Categories
Research

Analyzing Astrological Prognostications

Today I played around a bit more with Wordle and made a series of word clouds from astrological prognostications. As I play with it, I am seeing more ways that this could be useful both in class and in guiding research, both my own and student research. In order to make it practical, however, the […]

Categories
Teaching

ePamphlet Guide to the Astrolabe

I recently posted An Introductory History to Astrolabes over at PACHS. There seemed to be considerable interest in that post, so I expanded it a bit and converted it to an ePamphlet. Much of the material comes out of my introduction to the history of science course. The goal was to produce a convenient introduction […]

Categories
Teaching

Simple Textual Analysis of Plague Tracts

I was thinking about my plagues and epidemics course and how to get students to think about the texts in new ways. I came across a post at Profhacker on using Wordle in the classroom, Wordle Revisited, that suggested creating word clouds for texts could stimulate discussion and analysis. Intrigued, I fed a couple 16th- […]

Categories
Press and Pop Culture

A Historical Perspective on DTC Drug Marketing

An article in the NY Times reports on a recent research about Direct-to-Consumer drug marketing. The article draws attention to authority and power of a “survey” in convincing consumers to self-diagnos and to request particular drugs. All this sounds a lot like the techniques used a century ago to market patent medicines. At that time […]

Categories
Press and Pop Culture

Tacit Knowledge in Science

A recent NPR article reported on the team of craftsmen and technicians who are grinding the mirrors for the Giant Magellan Telescope. While the entire article is interesting, what is particularly interesting to me is that it reveals the importance of tacit knowledge in making even the most technical instruments. See my post at PACHS: […]

Categories
Press and Pop Culture

The Ever Fascinating Astrolabe

The astrolabe is a fascinating medieval astronomical/astrological instrument. The replica I have always attracts students’ attention when I bring it into class and we talk about how scientific knowledge is embodied in technical instruments. We work through how use the astrolabe to tell time, find the positions of stars, the elevation of buildings. We also […]

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 […]