Categories
Press and Pop Culture

The Politics of Time and Date

The last couple of days have seen a number of articles on the “leap second,” this otherwise unremarkable second that we agree to insert every now and then to keep atomic clocks in sync with the rotation of the earth. The decision yesterday to postpone making a decision sounds a lot like early modern efforts […]

Categories
Historical Expertise

Retro-Diagnosing Fictional Plagues

Teaching a course on plagues and epidemics in history makes me more aware than normal of press reports about some group of scientists trying to retro-diagnose some historical plague or epidemic (Find a description of this course and a link to the syllabus on my Recent Courses page). There seems to have been a rash […]

Categories
Research

The Politics of Astrology in Renaissance Hungary

One of the highlights of the Diet of Presburg in 1468 was a debate between two Polish astrologers, Martin Bylica and Jan Stercze. At issue was the proper interpretation of a geniture that Stercze had calculated in 1467 for János Rozgon, a Hungarian Count. Upon reviewing the geniture. Bylica declared that Stercze’s interpretation was founded […]

Categories
Research

Images of Byzantium: Nicephorus Gregoras’s “On the Construction and Origin of the Astrolabe”

In 1498 Giorgio Valla published a Latin excerpt from Nicephorus Gregoras’s treatise “On the Construction and Origin of the Astrolabe.” Despite appearing as the fifth tract in Valla’s compendium, which included other Byzantine and Greek authors, Gregoras’s text quickly became a standard authority amongst scholars in 16th-century Europe. Authors such as Johannes Schöner and Peter […]

Categories
Academia

In Praise of Ephemeral Astrological Literature

The Economist recently printed an interesting article comparing today’s social media and the Arab Spring to the success of the Lutheran Reformation (Note, there is an interesting symmetry in their article: social media seems to be one the winning side in both cases, or at least the laudable side. In both cases revolutionaries opposing repressive […]

Categories
Research

Nikephoros Gregoras and Byzantine Science

In March I am talking on the Byzantine polymath Nikephoros Gregoras and his efforts to establish his scientific authority. In “Empiricism, Prediction, and Instruments: The Creation of Expertise in 14th-Century Constantinople” I will examine the ways that Gregoras tried to distinguish his own expertise by grounding it in precise, empirical predictions and his command of […]

Categories
Teaching

Some Final Thoughts on Maps

After thinking about and studying their maps for the entire semester, students produced some really interesting “Biography of a Map” projects. What started as a short assignment intended to introduce students to the advantages and limits of scientific claims, see “Biography of a Map—Further Experiments in Pedagogy,” quickly grew into a term-long research project. Their […]

Categories
Academia

Blogs as Intellectual Conversation

Blogs continue to occupy an increasingly important place in intellectual and academic life. One of the many roles blogs play is in creating extended conversations, allowing scholars affiliated with institutions as well as independent scholars to enter into meaningful discourse. Unlike the face-to-face conversations that occur at academic conferences, which are both fleeting and costly, […]

Categories
Teaching

Mapping Our Way Forward

Having read the “Biography of a Map” papers, I now see where the project worked, where it approached my goals set out in the first post, “Biography of a Map—Further Experiments in Pedagogy,” and where it didn’t quite reach those goals. Some of the work has been really good—previously I pointed to student efforts to […]

Categories
Exhibitions

“You are Here”—A Special Exhibition on Maps

Haverford College’s Special Collections is about to open a new exhibition titled “You Are Here: Exploring the Contours of Our Academic Community Through Maps” (more information is here). I was asked to write a caption for James C. Prichard’s ethnographic maps that accompanied his Natural History of Man (1843). Here is the draft of my […]