Categories
Speaking

Eratosthenes and Second Graders

One recent sunny afternoon, I took a bunch of exercise balls with little sticks taped to them to the local grammar school where I met a class of second graders. As part of my war on the flat earth myth, I had encouraged their teacher to read Kathryn Lasky’s The Librarian Who Measured the Earth […]

Categories
Academia

When Was Professional History Not Boring?

The current unease about history’s declining fortunes echo an anxiety that has afflicted the profession for nearly a century. This anxiety seems perennially familiar: overly specialized monographs filled with turgid prose are driving away readers, graduate education is doing little to improve the situation, and, consequently, history no longer commands the respect it once did. […]

Categories
Teaching

More Thoughts on Comedy and History of Science

The success of last week’s “Life, Sex, Death (and Food): A Historical Look at the Science that Drives Us” offers a chance to think about how to pair the history of science with science and comedy to bring both science and history of science to a broader audience. One possible result might be encouraging students […]

Categories
Academia

Is Professional History Boring?

I want to return to William Cronon’s “Professional Boredom” from last month’s Perspectives on History and think about how certain aspects of professionalization—especially the practices of professional identity—have excluded audiences for our work. Cronon’s piece has recently been attracting considerable attention. As Timothy Burke put it, “all the cool kids are doing it.” For a […]

Categories
Academia

William Cronon on “Professional Boredom”

William Cronon, the current president of the AHA, knows a lot about how to make history accessible and interesting to non-historians. See his website for some of the ways he moves beyond the narrow sphere of academic history. So when he worries about how the profession defines itself, we should probably take his concerns seriously. […]

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
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 […]