skip to content

Department of History and Philosophy of Science


Departmental Seminars

Seminars are held on Thursdays from 3.30 to 5pm in Seminar Room 2. There is tea beforehand from 3pm in Seminar Room 1.

Organised by Mary Brazelton and Marta Halina.

14 January
Eleventh Cambridge Wellcome Lecture in the History of Medicine
Michael Stolberg (University of Würzburg)
Curing diseases and exchanging knowledge: sixteenth-century physicians and their female patients
In the sixteenth century, 'diseases of women' – thought to originate from their womb – and matters of generation, pregnancy and childbirth attracted growing attention in learned medical writing. So far we know very little, however, about how commonly women consulted physicians – rather than midwives and wise women – in such matters and what they could expect. Drawing on the notebooks and practice journals of sixteenth-century physicians, this lecture will examine the place of gynecological and obstetrical problems in ordinary medical practice. It will trace the ways in which physicians acquired the knowledge and the skills they needed to diagnose and treat these patients – including foetal anatomy, manual examination and the use of the speculum. And it will show that learned physicians were even prepared to take the empirical knowledge of non-academic healers and ordinary womenfolk seriously in this domain to which they traditionally had only limited access.
21 January Zur Shalev (University of Haifa; visiting fellow, Clare Hall, 2015–16)
Travelling texts: notes on early modern geography and Hebraism
In recent decades the study of early modern geography has taken a fruitful humanist turn. We now understand better the mechanisms of textual transmission, translation, and appropriation that shaped much of the geographical knowledge at the time. Scholars, for understandable reasons, concentrated so far on the classical tradition and its central role in this process. My work highlights another group of sources that has so far received little or no notice in this context: medieval Hebrew travel texts and related materials, which became more accessible to Christian readers once they appeared in print during the sixteenth century. In my talk I will look at a few notable early modern Christian Hebraists (such as Benito Arias Montano, Gilbert Génébrard, Sebastian Münster, J.H. Hottinger) and examine these scholars' various engagements with these seemingly outdated Hebrew travel tales. What, I ask, was the significance of these texts for members of the republic of letters during an age of new geographical and religious discoveries?
28 January Hjalmar Fors (Uppsala University)
Extracting the exotic: global chymical medicine in the seventeenth century
While Galenic medicine provided the main framework for diagnose and prescription that made use of exotic substances, the second half of the seventeenth century saw chymical medicine emerge as the prefered medical school of the elites of northern and central Europe. Simultaneously, the period saw a marked and largely elite-driven increase of consumption of exotic substances both as medicine and food. This is something of a conundrum. The present essay discusses how exotic substances could become a locus for the merger of Galenic and Chymical medical traditions. It does this by contextualizing and analyzing the medicine of Herman Nicolai Grim (1641–1711). Grim was a ship's surgeon and physician who worked for the Dutch East India Company in (among other places) Ceylon and Java. After his return to Europe, Grim also worked as a physician in a number of towns around the Baltic Sea. His publications, as well as the medical practice that he pursued in Europe, is used as an inroads into wider issues concerning the relationship between on the one hand knowledge of medicine and medical substances garnered in the East Indies, and on the other European medical practice. To what extent could Grim use his East Indian experience back home in Europe? How did apothecaries, chymists and medical practitioners deal with the problem that chymical refinement processes might destroy the very sensible qualities for which exotic plant substances were appreciated as spice, and from which they ultimately derived their value as trading goods?
4 February Sietske Fransen (CRASSH, Cambridge)
Visual tools in seventeenth-century medical education
How did seventeenth-century physicians make use of images and other visual material within their profession? More specifically, what role was assigned to images in the process of acquiring and memorizing knowledge as part of medical education at an early modern university? While publications such as Vesalius' De humani corporis fabrica (1536) and Johann Remmelin's 'flap book' Catoptrum microcosmicum (1619) contained anatomical images that attained iconic status, further research is required to more fully comprehend how these books and their images fitted into the broader framework of early modern medical education. Furthermore, in addition to the illustrations from famous works on anatomy, other medical textbooks relied upon diagrams to convey information. Employing a small body of material consisting of student notebooks, lecture notes and texts that describe teaching circumstances, this paper aims to understand how visual tools complemented and supplemented texts in imparting medical learning to early modern physicians. For this paper, I will focus upon the English context and attempt to demonstrate how a judicious interpretation of such material leads to some answers to these questions.
11 February Paola Bertucci (Yale University)
Translating embodied skill: the politics of writing about making in the early modern period
Well before 1751, when the first volume of Diderot and D'Alembert's Encyclopédie was published, several encyclopedic projects on the mechanical arts were under way in Europe. This talk will show that such encyclopedic projects relied on natural history as a model for collecting information on crafts and artisans. By comparing works about artisans with works by artisans, I will discuss the political implications of creating an inter-connected, multi-volume work on the arts and crafts: a natural history of arts.
18 February Martin Rudwick (HPS, Cambridge)
Was geology the first science to inject history into the natural world?
My Earth's Deep History (Chicago, 2014) is an attempt to summarise historical research on what I see as an unduly neglected theme of outstanding importance in the longue durée of the natural sciences: the reconstruction of the past history of nature, and of our human place in it, as opposed to (or at least, in contrast to) time-independent causal explanations of natural processes and events. I argue that this historicisation was first attempted in the science that came to be called 'geology', and that it later spread to other natural sciences. My book was designed to be accessible to the 'general reader' and has not yet been widely reviewed by historians of the sciences, so I would like to get the seminar's reactions to its main arguments. I start with C17 chronologists such as Scaliger and Ussher, whom I treat as serious world-historians; and I argue that C17 naturalists such as Hooke and Steno exemplify a crucial transposition of the chronologists' historical methods and concepts from human history into the natural world. I regard the late C18 and early C19 as the pivotal period (which is why I focussed on it in most of my earlier and more detailed books), because it was then that naturalists such as Cuvier – and specifically those then newly called 'geologists', such as Buckland and Lyell – worked out in practice how to interpret natural evidence in detail and comprehensively in terms of nature's history (and Darwin, initially a geologist, later transposed this into the organic world). I conclude with the period from the later C19 to the present, arguing that new radiometric dating methods, for example, were significant less for expanding the Earth's timescale than for giving precision to a new picture of the Earth's eventful history, with mobile continents, mass extinctions, global ice ages, an evolving atmosphere and so on. In the late C20 Earth scientists adopted a still wider perspective in which the Earth's history became just one instance of diverse planetary histories, and geology's historical methodology was transposed into (or at least, it was paralleled in) astronomy and cosmology. (I treat modern American 'young-Earth' creationism as a sideshow closely analogous to flat-Earthism, and I relegate it to a brief appendix.)
25 February Jim Endersby (University of Sussex)
Cunning, killer orchids
At the end of the nineteenth century, orchids were among the most desirable, collectable and exotic flowers to grace British greenhouses, but despite the hours spent watering and tending to them, they turned on their keepers and started trying to kill those who grew them. The first victim was a Mr Winter-Wedderburn, who almost died when a vampiric orchid tried to drain every drop of blood from his body; only his quick-thinking housekeeper's intervention saved him. Others were not so lucky, and the list of fatalities grew slowly but steadily during the next few decades. Fortunately, these attacks only occurred in fiction (Mr Winter-Wedderburn was a character in a short story by H.G. Wells), yet they present a curious puzzle for historians. Orchids were to become deadly, sexy, mobile and – most noticeably – increasingly cunning over the next few decades. To understand why, we need to trace the 'killer orchid' genre back, via popularisations of Darwin's botany, to a mystery that Darwin was unable to solve; why some orchids mimic insects. The solution was only found in the twentieth century, and I will argue that the fictitious orchids formed a crucial link in this discovery.
3 March Elaine Leong (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science)
Reading Rivière in early modern England: tracing early modern epistemic itineraries
In the late 1630s, Lazare Rivière, professor at the University of Montpellier, delivered a series of lectures on practical medicine. Later, in response of requests from physicians writing from all over Europe, Rivière expanded these to include the theory of diseases and the resulting Praxis medica cum theoria was printed in 1645. The work was hugely popular and translated into French and English. Peter Cole, the English printer of the work, claims that by 1663 over 1700 copies of the folio-sized tome had been sold. Moreover, the book did not only leap off the shelves of booksellers but was actually read. Surviving copies are often annotated and extracts from the work appear in contemporary medical notebooks. In bringing Rivière's work to English audiences, Cole and his team made two crucial changes to the text. Firstly, in his preface, Cole specifically targeted 'Ladies and Gentlewomen' as potential purchasers and readers. Thus, bringing knowledge originating in the University setting into the domestic sphere. Secondly, later editions were often sold and bound with the English translation of Rivière's Observationes medicae (1646) so mixing the older practica with the new medical genre of observationes. This paper traces the Praxis medica's journey from university settings into early modern homes. I examine three crucial stages in this journey. Firstly, the codification of the original practica lectures into print. Secondly, the transformation from the Praxis medica to The Practice of Physick and, finally, how readers engaged with and appropriated the knowledge offered by the book. Each one of these steps, I show, left its own epistemic footprint on Rivière's practica and when taken together form what might be termed an 'epistemic itinerary'. By that I mean itineraries in which bodies of knowledge (as small as a one-line recipe and as large as multi-volume work) become entangled as they journey through the winding, convoluted processes of early modern book production and reading and writing practices. Historians of science and medicine have recently argued that reading, writing and note-taking practices are now also themselves recognised as knowledge codification processes. The story of Rivière's Praxis medica, I suggest, demonstrates that there is much to be gained by paying close attention to the route (and pit stops) which knowledge takes in this process.

Twentieth Century Think Tank

The Twentieth Century Think Tank offers broad coverage of 20th- and 21st-century topics in the history, philosophy and sociology of science, technology and medicine. The regular programme of papers and discussions takes place on Thursdays over lunch.

Think Tank meetings are held on Thursdays, 1–2pm in Seminar Room 2, unless indicated otherwise. All welcome!

Organised by Richard Staley, Jesse Olszynko-Gryn and Mary Brazelton.

4 February Henry K. Miller (Slade School of Fine Art, UCL)
The impact of machines
More than thirty years before the 'Two Cultures' debate came into the national consciousness, I.A. Richards, the leading light of the nascent English school at Cambridge, was writing of 'the transference from the Magical View of the world to the scientific', combined with 'the more sinister potentialities of the cinema and the loud-speaker' as grave challenges to his young discipline. One of Richards's best students, Humphrey Jennings, became a film-maker and author of the compendium 'Pandaemonium: The Coming of the Machine as Seen by Contemporary Observers', which charted a version of this 'central dominant change' in worldviews. This talk explores an unofficial but significant interest in the history of science within 'Cambridge English' which stood in partial opposition to the latterly dominant F.R. Leavis.
12 February
Sir David King (UK Foreign Secretary's Special Representative for Climate Change)
Are we tackling the causes of global warming effectively?
(This will be a joint event with Coffee with Scientists)
18 February Marcia Holmes (Birkbeck, University of London)
Brainwashing the cybernetic subject: The Ipcress File and fantasies of interrogation in the 1960s
This year marks the 50th anniversary of The Ipcress File (1965), the film that introduced Harry Palmer, a spy who, like James Bond and George Smiley, is iconic of the Cold War era's fascination with British espionage. Less recognized is how The Ipcress File heralded a new approach to depicting 'brainwashing' on screen. Unlike previous films that portrayed brainwashing as a brutal process of indoctrination, Harry Palmer is subjected to psychedelic abstractions of light and electronic music, pulsating to the 'rhythm of brainwaves'. This new cinematic language of brainwashing brought into alignment late 1950s and early '60s innovations in media, art and science, shading them with anxieties about secret intelligence and mind control. As my paper will argue, in this emerging constellation of aesthetic and intellectual concerns, what Jonathan Crary has called the 'problem of attention' intersects with what Fred Turner has called the 'politics of consciousness', conceiving a vulnerable human subject that not only attends to media and other demands on her perception, but also scrutinizes, and perhaps resists, the effects this attention has on her psyche. Beginning in the early '70s this fantasy of the doubly-perceiving subject would be pointedly criticised by British neuropsychologists like Timothy Shallice, in their reactions to revelations that British agents used sensory deprivation techniques in interrogation.
3 March Tom Simpson (Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge)
'A day of comparatively small things': spatial anxiety in the high British Empire
Around the turn of the twentieth century, surveyors under the auspices of European Empires apparently eliminated much of the remaining blank space on the world map. Exploration and border demarcation parties made significant inroads into interior regions of Africa, the high mountains and deserts of Central Asia, and Arctic regions. At the same time, however, a host of fears regarding spatial understandings and practices crystallised among numerous agents, from men of science in metropolitan and colonial hubs to junior surveyors beyond the fringes of effective European control. If, as Joseph Conrad famously claimed, British geography triumphed in this era, it was a curiously ambivalent victory.

This paper examines how concerns over understanding and enacting spaces travelled within and beyond the British Empire through the dispersal of images, texts, and key individuals. These mobile elements often originated at the outskirts of empire rather than in established centres. Far from being immutable, they were repeatedly reformulated, facilitating anxieties that were widespread but far from homogeneous across different settings. The paper also shows that agents of imperial science questioned the very elements that many recent scholars consider constitutive of a spatial modernity emanating from Europe, such as maps, borders, and exploration narratives. In their place, previously overlooked regions and disparaged non-Western epistemologies became increasingly vital within British spatial imaginaries.

Coffee with Scientists

The aim of this group is to explore and enhance the interface between HPS and science. We in HPS do not often pull together in our activities in this direction, though many of us have close engagements with science and scientists. We could benefit from more explicit discussions about the relationship between HPS and the sciences themselves, and from encouraging HPS-scholars and scientists to help each other's work. Many of our graduate students and postdocs currently work in isolation from scientists; they may benefit from the stimulation of interactions with colleagues and mentors from various science departments (in Cambridge and elsewhere), which are difficult to induce in our regular seminars and reading groups, infused as they are with standard HPS expectations, assumptions and customs.

During Lent Term 2016 we will continue to meet on Fridays, 3.30–5.00pm in Seminar Room 2, unless indicated otherwise. Listed below are the confirmed events, on which further information and reading materials will be distributed through the email list of the group; please contact Hasok Chang (hc372) if you would like to be included on the list.

18 January
Sybil de Clark (University of Arizona)
The Scharnhorst Effect: faster-than-light propagation and causality in the Casimir vacuum
12 February Sir David King (Foreign Secretary's Special Representative on Climate Change)
Are we tackling the causes of global warming effectively?
19 February Martin Rudwick (HPS, University of Cambridge)
Did the earth sciences have a 20th-century revolution?
4 March Dermot Cooper (Department of Pharmacology, University of Cambridge)
The second messenger concept – how the discovery of cyclic AMP dominated cell biology for 60 years

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.

Cabinet of Natural History blog

Seminars are held on Mondays at 1pm in Seminar Room 1. You are welcome to bring your lunch with you.

Organised by Katrina Maydom.

18 January Andrew Wear (University College London)
'Improvement': British colonial settlement and the environment
My paper will, I hope, form part of a book I am writing on British colonial settlement and the environment in both temperate and tropical colonies. Improvement and the environment in the colonial context has many strands. Some of them are discussed in this paper: advertising to prospective settlers about resources and improvement, ideological and conceptual beliefs, the role of the law of ownership in ensuring that improvement of a pre-existing environment took place and the language of improvement. The paper, like the book, goes from the seventeenth century to the nineteenth and in some parts of the book to the twentieth, so my time period is very long. Geographically, this particular paper covers the settler colonies of North America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, though much of the material is from North America. Given the limits of space I have generalized across different colonies though differences between the colonies will, I hope, become clearer in the book itself.

Improvement was one of the ideological engines for colonial settlement. It was one of the lenses through which colonial settlement was viewed, with its own discourses and as well as being one of the inducements and one of the drivers of settlement and of consequent environmental change and destruction of pre-colonial peoples and their cultures. At the very least it was an indicator of change, though, ironically, it was one of the constants of colonisation. Though the sense of improvement changes in some of its meaning, nevertheless, it is an ever present concept across time and places so my paper may well be eliding some cherished distinctions as to types of empire or kinds of colonization. This is something that can jar with British and American historians who tend to concentrate on change and difference rather than on continuities.

25 January Clare Hickman (University of Chester)
Invisible gardeners? The role of Scottish botanic gardeners in knowledge creation and exchange in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century
Like many technicians in the history of science and medicine, the gardeners who managed, developed and disseminated knowledge obtained via botanic collections have generally been overlooked. Although unlike Shapin's earlier scientific technicians there are indications that they were more visible to their peers. The focus of academic work in this field has mainly concentrated on the superintendents or members of the medical faculty (in the case of the university botanic garden) who used them as teaching spaces (Findlen), or else the collections themselves as representatives of national identity creation (Spary and O'Kane) or products of Empire (Drayton). This paper will instead concern itself with a small number of head gardeners at the Edinburgh and Glasgow botanic gardens and re-consider their roles in the teaching of botany in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. As with many lower status groups, the evidence pertaining to their lives and work is fragmentary but there are indications in both the archives and material features of the gardens that such men were crucial in the creation and dissemination of botanic knowledge. The 1770s–1800s also mark a point when botanic knowledge becomes more specialized and they seem to be developing a professional identity. The paper will explore these themes by considering the following head gardeners: John Williamson and Thomas Somerville at the Edinburgh Botanic Garden in the 1770s and 1800s respectively, and William Lang at the University of Glasgow in the 1800s.
1 February Raffaella Bruzzone (University of Nottingham)
John Ray and Francis Willughby herborising around the lighthouse in Genoa in March 1664
The English naturalists John Ray (1627–1705) and Francis Willughby (1635–1672) spent part of the spring of 1664 collecting plants around the lighthouse (Ital. lanterna) in Genoa. This paper is about the geography of that site and in particular the evidence for the continuity of plant species collected there from 1664 until the present day. This research is based on the archival and printed material which Ray and Willughby left behind, the notebook at the Chelsea Physic Garden Library in London, the dried specimens at the Natural History Museum in London and the printed volume of their European Tour (1663–66), Observations Topographical, Moral, & Physiological Made in a Journey Through part of the Low-Countries [...] (1673), all concerning the species collected around the so-called Pharos – a landscape that has partially survived until the current day. Whilst the plants found at the site today are few, those that remain can be compared with their past botanical ancestors through some historical artefacts, including nineteenth-century herbaria held in Genoa.
8 February Geoffrey Belknap (University of Leicester)
Participating in Victorian natural history through the illustrated periodical
The practice of illustrating Victorian natural history periodicals was widespread throughout the century. Yet the value, meaning and intent of these illustrations as objects of scientific evidence within an essential site of scientific communication is little understood. Focusing on the genre of the natural history journal between 1840 and 1890, this talk will evaluate the role of illustrations in offering an access point for the amateur naturalists to participate within the knowledge community of the Victorian periodical. A key aspect in this analysis will be to differentiate between authors and readers of competing periodicals in order to evaluate whether there is an overlap between contributors and consumers of the Victorian periodical. In this way, this paper will pay particular attention to the category of the non-professional author and illustrator in order to better understand the role of the periodical in giving access to a wide audience to the sites of production and reproduction of nineteenth-century natural history. Highlighting the website, the paper will also draw parallels between the historical practice of uncovering participants in Victorian natural history through the periodical with the modern practice of utilizing digital humanities tools – particularly citizen science/humanities – to generate and forward historical research.
15 February Christopher McHugh (University of Sunderland)
Recontextualizing the George Brown Collection through creative ceramics
The George Brown Collection of ethnographic objects and some natural history specimens has a contested and complex history. Accumulated in the latter half of the nineteenth century by Brown while he was a Methodist missionary in Oceania, it has had a number of 'homes', exercising the endeavours of a variety of groups and individuals. In 1986, the majority of the collection was controversially sold by Newcastle University to the National Museum of Ethnology (NME), Osaka, Japan.

This presentation will discuss the author's investigation of the collection's status and role at its current location in Osaka undertaken during a placement at the NME in 2013. To augment this research, elements of the collection which, for various reasons, remain in UK institutions were also traced in order to compare and contrast respective approaches to community engagement and display. Between 2013 and 2015, the author made a new body of ceramic artwork which attempted to materialize the convoluted interrelationships between the collection and its various communities through time and space.

It will be argued that collaborations between museums and artists have the potential to 'rejuvenate' such dispersed collections by creating new contexts where person-object relations can be initiated. Practice-led approaches can re-examine marginalized collections by harnessing the power of objects – both old and new – to captivate and engage.

22 February Alice Marples (King's College London)
Reviving the Royal Society in the early eighteenth century
By the end of the seventeenth century, the Royal Society was buckling under the weight of its own ambition: it was deep in debt and lacking in both confidence and members. Most histories cite the presidency of Isaac Newton as halting this decline briefly before the Society descended into a period of amateurism and antiquarianism. This paper shall posit a different explanation by outlining the range of internal administrative reforms undertaken by Hans Sloane (1660–1753) and other officers between 1700 and 1740, and their effects. Of particular importance is the conscious consolidation and expansion of the Society's correspondence networks, and the ways in which Sloane blurred the Society's resources with his own in order to re-establish the Society as a necessary node in scientific knowledge production. I argue that Sloane's work as a natural history collector at the centre of many different networks is linked to a deliberate shift in the role and purpose of the Society, from ruling over matters of fact to facilitating the work of others and providing a repository of information to discuss. Rather than being a symptom of the 'decline' of the Royal Society in the early eighteenth century, this was a key element of its revival.
29 February Mariana Françozo (Leiden University)
Locating indigenous knowledge in the Historia Naturalis Brasiliae (1648)
The Historia Naturalis Brasiliae (1648) is the earliest published treatise on the natural history of Brazil. Edited by Johannes de Laet from the notes made by Willem Piso and Georg Marcgraf in colonial Dutch Brazil (1637–41), it remained the authoritative source on South American flora and fauna well into the nineteenth century. The names, descriptions and definitions in this encyclopaedic work are mainly based on Piso's and Marcgraf's contact with local populations and indigenous groups in northeastern Brazil, who provided them with botanical and zoological specimens as well as information about their characteristics and uses. However, while the HNB has been subject of numerous studies, its reliance on indigenous knowledge about the natural world it describes has yet to be properly studied. In this presentation, by discussing the botanical sections of the HNB, I will argue that the book is a comparative ethno-botanical catalogue of plant names and plant uses that compares Brazilian species to plants existing in or imported from West Africa, New Spain, and the Caribbean. Additionally, I will consider the material culture associated with the indigenous knowledge-practices described in the book in order to connect the HNB with collections presently kept in European museums.
7 March Maria Avxentevskaya (Freie Universität Berlin)
The physician's Stammbuch: humanist cultures of medical networking
By the term Stammbuch, German historiographical tradition mainly means album amicorum or 'memory book' – a genre that first became popular in the Protestant circles in mid-sixteenth century, where a piece of manu propria advice from Luther or Melanchthon could be viewed as a collectable rarity and a letter of recommendation. Stammbuch documents offer rich evidence on theological, literary, musical, and medical cultures of the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, as well as the vitality of humanist scholarship in verbal and visual quotes. German Stammbücher depicted vividly the episodes of early Protestant polemics, but also captured the development of essential values of early-modern medical inquiry, as many of alba amicorum were kept by physicians travelling between celebrated academic communities. My paper will explore the heuristic role which the humanist cultures of collecting and transferring experience, as displayed in Stammbücher, played in promoting early-modern medical experimentalism.

For instance, Johann Georg Volckamer (1616–1693), a well-recognized physician and travelling writer, subsequently the President of Leopoldina, kept a Stammbuch where he collected notes from fellow scholars at numerous European universities. In 1645, his Stammbuch marked a significant point in an entry 'Non verbis sed HERBIS' (capitals as in the original), which can be translated as 'Not by words but by herbs!' In the contemporary context, this mnemonic rhyme referred not to herbs as such but to the practice of paying more attention to physical symptoms, or more broadly, pointed out the experimental character of a qualified medical inquiry. This disposition translated the Melanchthon's principle of experientia universalis into procedures of medical observation, and the message 'Non verbis sed HERBIS' was essentially close to the later motto of the Royal Society of London: nullius in verba.

Travelling the Wanderstrassen across Europe, Stammbücher helped cultivating experienced collective perception by attracting attention to significant details in interpreting medical historiae, processing individual experiences into medical ontologies, and transforming the relations of intellectual trust into institutional links. My paper will trace the cross-disciplinary transfer of values between humanist scholarly networking and experimental medical discourse, also noting the amplifying cultural context of interactions, as Stammbücher featured sophisticated 'paper technologies', including folded portraits with witty verses, drawings of animals, plants and instruments, views and maps of cities.

History of Medicine Seminars

Seminars are on Tuesdays from 5.00 to 6.30pm in Seminar Room 1. Tea and biscuits are available from 4.40pm. All welcome!

Other History of Medicine events

History of Modern Medicine and Biology

Organised by Nick Hopwood and Mary Brazelton.

19 January Chris Manias (KCL)
The lost beasts: international palaeontology and the evolution of the mammals, 1880–1950
9 February Tatjana Buklijas (Liggins Institute and Central European University)
The maternal-fetal relationship since 1900
1 March Sally Sheard (University of Liverpool)
Shortening hospital stays: clinico-economic dialogues in the 20th century

Early Science and Medicine

Organised by Lauren Kassell, Valentina Pugliano and Gabriella Zuccolin.

26 January Liana Saif (University of Oxford)
Humours, spirits and souls: aetiology and therapeutics in medieval Islam
NOTE: This seminar will start an hour earlier than usual, at 4pm (tea from 3.40)
16 February Emilie Savage-Smith (University of Oxford)
A literary history of medicine: the world's earliest history of medicine, composed in Syria by the physician and poet Ibn Abi Usaybi'ah (d. 1270)
8 March Gabriele Ferrario (Taylor-Schechter Genizah Unit, Cambridge)
Graeco-Arabic science in medieval Jewish culture: evidence from the Cambridge Genizah collections

Generation to Reproduction

These seminars are funded by our Wellcome Trust strategic award in the history of medicine. Organised by Lauren Kassell and Nick Hopwood.

2 February Lisa Malich (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
Of women and birds: the nesting instinct in pregnancy in the 20th century
23 February Ahmed Ragab (Harvard University)
The seed you need: generation, reproduction and female orgasm in medieval Islamic medicine


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 Brian Pitts (jbp25). If you have any queries or suggestions for other activities that CamPoS could undertake, please contact Huw Price, Jeremy Butterfield or Hasok Chang.

Further details of the composition and activities of CamPoS

Seminars are held on Wednesdays, 1.00–2.30pm in Seminar Room 2.

20 January Natalja Deng (Divinity, Cambridge)
Does time seem to pass?
27 January Huw Price (Philosophy, Cambridge)
CSER and the Leverhulme CFI: how, what and where next
3 February Emily Adlam (DAMTP, Cambridge)
The problem of confirmation in the Everett interpretation
10 February Eran Tal (HPS, Cambridge)
Measurement error and the problem of quantity individuation
17 February Juha Saatsi (University of Leeds)
Explanatory abstractions
24 February Ruth Hibbert (University of Kent)
Entangled histories: enactivism, representationalism and Frederic Bartlett
2 March Alex Broadbent (University of Johannesburg)
Prediction and medicine
9 March Nic Teh (University of Notre Dame)
Capacities, fundamentalism and schematic unification

HPS History Workshop

Need help writing a tricky part of your argument? Need some fresh ideas and references? Or simply want to see how your early-career colleagues approach the writing process? The History Workshop is an informal setting to discuss our written works-in-progress on any area of the history of science, technology and medicine, and share feedback. A draft PhD chapter, article or conference paper will be circulated by email before each meeting. We'll then discuss it together over tea and biscuits at 5pm on alternate Wednesdays in Seminar Room 1.

Contact Andreas Sommer and/or Seb Falk if you are interested in sharing your work in this forum, or would like to be added to the mailing list.

HPS Philosophy Workshop

Would you like to get feedback on your work-in-progress in a friendly and supportive atmosphere? Texts will be circulated one week in advance and discussed over tea and biscuits in Seminar Room 1 on alternate Wednesdays, 5–6pm. Share a draft of your MPhil essay, PhD chapter, potential article, or any research-in-progress in the philosophy of science, broadly construed.

Organised by Hardy Schilgen and Stijn Conix.

Philosophy of Psychology Reading Group

We meet on Thursdays, 11am–12noon in Seminar Room 1 (except for the meeting on 14 January, which will be in the Board Room). Organised by Ali Boyle and Sarah Marks.

14 January Thomas Suddendorf, Michael C. Corballis, 2007, 'The evolution of foresight: What is mental time travel, and is it unique to humans?', Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 30, pp. 299–313.
21 January T. Suddendorf, D.R. Addis, M.C. Corballis, 2009, 'Mental time travel and the shaping of the human mind', Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 364(1521), pp. 1317–1324.
28 January N.S. Clayton, J. Russell, A. Dickinson, 2009, 'Are animals stuck in time or are they chronesthetic creatures?', Topics in Cognitive Science, 1, pp. 59–71.
4 February N.S. Clayton, J. Russell, 2009, 'Looking for episodic memory in animals and young children: prospects for a new minimalism', Neuropsychologia, 47(11), pp. 2330–40.
11 February Sarah Malanowski (forthcoming) 'Is episodic memory uniquely human? Evaluating the episodic-like memory research program', Synthese, pp. 1–23.
18 February Teresa McCormack, 2001, 'Attributing epsiodic memory to animals and children', in Christoph Hoerl & Teresa McCormack (eds), Time & Memory: Issues in Philosophy and Psychology, pp. 285–314.
25 February Dorothea Debus, 2014, '"Mental time travel": remembering the past, imagining the future, and the particularity of events', Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 5(3), pp. 333–350.
3 March Christoph Hoerl, 2014, 'Remembering events and remembering looks', Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 5(3), pp. 351–372.

History and Theory Reading Group

Meetings take place every other Friday, 11am–12.30pm in the Board Room. Organised by Matthew Drage (mnd24). All welcome!

Deleuze: Difference and Repetition

For this term's History and Theory we will be reading four selections from Gilles Deleuze's foundational philosophical work on time, representation, difference and the virtual, his 1968 doctoral thesis Difference and Repetition – along with some supporting readings in sessions 2 and 3.

15 January: Introduction

  • Gilles Deleuze, Paul Patton tr., Difference and Repetition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), Introduction: 'Repetition and Difference', pp. 1–28

29 January: Difference

  • Gilles Deleuze, Paul Patton tr., Difference and Repetition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), selection from Ch. 1: 'Difference in Itself', pp. 28–42


  • Elizabeth Grosz, The Nick of Time: The Politics and Evolution of the Untimely (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1994), Chapter 7: 'Bergsonian Difference', pp. 155–185

12 February: Repetition

  • Gilles Deleuze, Paul Patton tr., Difference and Repetition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), selection from ch. 2: 'Repetition for Itself', pp. 70–96


  • Henri Bergson, F. L. Pogson tr., Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness (London: Allen & Unwin, 1910), selection from ch. 2: 'The Multiplicity of Conscious States, The Idea of Duration', pp. 85–104

26 February: The Image of Thought

  • Gilles Deleuze, Paul Patton tr., Difference and Repetition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), ch. 3: 'The Image of Thought', pp.129–167

Nature and Culture Reading Group

Meetings take place on Tuesdays, 1–2pm, in Seminar Room 1. Please direct any queries to Samuel Murison.

This term's reading group will focus on the topic of evolution and ethics, including evolutionary debunking arguments, evolution and teleological ethics, environmental ethics and the ethics of human enhancement.

19 January

  • Street, S., 2006, 'A Darwinian Dilemma for Realist Theories of Value', Philosophical Studies 127: 109–166.

Introduced by Tim Lewens

26 January

  • Copp, D., 2008, 'Darwinian Skepticism about Moral Realism', Philosophical Issues 18: 186–206.
  • Mogensen, A., forthcoming, 'Do evolutionary debunking arguments rest on a mistake about evolutionary explanations?', Philosophical Studies.

Introduced by Adrian Boutel

2 February

  • Foot, P., 2001, Natural Goodness, ch. 2 'Natural Norms', ch. 3 'The Transition to Human Beings' and ch. 5, 'Human Goodness'.

Introduced by Christopher Clarke

9 February

  • Fitzpatrick, W. Teleology and the Norms of Nature, ch. 6 'Welfare and Natural Teleology'.
  • Lott, M., 2012, 'Have Elephant Seals Refuted Aristotle? Nature, Function, and Moral Goodness', Journal of Moral Philosophy 9: 1–23.

16 February

  • Chubb, I., 2010, 'The Role of Humility and Intrinsic Goods in Preserving Endangered Species', Environmental Ethics 32: 165–182.

23 February

  • Nolt, J., 2006, 'The Move from Good to Ought in Environmental Ethics', Environmental Ethics 28 (4): 355–374.

1 March

  • Harris, J., 2009, 'Enhancements are a Moral Obligation' and Juengst, E., 2009, 'What's Taxonomy Got to Do With It? Human Rights, Species Integrity and Science Policy' in Savulescu, J. and Bostrom, N. eds., Human Enhancement.

8 March

  • Groll, D. and Lott, M., 2015, 'Is There a Role for "Human Nature" in Debates About Human Enhancement?', Philosophy 90: 623–651.

Philosophy and History of Physics Reading Group

Organised by Daniel Mitchell, Hasok Chang and Jeremy Butterfield.

The topic of this term's meetings is mathematical representation in physics. We will concentrate on the long 19th century and consider such developments as algebraic functions, the vector calculus, the quantity calculus, and dimensional analysis, from philosophical and historical perspectives. We are particularly interested in learning how historical circumstances led to the introduction of these mathematical formalisms into physics; the impact this had on physical concepts; and what philosophical issues arose.

The group will meet weekly between 4pm and 6pm on Tuesdays in the Board Room beginning on 19 January. Further information and reading materials will be distributed through the email list of the group; please contact Daniel Mitchell (djm232) if you would like to be included on the list.

The programme is as follows:

19 January Sybil de Clark, 'The emergence of dimensional analysis in the nineteenth century. From a qualitative to a quantitative concept of homogeneity', paper under review.
26 January Luca Mari and Alessandro Giordani, 'Modelling measurement: error and uncertainty', in Marcel Boumans, Gioria Hon, and Arthur C. Peterson (eds) Error and Uncertainty in Scientific Practice (Pickering and Chatto, 2014), ch. 4.
2 February Hans Niels Jahnke and Michael Otte, 'Origins of the program of "Arithmetization of mathematics"', in Herbert Mehrtens, Henk Bos, and Ivo Schneider (eds), Social History of Nineteenth Century Mathematics (Birkhäuser, 1981), pp. 21–50 [Don't be fooled by the title of the volume: there is as much philosophy and technical argument here as social history].
9 February Brian Ellis, Basic Concepts of Measurement (CUP, 1966), ch. 2 'The Concept of a Quantity' and ch. 10 'The Physical Concept of Number'.
16 February TBC from Social History of Nineteenth Century Mathematics (Birkhäuser, 1981).
23 February Alisa Bokulich, 'Maxwell, Helmholtz, and the Unreasonable Effectiveness of the Method of Physical Analogy', Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 50 (2015), pp. 28–37.
1 March Daniel Jon Mitchell, 'What's Nu? Maxwell's Electrical Units Argument for the Electromagnetic Theory of Light Re-examined', draft paper.
8 March Harry Collins, 'Mathematical Understanding and the Physical Sciences', Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 38 (2007), pp. 667–85.

Latin Therapy

Latin Therapy is an informal reading group. All levels of Latin (including beginners) are very welcome. We meet on Fridays, 4.00–5.30pm in the Board Room, to translate and discuss a text from the history of science, technology or medicine. If a primary source is giving you grief, we'd love to help you make sense of it over tea and biscuits! Thus we provide a free translation service for the Department, and a means for members to brush up their skills.

To be added to the mailing list, or to suggest a text, please contact Tillmann Taape or Natalie Lawrence.

Arabic Therapy

The Arabic Therapy group meets every Tuesday, from 3.00 to 4.30pm, in Room P19.

We are an informal group for beginners and more experienced learners who want to improve their Arabic language. Each week we spend a little time discussing some light grammar, before reading through a text together. For more information, or to be added to the mailing list, please contact Seb Falk.

Greek Therapy

Greek Therapy meets every Wednesday during term time in the Board Room from 5.30 to 7pm.

We are an informal group for beginners and for experienced readers of Greek seeking to brush up their skills – all levels are welcome. Sessions usually involve a basic grammar session at the beginning followed by reading through a more advanced text. We will be reading Lucian's Philosophies for Sale this term.

For more information or to be added to the mailing list, please email Liz Smith.