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Department of History and Philosophy of Science



Departmental Seminars

Seminars take place on Thursdays from 3.30pm to 5pm in the Hopkinson Lecture Theatre and on Zoom unless otherwise stated.

Organised by Richard Staley.

28 April
Hyungsub Choi (Seoul National University of Science and Technology; Needham Research Institute)
Imitation as innovation: recasting the history of technology in modern Korea

Innovation is overrated. In recent years, historians of technology have challenged the historical narrative focusing on innovation and novelty, and turned toward 'technology-in-use' and 'maintenance'. Yet, those working on the so-called peripheral regions continue to search for the elusive technological innovations – just as the gold rushers sieved through mud and sand hoping to find precious metal – identifying trace-amounts of innovative technical practices. This project begins from the premise that no innovation occurred in modern Korea. All technologies were importations from or imitations of advanced industrial countries (mostly the United States and Japan). Taking this perspective allows us to see beyond the successful outlier cases and capture the diverse practices that shaped the meaning and purpose of technologies in the postcolonial nation. In the talk, I will discuss several case studies to illustrate this point.

5 May
Elselijn Kingma-Vermeer (King's College London)
Brave new future: a realistic ELSI of ectogestation

The idea of full ectogenesis – the complete extracorporeal development of human mammals from zygote to baby – has a prominent place in the popular imagination. From Sci Fi literature (Brave New World) to the radical reimagining of second wave feminists (Firestone), it tends to be seen as a promise of extremes: either Utopia or Dystopia; threat or liberation; but in any case importantly linked to the rights, position and idea of woman in society. The bioethical literature has happily gone along with this, repeatedly declaring the imminent arrival of 'artificial wombs', spawning a flurry of articles that are direct descendants of these earlier imaginaries. The most recent flurry was spawned by a 2017 article in Nature reporting the successful maturation of extremely premature lambs in extracorporeal uterine-like sacks.

However: full ectogenesis is not around the corner. What may be around the corner is the replacement and – hopefully – improvement of current neonatal technologies by systems that mimic the conditions in the womb and preserve mammals in a fetal state. That development poses important philosophical, ethical, legal and social questions. These are mostly different from those posed by full ectogenesis (though the rights, position and idea of woman in society remains an important theme), but are currently eclipsed by the overwhelming focus on futuristic 'babies in bottles' scenarios. This paper attempts to give a realistic view of the possibilities (and limits!) of possibly imminent technological revolution; set out a realistic social ethical research agenda, and perhaps even offer some answers.

12 May
Twenty-Sixth Annual Hans Rausing Lecture
Sverker Sörlin (KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm)
Environing technologies – shaping, seeing, sense-making

4.30pm in the Main Lecture Theatre, Zoology Building

One of the major policy concepts of the twentieth century was 'the environment'. From an obscure, partly dubious existence in deterministic strands of the scientific register, this old word rose after World War II to stardom, a vulnerable thing to love, protect and manage with 'governance' that became global. The environment became the word for some of humanity's largest ailments and concerns. But what exactly was it? Around and after the Millennium, it proliferated into a plural set of concepts, emphasizing different topics and trajectories within the environment: sustainability, climate, the Earth System, resilience, Anthropocene. Some of these were new. Others were old, gaining new meaning as they enrolled in the evolving, escalating human-Earth entanglement. To historians it may sometimes seem as if the world resides in concepts and we have certainly learned from Reinhart Koselleck that considering concepts can be very productive. With 'the environment', it is also very tangibly something that has a material existence, which draws on human intervention. One way of thinking about the rise of the modern environment is to evoke 'technology'. In this lecture, I will talk about 'environing technologies'. I will explore some of the ways we can think about what technologies do when they shape the material environment that is now present on all possible scales of the Planet, but also how technologies – observational, computational, visual, economic – were essential in shaping the policy concept.

19 May
Pieter R. Adriaens (KU Leuven, Belgium)
Sham matings and other shenanigans: on animal homosexuality

Is there such a thing as animal homosexuality? For the past two hundred years, scientists have been in two minds about this question. One camp is sceptical, explaining away animal homosexual behaviours, for instance, as mere reflex phenomena that result from various circumstances, such as sex segregation or a failure in sex recognition. Surely, these behaviours should not be associated with homosexual desires, preferences, or identities, as they usually are in humans. Others have been less reticent, arguing that there is indeed such a thing as animal homosexuality. In this talk, I side with the latter. I object to sceptical views on both conceptual and empirical grounds. First, I argue that there are various definitions of concepts like desire and preference, some of which allow us to ascribe homosexual desires and preferences to some nonhuman animals. Second, I provide some empirical evidence that suggests the existence of many dimensions of homosexuality, in addition to behaviours, including evidence that some male animals do prefer homosexual to heterosexual activities.


Coffee with Scientists

The aim of this group is to explore and enhance the interface between HPS and science. Although many of us in HPS engage closely with scientists and their practices, 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 (unless otherwise indicated), continuing the discussion after the end of the formal session for those who are interested. Further information, any reading materials, and links for online or hybrid 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 pleased to continue coordinating our activities with the 'Coffee with Clinicians' series, organised by the 'Talking as Cure?' research network. For more information about this network, please contact Hannah Blythe (hgb27). The 'Clinicians' events are included in the list below.

29 April Online meeting, on Zoom
Coffee with Clinicians
Claire Hilton (Historian in Residence, Royal College of Psychiatrists)
History and medicine: can you do both, credibly and creditably?
Tuesday 3 May Hybrid meeting: Seminar Room 2 and on Zoom
Emily Mitchell (Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge) and Adrian Currie (Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology, University of Exeter)
The lost and found Ediacaran: how to cobble together a fossilized world
13 May Online meeting, on Zoom
Diana Reiss (Department of Psychology, City University of New York)
Choice and control: a window into other minds
20 May Hybrid meeting: Seminar Room 2 and on Zoom
David Feller (Contracts Manager for Finance, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge)
Money as culture: how science outcomes are affected by funding
27 May Hybrid meeting: Seminar Room 2 and on Zoom
Coffee with Clinicians
Oktober Evennett (Integrative Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist; Affiliated Lecturer, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge)
From the therapy room: what theory looks like in practice when working with trauma in young people
10 June Olaf Müller (Institut für Philosophie, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin)
Complementary physics of polarity


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. Zoom links will be circulated beforehand.

Organised by Olin Moctezuma-Burns (om345).

9 May
J'Nese Williams (University of Notre Dame)
Caring only for canes? Botanical sociability in the Anglo-Caribbean in the age of revolution

In Britain, a visible interest in botany could be a sign of status and allegiance to 'improvement' in its various forms. In the Anglo-Caribbean, the local and imperial government were active in supporting botany, but the attitudes of the local people are less clear. The superintendents of the government botanic gardens in St Vincent and Jamaica lamented leaving their active botanical social lives in Britain to toil in a region where the 'planters mind nothing but sugar canes'. Despite the pessimism of the government botanists, there was a botanical community on the British sugar islands, and its members ran agricultural societies, kept lush private gardens, and maintained a lively correspondence across the Caribbean and the Atlantic. This paper will outline the contours of this botanical community in the Anglo-Caribbean, including some of the social meanings that could become attached to botanical interest within island society.

16 May
Osiris Sinuhé González Romero (University of Saskatchewan)
Aztec botany and natural history in the 16th century (1552–1580)

This talk aims to show an overview of the Aztec botany, considering the primary sources available such as codices, sculptures, manuscripts, and chronicles, which the Spaniards wrote. A general objective is to highlight the role of indigenous knowledge, which frequently faces a lack of acknowledgement; this talk addresses the Aztec system of classifying plants based on the Nahuatl language. Also, the methodologies used to gather this knowledge will be under review. A specific objective will be analysing the influence of classical works (Aristoteles, Plinio the elder) in the writing and organisation of natural history works written during the 16th century. This talk focuses on three very well-known works: 1. De la Cruz-Badiano Codex, which is the first herbarium written in America by indigenous peoples; 2. the Florentine Codex or General History of the New Spain written by the Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún; and 3. the Natural History of New Spain written by Francisco Hernández. He headed a research expedition for seven years with the support of the Spanish Crown. The abovementioned cases are paradigmatic examples of the globalisation of knowledge and bio-coloniality during the 16th century.

23 May
Anna Guasco (Geography, Cambridge)
Whale-watching in the archives: methodological experimentation for more-than-human histories

This presentation shares some of the methodological challenges and possibilities raised by more-than-human histories. Focusing on archival methods and my doctoral dissertation on histories, stories, and justice issues surrounding gray whale migration in the North American Pacific, I propose alternative ways of envisioning and practising archival methods. I will discuss some of the practical challenges of 'whale-watching in the archives', and I also will share some stories from my archival research to raise questions about power, memory, knowledge, and agency in these archives. I aim to bring together conversations from history of science (particularly histories of natural history), STS, animal and more-than-human histories, cultural and historical geographies, environmental justice, and political ecology to argue for the necessity of interdisciplinary and experimental approaches to archival research for more-than-human histories.

30 May
Alix Cooper (SUNY-Stony Brook)
Pleasures and perils of family-based natural history in early modern Europe

Among the many settings in which the activities of natural history were practised in early modern Europe and its colonies, the home is one which has been receiving increasing attention. This talk, part of a larger project, will explore some of the ways in which interactions between family members helped to shape the pursuit of natural history in domestic spaces and beyond. In particular, the talk will examine the complications that natural-historical interests seem to have sometimes created for family members like siblings. While a son (or, under some circumstances, a daughter) might go on to 'follow in the footsteps' of a father (or, under some circumstances, a mother, or other family member), siblings sharing a passion for plants or other natural objects might, if they both wanted to pursue natural history as a career, find themselves competing for scarce positions in this not-always-well-financially-rewarded field. The talk will explore the cases of some of the Scheuchzer and Baier siblings (in early modern Switzerland and Germany respectively), contrasting their situation with those of other naturally-inclined brothers and sisters elsewhere. As the talk will aim to show, doing natural history in the family context sometimes created challenges of its own.


History of Medicine

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

Early Science and Medicine

Organised by Dániel Margócsy, Carolin Schmitz, Sebestian Kroupa and Christoffer Basse Eriksen.

10 May Nader El-Bizri (American University of Beirut)
Alhazen's Perspectiva legacy in science and art
Arts School Lecture Theatre A and Zoom

Generation to Reproduction

Organised by Staffan Müller-Wille and Dániel Margócsy.

24 May Kathryn Renton (UCLA)
A political ecology of horse breeding in early modern Spain and Spanish colonial America



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 on Wednesdays, 1.00–2.30pm unless stated otherwise.

4 May on Zoom
Catherine Herfeld (University of Zurich)
What empirical network analysis could offer to Integrated HPS

In recent years, there has been an increasing tendency in history of science and philosophy of science to use formal and empirical methods. Experimental and ethnographic tools, formal modeling, simulation techniques, and computational methods have been applied to study the spread of (mis-)information, the division of cognitive labor, the historical emergence of research fields, and the role of human social interaction in knowledge production. While the exact contribution of those methods to both fields is a matter of debate, their use has certainly been fueled by an abundance of available data relevant to study the development, the social organization, and the procedures of science. In this paper, I propose that this tendency in both, philosophy and history of science, has promising methodological implications for Integrated History and Philosophy of Science (&HPS). Specifically, I discuss the usefulness of empirical network analysis, a quantitative-empirical approach that – so I argue – has much to offer to &HPS. Empirical network analysis is particularly useful for research in &HPS because it has the potential to mitigate a number of methodological challenges that arise from using the historical case study methodology. However, while empirical network analysis has more advantages for &HPS than prima facie visible, it should not replace more traditional philosophical methods but must rely on them to fully develop its potentials.

18 May in Arts School Lecture Theatre A
Naftali Weinberger (Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy, LMU Munich)
When do statistics provide evidence for discrimination by police? A causal approach

Benchmark tests are widely employed in testing for racial discrimination by police. Neil and Winship (2019) correctly point out that the use of such tests is threatened by the phenomenon of Simpson's paradox. Nevertheless, their analysis of the paradox is inadequate, in ways that point to a more general problem with how they relate statistical quantities to discrimination hypotheses. Simpson's paradox reveals that the statistics employed in benchmark tests will not, in general, be invariant to updating on new information. I argue that as a result of this, benchmark statistics should not by themselves be taken to provide any evidence for or against discrimination, absent additional modeling assumptions. Although Neil and Winship highlight ways in which benchmark statistics appearing to provide evidence for discrimination no longer appear to do so given additional assumptions, they lack an account of which sets of assumptions would ensure invariance. Causal models provide such an account. This motivates the use of causal models when using statistical methods as evidence for discrimination.

22 June, 4.00–5.30pm, Arts School Lecture Theatre A
James Woodward (Distinguished Professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh)
Flagpoles anyone? Causal and explanatory asymmetries

This talk will discuss some procedures developed in recent work in machine learning for inferring causal direction from observational data. These procedures are of considerable philosophical interest because they illustrate the role played by independence and invariance assumptions in inferences to causal direction – features not always recognized in philosophical discussion. Several familiar examples including Hempel's flagpole problem will be explored in the light of these ideas.

Link to article


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 on Thursdays at 1pm–2pm on Zoom, unless otherwise specified. All are welcome!

Organised by Harriet Mercer, Claire Oliver and Richard Staley.

Please email the organisers for unlinked materials and Zoom links – or

This term the Anthropocene (Climate Histories) reading group and seminar has a varied programme that begins with a presentation from Katharine Anderson and continues with an invitation to share work in progress, a discussion of environmental humanities with scholars from the University of Pennsylvania and a panel here in Cambridge on climate and colonial histories.

28 April, 1pm

Katharine Anderson (York University), 'Planetary Signals: the Ocean-atmosphere on a Global Scale in the 1920s'
The understanding of the oceans and the atmosphere in the 1920s was marked by distinctive combination of geopolitical re-orientation and fascination with technological novelty. Both the geo-political and the technological imagination spurred intense interest in the possibilities of detecting features of the natural world on the largest possible scale. With a reading of two examples, a short story by Arthur Conan Doyle titled 'When the World Screamed' (1928) and the reporting of Marconi's postwar investigations of signals on the yacht Elletra, this paper examines contemporary preoccupations with sensing and globalism. Both examples are part of older patterns that linked weather, communications and the vertical perspective, but I am interested in using them to consider how these traditions intensified after World War 1. I suggest that such literally sensational accounts of the global, like the methods of physical analysis of the Bjerknes school (Friedman 1989), connected the layers of the ocean-atmosphere more and more tightly. This is a (preliminary) section of a work-in-progress called The Modern Ocean which examines the way that new technologies, international ideals and scientific practices changed the way that oceans were studied and imagined in the 1920s and 1930s.

12 May, 1pm

Writing the Anthropocene: an invitation to share work in progress
Are you writing on a theme related to the Anthropocene? Would you like to share a work in progress and receive feedback? If so, then you may like to join our upcoming workshop on 'Writing the Anthropocene'. The workshop will shift the Climate History/Anthropocene Seminar's usual focus on thinking and reading, to the process of writing – of composing titles, structuring arguments, and crafting prose. To participate in the workshop, we ask you to share a work in progress such as a draft chapter, dissertation in progress, essay, or book proposal, and we also ask that you be prepared to read another participant's work. We will pair people up to read each other's work and we will also set a creative exercise for providing feedback. If you'd like to take up our invitation to share, please send your work in progress plus one to two things you'd like to get out of the workshop by 28 April to or

19 May, 2pm

Nandiate Badami, Pooja Nayak and Bethany Wiggin (Penn Program in Environmental Humanities, University of Pennsylvania), 'Environmental Humanities: Critical Affordances after Critique'

  • Dr Bethany Wiggin – Amidst ecological crisis, what can critique do? Might it be a humanistic counterpart to slow science (Stengers)? Can critical practices engender relations for regenerative futures? In answer to these thorny questions, I introduce two public environmental humanities projects at the intersection of critique and advocacy and argue that the future of the humanities lies in their capacity to engender participatory, collaborative research communities.
  • Dr Nandita Badami – This presentation reflects on an ongoing project to think 'emically' with two terms commonly associated with environmental policy discourse: adaptation and mitigation. Drawing on collaborative works-in-progress with scholars in the field, I offer thoughts on how we might adopt and critically expand these policy concepts, to cast 'mitigation as method' in the Environmental Humanities.
  • Pooja Nayak – How might the methodological range available through the environmental humanities inflect ecological concepts in productive ways? In this reflection, I draw on the process of observing an animal communication experiment to underscore how such an approach is useful in situating a concept like 'biodiversity' and thinking with its contradictions. This, I suggest, offers productive ways to think beyond a 'contestations' framework towards tracking multiple forms of 'value' that arise within such multispecies contexts.

26 May, 2.00–3.30pm, Hopkinson Lecture Theatre + Zoom (hybrid event)

Has climate change escaped colonialism? A panel discussion with Vinita Damodaran (University of Sussex), Martin Mahony (University of East Anglia) and Simon Schaffer (University of Cambridge)

What connections have historians discerned between climate change and colonialism? Are these connections consigned to the past or do they linger in the present-day? Join us as we discuss these questions and more with leading experts in the fields of climate history, history of science, environmental humanities, and the history of the British Empire.


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).

6 May: The imagination as a process

20 May: Can AI create art?

  • Coeckelbergh, M. (2016). 'Can Machines Create Art?', Philosophy and Technology, 30(3), 285–303.
  • Mazzone, M., & Elgammal, A. (2019). 'Art, Creativity, and the Potential of Artificial Intelligence', Arts, 8(1), 26.

3 June: Can AI redefine creativity?

  • Fessenko, D. (Forthcoming). 'Can Artificial Intelligence (Re)Define Creativity?', in EthicAI=LABS Project: Collection of Essays.
  • Gobet, F., & Sala, G. 1. (2019). 'How Artificial Intelligence Can Help Us Understand Human Creativity', Front. Psychol., 10: 1401.

17 June: Drafts from members

  • Milena Ivanova (draft). 'Assisted Discovery and Aesthetic Values in Science'.


Measurement Therapy

Measurement Therapy aims to offer a thematically flexible and inviting space to discuss any historical or philosophical issues pertaining to measurement. Examples include the variety of material and cognitive practices of measurement, their historical change, their political significance, as well as concepts of measurement (precision, accuracy, uncertainty, quantification, reliability...), and the metaphysics of quantities. The idea is that we can collectively learn from and support each other, by sharing our particular disciplinarily and temporarily specific perspectives on measurement.

We will be reading drafts written by our members. Please contact any of the organisers if you would like to read the drafts beforehand (we will add you to the mailing list).

We will meet on Fridays at 10.30am in the Bradfield Room, Darwin College (opposite to the front door of the Study Centre).

Organised by Cristian Larroulet Philippi (cl792) and Miguel Ohnesorge (mo459).

6 May

Cristian Larroulet Philippi, 'Is measurement in the human sciences doomed? On the quantity objection'

20 May

Emma Prevignano, 'The international recognition of the metric system in a new diplomatic order (1785–1799)'

3 June

Miguel Ohnesorge, 'The promises and pitfalls of precision: measurement and systematic error in physical geodesy, 1800–1910'


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 Zoom. In Easter Term 2022 we will meet on 6 May, 20 May and 3 June. All students and interested members of the University are welcome to attend; contact Mary Brazelton with any questions.


Feminist HPS

Feminist HPS is a meeting place for students and researchers interested in feminist epistemology and methodology within history and philosophy of science. The reading group is open to all. We meet weekly on Friday or Wednesday, 4–5pm (UK time) to discuss chapters or articles. We're currently meeting via Zoom, with access information circulated prior to the sessions via our reading group mailing list. Write to us at to subscribe.

Organised by Zsuzsanna Dominika Ihar.

For Easter Term, Feminist HPS will be running a colloquy-style seminar series with a rotating schedule of guest speakers. Talks will be given on an array of different topics which either directly or indirectly relate to feminist epistemology and method – including seed histories, feminist jurisprudence, women workers' education, eco-feminism, the gendered history of librarianship, and more. Each talk will include a ~20-minute open discussion. More information can be found on the Feminist HPS website.

Friday 29 April ...on Seed Care and Vegetal Relations

A virtual conversation (+ Q&A) with Dr Katie Dow & Xan Chacko on the feminist agriculture and creative practices of care.

  • Dow, Katie (2021). 'Bloody Marvels: In Situ Seed Saving and Intergenerational Malleability.' Medical Anthropology Quarterly 35 (4): 493–510
  • Chacko, Xan (2019). 'Creative Practices of Care: The Subjectivity, Agency, and Affective Labor of Preparing Seeds for Long‐term Banking.' Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment 41 (2): 97–106.

Wednesday 11 May ...on Seculiarism and Feminism

A virtual conversation (+ Q&A) with Dr Victoria Browne on Mary Wollstonecraft, feminist historiography, and the politics of secularism.

  • Browne, Victoria (2019). 'The forgetting of Mary Wollstonecraft's religiosity: teleological secularism within feminist historiography.' Journal of Gender Studies 28 (7): 766–776.

Wednesday 18 May ...on Activist Archives

A virtual conversation (+ Q&A) with Prof. Maria Tamboukou on feminist genealogies and archival engagements with women workers' education.

  • Tamboukou, Maria (2020). 'Archives, genealogies and narratives in women workers' education.' Women's History Review 29 (3): 396–412.

Friday 27 May ...on Nature Bordering and 'S/kin'

A virtual conversation (+ Q&A) with Dr Olga Cielemecka on feminist environmental thinking, human-vegetal relations, and experimental kinships.

  • Rogowska-Stangret, Monika, and Olga Cielemęcka (2020). 'Traces "we" leave behind: toward the feminist fractice of stig (e) merging.' Ecozon@ 11 (2): 178–186.

Friday 3 June ...on Speculative Jurisprudence

A virtual conversation (+ Q&A) on personal identity and institutional feminist politics.
Speaker and prescribed text TBA.

Friday 10 June ...on Open Access and the Gendered History of Librarianship

A virtual conversation (+ Q&A) with Dr Emily Knox on gendered labour, open-access publishing, and emergent digital infrastructures.

  • Hoffman, Anna Lauren, and Raina Bloom (2016). 'Digitizing Books, Obscuring Women's Work: Google Books, Librarians, and Ideologies of Access.' Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology 9.


Formal Methods in Philosophy of Science

This reading group meets fortnightly on Mondays at 3pm–4pm in the Pavilion Meeting Room, Newnham College, and on Zoom.

Organised by Charlotte Zemmel (ccz23) and Ina Jäntgen (ij271).

Aim: Discussing the challenges of statistical inferences involving thick concepts as well as foundational work in the philosophy of statistics.

2 May: Causal inference involving value-laden concepts

  • Bright, Liam Kofi, Daniel Malinsky, and Morgan Thompson. 2016. 'Causally Interpreting Intersectionality Theory.' Philosophy of Science 83 (1): 60–81.
  • Background reading: Kohler-Hausmann, Issa. 2019. 'Eddie Murphy and the Dangers of Counterfactual Causal Thinking About Detecting Racial Discrimination.' Northwestern University Law Review 113 (5): 1163–1228.

16 May: Causal inference involving value-laden concepts

Extended session: 3–5pm

  • Ackermans, Lennart. 2022. 'Causal bias in measures of inequality of opportunity.' [manuscript] (draft will be shared in advance)

30 May: Foundational work in the philosophy of statistics

13 June: Foundational work in the philosophy of statistics


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.

Meetings are held fortnightly on Mondays, 4–5pm on Zoom. Organised by James Dolan (jad67). Please email to be added to the mailing list.

Over the next few months, we will take a chronological look at some key texts in science communication studies, as identified by Massimiano Bucchi and Brian Trench in their 2016 anthology, The Public Communication of Science (Routledge).

2 May

Leon E. Trachtman (1981). The public understanding of science: a critique, Science, Technology, & Human Value 6:36: 10–15.

16 May

Helga Nowotny (1981). Experts and their expertise: on the changing relationship between experts and their public, Bulletin of Science, Technology, and Society, 1:2: 235–241.

30 May

Jon D. Miller (1983). Scientific literacy: a conceptual and empirical review, Daedalus, 112:2: 29–48.

13 June

Stephen Hilgartner (1990). The dominant view of popularization: conceptual problems, political uses, Critical Studies in Media Communication, 7:1: 48–71.

27 June

Steven Shapin (1990). Science and the public, in R.C. Olby et al. (eds), Companion to the History of Modern Science, London: Routledge, pp. 990–1007.

11 July

Jean-Marc Levy-Leblond (1992). About misunderstandings about misunderstandings, Public Understanding of Science, 1:1: 17–21.

25 July

Mike Michael (1992). Lay discourses of science: science-in-general, science-in-particular and self, Science, Technology, & Human Values, 16:1: 111–121.

8 August

Baudouin Jurdant (1993). Popularization of science as the autobiography of science, Public Understanding of Science, 2:4: 365–373.

John Durant (1994). What is scientific literacy?, European Review, 2:1: 83–89.

22 August

Hans Peter Peters (1995). The interaction of journalists and scientific experts: cooperation and conflict between two professional cultures, Media, Culture & Society, 17:1: 31–48.

Jean-Marc Levy-Leblond (1996). The case for science criticism, La pierre de touche: la science a l'epreuve, David Denby (trans.), Paris: Editions Gallimard, pp. 149–164.



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 be resuming in-person meetings in Cambridge, in addition to continuing with some online meetings as we have been doing in the last two years. There will be weekly meetings starting on 2 May 2022, including online meetings roughly once a month, probably starting on 23 May. Meetings will be on Mondays at 5.00–6.30pm UK time, as before.

Further details will be announced on the mailing list of the group. Please contact Hasok Chang (hc372) if you would like to be on the mailing list. Those on the list will receive the links for online meetings, the specification or copies of the readings, and all updates on future activities.


Integrating the History and Philosophy of Science

This intensive reading group explores how historical and philosophical approaches to science can be brought together into an integrated framework. We aim to learn from different approaches that scholars have taken to integrated HPS, and discuss challenging methodological questions surrounding them. Our focus lies equally on the general fruitfulness of 'iHPS' as a methodology and on its particular potential in illuminating various scientific, historical and philosophical subject-matter.

For each meeting we invite a leading scholar of integrated HPS, and invite them to bring along some of their local colleagues. We make an in-depth study of the featured scholar's work before the meeting, and go directly into a discussion about it. Participants are asked to do a significant amount of reading, and we try for a diverse range of contexts, questions and scientific disciplines across the meetings.

We continue to meet online so that we can easily invite teams of scholars from around the world.

Organised by Hasok Chang (hc372), Miguel Ohnesorge (mo459), Katy Duncan (ksd37) and Oscar Westerblad (ow259), with the collaboration of Sarah Hijmans (Université Paris Diderot). If you would like to be on the mailing list for this group, please email one of us.

All readings will be circulated through the mailing list.

Tuesday 24 May, 4–6pm

'Perspectival Realism', with Michela Massimi (University of Edinburgh)


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 conjunction 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 Tuesdays, 12noon–1pm (unless otherwise stated) to discuss papers or presentations. We're currently meeting via Zoom, with access information circulated prior to the sessions via our reading group mailing list. Write to us at to subscribe.

Organised by Helen Anne Curry, Jessica J. Lee and Ryan Nehring.

10 May: Decolonising Knowledge

24 May: Speaker – Professor Andrew Curley, University of Arizona

Please note a change in timing to this session: 4pm
Professor Andrew Curley from the University of Arizona School of Geography, Development & Environment will speak to us about Native infrastructures and colonialism. The title of his talk and circulated reading will be available in due time.

7 June: Translation


Philosophy of Medicine Reading Group

We meet each week on Tuesdays at 1pm–2pm in the Board Room and on Zoom 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.

Organised by Jacob Stegenga and Hamed Tabatabaei Ghomi.

In Easter Term we will meet on 24 May, 31 May, 7 June and 14 June.


Calculating People

Calculating People is a reading group on history and philosophy of social sciences. This term we concentrate on the changing practices in contemporary social sciences: the credibility revolution, the challenge of description and explanation of complex and politically sensitive phenomena, and interdisciplinarity. All are welcome to join, but participants undertake to do the readings ahead of time and endeavour to attend all meetings.

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

3 May

Catherine Herfeld, 'Progress in economics' (with Marcel Boumans) in Yafeng Shan (ed.): New Philosophical Perspectives on Scientific Progress, Routledge Studies in the Philosophy of Science, New York and London: Routledge.

10 May

Nancy Cartwright, 'Rigor vs the need for evidential diversity'.

17 May

Naftali Weinberger, TBA

24 May

Guillermo Trejo and Sandra Ley (2018), 'Why Did Drug Cartels Go to War in Mexico? Subnational Party Alternation, the Breakdown of Criminal Protection, and the Onset of Large-Scale Violence', Comparative Political Studies 51 (7): 900–937.

31 May

Shan and Williamson, 'Applying Evidential Pluralism to the Social Sciences'.

7 June

Peter Mandler (2019), 'The language of social science in everyday life', History of the Human Sciences 32 (1):66–82.

14 June

Tom Boesche (2022), 'Reassessing Quasi-experiments: Policy Evaluation, Induction, and SUTVA', British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 73:1, 1–22.


Values in Science Reading Group

We meet on Wednesdays at 12noon in the Board Room. Organised by Cristian Larroulet Philippi and Ahmad Elabbar.

Part I: Taking stock

Week 1, 4 May
Biddle, J. (2013). 'State of the field: Transient underdetermination and values in science'. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, 44(1), 124–133.

Week 2, 11 May
Anderson, E. (1995). 'Knowledge, human interests, and objectivity in feminist epistemology'. Philosophical Topics, 23(2), 27–58.

Part II: Values in measurement

Week 3, 18 May
Murray, C. J. L., & Schroeder, S. A. (2020). 'Ethical Dimensions of the Global Burden of Disease'. In N. Eyal, S. A. Hurst, C. J. L. Murray, S. A. Schroeder, & D. Wikler (Eds.), Measuring the Global Burden of Disease (pp. 24–48). Oxford University Press.

Week 4, 25 May
Alexandrova, A., & Fabian, M. (2022). 'Democratising Measurement: or Why Thick Concepts Call for Coproduction'. European Journal for Philosophy of Science, 12(1), 7.

Part III: Political philosophy and values in science: democracy and justice

Week 5, 1 June
Elabbar, A. (in preparation). 'Varying evidential standards as a matter of justice'. [Draft to be circulated in advance.]

Week 6, 8 June
Lusk, G. (2021). 'Does democracy require value-neutral science? Analyzing the legitimacy of scientific information in the political sphere'. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, 90, 102–110.

Part IV: Old debates, new beginnings  

Week 7, 15 June
Ward, Z. B. (2020). 'On value-laden science'. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A.

Week 8, 22 June
Koskinen, I. (2020). 'Defending a Risk Account of Scientific Objectivity'. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 71(4), 1187–1207.


Ethno-Science Reading Group

'Ethno-Science' is a reading group dedicated to programmatic and critical texts on the changing relationship between scientific knowledge and what is variously called local, 'indigenous' or 'native' knowledges. Our starting point is the eighteenth-century travel instructions that asked naturalists to routinely record indigenous names and knowledge. We explore economic botany, zoology, ethnography, and other strands 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 increasingly global awareness and calls for the incorporation of 'traditional' knowledge in political and scientific discourses.

The meetings take place monthly, on Wednesdays from 3 to 4pm on Zoom, in the 2021–22 academic year (7 meetings).

Organised by Raphael Uchôa (ru224) and Staffan Müller-Wille (sewm3).

Please email the organisers if you're interested in joining. Zoom links to follow via email.

18 May

  • Das, Kaushiki. 'The Global Quest for Green Gold: Implications of Bioprospecting and Patenting for Indigenous Bioresources and Knowledge'. Society and Culture in South Asia 6, no. 1 (2020): 74–97.
  • Hayden, Cori. 'Bioprospecting's representational dilemma'. Science as Culture 14 (2005): 185–200.

15 June

  • Pollock, Anne. 'Places of Pharmaceutical Knowledge-Making: Global Health, Postcolonial Science, and Hope in South African Drug Discovery'. Social Studies of Science 44, no. 6 (2014): 848–73.


Kinds of Intelligence Reading Group

The Kinds of Intelligence Reading Group explores comparative and theoretical issues in the philosophy of psychology and cognitive science, with particular focus on the puzzles, insights and challenges presented by non-human intelligence.

Organised by David Harrison. All are welcome!

We will be meeting on Wednesdays, 3–4pm on Zoom on the following dates:

  • 25 May
  • 8 June


HPS Workshop

Wednesdays, 5–6pm in Seminar Room 2
History sessions organised by Yijie Huang (yh397)
Philosophy sessions organised by Ahmad Elabbar (ae423)

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.

4 May Phillip Kieval
Biased-by-design: why algorithms are necessarily value-laden
18 May Amelia Urry
The edges of the world: satellite mosaics and uncertain representations of ice (1972–2008)