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Department of History and Philosophy of Science



Departmental Seminars

Seminars take place on Zoom on Thursdays from 3.30pm to 5pm UK time unless otherwise stated.

Organised by Helen Anne Curry and Sam Robinson.

29 April
Sarah Dry (University of Cambridge)
World models and intuition in the 1970s

In this paper I consider the 1972 publication of the Limits to Growth report and the so-called decade of world modelling that followed it. For early proponents, world models offered not only super-human analytical and computational capacities but something perhaps more surprising: the promise of self-revelation and a new kind of human agency. By revealing the ineradicable role of human judgement and intuition in both model- and decision-making, they were seen as tools for elevating consciousness and motivating action on the urgent matter of the Earth's future. Such an approach to modelling depended on self-reflexive attitudes on the part of modellers and a commitment to rendering the process of model-building at least somewhat transparent to outsiders. A series of conferences in the 1970s tried to do just this. In this paper, I consider the rise and eventual transformation (if not total fall) of the idea that world modelling could be a way to understand not only the complexity of the natural world but of what makes us human.

6 May
Jenny Andersson (Upsala University) and Sandra Kemp (Lancaster University)

Drawing on research for our recently published co-edited OUP Handbook Futures, we will examine historical and contemporary forms of futures knowledge, the methodologies and technologies of futures expertise, and the role played by different institutions in legitimizing, deploying, and controlling anticipatory practices. This presentation will examine the growing interest in futures thinking in opening up multidisciplinary research. Forms of futures-making depend on complex processes of envisioning and embodiment. We place the provocation of power at the heart of the book through an investigation of futures as both objects of science and objects of the human imagination, creativity, and will. Bringing together emerging perspectives on the future from diverse disciplines including critical theory, design, anthropology, sociology, politics, and history, our book positions the future as a question of power, of representations and counter-representations, and forms of struggle over future imaginaries. Our contributors challenge and debate the varied ways in which futures are conjured and constructed, exploring issues as diverse as the utopian imagination, history and philosophy, literary and political manifestos, artefacts and design fictions, and forms of technological and financial forecasting, big data, climate modelling, and scenarios. Each chapter investigates the critical vocabularies, genres, and representational methods – narrative, quantitative, visual, and material – of futures-making as deeply contested fields in cultural and social life.

13 May
Harun Küçük (University of Pennsylvania)
Islamic science, cultural difference and colonization

Almost since its emergence as a field, the history of Islamic science has played a key role in the narrative of the preservation and flourishing of Greek science, particularly as it pertains to the emergence of modern science. In many ways, the history of Islamic science remains the most Hellenophiliac, to use David Pingree's familiar term, among the arguably non-Western histories of science. Scholars working on earlier periods easily relate to Greek categories of natural inquiry and largely share the conceptual parameters that we often associate with Western science. Scholars of the modern period, by contrast, associate more easily with other parts of the world and now join the broad effort to decolonize the history of science. Consequently, there is a chasm between the progressive narrative that dominates the earlier periods and the more pessimistic narrative that dominates the modern period as Muslim polities have in fact been subject to literal and discursive types of violence. The notion of decline is almost universally rejected in favour of explanations involving colonial domination and cultural difference. But do cultural difference or colonization sufficiently explain the career of science among modern Muslim polities? Conversely, does Islamic science explain the developments that took place in the earlier centuries? In this talk, I wish to approach these questions from a materialist perspective by deploying the case of early modern Istanbul as a methodological tool and scientific labour as an analytical term.

20 May
Sean Valles (Michigan State University)
Humility in population health science: lessons for fostering an elder-supportive 'culture of health' after the pandemic

One component of the increasingly popular 'population health science' framework is a conviction that public health requires health-conducive policies and social practices across society, which together constitute a 'culture of health': living wages, anti-racist public education and legal reforms, community-run health clinics, etc. One challenge for such efforts is that most communities are ill-designed for supporting elders' well-being: substandard eldercare facilities, neighbourhoods not designed for people with vision or mobility impairments, etc. I argue that one important piece of this public health effort is the humility that will need to be cultivated alongside other more concrete cultural resources. In particular, I will draw out a lesson from population health science theory: that humility is a vital part of an effort to create a culture of health in any community, a culture that fully includes elders' well-being. This includes humility in the relations between academic disciplines, between sectors of society, and between individual members of society.


Coffee with Scientists

The aim of this group is to explore and enhance the interface between HPS and science. Though many of us in HPS engage closely with science and scientists, we could benefit from more explicit discussions about the relationship between HPS and science itself, and from more opportunities for HPS-scholars and scientists to help each other's work.

We meet on Fridays, 3.30–4.30pm, with informal conversations before and after the formal session for those who are interested. Further information, reading materials and links for the online meetings will be distributed through the email list of the group; please contact Hasok Chang (hc372) or Marta Halina (mh801) if you would like to be included on the list.

We are also pleased to continue coordinating our activities with the new 'Coffee with Clinicians' series, organised by the 'Talking as Cure?' research network at CRASSH. For more information about this network, please contact Hannah Blythe (hgb27).

30 April Coffee with Clinicians
Jonathan Roberts (Society and Ethics – Wellcome Genome Campus and Clinical Genetics, Addenbrooke's Hospital)
Future ethical issues in prenatal genetic counselling; view from clinical practice
14 May Sabine Undorf (Department of Meteorology and Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University) and Karoliina Pulkkinen (Department of Philosophy and History, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm)
Values in science: a scientist's take on the philosophical debate and how to apply it to climate science
28 May Coffee with Clinicians
Panayota Manias (Cambridge University Counselling Service)
Counselling in higher education
11 June Joint meeting with AD HOC
Joaquín Pérez Pariente (Research Professor, Institute of Catalysis and Petroleum Chemistry, Spanish Research Council (CSIC))
Reproduction of an 18th-century recipe for potable gold: a case study on the recovery and use of forgotten knowledge


Cabinet of Natural History

This research seminar is concerned with all aspects of the history of natural history and the field and environmental sciences. The regular programme of papers and discussions takes place over lunch on Mondays. In addition, the Cabinet organises a beginning-of-year fungus hunt and occasional expeditions to sites of historical and natural historical interest, and holds an end-of-year garden party.

Seminars are held on Mondays at 1pm on Zoom. Organised by L. Joanne Green (ljg54).

3 May
Amelia Urry (University of Cambridge)
Hearsay, gossip, misapprehension: Alfred Newton's second-hand histories of extinction

The study of extinction was rooted in Victorian practices of observation and collection, but presented a challenge to the discipline's increasing emphasis on empiricism and precision. This paper traces the role of witness testimony and hearsay accounts in early studies of extinction in the notebooks of Cambridge zoology professor, Alfred Newton. Beginning in 1850s, Newton and his collaborators sought to trace the histories of species suspected to be extinct, such as the British great bustard and the great auk of Iceland. With its subjects absent by definition, the study of extinction relied heavily on hearsay and rumour, as well as evidence gleaned from past published accounts. Through his methodical attempts to collate diverse and contradictory sources, from eyewitnesses to newspapers to local folklore and gossip, Newton demonstrated the inextricability of human and social concerns from the practice of studying extinction. These attempts to resolve this social evidence into scientific certainty were time and again frustrated by the uncertain epistemic status of his sources.

10 May
Christoffer Basse Eriksen (University of Cambridge)
Nehemiah Grew, collector, curator, and cataloguer of plants

In 1682, Nehemiah Grew published his majestic Anatomy of Plants, which is rightfully lauded for its systematic observations of the minute structures of plants, and its beautiful visual representations of their insides. The publication earned Grew recognition as the first anatomist of plants. In this talk, I want to highlight another aspect of Grew's engagement with the vegetable world, namely how he sought out specific plants to study. In order to do so, I will present snapshot databases of the plant species that Grew observed in his printed works, as well as a reconstruction of his private plant collection. This plant collection was catalogued by Grew himself in an unpublished manuscript, and later by Hans Sloane, who bought the collection after Grew's death and incorporated it into his own collection of 'vegetable substances'. Throughout the talk, Grew emerges not as anatomist, but as collector, curator, and cataloguer of plants.

17 May
Franziska Holt (University of York)
Of wasps in wigs and gnatter with gnats: how insects made Alice in Wonderland

The year 2021 marks the 150th anniversary of the second of Lewis Carroll's Alice novels: Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. Despite the huge popularity of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Looking-Glass has always remained the less-studied of the two books. Distinctions between the two books have been scrutinized little, and the very different concerns and ways of expressing them in Looking-Glass, and the way in which they frame Lewis Carroll, his interests, and contributions to Victorian intellectual discourse have been side-lined. This has contributed to criticism distorting the role of 'children's authors' and 'children's literature' – neither of which, I will argue in this talk are appropriate framing for Alice and its author – for instance, to the public discourse of science in the nineteenth century – but also, in parallel ways, today.

This paper will illuminate this predicament by exploring Through the Looking-Glass in the context of Lewis Carroll's interest in science and its impact on society, through a case study of the role insects play in his Alice novels, and particularly in Looking-Glass – including its 'lost chapter': 'A Wasp in a Wig'. Through examining Carroll's own reading, items from his personal library, to his letters to editors of Victorian newspapers on such subjects as animal rights or vaccination, it will shine a light on the ways in which Carroll used the platform gained through the success of his first Alice book to more prominently address controversial issues of his time. Crucially, it will underline how, counter to many critical readings of his works, Carroll did so to effect a moral transformation in his readers, in line with his own Christian moral sentiments. This will offer a corrective to framings of the Alice novels – and children's literature, more generally – as 'carefree nonsense', and, through a short concluding excursion, emphasise the crucial role played by narrative forms associated primarily with childhood, play in changing world views and behavioural patterns in the big science-society issues we face today, from Covid-19 to climate change.

24 May
Ella Larsson (University of Westminster)
Collecting and curating at Rothschild's Zoological Museum

Showing little aptitude for the family business of banking, Lionel Walter Rothschild (1868–1937) instead devoted himself to the creation of one of the largest private natural history collections the world had ever seen. A prolific collector during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Rothschild's collection was kept within his purpose-built museum at Tring, Hertfordshire and contained some 2.5 million Lepidoptera, 300,000 bird skins, 300 dried reptiles and over 1400 mammal skins and skulls. These extensive research collections enabled Rothschild and his curators, Karl Jordan (1861–1959) and Ernst Hartert (1859–1933), to make a substantial contribution to the study of animal species and their distribution, while the display collections fascinated the museum's many public visitors.

In this paper I will explore the logics and motivations which influenced the creation and curation of Rothschild's zoological collection. I will begin with a discussion of what Rothschild acquired for his collections and of the judgement criteria which informed his collecting practices, demonstrating the ways in which those criteria differed depending on a specimens' destination within the museum. I will then focus on the museum's public galleries and examine the ways in which Rothschild's scientific interests played out alongside his desire to inspire wonder, provoke aesthetic appreciation and convey personal stories about encounters with animals in the field, revealing the ways in which Rothschild's museum straddled the boundary between a 'public' and a 'private' museum.


History of Medicine Seminars

Seminars, supported by Wellcome, are on Tuesdays from 5.00 to 6.30pm on Zoom. All welcome!

Early Science and Medicine

Organised by Lauren Kassell.

18 May Monique Kornell and Dániel Margócsy
The two lives of Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues: picturing plants in the 16th century
15 June Early Science and Medicine Work-in-Progress



CamPoS (Cambridge Philosophy of Science) is a network of academics and students working in the philosophy of science in various parts of the University of Cambridge, including the Department of History and Philosophy of Science and the Faculty of Philosophy. The Wednesday afternoon seminar series features current research by CamPoS members as well as visitors to Cambridge and scholars based in nearby institutions. If you are interested in presenting in the series, please contact Matt Farr (mwef2). If you have any queries or suggestions for other activities that CamPoS could undertake, please contact Huw Price, Jeremy Butterfield or Anna Alexandrova.

Seminars are held fortnightly on Wednesdays, 1.00–2.30pm on Zoom.

Book Launch: Mauricio Suárez's Philosophy of Probability and Statistical Modelling

Wednesday 19 May, 1.00–2.30pm on Zoom

Rani Anjum, Norwegian University of Life Sciences
Nancy Cartwright, Durham University & University of California San Diego
Michael Strevens, New York University
Mauricio Suárez, Complutense University of Madrid
Jacob Stegenga, University of Cambridge (chair)

Three distinguished philosophers meet the author to discuss Mauricio Suárez's recent book, Philosophy of Probability and Statistical Modelling, Cambridge Elements, Cambridge University Press (2020). The book defends the 'complex nexus of chance' approach to statistical modelling practice, according to which chance functions in practice as a nexus of properties that typically includes probabilistic dispositions or propensities (represented by certain parametrizations of the phenomena), single case chances (represented in a model's formal probability distributions functions); and frequencies in actual or imagined data (represented as limiting ratios, or 'surface probabilities' within models of data). The discussion will focus upon the metaphysical foundations and methodological implications of this 'tripartite' conception of chance in practice.


The Dialectic

The Dialectic is a new, experimental seminar series premised on the idea that the format of a constructive dialogue (not: debate) is uniquely well-suited for the exposition and analysis of unorthodox/contentious views in the history and philosophy of science (broadly construed).

Each session shall take the form of a dialogue between a Proponent and an Opponent. The Proponent shall advance a thesis, about which they will be questioned by the Opponent. The Opponent may seek to rebut the Proponent's thesis, defend their own counter-thesis, or simply question the Proponent so as to better understand their reasoning.

In the academic year 2020–2021, The Dialectic will be held on a termly basis. For questions, please contact the organiser: Bobby Vos (bfmv2).

1 July, 2pm–3.30pm, Venue: Zoom
Discussants: Niels Martens (University of Bonn) (proponent) and Tushar Menon (University of Cambridge) (opponent)
Thesis: Newton would have been justified in believing in unobservable absolute velocities


The Anthropocene

The Anthropocene (Climate Histories) offers alternating sessions in the related fields of climate history and Anthropocene studies. Meetings will involve a mix of invited speakers and reading group sessions held fortnightly on Thursdays on Zoom, meeting on the odd weeks of term. All are welcome!

Organised by Claire Oliver and Richard Staley.

29 April at 1pm

Andreas Malm on his forthcoming book with the Zetkin Collective, White Skin, Black Fuel: On the Danger of Fossil Fascism

From Sweden to Spain, Poland to the US, Germany to Brazil, recent years have witnessed a surging far right at just the moment of intensifying climate breakdown. This far right tends to deny the existence of any climate crisis and insist on maximum production and consumption of fossil fuels and other climate-destroying resources. At the same time, it positions itself as the defender of a racially defined nation – to all intents and purposes, the white nation. What are the historical sources of this configuration? The basis for this seminar is chapter 9 form the book White Skin, Black Fuel: On the Danger of Fossil Fascism, by Andreas Malm and the Zetkin Collective, released by Verso in May. The chapter looks at some of the sources of this configuration, notably the imperial use of steam-power and its central place in nineteenth-century racism, and the articulation of race in the automobile in twentieth-century US. The history of the links between whiteness and fossil fuels remains to be explored in depth. But scratching the surface suggests that the ongoing surge of an anti-climate, pro-fossil-fuel far right is bringing deep historical forces to the fore.

13 May at 12noon

John Tresch, 'The Anthropocene as Cosmology'

Discussion texts:

  1. Szerszynski, Bronislaw. 'Gods of the Anthropocene: geo-spiritual formations in the Earth's new epoch.' Theory, Culture & Society 34, no. 2–3 (2017): 253–275.
  2. Arènes, Alexandra, Bruno Latour, and Jérôme Gaillardet. 'Giving depth to the surface: An exercise in the Gaia-graphy of critical zones.' The Anthropocene Review 5, no. 2 (2018): 120–135.
  3. Fontaine, Claire. 'Towards a Theory of Magic Materialism.' Estetica. studi e ricerche 9, no. 2 (2019): 585–590.


The Greenhouse

The Greenhouse is a meeting place for students and researchers interested in the history and sociology of plants, food, agriculture and environment to explore how science and technology shape what we grow and eat.

The regular programme of papers and discussions is curated in junction with the project From Collection to Cultivation, which is funded by the Wellcome Trust.

The reading group is open to all. We meet fortnightly on Thursdays, 1–2pm to discuss papers or presentations. We're currently meeting via Zoom, with access information circulated prior to the sessions via our mailing list.

Organised by Helen Anne Curry and Jessica J. Lee.

This term's theme is 'Histories of Biotechnology and Agriculture'.

6 May: Seeds and plants as technologies

Federova, Maria. 'Seeds as Technology: The Russian Agricultural Bureau in New York and Soviet Agricultural Modernization, 1921–26.' The Russian Review 80, no. 2 (2021): 209–228.

Berry, Dominic J. 'Plants Are Technologies.' In Histories of Technology, the Environment and Modern Britain, edited by Agar Jon and Ward Jacob, 161–85. London: UCL Press, 2018.

20 May: Political economies of biotechnologies

Holmes, Matthew. 'Somatic Hybridization: The Rise and Fall of a Mid-Twentieth-Century Biotechnology.' Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 48, no. 1 (2018): 1–23.

Jiang, Lijing. 'The Socialist Origins of Artificial Carp Production in Maoist China.' Science, Technology, and Society 22, no. 1 (2017): 59–77.

3 June: Agricultural technologies and postcolonial resistance

Silva Garzón, Diego and Laura Gutiérrez Escobar. 'Revolturas: resisting multinational seed corporations and legal seed regimes through seed-saving practices and activism in Colombia.' The Journal of Peasant Studies 47, no. 4 (2020): 674–699.

Saraiva, Tiago. 'California Cloning in French Algeria: Rooting Pieds Noirs and Uprooting Fellahs in the Orange Groves of the Mitidja.' In How Knowledge Moves, edited by John Krige, 95–119. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019.

17 June: GM crops and pop culture

For this session, we'll be watching some video clips together and talking about (the history of) celebrity takes on GM crops. No preparation necessary!


Scientific Creativity Reading Group

This reading group will meet fortnightly on Fridays at 10am on Zoom. If you are interested in attending, contact the organiser Milena Ivanova (mi342).

7 May

  • Steven French (2020) 'Imagination in Scientific Practice', European Journal for Philosophy of Science
  • Benjamin Sheredos and William Bechtel (2020) 'Imagining Mechanisms with Diagrams', in Scientific Imagination, Arnon Levy and Peter Godfrey-Smith (Eds.)

21 May

4 June

18 June

  • Cailin O'Connor (2019) 'The Natural Selection of Conservative Science', SHPS
  • Adrian Currie (2019) 'Existential Risk, Creativity & Well-Adapted Science', SHPS


Decolonise HPS Working Group

The Decolonise HPS Working Group is a staff-student collaboration that considers issues surrounding decolonisation in the Department and the field(s) of HPS more broadly, as well as related issues. Discussion includes such topics as curriculum reform, inclusive pedagogy, and collaborations on similar projects with other such groups in the University. The group currently meets every other Friday at 2pm on the 'Decolonise HPS' channel of Teams. All students and interested members of the University are welcome to attend; contact Mary Brazelton with any questions.


Science Communication Reading Group

The Science Communication Reading Group will examine the intersection between issues in HPS and science communication, looking at themes including the history and sociology of science communication, the recent emergence of the 'science' of science communication, and various moral and ethical issues brought about by the complex relationship between science, scientists and society. Each term we will adopt a particular focus on this broad topic.

Meetings are held on Mondays, 4–5pm on Zoom. Organised by Grace Field (gef30), James Dolan (jad67) and Kanta Dihal (ksd38).

This term's theme is Science Communication and Citizen Science.

Week 1 (3 May)

Introduction and Chapter 1 (Chapter 2 optional). Irwin, Alan. Citizen Science: A Study of People, Expertise, and Sustainable Development. London: Routledge, 1995.

Week 2 (10 May)

Ottinger, Gwen. 'Buckets of Resistance: Standards and the Effectiveness of Citizen Science.' Science, Technology, & Human Values 35, no. 2 (2010): 244–270.

Week 3 (17 May)

Kasperowski, D., Brouneus, F. 'The Swedish mass experiments — a way of encouraging scientific citizenship?' Journal of Science Communication 15 (01) (2016).

Lewenstein, B. 'Can we understand citizen science?' Journal of Science Communication 15 (01) (2016) [Editorial].

Weitkamp, E. 'From planning to motivations: citizen science comes to life.' Journal of Science Communication 15 (03) (2016) [Editorial].

Week 4 (24 May)

Lintott, Chris. 'The Crowd and the Cosmos: Adventures in the Zooniverse.'

Week 5 (31 May)

No meeting.

Week 6 (7 June)

Verpoort, Philipp. 'How science communication could benefit from deliberative democracy — the case for direct involvement of random citizens in assessing and communicating science (with a case study from Cambridge)'. Presentation by author.

Week 7 (14 June)

Haklay, M., Fraisl, D., Greshake Tzovaras, B., Hecker, S., Gold, M., Hager, G., … Vohland, K. (2020, December 31). 'Contours of citizen science: a vignette study.'

Week 8 (21 June)

Jasanoff, S. (2003). 'Technologies of Humility: Citizen Participation in Governing Science.' Minerva 41(3), 223–244.

Week 9 (28 June)

Davies, S. R. and Horst, M. (2016). 'Scientific Citizenship: The Role of Science Communication in Democracy.' In Science Communication: Culture, Identity and Citizenship. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.



AD HOC (Association for the Discussion of the History of Chemistry) is a group dedicated to the history of chemistry. While our main focus is historical, we also consider the philosophical, sociological, public and educational dimensions of chemistry.

AD HOC has been meeting in various configurations since the summer of 2004, first at UCL and then also in Cambridge since 2010. Since 2008 our activities have been generously supported by the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry (SHAC).

This term we will continue with the format of online discussion meetings. The focus will be on the latest work on the history of early chemistry and alchemy, and each time we will be joined by the author herself or himself in the discussion.

We will be meeting on Mondays at 5.00–6.30pm. Please contact Hasok Chang (hc372) if you would like to be on the mailing list of the group. Those on the list will receive the links for joining the online meetings, the exact specification or copies of the readings, and all updates on future activities.

3 May

Discussion of Christoph Meinel, 'Theory or Practice? The Eighteenth-Century Debate on the Scientific Status of Chemistry', Ambix 30:3 (1983), 121–132.

17 May

Discussion of Peter Ramberg, 'The Death of Vitalism and the Birth of Organic Chemistry: Wohler's Urea Synthesis and the Disciplinary Identity of Organic Chemistry', Ambix 47:3 (2000), 170–195.

7 June

Discussion of Andrew Sparling, 'Paracelsus, a Transmutational Alchemist', Ambix 67:1 (2020), 62–87.

11 June

Friday, 3.30–5.00pm, Joint meeting with Coffee with Scientists
Discussion with Joaquín Pérez Pariente, Research Professor, Institute of Catalysis and Petroleum Chemistry, Spanish Research Council (CSIC): 'Reproduction of an 18th-century Recipe for Potable Gold: A Case Study on the Recovery and Use of Forgotten Knowledge'.


Integrating the History and Philosophy of Science

This intensive reading group aims to discuss how the History and Philosophy of Science can be pursued within an integrated framework. We aim to learn from different approaches that scholars have taken to IHPS and discuss broader methodological questions surrounding them. Our focus equally lies on the general fruitfulness of IHPS as a methodology and its particular potential in different areas of science, history, and philosophy. Participants are required to prepare a significant amount of reading material, which covers a diverse range of contexts, questions, and scientific disciplines.

Meetings are on Mondays, 5–7pm.

Organised by Hasok Chang (hc372), Miguel Ohnesorge (mo459), Oscar Westerblad (ow259), and Katy Duncan (ksd37).

All unpublished papers will be circulated through the mailing list.

26 April

Peter Vickers (Durham University)
(i) Identifying future proof science (manuscript), chs. 1, 2 and 10, plus one case study chapter of choice.

10 May

Alisa Bokulich (Boston University)

31 May

Adrian Currie (University of Exeter)


Philosophy of Medicine Reading Group

Tuesdays at 1pm – HPS Teams Channel 3.09 ('Philosophy of Medicine Reading Group')

Organisers: Anna Alexandrova, Stephen John and Tim Lewens. Please send any questions/comments to Stephen John (sdj22).

We meet each week to discuss papers in the Philosophy of Medicine, broadly construed. We are open to students and staff in HPS and other departments. Participants are expected to read papers before the session, although normally a session leader gives a short introduction to that week's reading.

This term we will spend weeks 1–4 reading Maya Goldenberg's exciting (and timely!) new book, Vaccine Hesitancy: Public Trust, Expertise, and the War on Science (University of Pittsburgh Press).

  • Week 1 (4 May): Introduction, Chapters 1 and 2
  • Week 2 (11 May): Chapters 3 and 4
  • Week 3 (18 May): Chapter 5
  • Week 4 (25 May): Chapter 6 and conclusion

Weeks 5–8 will provide an opportunity for contributors to present their own works-in-progress.


Calculating People

Calculating People is a reading group on history and philosophy of social sciences.

The meetings take place on Tuesdays, 2–3pm UK time on Zoom. Organised by Christopher Clarke and Anna Alexandrova.

All are welcome to join, but participants undertake to read the articles ahead of time.

27 April

Members of the group attend the talk by S.M. Amadae

4 May

Cohen PN. 'How Troubling Is Our Inheritance? A Review of Genetics and Race in the Social Sciences'. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 2015; 661(1):65–84.

11 May

Eronen MI, Bringmann LF. 'The Theory Crisis in Psychology: How to Move Forward'. Perspectives on Psychological Science. January 2021.

18 May

Guala, Francesco. 'Philosophy of Social Science: Naturalism and Anti-Naturalism'. (2015): 1–17.

25 May

Lorraine Greaves, Alison Wylie and the Staff of the Battered Women's Advocacy Centre, 'Women and Violence: Feminist Practice and Quantitative Method', in Sandra Burt and Lorraine Code, eds., Changing Methods: Feminists Transforming Practice, Peterborough, Canada: Broadview Press, 1995, pp. 301–325.

1 June

No meeting

8 June

Frazer, M. (2020). 'Respect for Subjects in the Ethics of Causal and Interpretive Social Explanation'. American Political Science Review, 114(4), 1001–1012.

15 June

Baert, Patrick, Helena Mateus Jerónimo, and Alan Shipman. 'Social Sciences and the Democratic Ideal: From technocracy to dialogue'. In The Social Sciences and Democracy, pp. 17–38. Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2009.


Philosophy and History of Physics Reading Group

This reading group meets on Tuesdays, 4.45pm to 6pm UK time on Zoom starting on Tuesday 4 May. Organised by Jeremy Butterfield, Matt Farr and Bryan Roberts.

We will read a sequence of various draft papers and chapters, all downloadable from the usual website:

Further information and readings


Early Science and Medicine Work-in-Progress

This is a forum, supported by the Wellcome Trust, for early career scholars to discuss their work-in-progress. We are open to everyone with a connection to the Department. We usually read work by postdoctoral fellows and advanced doctoral students. The group works best if participants attend on a regular basis.

If you would like to participate, please email the organiser, Dr Carolin Schmitz (cs2003).

Convened by Prof. Lauren Kassell, Dr Silvia De Renzi (OU) and Dr Dániel Margócsy (on leave 2020–21).

There will be one meeting this term, which will be held virtually:

  • Tuesday 15 June, 5.00–6.30pm


Kinds of Intelligence Reading Group

The Kinds of Intelligence Reading Group will be meeting fortnightly on Wednesdays, 3.00–4.30pm on Google Meet. Organised by Ali Boyle (asb69) and Henry Shevlin (hfs35).

12 May

J. Hernández-Orallo (2020), 'Twenty years beyond the Turing test: Moving beyond the human judges too'. Minds and Machines 30 (4): 533–562.

26 May

W. Bechtel & L. Bich (2021), 'Grounding cognition: Heterarchical control mechanisms in biology'. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 376: 20190751.

9 June

S. Lea et al. (2020), 'Behavioural flexibility: A review, a model and some exploratory tests'. Learning & Behaviour 48, 173–187.

S. Risi & J. Togelius (2020), 'Increasing generality in machine learning through procedural content generation'. Nature Machine Intelligence 2, 428–436.

23 June

M. Del Giudice & B. J. Crespi (2018), 'Basic functional trade-offs in cognition: An integrative framework'. Cognition 179, 56–70.

7 July

T. B. Starzak & R. D. Gray (2021), 'Towards ending the animal cognition war: A three-dimensional model of causal cognition'. Biology & Philosophy 36 (9), 1–24.


Ethno-Science Reading Group

'Ethno-Science' is a reading group dedicated to programmatic and critical texts on the relationship between scientific and local, 'indigenous' or 'native' knowledges. Our starting point will be eighteenth-century travel instructions that asked to routinely record indigenous names and knowledge. We explore economic botany and zoology as an important strand of nineteenth-century natural history relying on systematic surveys of national and colonial territories, and the eventual consolidation of 'ethno-' disciplines in the twentieth century. The aim is to understand the relationship between reifications and reinterpretations of 'savage', 'indigenous', 'native' or 'primitive' knowledge and corresponding field practices of interrogation and interaction with local informants. We are interested in the putative shifts towards an increasingly global awareness and calls for the incorporation of 'traditional' knowledge in political and scientific discourses.

The meetings take place on Wednesdays from 3 to 4pm. The organisers are Raphael Uchôa and Staffan Müller-Wille.

12 May: Ethno-Science after WWII

  • Ackerknecht, Erwin H. 'Primitive Medicine and Culture Pattern'. Bulletin of the History of Medicine 12, no. 4 (1942): 545–74.
  • Sturtevant, William C. 'Studies in Ethnoscience'. American Anthropologist, New Series 66, no. 3, Part 2: Transcultural Studies in Cognition (June 1964): 99–131.
  • Schultes, Richard Evans and Siri Von Reis (eds.), Ethnobotany: Evolution of a Discipline. London: Chapman & Hall, 1995.

9 June: Recent Reflections and the Ontological Turn

  • Eduardo Kohn, 'Anthropology of Ontologies', Annual Review of Anthropology 44 (1) (2015), 311–327.
  • Ellen, Roy. 'Is There a Role for Ontologies in Understanding Plant Knowledge Systems?', Journal of Ethnobiology 36(1) (1 March 2016), 10–28.
  • Hardison, Preston and Kelly Bannister. 'Ethics in Ethnobiology: History, International Law and Policy, and Contemporary Issues'. In Ethnobiology, edited by E. N. Anderson et al. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2011, pp. 27–49.


HPS Workshop

Wednesdays, 5–6pm on Teams: HPS Workshop
History sessions organised by Yijie Huang (yh397)
Philosophy sessions organised by Miguel Ohnesorge (mo459)

HPS Workshop seeks to break the isolation of postgraduate research and encourage collaborative thinking by allowing students to present work in progress in a supportive seminar environment. The workshops will have alternate sessions focusing on Philosophy and History, but interdisciplinary presentations are always welcome.

Students are invited to present on any aspect of their research that they are grappling with or desire feedback on, including:

  • Unpacking complicated sources, concepts, or archives
  • Presenting drafts of chapters, conference papers, or publications
  • Proposing new ideas or strategies towards HPS research

The session is comprised of two parts: 20 minutes where the speaker outlines their work in progress (indicating areas that they would like feedback to be based upon) and 40 minutes of discussion.

12 May Xinyi Wen
A thousand walnuts, or how to imagine a universality through diversity
19 May Yijie Huang
Mechanical pluralism and the emergence of a clocklike pulse in late seventeenth-century England
26 May Gianamar Giovannetti-Singh
Knowledges of geography and geographies of knowledge: Martino Martini's Novus Atlas Sinensis and the emergence of mathematical cosmography
2 June Guy Sechrist
The use of a dead man's bones: the origins of seventeenth-century gauging rods