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Historical Expertise

On Whigs and Whig History

Whig history, whiggish history, whigs, and even Whigs seem to be enjoying their 15 minutes of fame. Thony over at The Renaissance Mathematicus had a go at Whig history of science, Michal Meyer at PACHS offered something of a defense of whig history, and William Cronon offered a nice analysis of Herbert Butterfield’s own use […]

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Historical Expertise

What Killed King Tut, Another Guess

A new article claims yet again to have discovered the disease that killed King Tutankhamun: Familial Epilepsy in the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt’s 18th Dynasty (probably behind a paywall, so see this report or this one). Diagnosing King Tut’s illness is a favorite pasttime amongst scientists and physicians, see these claims and more here. This […]

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Historical Expertise

Did Anglo-Saxon Chronicle Record Supernova?

Today Nature | News reported on an effort to find evidence in medieval chronicles of a supernova that might account for a spike in carbon-14 levels: “Ancient text gives clue to mysterious radiation spike” (unfortunately, the full article is behind a paywall: “Astronomy: Clue to an ancient cosmic-ray event?”). After hearing about elevated levels of […]

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Historical Expertise

Lynn White—Medievalist and Futurist?

Lynn White focused on the role of technology in the middle ages searching for the roots of the technological innovation that contributed to the West’s rise and technological supremacy. His Medieval Technology and Social Change is a collection of lectures delivered in 1957 and remains an important book, which coincidentally was published the same year […]

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Historical Expertise

Toward a history of “eppur si muove”

Here I want to offer something of a history of Galileo’s unverifiable “eppur si muove.” My last post was not particularly helpful because it did not elevate the level of the discussion. I hope this post will contribute to a conversation about history and its uses. There is more at issue here than me just […]

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Historical Expertise

And yet the Legend Lives

Scott Huler is right to take the North Carolina legislature to task for trying to legislate whether or not ocean levels are rising: NC Considers Making Sea Level Rise Illegal. Yet like President Obama before him, Huler reveals his own ignorance when he invokes another tired historical myth. Contrary to what Huler would like, there […]

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Historical Expertise

Science is Not Just a Word

Two current shows on Leonardo da Vinci have prompted the perennial speculation about his status as an artist or a scientist. Jonathan Jones wants Leonardo to be “a scientist and an artist at the same time.” Thony over at The Renaissance Mathematicus takes Jones to task for making a category error, pointing out that for […]

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Historical Expertise

Does History of Science Contribute Anything to Science?

A nice exchange occurred recently on Twitter about how history of science and science might complement each other. Looking beyond retrospective diagnosis, some interesting points about how using scientific techniques might raise questions for historians and how science might benefit from some historical techniques. You can see most of this exchange with this Twitter search

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Historical Expertise

Should Science Writers Read Historical Material?

A recent article in the Guardian asked once again: “Should science journalists read the papers on which their stories are based?” This article grew out of debate at the Royal Institution “Scientists and journalists need different things from science” (see the storify version of that debate). Apparently there was considerable disagreement about whether or not […]

Categories
Historical Expertise

R. G. Collingwood on Historical Practice

In my efforts to articulate what makes history distinct from other disciplines I have started reading some older literature on the philosophy of history. Although this literature is no longer in vogue, it might still be relevant in distinguishing history from non-history. I am focusing on historical methods and practices because I think these will […]