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Detailed list of Symposia already accepted

List of Symposia already accepted

(February 1, 2016. More are coming. Note that the acceptation of the symposium does not mean acceptation of all the abstracts submitted. Detailed information will be sent shortly to the organizers)

Algebra, Humanism and Cultural Policies

Organizers: Veronica Gavagna (University of Florence, Florence, Italy), Pier Daniele Napolitani (University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy), Sabine Rommevaux-Tani (CNRS – Université Paris Diderot, Paris, France)

At first sight, the history of algebra seems to be completely foreign to the so-called Mathematical Humanism as to content, methodology and social environment.

Algebra came from the Arabic culture into the Latin West where it found a fertile ground inside the Italian abacus schools, the institutions that provided the education for the growing middle class. Just in this world of cossist algebra, Tartaglia discovered the solving rules for the cubic equation, the first original result of the Western mathematics with respect to the Ancient Greek mathematics. Subsequently, Cardano’s Ars Magna disseminated the rules for solving formulas of cubic and quartic equations all over Europe and furthermore Bombelli "invented" the complex numbers: apparently, algebra was ready for the ‘symbolic’ revolution without any other external suggestion.

On the other side, it seemed that the Renaissance Courts, whose political, economic and cultural influence was dominant at that time, promoted only the restoration of Greek Classics. The mathematical humanism encouraged the reawakening and the reinterpretation of the Archimedean tradition: Luca Valerio and Bonaventura Cavalieri’s reworking of the Archimedean geometry of measure brought it to a higher level of abstraction and the humanist Galileo tried to interpret the Book of Nature in Mathematical terms.

In the ‘received wisdom’ of the great part of the scientific literature the previous were considered two separated worlds, both from social and intellectual viewpoint, but are we sure this is correct?

We propose to focus the discussion mainly on the following points

  • Did the different cultural policies in Europe (especially in Italy and French) have any influence in the flourishing of mathematical humanism?
  • Could the arabic-abachistic algebraic tradition have the possibility of a further autonomous development in the Late Cinquecento?
  • Could we recognize any kind of relationship between Medieval and Renaissance algebra -- seen by practitioners as a problem solving tool – and the restoration of Classics promoted by influential Courts and humanistic circles?
  • What was the role played by Diophantus and Pappus’ translations in the emergence of Viète’s ars analytica?
  • What was the role played by Viete’s logistica speciosa in the creation of new mathematical objects?
  • Could we recognize a kind of influence of scientific institutions or centre of power in the diffusion of symbolic algebra in the Late Renaissance?
  • Did the Renaissance reworking of the Archimedean geometry influence the emergence of a new concept of ‘mathematical object’ (e.g. the curve-equation of Descartes) ?


Anti-authoritarianism in natural philosophy: radicalism and folk intuitions

Organizers: Charles Wolfe (Ghent University, Gent, Belgium), Enrico Pasini (University of Turin, Turin, Italy)

We are familiar with the figure of the scientist or natural philosopher as a solitary seeker for truth, grinding lenses and rejecting the invitations of learned Academies (Garber 1998). Equally well-known as an Enlightenment persona is the scientist ‘in the service of the nation/kingdom’ (Koerner 1999), including in the sense of Bacon’s hope to extend the “power and empire of the human race itself over the universe of things,” to enlarge “the bounds of human empire, the effecting of all things possible” (Novum Organum and New Atlantis, respectively, in Bacon 1996) . But how do these reassuring figures sit with the popularity of the Radical Enlightenment ethos, in the sense of Jonathan Israel’s much-discussed idea (Israel 2001)? That is, should we add to this gallery of portraits of the early modern scientist, the anti-authoritarian scientist or, to modify an Althusserian expression, the “spontaneous scientist” (e.g. the materialist)? There is an uneasy ‘folk intuition’ which equates intellectual and political radicalism, for instance in the context of the Enlightenment, but there are clear counter-examples to this: La Mettrie was a radical materialist but politically an elitist and a cynical determinist in terms of social theory (Wolfe 2013); Rousseau, a direct influence on the French Revolution, was a strident anti-materialist. In this panel we examine some cases of science-power relations under the rubric of ‘Natural Philosophy and Anti-Authoritarianism’ to further evaluate this common intuition. Enrico Pasini examines the case of geology, in which a scientific project has direct anti-authoritarian consequences; Vera Szanto examines the case of Margaret Cavendish, who is both an opponent of the Experimental Philosophy of the Royal Society and politically an authoritarian – except she has a vitalist metaphysics which is often read in radical-democratic terms (Rogers 1996). Charles Wolfe discusses cases of early-modern free-thinkers (a.k.a. libertins érudits) who use scientific (including social-scientific) input, less to create a stable, cumulative body of knowledge than in order to destabilize forms of existing knowledge. Here the common intuition of an anti-authoritarian force of science is restored, except in a fictitious form involving travel narratives, false proclamations of the Spinozism of Confucian China (as in Henri de Boulainvilliers) and projects for sending orangutans to school (as in La Mettrie) (Benítez 1996).


Astral Sciences and Power in Europe and China

Organizers: Matthieu Husson (CNRS, SYRTE-Observatoire de Paris, Paris, France), Liang Li (Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China)


Challenges for the history of engineering: Education, professions, circulation, sustainability, power

Organizers: Antoni Roca-Rosell (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya – Barcelona Tech, Barcelona, Spain), Ana Cardoso de Matos (Universidade de Évora, Evora, Portugal)


Changing mathematical spaces: geometry and physics in the 20th century

Organizers: Tilman Sauer (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Mainz, Germany), Gerard Alberts (University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands), Jan Kotůlek (VŠB-TU Ostrava, Ostrava, Czech Republic)


Comparative study on the interplay between knowledge practices and powers in Chinese history

Organizer: Yiwen Zhu (Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China)


Counteracting erroneous interpretations of bibliometrics: Tensions between science and politics

Organizers: Michal Kokowski (Polish Academy of Sciences, Krakow-Warsaw, Poland), Efthymios Nicolaidis (National Hellenic Research Foundation, Athens, Greece)


Disciplining Knowledge: The Emergence of Learned Journals and the Consolidation of Scholarly and Scientific Disciplines, 1760–1800

Organizers: Anna Gielas (University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK), Dominik Huenniger (Georg-August-University Goettingen, Göttingen, Germany), Martin Gierl (Georg-August-University Goettingen, Göttingen , Germany)


Disciplining Knowledge (Part II): The Emergence of Learned Journals and the Consolidation of Scholarly and Scientific Disciplines, 1800–1850

Organizers: Anna Gielas (University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK), Roman Göbel (Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Jena, Germany), Adam Dunn (University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK)


Domesticating the air: The politics, technics, and material culture of breathing safely

Organizers: Elena Serrano (Max Planck Institut, Berlin, Germany), Marie Thébaud-Sorger (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris, France)


Enduring Ideas, New Alliances: Social and Epistemic Factors in the Renaissance of General Relativity

Organizers: Roberto Lalli (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, Germany), Alexander S. Blum (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, Germany)

In the century following Einstein's ultimate formulation in 1915, the general theory of relativity has evolved from a revolutionary mathematical theory with limited contact with the empirical world to an observationally and experimentally based cornerstone of modern physics and cosmology. This momentous shift started around the mid-1950s. While in the previous decades general relativity was perceived as a highly formalistic subject involving only few theorists, by the mid-1960s Einstein’s theory has become an extremely vital research stream of theoretical physics, at the same time sparking entirely novel fields such as relativistic astrophysics – a process that came to be known as “renaissance of general relativity.” The revitalization of general relativity, moreover, crossed the boundaries of science, and had a large social impact as well as a significant influence on philosophical debates.

Starting from a re-assessment of the period that has been called the “low-water-mark” of general relativity by J. Eisenstaedt, the symposium aims at investigating the global dynamics of this complex process by taking into account the interactions of a variety of factors such as the role of quantum gravity research, the historical evolution of theoretical astrophysics until the emergence of relativistic astrophysics, the establishment of the program on gravitational wave detection in Italy and its role in furthering an international network of collaborations, the establishment of a community of scholars active in the field of general relativity analyzed by the tools of the social network analysis, the origins of relativistic hydrodynamics, and the controversy about the black hole information paradox. These case studies can shed light on the socio-epistemic dynamics through which a previously marginal field came to return to the mainstream of physics. Our symposium will especially focus on the interconnections between the enduring power of mathematical structures in theoretical physics and the relevance of power structures within the scientific communities in the renewal of general relativity in the post- and Cold-war period.


Environmental Science and the Politics of Power, 1890–1970

Organizers: Raf De Bont (Maastricht University, Maastricht, Netherlands), Simone Schleper (Maastricht University, Maastricht, Netherlands)

Throughout the course of the past century, the organization and political impact of the environmental sciences have undergone several significant changes. These sciences have been used in territorial politics of nation states, they have served as an instrument of colonial governance, and they have been used to legitimize the policy plans of international organizations. What has remained constant, however, is the unavoidable tie-up between conceptualizations of the environment and social order – in short, between science and power.

In this session we want to explore the different ways in which the environmental sciences have been entangled with power politics from the turn of the century to the Environmental Revolution of the 1970s. Bringing together in-depth case studies and accounts of long-term developments, papers in this session reflect on breaks and continuities in the recent history of the environmental sciences and its relation to environmental governance. In this we will focus on discussions that are still at the core of environmental politics today. We will look into the negotiations of the local, national and global practices of environmental management, the delineation and standardization processes that set the parameters of environmental discussions, and the boundary work that is involved in deciding who the ‘true’ spokespersons of nature are.

The case studies will address these mechanisms for different geographical and chronological contexts. Wilko Graf von Hardenberg will discuss how science and politics interacted in the international negotiations that led to an agreement on the standard sea level in the early 1900s. Emily Brock, for her part, will probe how forestry and military planning intersected in the management of forestland in the Philippines in the 1920s, while Raf De Bont will study the role of science in ‘internationalizing’ the Albert National Park in Belgian Congo in the mid-century. Simone Schleper, finally, will take us to the world of international organizations and will explore the role of different types of systems thinking in the establishment of international environmental governance in the 1970s.


European Physicists and Chinese Physics in the 20th Century

Organizers: Xiaodong Yin (Capital Normal University, Beijing, China), Danian Hu (The City College of the City University of New York, New York, USA)


Forgotten Pages in the History of Genetics

Organizers: Georgy Levit (Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, Jena, Germany), Sergey Shalimov (Saint-Petersburg Branch of S. I. Vavilov Institute for the History of Science and Technology of Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg, Russian Federation)

The 20th century was arguably “the century of the gene” (as Evelyn Fox Keller put it). A lot has been done to reconstruct the growth of genetics. Yet, despite the great efforts of historians of science across the world, there are still many “white spots” in the history of genetics. Partly, it can be explained by the complexity of social-political circumstances and theoretical peculiarities, which determined the paths of genetics in various national contexts. Our panel targets to contribute to the elimination of some of these “white spots”. Our concentration will be on the crucial episodes of Eastern-European and German hereditary biology underrepresented in the current historiography. We are going to discuss applied science in the Nazi Germany taking as an example forest Genetics in Bohemia and Moravia between 1939 and 1945. German “high church” genetics of the 1st third of the 20th century will be approached as well. We will be taking as an example a zoologist and geneticist Ludwig Plate (1862–1937). Plate was a pupil and successor of the “German Darwin” Ernst Haeckel as the director of the Institute of Zoology at Jena University. He campaigned for a revival of the “original” Darwinism. His research program, which he labelled “old-Darwinism”, proclaimed the synthesis of selectionism with “moderate Lamarckism” and orthogenesis. We invite scholars interested in the announced topics to contribute to our panel. Besides, we will outline the history of genetics in the USSR after the downfall of Lyssenkoism paying special attention to the controversial role of an outstanding but controversial geneticist Nikolai Dubinin (1907–1998) in the post-Lyssenkoist era. Finally, we will make a jump into the modern times and ask whether genetic engineering is a promise of power by considering example from the very recent history of genetics. We proceed from the assumption that all these case studies are not just isolated episodes in the history of genetics, but can be discussed in a more general methodological framework.


From Lysenkoism to Evolutionary Biology

Organizers: Tomáš Hermann (Charles University in Prague, Faculty of Science, Prague, Czech Republic), Marco Stella (Charles University in Prague, Faculty of Humanities, Prague, Czech Republic), Mikhail Konashev (Russian Academy of Sciences, Saint-Petersburg Branch, Saint-Petersburg, Russian Federation)

The symposium will be devoted to various aspects of a long and complex  process of contacts, struggles, transitions and conceptual overlaps of lysenkoism and neodarwinian evolutionary biology and its’ unorthodox extensions, such as theories of epigenetic inheritance. These contacts and transitions took place in almost all countries of the Eastern Bloc, including Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and other countries. A surprisingly high number of evolutionary biologists were able and willing to work on the margins of two political and epistemological regimes, , both in the form of critique . Even if „lysenkoism“ is mostly considered as an illustrative example of pseudoscience, by many from East and West it was taken seriously. For some (not necessarily from West), it was an opponent worth to struggle with. For others (not neccessary from East) a theoretical and epistemic background that was (unlike neodarwinian evolutionary biology) able to offer new explanations of biological phenomena or predictions of future evolution. At the same time being supported and supporting Marxist, or Marxist-leninist philosophy ideas. Figures such as Vladimír Jan Ámos Novák in Czechoslovakia, the author of the theory of sociogenesis, Vladimir Sukachev in the USSR and Th. Dobzhansky in the US are, among others, good examples. For instance, Novák is a good example of how the theories of heredity and evolution were changing throughout the post-War development in Czechoslovakia from lysenkoism to concepts that have only recently had a strong impact on the shaping of mainstream evolutionary biology. He started his career as an insect endocrinologistwho tried to apply some lysenkoist methods on butterfly larvae. Later on, he developed his own evolutionary theory of sociogenesis (an Eastern counterpart of Wilson’s sociobiology) and a multilevel theory of heredity, both strongly infuenced by epigenetic theory of inheritance. Vladimir Sukachev was an outstanding Soviet botanist and one of the key figures in the struggle against lysenkoism in the USSR. Th. Dobzhansky was a world/famous evolutionary geneticist and the nost important Western critics of lysenkoism. The symposium will focus on the development of different attempts to communicate, highlight or transgress differences of ideas on evolutionary principles over the Iron curtain, compare biographies of protagonists and look closely on possible aftereffects.


Going against the grain: Unexpected histories of health in communist Eastern Europe

Organizer: Dora Vargha (University of London, London, UK)

This panel brings together new research on health and medicine in the Communist countries of Eastern Europe in the post-war period. All three papers address aspects of medicine which go against the grain of totalitarian interpretations of State Socialism in the region, foregrounding the limitations of institutions of power in these contexts, whether they be the of state or of medical orthodoxy.


Historical-Epistemological Prospects on Science as Power

Organizers: Sascha Freyberg (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, Germany), Pietro Daniel Omodeo (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, Germany)


History of Science – Inspired Theatre: The Social Power of Recent Plays

Organizers: Robert Marc Friedman (University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway), Pnina G. Abir-Am (Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, USA)


Hungarian schools and students in various fields of power

Organizers: Attila Szilárd Tar (Krúdy Gyula Academic Grammar School, Győr, Hungary), László Szögi (Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary)


Inequality in early modern philosophy and science: The impact of social order on learned identity and knowledge production

Organizers: Verena Lehmbrock (University of Wuppertal, Wuppertal, Germany), Monika Mommertz (University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany), Denise Phillips (University of Tennessee, Tennessee, USA)


Mendel and the Uses & Abuses of the Scientific Past

Organizers: Gregory Radick (University of Leeds, Leeds, UK), Ondrej Dostal (Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic)


Natural knowledge, power and politics in the long eighteenth century

Organizers: Sebestian Kroupa (University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK), Dorit Brixius (European University Institute, Florence, Italy)

Natural history was by no means a purely intellectual or philosophical affair but must certainly be considered as a marriage between intellectual attempts and political-economic goals. Particularly from the late seventeenth century onwards, knowledge about the natural world became increasingly associated with public discourse, as both public and political authorities realised the potential that such knowledge offered in terms of propaganda and manipulation and, consequently, they strove to shape it into diverse instruments of different ideologies. This session therefore intends to explore the exploitation of natural history within the realms of politics and power in the long eighteenth century in both a European and a world context. It is designed to bring together material, social, local, and global approaches to the history of natural knowledge and seeks to unveil the role that natural history played in various political processes and empowerments. Encompassing the epistemic, political and economic relevance of fields as diverse as pharmacy, taxonomy, museology and botany, each paper discusses a particular meaning that natural history assumed with respect to power within a specific geographic milieu. The first two speakers set natural knowledge in the context of intellectual circles: while Emma Spary explores the power of poisons in pre-revolutionary Paris, addressing the ways in which the making of and thinking about poisons challenged scientific and medical claimants to public expertise, Sebestian Kroupa’s contribution examines how the Linnaean system of classification was used as an instrument of political ideology in Ignaz von Born’s pamphlets amid the Josephine reforms of the Habsburg Empire. Papers three and four are dedicated to practical aspects of natural knowledge on display and as subject of consensus formation, respectively, as they seek to shed light on how local powers built and shaped various approaches to how nature was viewed and exploited. In her paper, Déborah Dubald aims to illuminate the evolution of the capacity of mayorship in provincial France at the turn of the nineteenth century and, in particular, its complementary influences on the operation with and exhibition of nature in museums, as well as on the more general discourse on nature. Finally, moving beyond the European borders, in paper four Dorit Brixius endeavours to look at the local negotiation practices of indigenous people in the French colonial enterprise by unveiling the power that the local islanders had over French colonial agents.


Odd scientific objects in post-liberal Europe

Organizer: Alina-Sandra Cucu (Max Planck for the History of Science, Berlin, Germany)


On the move: the circulation of radioactive materials in the cross road of health physics and biomedicine

Organizers: Maria Rentetzi (University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria), Maria Jesus Santesmases (CCHS Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Madrid, Spain)

This session focuses on the circulation of radioisotopes in the crossroad of health physics and biomedicine during the atomic age. Focusing on the circulation of radioactive materials such as radioiodine and radiostrondium we tell the complex stories of radioactive landscape and labscapes. Questioning the role of international institutions in shaping research in health physics and biomedicine we unfold issues of authority and political involvement. The proposed papers offer more complex stories of the circulation of both materials and actors that contemporary radioactive landscape and labscapes manufactured and put in motion.

Alison Kraft traces the ways radiostrondium was transformed to a political problem, an item of scientific debates, an argument in the anti-nuclear activism. Following the circulation of radioiodine, Maria Rentetzi questions the role of one of the most powerful international institutions that of the IAEA, in standardizing the medical applications of radioisotopes. Politics feature ones again in a prominent position. In María Jesús Santesmases's paper, radioiodine becomes a tool for maintaining scientific work, securing funding and resources, sharing experimental cultures, establishing expertise in a new field. Alexander von Schwerin takes up the issue of scientific institutions and underlines the ways radioisotopes and chemical hazards shaped biomedical research and transformed institutional profiles.

Overall, embedded in the history of the 20th century biomedical sciences and Western societies at large, radioactive materials circulated widely, very much unseen but detected by the instruments and tools that the early atomic research technologies provided. As all travelers in the history of human civilization, radioactive elements moved around affecting living beings. Biomedicine, the clinical laboratory, and human health turned out to be political issues of major importance as radioisotopes were closely associated with the military and international regulatory institutions. Papers in this session follow the whereabouts of radioisotopes very closely and reveal untold stories of the atomic age.


Pariah sciences. Episteme, Power and Legitimization of Knowledge, from Animal Electricity to Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions

Organizers: Jan Surman (Herder Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe – Institute of the Leibniz Association, Marburg, Germany), Zsuzsanna Török (University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany), Friedrich Cain (University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany)

If history should be the history of winners, much is lost in the process of writing it. Our session aims at looking consciously at precise moments at which modern disciplines, research programs or scholars cross the threshold of legitimacy, one way or another. We intend to analyze via microstudies how science is made legitimate/illegitimate, who are the actors behind this process and which strategies have led to achieving the quality of crossing this strong discursive boundary. Cold fusion, 19th century natural law, astrology, Lyssenkoism, Soviet sociology, are known examples of how knowledge once regarded legitimate turned into “pariah science” (Goodstein 1994), the two latter fields also going the other way round. But the ways their stories are told differ greatly, ranging from references to obstacles presented to them by political power to failure to bring reliable results. We feel, however, that the canvas is more complex, and can be unwoven best through case studies, which will include cultural, religious, political and epistemic factors.

Regarding the political framework, our panel addresses not only absolutist, despotic, totalitarian and semi-totalitarian regimes, which, as recent studies have accentuated, allowed lot of individual freedom and thus manipulation, but also constitutional monarchies and liberal democracies where science has been a field closely interwoven with politics. Moreover, recent works in anthropology (Proctor/Schiebinger 2008) have focused on a field that spans between politics and scholarship on the one hand, and provable and not provable information on the other. In this highly politicized arena, notions of ambiguity become central to discourses transgressing science and politics. Indeed, the field of exclusion and delegitimization is a particularly tangled one: governments and (un-)enlightened despots used religious claims to legitimize the banning of politically unwanted knowledge, while the Church (re-)connected with politicians and political activists to achieve its epistemic aims (e.g. Roman Catholic Church in the anti-modernist struggle). Scholars often played a key role in these struggles helping to sustain their research programs by cutting off their competitors with the help of non-academic actors. Visualizing the strings and actors pulling them, will give, as we believe, a detailed and dynamic view of science as an endeavor involving manifold actors, not only those confined to academia.


Polish Radio behind the Iron Curtain – Technology, Institution and Practices

Organizer: Joanna Walewska (Nicolaus Copernicus University, Torun, Poland)


Power and Authority in 20th Century Childbirth

Organizers: Paula Michaels (Monash University, Melbourne, Australia), Ema Hrešanová (University of West Bohemia, Plzeň, Czech Republic)

In keeping with the theme of the EHSH Conference, this symposium seeks to illuminate the varied ways that science defines the twentieth-century experience of childbirth. With papers on caesarean section and consent in the United States (Jacqueline Wolf); medicalization of American home birth (Wendy Kline); efforts to humanise maternity care in socialist Czechoslovakia (Ema Hrešanová); and the trauma of birth as understood in North American and European psychological theory (Paula Michaels), this panel explores the medico-scientific engagement with birth practices from the perspectives of the social history of medicine, intellectual history, the history of psychology, and women’s history. The participants draw on published sources, archival documents and oral histories to conceptualise questions of power and authority in the clinical encounter, as well as the social construction of the body and mind.

This topic coheres with a number of sub-thematic topics, but most closely speaks to (D) Science, Technology and Power in Specific Circumstances. At once both a universal human experience and an extraordinary life-cycle event, childbirth offers a rich case study in the negotiation of science and power. Whether a midwife or a physician, the maternity caregiver brings to bear on the experience of childbirth an authority that stems from learning and observation and is enacted through the specialised and technical language of medicine. The birthing woman lacks the caregiver’s bona fides, but possesses senses that generate somatic knowledge about the unfolding birth process. In the context of a hospital-based, technocratic birth she finds her body’s information discounted, trumped by the weight of evidence offered by expert opinion and technology. These four papers explore how a scientific understanding of childbirth works to enact relations of power and the ways that women themselves at times express agency through the active support of obstetric power and at other times seek to resist that power.


Power and display: Museums, science and politics in Southern Europe (1918–1939)

Organizers: Elena Canadelli (University of Padova, Padova, Italy), Jaume Sastre-Juan (Universidade de Lisboa, Lisboa, Portugal)


Prosopography and the History of Science in a Networked Computational Environment: Theoretical, Methodological, and Technical Considerations

Organizers: Gavan McCarthy (University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia), Stephen Weldon (University of Oklahoma, Norman, USA), Birute Railiene (Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, Vilnius, Lithuania)


Pugwash and the communism question: Perceptions and Realities

Organizers: Alison Kraft (University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK), Geoffrey Roberts (University College Cork Ireland, Cork, Ireland)


Re-contextualising Urban History of Medicine. Cities, Power relations and Networks of Urban centers of Medicine, 1848–1955

Organizers: Birgit Nemec (University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany), Petr Svobodný (Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic), Natalia Aleksiun (Touro College, New York, USA)

The history of medicine has long been studied and told as a history of successful schools and of productive intellectual urban milieus. In the case of Vienna, the so called second Vienna Medical School is known for the emergence of a prominent Medical Faculty in the mid 19th century which became one of the leading departments in the German speaking lands. It is certainly true, that the faculty's success among students and researchers from all over the world had to do with local resources and a creative atmosphere of Vienna as a vibrant modern metropolis. However, we still know very little about social structures and networks as well as power relations that connected Vienna to other centers of medical knowledge and training which shaped research, teaching and clinical practices. This observation is certainly also true for other university cities with medical faculties: Prague, Bratislava, and Warsaw as well as other medical schools in East Central Europe. Education, Research, social and professional networking, religion, and migration are transnational phenomena that shape the scientific, political and cultural context of a city. As a consequence of this, how do we need to re-contextualize urban history of medicine of old and ‘new’ centers of university medicine, of bigger and smaller cities, especially in periods of upheaval, of fascism, occupation, or nation building?

Our session will explore the ways in which precise structures and networks have been sources of power and power relations, in the sense that they shaped both, medical practices in a city, that for a time period acted as a center of medicine, and in its transnational networks. By analyzing case studies in different medical fields our panel addresses not only questions of mobility and exchange processes of knowledge, objects and people, as well as questions of transformation of political and philosophical concepts ‘between’ centers of medicine, but the co-construction of artistic and medical spheres and commemoration practices.    

We intend to analyze the influence of scientific, political-economic, legal, societal and cultural developments on the structures of and networks of medicine in different cities in Central Eastern Europe. In the case studies we are particularly keen to examine:

  • What effects did power and power relations have on these developments and how did they shape national and international medical research, carrers and personal biographies? 
  • To what extent did transnational developments shape the cities‘ image as centres of medicine? 
  • Which national and international networks and cooperations were built up and how powerful were they in shaping medical practices in the single cities, in Central Eastern Europe, and beyond?
  • What do we learn about the interplay between old and ‘new’ centers of university medicine following political changes in 1918 and 1945, like Brno and Bratislava in the case of former Czechoslovakia after 1918 or Olomouc and Martin after 1945?
  • What role did material and visual cultures of medicine play in shaping the ‘medical’ iconography of a city? – and was there a reciprocity between iconography, institutional socio-historical contexts and (local and transnational) identity building?


Representing global power in Iberia: Diogo Ribeiro’s world maps and Early Modern Science

Organizers: Antonio Sánchez (University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal), Thomas Horst (University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal), Samuel Gessner (University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal)

Despite its natural connections with the development of scientific knowledge, the History of Cartography per se has never attracted much attention from the History of Science. Maps are, and have always been, a privileged means of recording, manipulating and displaying geographical knowledge – and so were important scientific objects which, at the same time, are capable of representing claims of power and dominion. Moreover, the conception, manufacture, circulation and use of maps during the early modern period is a basic component of the intellectual, social and material process we call the “Scientific Revolution”. In spite of this importance the usual narratives of this process refer to cartography all too seldom. In part this reflects the fact that the History of Cartography consists of a relatively small community of researchers who maintain only little contact with the more general History of Science and Technology community. In our view much is to be gained with a better integration. Our proposal for this symposium shall be a step in this direction.

Integration means that our approaches to the study of old maps are enriched by the methodological and analytical tools of the History of Science combining the perspectives of historical epistemology, cultural history of mathematics, material culture, cartometrics, iconology, and iconography (heraldic). Integration of the History of Cartography into that of Science should also entail that we attract the interest of other researchers to an otherwise rarefied field of research with an understudied corpus of primary sources.

At the core of the symposium are a number of early world charts rooted in the cartographic production of the Casa de la Contratación in Seville from the first half of the sixteenth century. Some of these documents bear the name of the cartographer Diogo Ribeiro, who was trained in Portugal and has worked at the Casa from c.1518 until his death, c.1533. These central primary sources give rise to several inquiries.

Ribeiro represents, better than any other character, the paradigm of the Iberian cosmographer of the sixteenth century. He possessed theoretical knowledge and skills of map and instrument making. His name is linked to the important novel features patent on his planispheres. These maps projected a novel image of the world for the Emperor. Ribeiro was born in Portugal, where he was trained as a cartographer, and came to Seville in the context of the preparation of the Magellan-Elcano circumnavigation of the world, which started in 1519. In Seville, Ribeiro ascended to the post of royal cosmographer and instrument maker. He was able to conquer the trust of the Spanish imperial authorities and the respect of the diplomatic community.

Our symposium will demonstrate that these activities also incorporate broader issues typically pertaining to the History of Science, such as the cultural processes that contributed to the formation of global empires, the epistemic phenomena associated with the artisanal practices, and the variety of mathematical cultures, large scale networks of correspondence, multiple locales of knowledge including courtly, commercial, artisanal and academic places.


Revisiting the Marie Curie effect: “Invisibly powerful” women in science

Organizer: Isabelle Lémonon (EHESS – Centre Alexandre Koyré, PARIS, France)


Science and Education in the Context of Modernization

Organizer: Dazhi Yao (Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China)


Science funding and gendered scientific personae in interwar Europe

Organizers: Kaat Wils (University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium), Kirsti Niskanen (University of Stockholm, Stockholm, Sweden)


Science, Medicine and the State: the Revolution of Chinese Medicine in Modern China

Organizers: Xi Gao (Fudan University, Shanghai, China), Yuan Yuan (Donghua University, Shanghai, China)


Science, self and power: Self-Orientalism and others performances of identity in relation to Science (19th–21st century)

Organizers: Kenji Ito (SOKENDAI (The Graduate University for Advanced Studies) & IASCUD, Hayama, Japan), Agathe Keller (CNRS-Université Paris Diderot & ERC-SAW, Paris, France)

This symposium explores different ways of constructing cultural identities and examines various forms of cultural diversity in relation to science. It will pay particular attention to the process of self-orientalization. Self-orientalization refers to the ways non-European actors inflect their cultural identities by Orientalist essentialism, constructing and presenting themselves as “exotic,” fundamentally different from the “Occident.” This notion has emerged from post-colonial studies and become used in cultural studies and tourism studies. We propose that this notion is also useful to discuss construction, imposition, and self-fashioning of the cultural identities of scientists. What discourses on nations, religions, people, culture, civilizations forge such identities? What are the different ways that one self-orientalizes? What images of sciences are such ideas built upon? What power relations and identity politics causes self-orientalization?  Do such processes inflect scientific practices or scientific collaborations? Have they induced peculiar scientific text productions? Created specific school curricula?  These are some of fundamental questions of this symposium.

More widely, this session aims to discuss historiographical issues related to writing cultural diversity in the history of science. Self-orientalization can be seen as one way of exploring how cultures have been written and spoken in the history of science. This symposium sheds light on how the notion of culture caused problems in such studies, and how ways of looking at scientific cultures in history can be relevant to contemporary controversies related to culture. Furthermore, it raises the question of how one can write a global history without falling into pitfalls of essentialism, doing justice to its diversity.

This symposium will discuss these theoretical and historiographical questions through specific examples. Case studies will include a Japanese nuclear physicists presenting himself Oriental thinkers, practitioners of “Vedic Mathematics” publicizing simple computations found mystically, or an American physicist attempting to characterize the “American physics” that he practices as “down to earth.”


Sciences and Universities in the context of political regime changes

Organizer: Mitchell G. Ash (University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria)

In recent years, scholarship has become increasingly open to interpretations of relations between science and politics that emphasize their actual interactions, rather than assuming on normative grounds that their histories are – or should be – separate from one another. Potentially productive locations for more detailed examinations of such interactions are periods in which fundamental regime changes occur – for example from monarchies to republics, from democracies to dictatorships, or from dictatorships to democracies. In such cases it seems justified to ask whether the institutional or ideological conditions for conducting scientific or scholarly research – even definitions of science and scholarship as such – changed along with the political regime, and whether and under what conditions it was possible to renegotiate relations of sciences and politics, or sciences and the state in the course of such radical political changes.

After brief introductory remarks by the chair, the proposed symposium will present a series of case studies that consider such questions in greater detail. The case studies address a wide variety of regime changes in different time periods, ranging from an overview of scientific changes during the French Revolution of 1789 and transformations of the University of Innsbruck during the Napoleonic Wars, to examinations of the social sciences in Poland after 1918, a prosopographical study of the expulsion of life scientists from the German University in Prague on racist and political grounds after 1938/39, the transition from the Kaiser-Wilhelm Society under Nazism to the Max-Planck-Society in postwar West Germany, the impact of American efforts to transform the social sciences in West Germany after 1945, and a re-examination of the interactions of science, policy and politics after the fall of Communism, focusing on the case of German unification. Whereas some papers will focus on universities or non-university research institutions, others will consider specific scientific disciplines. The sympsoium will conclude with a brief summary and commentary from the session organizer, followed by general discussion.


Scientific Persona as a way to scientific Power: how scientists deal with categories of social diference (SPaSP)

Organizers: Mineke Bosch (University Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands), Kirsti Niskanen (Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden)


Scientists and the powerful from the Middle Age to the Classical period

Organizers: Valérie Debuiche (Ceperc, Aix en Provence, France), Pascal Taranto (Ceperc, Aix en Provence, France)


Skulls and roses: natural history collections and their meaning in 18–19th centuries

Organizers: Anastasia Fedotova (Institute for the History of Science and Technology, Russian Academy of Science, St. Petersburg, Russian Federation), Marina Loskutova (National Research University – Higher School of Economics, St. Petersburg, Russian Federation)


State Power, Scientific Power, and the Power of Nature

Organizers: Paul Josephson (Colby College, USA and Tomsk State University, Russia), Bertrand Guillaume (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, Germany)

This symposium will consider how knowledge about and power over nature developed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. At this time state power and engineering authority came together in new ways to promote nature transformation projects. Political authorities pursued the projects in the name of national defense, economic growth, transportation and energy production, public health, and protection of the masses. Recognizing their own expertise, specialists in universities, national laboratories, and engineering firms embraced opportunities to advance projects that both met the authorities’ agendas and in many cases actually set the agenda for political actors to approve their projects with ever bolder visions. With their own agency, citizens and nature itself participated in the projects, with people at times being ousted from the homelands in the name of progress, and other times working with scientists and the authorities to push for projects that considered their interests – and the importance of nature protection in the process.

The symposium, with participants from France, Germany, the Czech Republic and the US, will include four papers. The first will consider the interplay between beliefs and realities about the potential power of technology over nature dating to the 19th century. It exemplifies the hubristic, and overoptimistic, imagination of power of technology and human control in relation with nature, on the one hand, and the actual, underestimated, power of imagination for the survival/revival, of projects of this kind, on the other. A second will examine, how, in the late 1940s and 1950s, at the height of zeal socialist transformation of nature, the socialist states in Europe nevertheless early on enacted environmental protection laws to keep pace with international developments in regard to environmental protection. The third presentation will analyze the coalescence of the state power and nature engineering in Southern Moravia against the background of the paradigm shift characterized by growing environmental awareness and opposition. This last paper turns to evaluation of the rebirth of nature transformation projects and rejuvenation of engineering bureaucracies in Russia under Vladimir Putin, at the same time as the state strives to emasculate environmental NGOs.


Statistics and Power – Power of Statistics?

Organizers: Annette B. Vogt (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, Germany), Ida H. Stamhuis (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands)


Textbooks and Handbooks as an Instrument of Power

Organizers: Marianne Klemun (University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria), Ana Carneiro (New University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal)


The Acknowledged Ambassadors: Scientists’ Role in International Relations during the Cold War

Organizers: Doubravka Olšáková (Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague, Czech Republic), Simone Turchetti (University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)


The Big Brother Role Model? Soviet and American impulses for Central and Eastern European academic systems, 1945–1989

Organizers: Martin Franc (Masaryk Institute and the Archives of the ASCR, Prague, Czech Republic), Johannes Feichtinger (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna, Austria), Jakub Jareš (Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic)

In the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century, Europe, and in particular Germany, became the cradle of influential scientific system models, which were spreading worldwide, also to Russia and the United States of America. The end of the Second World War and the profound changes in the social and economic structures in many countries led to principal changes in the prevailing scientific and educational system in Central and Eastern European countries and the situation reversed in many respects. The influence of two great powers, whose importance had rapidly grown during the conflict, played a key role in the emergence of new mechanisms and institutions: Most countries in Eastern and Central Europe found themselves in the sphere of hegemonic influence of the Soviet Union; Austria and Germany also massively adopted impulses from the USA, supported by the administration in the US sectors of these countries. In the second half of the 20th century the so-called Eastern Bloc was dominated by the Soviet model of organizing and managing science, with a central academy of sciences playing a representative role as a coordinator of its own basic research sites. However, the degree of adoption of the Soviet model, in some ways inspired by the aforementioned German and Austrian traditions of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, differed in the individual countries and periods. Even Central European countries which were outside the hegemonic influence of the Soviet Union reflected on the Soviet? models of science management and institutionalization.

The symposium investigates (1) to what extent this situation marked, in both cases, the return of the original German models complemented with additional elements and (2) to what extent this concerned the building of entirely new traditions. In this context it analyses the establishment of the so-called Soviet model in the interwar period. Major questions are: How did the mechanisms of the Soviet influence on the establishment of the scientific system differ from the mechanisms of enforcement of American models; and vice versa, what are the parallels there? Did the Soviet and American scientific policies also influence each other in Central and Eastern Europe? Where did the impact by any of the imported models show the most and where did local traditions play the most important role? To what extent did the adoption of foreign impulses result in an actual transformation of the local system, and when did it only add a political “touch” without any actual impact on the key mechanisms of scientific management and institutionalization? What were the dynamics of acceptance of stimuli from the USA and the Soviet Union in the region between 1945 and 1989? Was the openness to incentives from the “other side of the Iron Curtain” growing or were, conversely, the Central and Eastern European scientific systems fixed in the shape they had taken just after the war and during the 1950s?


The Power of Experiments: The Interdisciplinary Reconfiguration of Dense and Rare in Early Modern Europe

Organizer: Cesare Pastorino (Technische Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany)


The Power of Knowledge of Geometry in the West and East

Organizers: Zhigang Ji (Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China), Tatsuhiko Kobayashi (Yokkaichi University, Yokkaichi, Japan)


The power of norms: standardisation and normalisation through International Scientific Organisations

Organizers: Danielle Fauque (Université Paris Sud, Orsay, France), Brigitte Van Tiggelen (Chemical Heritage Foundation, Philadelphia, USA)


The power of the historiography of science

Organizers: Zhihui Chen (CNRS-University Paris Diderot, Paris, France), Jiří Hudeček (International Sinological Centre, Prague, Czech Republic), Martina Schneider (CNRS-University Paris Diderot; University of Mainz, Mainz, Germany)

It is well known that history of science played and continues to play an important role in the processes of nation building. For example, histories of the sciences in Germany were published exactly at the time when the German nation state came into being. However, there are also various other ways how state and history of science interact with each other. This is illustrated by the fact that the history of the mathematical sciences was part of the topics to be studied for a state examination to become civil servant in late imperial China for a short period of time. This is likewise illustrated by how in the context of the professionalization of the history of science in Republican and People’s Republican eras of China, the history of mathematics and the history of astronomy became entangled with political power.

These examples point to a larger issue at stake, namely the power (and/or powerlessness) of the historiography of science in general. What kind of powers, real or (self-)ascribed, do the historians and the histories of science have? In what way do the actors themselves perceive and reflect upon matters of power? How are these issues reflected in how they carry out research and write about the history of science? How can their impact be detected, e.g., in the shaping of certain narratives, in the promotion of specific topics of discussion and methodologies, and in mobilizing research resources? The power of the history of science can probably best be captured in contexts in which alternative historiographies exist. One might, for instance, inquire into the dynamics between the centers and margins of historiography of science. One might also analyze how alternative counter-histories change the historical discourse. 

In this session we start exploring some of these questions focusing on the last two centuries. Before the professionalization of the history of science, an examiner in the late imperial China could put a question on the historiography of astronomy in the civil service examinations; a botanist attempted to build up the politics of his discipline by his panoramic historical writing. Some historians shaped heroic figures of science for their nation, such as the narrative of Descartes in the 19th century France; or started discussing a scholar’s nationality, for example Copernicus. In the 20th century, the professional historians of science could participate in the think tanks and have influences on the policies on science both in China and America. These cases and the approach from the perspective of power allows us to reverse the common perspective, which treats historiography of science as a passive recipient of “influences” and “motivations” from outside; instead, we can study it as an active factor which aims to influence social consciousness and practice.


The power of tropical biology: Creating epistemic spaces in the long twentieth century

Organizer: Sonja Walch (University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria)

Historians have studied the political and economic, as well as epistemological, dimension of European botanical research in the tropics from a diversity of perspectives. In recent years, most discussions on tropical botany were brief and followed a similar narrative: research was conducted in order to expand economic, military, and political networks, in connection with experimental biology taking over global networks of natural history outside Europe. In recognition of the rapid changes in our understanding of the connection between biological knowledge and power, this panel aims to reexamine this story for the long twentieth century by concentrating on the creation of epistemic spaces in tropical regions around the globe, far away from the academic centers in Europe and the United States. The objective is to show that the genesis, dissemination and transformation of knowledge on life and living things in different climatic, geographical, and conceptual spaces reorganized structures of meaning that lead to the adaptation of facts, methods and institutions within and beyond tropical landscapes. It is this power to create new approaches and frameworks that this panel is planning to investigate.

Our panel has a prominent transnational perspective as it focuses on key actors from different locales in Continental Europe (the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Austria) and the United States, conducting research in Pacific and Caribbean islands. The examples described in the four papers are taken from different emerging subfields within tropical botany and in the context of allied sciences such as geology and even ethnology, yet all papers concentrate on research conditions in constructed tropical regions that empowered them not only to re-conceptualize data and scientific facts, especially in forms of collaboration with colleagues in the laboratory or the field as well as members of international communities offering transnational cooperation and support in times of political upheavals.

Two main questions – referring to two major conference topics – will structure our presentations and discussions: Firstly, looking back to American, Dutch, and Swiss scientists in the long 20th century, a dominant pattern of scholars’ involvement in power structures and institutions in the Pacific and Caribbean is obvious. An important part of their endeavor was securing access to regions of interest during periods of colonization and trying to overcome losing access in times of decolonization, revolution, and war. In a diachronic and transnational comparison we identify the political, structural, and epistemic implications that framed the scientist’s construction of knowledge and practices in order to overcome this obstacle. Secondly, by exploring scientific knowledge and practices as sources of power, we challenge an established narrative that determines early research in the tropics mainly as natural history with focus on collecting and cataloging local knowledge and species in accordance to mostly economic and political considerations. Our case studies indicate more diverse and complex epistemologies that also shaped (socio-)political and scientific discourse. Researching the epistemic spaces in terms of concepts, communities, boundaries, and practices under adverse conditions provides a framework in which to examine the interplay between science and power.


The Principle of Energy Conservation: history, philosophy, education, digital humanities

Organizers: Fabio Bevilacqua (University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy), Muriel Guedj (University of Montpellier, Montpellier, France)

The Symposium aims at analysing some aspects of the energy conservation principle through its history, the various interpretations of its meaning and the numerous attempts at explaining it at university and school students. Today ‘‘energy’’ is one of the most widespread terms in popular and scientific use. Both enthusiasts and opponents of contemporary Western civilization recognize its foundational role. Eastern philosophies of Nature have terms that are related to it. ‘‘Energy’’ issues dominate social, political, technological, military discussions and events. However it is not at all clear if its various meanings are acceptable aspects of its polysemic nature or the result of deep confusion. Is there a way to clarify the field? Is it possible to establish a scientific consensus on how to interpret the concept of energy and the principle of energy conservation? The symposium aims at giving a contribution to the ongoing discussion on this topics through the rediscovery of classical texts, the analysis of some of the main issues, the use of modern digital technologies and an overview of the educational debate. It is not easy in fact to understand and teach a principle which at the same time is a precondition for the scientific experience; derives from early attempts at balancing Becoming and Being, potentiality and actuality; is based on the supposition of the equality of the cause-effect relationship; on the old ex and ad; on the impossibility of perpetual motion and of its opposite; on the old distinction between intensive and extensive quantities; on the attempts at measuring all the phenomena of nature through a unique unity of measurement; on the choice of work as a stable unity; whose primary (final) expression is impossible; whose specific formulations depend on the choice of the specific theory adopted; whose forms, if independent, obey a principle of superposition; whose conservation in quantity is associated with a principle of degradation in quality; which has been derived from a time symmetry and has pervasively influenced many disciplines.


The Science of the Human: Naturalization and Control

Organizer: Stephen Gaukroger (The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia)

From the end of the eighteenth century, various attempts have been made to shift the study of human behaviour out of the traditional realms of speculative thought into a form of scientific or empirical study. This project took on a new standing in the rise of anthropometry, especially the measurement of functional capacities. The object of study now became a statistically compliant notion of a ‘normal’ human being, beginning with the idea of defining disease in terms of deviation from a norm, and moving on to the classification of humans beings generally in terms of norms, averages, and types. The symposium explores a number of conceptual issues underlie these developments. First, there is the move from the traditional study of features of  individual humans beings, and abstractions from these, to a more ‘scientifically’ amenable object of study: collective or aggregate features. This is accompanied by an highly contentious shift from a quantitative measure of an aggregate—such as the average height of men—to the measure of an artificial reified entity—such as the height of the ‘average man’. Second, there is the way in which a seemingly descriptive enterprise almost immediately takes on a normative aspect. What is especially intriguing here is the attempt to generate normativity out of scientific description, implicitly denying its construction of a set of values. Third, connected with this, there is a shift from thinking in terms of human qualities in terms of excellences to one in which the average functions as the goal. The symposium raises the question of the extent to which these developments can be considered not just as a revolution in understanding human qualities and behaviour, but also as tools for the ‘normalization’ of these. More generally, what is at issue is just what is involved in the subjection of human qualities and behaviour to quantitative methods.


To Learn and “Correctly” Understand: Popularization of Science in Central Europe 1944–1989

Organizers: Michaela Kůželová (The Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague, Czech Republic), Leszek Zasztowt (The Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland)