History of Science 282
Communications Media in the Sciences
This seminar will investigate how and to what extent knowledge is shaped by the communication practices and media through which it has been produced, from the seventeenth to the mid-twentieth century (concluding just before the advent of the digital computer). The last decade has seen a convergence of concerns in book and media history with those in the history of science, including questions involving translation, standardization, intellectual property, technological determinism, and the materiality of knowledge. Participants will be encouraged to reconsider their own ongoing research interests in the light of these themes. Other topics will include the history of print genres and formats (books, letters, encyclopedias, journals, newspapers) in the sciences, information technologies, literary and rhetorical aspects of scientific argument, and scientific authors and readers. Secondary readings will include Eisenstein, Johns, Latour, Daston, Bowker, Biagioli, Grafton, and Kittler.
History of Science 165
Rethinking the Scientific Revolution
Undergraduate Seminar. Enrollment limited to 15.
Before the emergence of modern science, knowing about the natural world was generally the domain of people called natural philosophers. In early modern Europe, what it meant to engage in this activity, even what nature was understood to be, underwent so many radical transformations that historians and philosophers later named the era the Scientific Revolution. This seminar will examine the diverse – even conflicting – meanings that have been given to the Scientific Revolution over time. We will pay special attention to the role of media in scientific, political, and social revolution. Other topics will include the experimental method, the nature of belief, instruments, gender, natural history, classification, and the role of narrative in knowledge-making. Students will have several opportunities to study artifacts in the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments and at Houghton Library.
This is a guest lecture on 19th century libraries and scientific search practices I gave in October 2011 as part of the Harvard GSD course Bibliotheca.
Above right is a representation of learning and intellectual work that appeared in Paul Otlet's Traité de documentation (1934). I'm pretty sure that's not how learning actually works.
Detail from Paul Otlet, Traité de documentation: le livre sur le livre, théorie et pratique (Bruxelles: Editiones Mundaneum, 1934), p. 41.