan Chen*
Before going to Rob Iliffe’s talk on The Newton’s Project on February 28th, I skimmed through this incredibly comprehensive website about Isaac Newton. Absolutely, it is an exciting on-line read.
“The Newton Project” is the name of a non-profit organization which builds up this website. The primary goal of this website is to digitize and publish on-line all Newton’s writings from 1642 to 1727. As of today, the outcome of the goal has been over 5.2 million transcribed words online! The project started in 1998 and was housed at Imperial College London. It secured funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Board in UK. It is entirely surprising to find out what a variety of primary sources about Newton this website has put together, which include Newton’s own various notes and letters, scientific or religious, and his friends or rivals’ accounts of him.
It is no doubt that such a website is of enormous research value for historians as it removes the big hassle of reading Newton’s difficult handwritings. The website is just like a vast, handy digital archive. But what gets me really excited about this website is the easy access it provides to the public to get a closer look at the almost symbolic figure of Newton. I would like to assume the design of “Take A Tour” on the home page gives the public a chance to take a quick view of a multi-dimension Newton, a real Newton who they do not get to know before. For example, I was fascinated by the biographical accounts written by Newton’s good friends John Conduitt and William Stukeley, and his Royal Society colleague and competitor John Flamsteed. These texts give me a new perspective to approach Newton as a person less mysterious. In addition, things like Jean-Baptiste Biot’s biography of Newton and Newton’s own letter to John Locke add to a richer understanding of this legendary genius. Read the rest of this entry »
January 31st, 2013
Melinda Gormley, who received her Ph.D. from OSU’s History of Science program (in 2007), has written an excellent piece in the latest newsletter of the History of Science Society. In “Reaching Beyond the Discipline,” she discusses the narrow confines of our expectations and points the array of options for students in our fields. And she should know: she is currently working at the University of Notre Dame as Assistant Director for Research of the Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values. The thoughtful essay is food for thought for anyone pursuing a degree in History of Science.
Here’s a link to the full article on the HSS website
January 29th, 2013
Congratulations to Ph.D. student Linda Richards, who has published an article in Peace and Change: A Journal of Peace Research! The title is “Fallout Suits and Human Rights: Disrupting the Technocratic Narrative,” and it challenges the way we think about radiation effects historically. As she writes, “the topic of radiation exposure is a disputed maze of scientific discrepancy and historical incongruity.”
Linda shows us how we can begin to navigate this maze and frame the story differently: instead of relying solely on the pronouncements of scientists and government experts, we can try to understand radiation effects as an important lens for seeing the international human rights movement. The article itself follows the Paulings’ attempts to the sue the U.S. government for radiation effects due to nuclear testing. Linda shows how these “fallout suits” reveal differences between scientific evidence and government pronouncements. Like a photograph, she writes, the fallout suits provide a snapshot of a crucial moment in time when protecting against nuclear threats became not just a scientific subject, but a human right issue.
Linda has been able to travel to multiple archives in her dissertation research, including the National Archives, Chemical Heritage Foundation, and even the archives of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. This paper makes heavy use of archives closer to home, highlighting some of OSU’s valuable collections, especially the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling collections right here on campus.
We are all so delighted that Linda Richards is helping to raise the profile of this topic, these archives, and this university!
January 2nd, 2013
by James H. Capshew*
I started reading The Hidden Forest by Jon Luoma in December. Subtitled The Biography of an Ecosystem, the book details the history of the 16,000-acre H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest and the scientists who have worked there, uncovering the roles of soils, organisms, natural events, and human impacts on a complex forest ecosystem. Set aside in 1948 as a living laboratory, Andrews is on the western side of the Cascade Range, and is administered jointly by the U.S. Forest Service and Oregon State University. It became a charter member of the National Science Foundation’s Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Program in 1980, a network of two-dozen sites around the country.
During the winter break, I made arrangements to stay overnight at the Andrews forest. Although the research facility is open year-round, heavy snowfalls in the winter months close many of the access roads. There was about a foot of accumulated snow on the ground when I went, but the road was clear to facility. When I got out of my car, the sound of rushing water, peaceful yet exciting, filled the air. The music of Lookout Creek was to be my constant companion for my stay. I meet the facilities manager, who checked me into my simple apartment, and the caretaker. When the two of them left at 5:00pm, I was alone in the woods. I busied myself with some short hikes, cooking soup for my evening meal, and reading The Hidden Forest.
My reading, augmented by my first experience in the Andrews forest, compelled me to write about this wonderful Oregon State treasure. The research done at Andrews Experimental Forest led to some significant insights in forest ecology as well as providing evidence for the revision of timber management policies and practices. The eruption of Mount St. Helens, the spotted owl controversy, and the teeming life in the soil of old-growth forests are among the highlights of this absorbing study. It suggests many paper and dissertation topics.
*James H. Capshew is Gordon/Horning Visiting Fellow at the Center for the Humanities, Oregon State University.
December 10th, 2012
OSU’s History of Science Program congratulates three of our graduate student veterans this term, as they advanced to candidacy during Week 10. They now have the vaunted status of “ABD,” which either means “all but dissertation” or “anything but dissertation,” depending on how you look at it It was a pleasure to be part of the process getting them to this stage, and now all three have launched into intensive research:
Rachel Blake is working on the history of science and medicine, under Prof. Michael A. Osborne. Her dissertation will be on French and German influences on medical education in Alsace in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Barbara Canavan is working on the history of science, disease, and environment, under the supervision of Prof. Anita Guerrini. Her dissertation will be on the development of virology as a discipline, and on the networks of scientists who attempted to understand avian influenza.
Laura Cray is working on the history of biology and environment, under the supervision of Prof. Michael A. Osborne. Her dissertation will be on entomological research in the United States after the creation of land-grant colleges.
Congrats to all three, and to Professors Osborne and Guerrini, for their hard work in graduate supervision.
October 25th, 2012
by Andre Hahn*
On October 17, Professor David Luft gave a lecture entitled “Philosophy and Science in Nineteenth-Century Austria: Bernard Bolzano (1781-1848) and Franz Brentano (1838-1917).” The theme of Professor Luft’s talk was to give Bolzano and Brentano more credit and attention than they normally receive among English speaking historians and philosophers. Bolzano warrants such attention because his analytic methods end up indirectly influencing Anglo-American philosophers in the twentieth century, while Brentano inaugurated the other major twentieth century philosophical tradition of Continental philosophy by establishing phenomenology. Read the rest of this entry »