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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 Large Lecture Theatre in the Botany Building on the Downing Site, except for the Rausing Lecture on 30 May, which will take place at 4pm in the Frankopan Hall in Jesus College.

Organised by Lewis Bremner.

2 May

Clive Oppenheimer (Geography, Cambridge)
Volcanoes and their lovers: a brief and biased history of volcanology

In this presentation (based on research for a book published last year: Mountains of Fire, Hodder and Stoughton/University of Chicago Press), I will explore the roots of volcanology via a selection of my favourite historical figures.

9 May

Lisa Onaga (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science)
Cocoon cultures: the (dis)entangling of silk and biology in Japan

Sericultural practices in Japan underwent a scientization process during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Within this context, nineteenth-century silk cocoon cultivators endeavoured to control indoor climates to better direct insect development; they also formed new strategies to prevent the spread of disease from one generation to the next. As sericulture gained popularity, various political, economic, and scientific interests converged as experts, bureaucrats, and industry leaders confronted a need to organize a multiplying number of cocoon-spinners strains. I trace how sericulturists and scientists sought to 'improve' cocoons used to manufacture silk threads, and relatedly, how they made practical use of cocoon spinners' hereditary information discerned through scientific breeding experiments. I focus upon the cultivation of cocoons to show how efforts to coax greater uniformity among these objects had been especially encouraged by government and industry and led to standardizing practices and national sericultural infrastructure. This analytic perspective anchored to the cocoon additionally clarifies how improvement activities helped spur research opportunities for university-based genetic researchers distanced from industry. Scientific interest in mutations of these metamorphosing insects during the 1920s and 1930s became dually oriented toward a growing international field of genetics and Japanese sericulture. Subsequently, efforts to raise awareness about the need for organizing, exchanging, and preserving the genetic matter and information contained in mutants paved a new path that invited scientists to view cocoon-spinners as a resource for biological research.

16 May

Mateja Kovacic (Hong Kong Baptist University)
Opening the West with Japanese mermaid mummies: ningyo in the making of the theory of evolution

Mateja Kovacic discusses how knowledge in the form of ningyo mummies 'caught' around Japan shaped the scientific and public debate about the theory of evolution and the origin of species in the Euro-American context. During the Edo period, various mermaid creatures – ningyo – were a popular and scientific topic, studied by well-known scholars including Ōtsuki Gentaku and Itō Keisuke, as well as by amateur naturalists like the Edo greengrocer Okukura Tatsuyuki. First housed as religious artifacts in temples and shrines, mermaid mummies (ningyo no miira) were unique gender-fluid hybrids made of monkey, fish, and dog parts combined with wood and papier-mâché. From the second half of the eighteenth century, they became important actors in scientific knowledge production. They were a part of daily life in the form of visual novels, medicines, leaflets, protective amulets against epidemics, dishware, decorative artifacts, misemono, temple displays, and products in curio stores. They were also a subject of empirical scientific inquiry that reveals the epistemological multiplicity of the times, as well as the ways that epistemological systems were being challenged and their boundaries pushed further.

23 May

Nick Jardine (HPS, Cambridge) and Angela Breitenbach (Philosophy, Cambridge)
Gerd Buchdahl, Kantian philosopher of science

Following a brief account of his career, Nick Jardine will sketch Gerd Buchdahl's philosophy of science or, in his terms, 'transcendental methodology of science'. This is outlined in his Tarner Lectures of 1973 (typescript in Whipple Library), which, despite many revisions, remained incomplete and unpublished. Particular attention will be paid to aspects of Buchdahl's transcendental methodology that seem of particular current interest: his pluralist view of sciences, with their various empirical, structural and explanatory components often having distinct historical trajectories; and his emphasis on the roles of imagery in all forms of inquiry, as shown in his motto 'argument be damned, it's the picture that counts'.

Angela Breitenbach will then elaborate on the second of these aspects in her discussion of Buchdahl's legacy in Kantian philosophy of science. She will show how his interpretation of Kant was instrumental in giving regulative principles centre stage and will discuss some of the lasting challenges his reading raises regarding the role of reason, judgment and imagination in science.

30 May: Twenty-Eighth Annual Hans Rausing Lecture

4pm in the Frankopan Hall, Jesus College

Suzanne Moon (University of Oklahoma)
Technology and interconnection in Southeast Asia's longue durée

Southeast Asian societies over the longue durée were characterised by the co-construction of technology and the shifting patterns of social and political interconnection. The same technologies used to achieve everyday, practical goals also worked to reinforce or disrupt social solidarity, define or challenge social hierarchies, and inform relations of conflict or cooperation with distant peoples. As a destination that consistently attracted migrants, traders, entrepreneurs and aspiring colonizers, its characteristic forms of technological dynamism served the political, social, and economic ambitions of peoples from China to the Indian Ocean world and from the Middle East to Europe. It is thus also a story of changing global interdependencies, seen from the technological ground of Southeast Asia.


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, 3.30–5.00pm in the Board Room. Further information, any reading materials, and links for 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.

31 May

Nathan R. James (MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, University of Cambridge)
What is a circadian clock? Consensus, controversies, and current approaches

7 June

Ross King (Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, University of Cambridge)
The automation of science


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 in Seminar Room 2 unless otherwise stated.

For further details about upcoming events, or to be added to the mailing list for the Cabinet of Natural History, please contact Thomas Banbury (tjb98).

29 April

Michael Freidman (Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas)
Jungius and Leibniz on textiles and texture in the 17th century

6 May

Sheena McKeever (Department of History of Art, Cambridge)
The cannibalized print: deconstructing Charles Estienne's anatomical woodcut illustrations in De dissectione (1545)

13 May

Aisha Alowais Alshamsi (Warburg Institute)
Comets in medieval Arabic astronomical and historical treatise

10 June

Cabinet Garden Party


History of Medicine

Seminars, supported by Wellcome, are on Tuesdays from 5.00 to 6.30pm in Seminar Room 1 unless otherwise stated. All welcome!

Early Science and Medicine

Organised by Dániel Margócsy and Philippa Carter.

7 May

Marjolijn Bol (Utrecht University)
Artists as futurists? On the history of durability in art and the making of the future

21 May

Sara Miglietti (Warburg Institute)
Self-translating science in early modern Europe: preliminary insights from the project Writing Bilingually, 1465–1700

History of Modern Medicine and Biology

Organised by Salim Al-Gailani, Mary Brazelton, Staffan Müller-Wille and Dmitriy Myelnikov.

30 April

Andreas Killen (The City College of New York, CUNY)
Brain studying brain: the neuro disciplines in the early Cold War

14 May

Michelle Pentecost (King's College London)
The global health focus on early life: origin stories



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. In the 2023–24 year, CamPoS is being organised by Anna Alexandrova (HPS) and Neil Dewar (Philosophy).

Seminars are held on Wednesdays in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science.

24 April, 3.00–4.30pm

Cheryl Misak (University of Toronto)
Margaret MacDonald's 1937 pragmatism

Margaret MacDonald may be remembered as a founder of the journal Analysis and a note-taker (along with Alice Ambrose) in Wittgenstein's classes in the mid-1930s. But she is also one of Britain's two most important pragmatists, the other being Frank Ramsey. This paper traces MacDonald's sophisticated pragmatism about the relation between our thoughts and the world, and about induction, hypotheses, and laws of nature. It shows that she made the important pragmatist distinction between knowledge that and knowledge how and argues that she should be returned to centre stage in the history of philosophy.

8 May, 1.00–2.30pm

Cristian Larroulet Philippi (Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge)
Quantifying the human: values in measurement or measuring value?

22 May, 3.00–5.00pm

Author meets critics on Inference and Representation: A Study in Modeling Science (University of Chicago Press, 2024) by Mauricio Suárez of Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Commentators: Alexander Bird, Chiara Ambrosio, Oscar Westerblad. Chair: Hasok Chang.


Purpose and Progress in Science

Thursdays at 11am in the Board Room
Organisers: Niall Roe (nrr32) and Nikki Levesley (nml46)

This group meets weekly and discusses questions related to purpose and progress in science. E.g.,

  • What is a purpose?
  • Is purpose different from function, goal, telos?
  • What is the relationship between purpose and intentionality?
  • How are purposes used to explain in the sciences?
  • How has this changed through science’s history?
  • Does science progress?
  • How has the notion of progress changed?
  • Does science have a purpose?
  • Does it need one?

Our aim is to have a focused question for each term and approach it from many angles, philosophical and historical.

This term we will try to get a handle on the history of teleology and how teleological explanation has been used in science. We begin with the Socratic philosophers, trace through medieval science to Newton, and finish by looking at how Darwin reinvigorated the debate. Our goal is to come away with an understanding of:

  • why and when teleological explanations have been called upon,
  • the troubles they tend to face,
  • how the concept has changed since Aristotle, and
  • whether Darwin revitalized teleology or finally put it to rest.

Here is a schedule of proposed readings. For the final weeks, we hope to have people read papers taking different sides of a single debate, hopefully leading to a rich discussion.

Week 1: Historical overview and Aristotle

The need for purpose in nature


  • Introduction – 1.2 Leuinessin (2010), Explanation and Teleology in Aristotle's Science of Nature


  • Chase (2011), Teleology and Final Causation in Aristotle and in Contemporary Science
  • Pearlman (2004), The Modern Philosophical Resurrection of Teleology

Week 2: From Aristotle to Newton

Struggles and successes in medieval science


  • Joy (2006), Scientific Explanation from Formal Causes to Laws of Nature


  • Lang (1989), Aristotelian Physics: Teleological Procedure in Aristotle, Thomas, and Buridan

Week 3: Kant, Hegel and Wolff

'Teleology' is coined


  • Guyer (1989), Organisms and the Unity of Science

Week 4: Darwin

Is teleology banished or saved?


  • Dresow & Love (2023), Teleonomy: Revisiting a Proposed Conceptual Replacement for Teleology

Weeks 5–7: Teleological explanation

Was Darwin a teleologist?

Other potential topics:

  • Selectionist Consequence Etiology (Wright, Boorse and Brandon)
  • Purpose emerging from Complex Systems (Wimsatt, Juarrero, Deacon, Babcock and McShea)
  • Teleology in History (Whiggism)


  • Lennox J.G. (1993), Darwin was a Teleologist. Biology and Philosophy
  • Ghiselin M.T. (1994), Darwin's Language May Seem Teleological, but His Thinking is Another Matter
  • Lennox J.G. (1994), Teleology by Another Name: A Reply to Ghiselin
  • Short (2002), Darwin's concept of final cause: neither new nor trivial


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, generally held on Thursdays at 1pm–2pm in Seminar Room 2. All are welcome!

Organised by Fiona Amery, Alexis Rider and Richard Staley.

2 May

Dalal M. Alsayer (Kuwait University)
Everywhere a village: the mudbrick experiments of A.E.S. Alcock and Rockefeller's International Basic Economies Corporation (IBEC), circa 1940s–1960s

In the years after World War II, architects, engineers, and businesses began experimenting with locally sourced mud, lime, and/or cement mix bricks to provide cheap, easy to construct, mass housing for the so-called 'underdeveloped world'. In the desire to create a climatically adjustable, portable, and one-size-fit-all solution global home, experiments in both the form and the methods of construction emerged. This paper uses several critical case studies to explore how the brick as a material, the bungalow (the global colonial home) (King, 1984) as a model, and the village (Sackley, 2011) as a universal site were packaged as the colonial tools for rapid modernization. Primarily using the work of A.E.S Alcock and Rockefeller's International Basic Economic Corporation (IBEC), this paper traces how different actors found and invented the global village, populating it with bungalows constructed from mudbricks, with the aim of transcending climate, geography, and society. A.E.S. Alcock's work in Gold Coast (present-day Ghana) with sandcrete (a sand-cement mixture) and swishcrete (a cement mixture with soil known as 'swish') was repackaged as type of 'portable knowledge' (Mehos and Moon, 2011) in a series of handbooks (1953–60) for 'villagers everywhere'. Equally, the Cinva-Ram press, invented in 1956 by Chilean engineer Raul Ramirez, was taken on by IBEC as a solution to the pressing need for affordable, easily produced houses. While this paper does not examine the houses themselves, it uncovers the pervasiveness of the mudbrick bungalow as a model of development. Alcock and IBEC's approaches were folded into the UN and other agencies as tried-and-tested tools for 'development', finding a village and a villager in every landscape. Only through understanding the intertwined histories of the bungalow, the brick, and the village will we be able to acknowledge the colonial legacies of modernity that has left invented villages across the world.

16 May

Adam Lucas (University of Wollongong)
Slaying the demons with steam: power and productivity in the first Industrial Revolution

This paper presents work from a collaborative project currently in progress based at the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences at the University of Glasgow funded by the Leverhulme Trust. The primary aim of the project is to test recent scholarship proposing that British industrialists moved 'away from the water' to steam-driven factories so they could concentrate production at the most profitable sites and during the most convenient hours. Focusing on the industry's heartlands in Northern England and Scotland, we are arguing that local geomorphological and political factors played a more significant role in the energy transition than has been recognized. Our research team has built a mills census for the period 1740 to 1900 based on detailed examination of historical maps, together with mapping of the river catchments and waterpower potential of all waterways in Scotland and Northern England. Our historical work has revealed a number of novel insights into the extent to which waterpower continued to be used during the period in which steam-power became more ubiquitous and ultimately the dominant source of motive power in British industry. This has also involved questioning some of the received wisdom about the first energy transition and what exactly that entailed in terms of applications, economic sectors and geographical factors.


Measurement Reading Group

Fridays at 11am–12noon (except for the first two weeks) in Seminar Room 1.

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

3 May at 10am

Milne, John. 1897. 'Recent Advances in Seismology'. Discourse at the Royal Institution of Great Britain.

Optional: Dewey, James, and Perry Byerly. 1969. 'The Early History of Seismometry (to 1900)'. Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America 59 (1): 183–227.

10 May at 10am

Special talk by Allex Csiszar (Harvard): 'Algorithms, Data, and Academic Discrimination in the 1970s'.

17 May at 11am

Oldham, Richard Dixon. 1900. 'On the Propagation of Earthquake Motion to Great Distances'. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series A, Containing Papers of a Mathematical or Physical Character 194 (252–261): 135–74.

24 May at 11am

Reid, Harry Fielding. 1920. 'The Problems of Seismology'. Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union 1 (1): 555–61.

31 May at 11am

Miyake, Teru. 2022. 'Progress in Seismology: Turning Data Into Evidence About the Earth's Interior'. In New Philosophical Perspectives on Scientific Progress, edited by Yafeng Shan. Routledge.

7 June at 11am

Smith, George E. 2007. 'Gaining Access: Using Seismology to Probe the Earth's Insides'.


Teaching Global HPSTM

Following an idea that grew out of the 'Decolonise HPS' reading group that met at the Department from 2019 to 2023, 'Teaching Global HPSTM' will consist of a series of meetings with similar departments around the world to discuss questions of institutional resources, curricula, grand narratives and intellectual traditions underwriting the teaching of History and Philosophy of Science, Technology and Medicine (HPSTM). The meetings are driven, in the first place, by our curiosity about how HPSTM is taught elsewhere, but in the longer term we hope to create a more de-centralized network and series of events on traditions in HPSTM around the world, and where to take them in the future.

Meetings will be held bi-weekly on Fridays during Cambridge term times in the academic year 2023–24. We envisage the meetings to be hybrid via video link, but with in-person meetings at either end to facilitate lively discussion. Each meeting is supposed to last for 90 minutes, and colleagues from all career stages, including students and senior colleagues, are welcome to participate.

17 May

Meeting with colleagues from Brazil, 2.00–3.30pm UK/10.00–11.30 Brazil


Pragmatism Reading Group

The Pragmatism Reading Group is held on Mondays at 11am–12noon in the Board Room and on Zoom.

Organisers: Niall Roe (nrr32), Damon Kutzin (dtk23), Ruward Mulder (ram202)

What's your problem? Reflective thinking and problem-solving from a pragmatist perspective

"A problem well put is a problem half-solved" – John Dewey

After focusing last term on the pragmatists Peirce, James and (perhaps?) Wittgenstein, we will now look at research directly or indirectly inspired by John Dewey and his conception of the reasoning skill of reflective thinking as a structured method for individuals or (small) groups to approach decision-making and problem-solving. We look at Herbert Simon's distinction between 'well-structured' and 'ill-structured' problems, Noam Chomsky's view of 'intelligibility' and the essentially human practice of 'concept formation', and Patricia King and Karen Kitchener's 'Reflective Judgment Model'. During the reading group we will explore the nature of problems and the ways of inquiry to address them.

Please join us – but only if you are ready to create some problems!

29 April

John Dewey (1915). 'The logic of judgments of practise'. Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods 12 (19), 505–523.

6 May

Noam Chomsky (2013). 'Lecture II: what can we understand?' The Journal of Philosophy 110 (12), 663–684.

13 May

Oscar Westerblad (2022). 'Deweyan conceptual engineering: reconstruction, concepts, and philosophical inquiry'. Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.

20 May

Patricia King & Karen Kitchener (1994). Developing Reflective Judgment. Jossey-Bass. Available through iDiscover. 'Chapter 3: The Seven Stages of Reflective Judgment' (pp. 44–74).
Background: 'Chapter 1: Reflective Judgment: A Neglected Facet of Critical Thinking' (pp. 1–19).

27 May

Céline Henne (2023). 'Framed and framing inquiry: a pragmatist proposal'. Synthese 201 (2), 1–25.

3 June

Herbert A. Simon (1973). 'The structure of ill structured problems'. Artificial Intelligence 4 (3–4), 181–201.

10 June

Thomas Nickles (2018). 'Bounded rationality, scissors, crowbars, and pragmatism: reflections on Herbert Simon'. Mind and Society 17 (1–2), 85–96.

More on the structure of problems:


History of Science and Medicine in Southeast Asia Reading Group

This reading group offers an opportunity for anyone interested in the history of science and medicine in Southeast Asia, in any historical period. Meetings will feature a mix of invited speakers, museum visits, and student-led reading sessions each week.

Organised by Zhiyu Chen, Mika Hyman, Katherine Enright (Digital Humanities) and Dien Min Loong (Faculty of History).

Tuesdays at 1pm in the Board Room

30 April

Gianamar Giovannetti-Singh (Faculty of History) on the Cape of Good Hope

14 May

Katherine Enright on zoology and natural history

28 May

Philippa Monk (University of Oxford) on policing, treating and constructing venereal disease in the Vietnam War

11 June

Dien Min Loong on medicolegal practices and forensics in criminal investigations of sexual violence (pre-WW2)


Atmospheric Humanities Reading Group

The Atmospheric Humanities Reading Group meets once a fortnight, on Tuesdays in the Board Room, to explore aspects of the air, climate, and atmosphere in a variety of disciplinary contexts. Scholars working in HPS, history, philosophy, English, geography, and atmospheric and allied sciences are very welcome to join us to discuss a set of pre-circulated readings. For further information (including readings), or to be added to the mailing list, please contact the co-conveners Dr Fiona Amery (faa28) and Thomas Banbury (tjb98).

7 May, 3pm

'(In)audible atmospheres – soundscapes and auricular phenomena in atmospheric histories'

21 May, 9.30am–5pm

Atmospheric Humanities Workshop


Science Fiction & HPS Reading Group

This reading group uses science fiction (and its associated genres, such as fantasy, speculative fiction, and dystopia) as a lens to explore themes in the history and philosophy of science. We investigate a wide range of topics, from aliens and AI to time travel and transhumanism. Our goal is to both deepen our understanding of topical SF themes and to explore, methodologically, how SF can interact with HPS. How can SF illustrate and enlighten our philosophical concepts? How can we use SF as a resource for our histories?

Our weekly readings usually consist of one short story, with option secondary sources – such as scientific articles, historical discussions, and philosophical analyses – provided for interested readers. We meet fortnightly on Tuesdays from 3pm–4pm. All are welcome!

Organised by Mallory Hrehor (mh2217) and Nikki Levesley (nml46).

This term's theme is Biological Experiments in Bulgakov and Wells.

Note: the fiction readings are all available in the public domain, e.g. on Project Gutenberg. The recommended editions and translations will be circulated on the mailing list.

14 May, 3pm, Board Room

The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), H.G. Wells

Secondary reading: Elce, E.B. (2018). '"Never mind the dog": Experimental Subjects in H.G. Wells' The Island of Doctor Moreau and Wilkie Collins' Heart and Science'. The Wilkie Collins Journal, 15.

28 May, 3pm, Seminar Room 2

Fatal Eggs (1924), Mikhail Bulgakov

Secondary reading: Krementsov, N. (2014). 'The Ray of Life: Science in Revolutions'. In Krementsov, N., Revolutionary Experiments: The Quest for Immortality in Bolshevik Science and Fiction (New York, 2014), Chapter 1.

11 June, 3pm, Board Room

Heart of the Dog (1925), Mikhail Bulgakov

Secondary reading: Krementsov, N. (2014). 'The Dog's Heart and Monkey Glands: Rejuvenation'. In Krementsov, N., Revolutionary Experiments: The Quest for Immortality in Bolshevik Science and Fiction (New York, 2014), Chapter 5.


Values in Science Reading Group

We meet on Wednesdays from 11am to 12noon in Seminar Room 1. Organised by Ahmad Elabbar and Cristian Larroulet Philippi.

Week 1, 1 May

Khalidi, M.A. (2024). 'Ontological pluralism and social values'. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 104, 61–67.

Optional background reading, suggested by Prof Khalidi:

Week 2, 8 May

Bocchi, F. (forthcoming) 'Metrics in biodiversity conservation and the Value-Free Ideal'. Synthese.

Week 3, 15 May

Peterson, A., Cruse, D., Naci, L., Weijer, C., & Owen, A.M. (2015). 'Risk, diagnostic error, and the clinical science of consciousness'. NeuroImage: Clinical, 7, 588–597.

Week 4, 22 May

No session.

Week 5, 29 May

Cristian Larroulet Philippi: 'Quantifying the human: values in measurement or measuring value?' [draft to be circulated]

Week 6, 5 June

Henrik Røed Sherling and Benjamin Chin-Yee [draft to be circulated]

Week 7, 12 June

Mona-Marie Wandrey [draft to be circulated]


Cambridge Reading Group on Reproduction

Cambridge Reproduction invites all Cambridge researchers to attend a twice-termly reading group to engage with classics and new work across disciplines – all with a central theme of reproduction.

Both meetings this term are held at 12.30pm in Room 78, Anatomy Building.

Thursday 30 May

Led by Dr Emma Pomeroy (Associate Professor in the Evolution of Health, Diet and Disease, Department of Archaeology)

Friday 21 June

Led by Professor Ashley Moffett (Professor of Reproductive Immunology, Department of Pathology)


HPS Workshop

Fridays, 5–6pm in the Board Room
Organised by by Niall Roe (nrr32)

The 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 composed of two parts: ~30 minutes where the speaker outlines their work (indicating areas that they would like feedback on) and ~30 minutes of discussion.


Postgraduate Seminar: Images of Science

Weeks 1–4, Friday at noon, Seminar Room 2
Organisers: Sachiko Kusukawa (sk111) and Daniel Margocsy (dm753)

This is a reading seminar that is based on the assumption that we have all done the readings so that we can have a discussion based on them. For each session, please bring three questions that these sources have prompted, which can help jump start the conversation.

26 April: Visions

James Elkins. How to Use Your Eyes. New York: Routledge, 2000 (also available on Elkins' site). Please pick three chapters that catch your interest.

Kate Crawford and Trevor Paglen. 'Excavating AI: The Politics of Images in Machine Learning Training'. AI & Society 36 (2021): 1105–1116.

Browse through John P. Jacob and Luke Skrebowski. Trevor Paglen: Sites Unseen. Washington, DC: Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2018.

Extra: Henrik Gustafsson. 'Foresight, Hindsight and State Secrecy in the American West: The Geopolitical Aesthetics of Trevor Paglen'. Journal of Visual Culture 12 (2013): 148–164.

3 May: Colour

Amy Buono and Sven Dupré. 'Introduction' in: Sven Dupré and Amy Buono, eds. A Cultural History of Color in the Renaissance. London: Bloomsbury, 2022, 1–16.

Charlotte Guichard, Anne-Solenne Le Hô and Hannah Williams. 'Prussian Blue: Chemistry, Commerce, and Colour in Eighteenth-Century Paris'. Art History 46/1 (2023): 154–186.

BuYun Chen. 'The Craft of Color and the Chemistry of Dyes: Textile Technology in the Ryukyu Kingdom, 1700–1900'. Technology and Culture 62/1 (2022): 87–117.

10 May: Colonial images

Cécile Fromont. Images on a Mission in Early Modern Kongo and Angola. University Park: PSU Press, 2022.

Yael Rice. 'Lines of Perception: European Prints and the Mughal Kitābkhāna' in: Suzanne Karr Schmidt and Edward Wouk, eds. Prints in Translation, 1450–1750: Image, Materiality, Space. London: Routledge, 2017, 202–223.

17 May: Filming the invisible

Peter Galison. Black Holes: The Edge of All We Know. Film available from most streaming websites.


Language Groups

Latin Therapy

Latin Therapy is an informal reading group. All levels of Latin are very welcome. We meet to translate and discuss a text from the history of science, technology or medicine. This is an opportunity to brush up your Latin by regular practice, and if a primary source is giving you grief, we'd love to help you make sense of it over tea and biscuits!

To be added to the mailing list, or to suggest a text, please contact Thomas Banbury or Debby Banham.

In Easter Term 2024 we will meet weekly on Fridays, 4–5pm in Seminar Room 1.