Categories
Writing

Innovation and Writing

Scott Berkun gave a lecture a few years ago at Carnegie Mellon University on the subject of innovation: Myths of Innovation (it seems he might have given this lecture a few times after he had written a book by the same title). He opens by recounting a few iconic moments of innovation. Predictably, he invokes […]

Categories
Historical Expertise

Good Science Often Makes Bad History

A new article in Weather has been getting considerable attention the last few days. In “How useful could Arabic documentary sources be for reconstructing past climate?” Spanish researchers had the novel idea to look at medieval Islamic texts to see if they could find any climate information. According to the summary, Arabic Manuscripts: It Used […]

Categories
Speaking

Taking History of Science to “Them”

Monday I am taking my astrolabe and my ePamphlet on astrolabes to a local grammar school where I will talk to 4th-graders about astrolabes, explain to them how to use it, let them fiddle with one, and talk about science and scientific instruments. It should be fun. This is one way I think about public […]

Categories
Academia

Witchcraft and Digital Humanities

Digital humanities is a term that risks losing all useful meaning as scholars apply it to an ever increasing range of projects. Many of these projects are “digital” only insofar as they put material online, often without providing any tools that facilitate the study of that material. A collection of on-line texts, for example, is […]

Categories
Historical Expertise

History and the Problem of Historical Expertise

[Reposted from History and the Problem of Historical Expertise at PACHS.] In his recent post, History: The Everyman Discipline?, Paul Lockhart wonders about what makes a person a historian. His characterization of “the public ‘at large,’ if you will” seems accurate both to academic and non-academic publics. This public at large, he suggests, believes: If […]

Categories
Academia

Haverford’s New Rare Book

As early as Monday Haverford’s Special Collection will have a new book: Claudius Ptolemy, Centum Ptolemaei sententiae ad Syrum fratrem à Pontano è graeco in latinum tralatae, atque expositae. Eiusdem Pontani libri XIIII (Aldine, 1519). For a number of reasons I am excited about this book. Perhaps obviously, my own research interests make this an […]

Categories
Collections

Collecting Everyday Objects

Related the article in the Smithsonian Magazine I discussed in Collecting Salt Shakers … is this article in the NY Times: “A Family History, Liberally Peppered. In this case, another quotidian table utensil, the lowly pepper mill, has been extracted from the world of utility and elevated to an objet d’art. For the family, collecting […]

Categories
Historical Expertise

Historians of Science—A Call to Action

[Reposted from A Manifesto at PACHS.] Recently I have had the opportunity to reflect formally on the functions and uses of the history of science, both in my scholarly activities and in general public discourse. I think historians should more frequently and openly consider such broad questions. I am happy to see a number of […]

Categories
Collections

Collecting Salt Shakers …

An article in the Smithsonian reports on an enormous collection of salt and pepper shakers: “Would You Like Some Salt and Pepper? How About 80,000 Shakers’ Worth?.” This collection, despite receiving the imprimatur of the Smithsonian, is no better or worse than Harley Spiller’s collection of 10,000 Chinese takeout menus: Inspector Collector: Chinese Menus. In […]

Categories
Speaking

Art History and History of Science

Elizabeth Kessler spoke recently at Bryn Mawr College on artist appropriations of astronomical photographs. In her talk, titled “Retaking the Universe: Appropriation and Astronomical Artifacts,” she explored the ways three different artists “appropriated” photographs of stars, redeveloping them or cropping them or converting them into pencil drawings. She focused on the work of Linda Connor, […]