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Department of History and Philosophy of Science



Departmental Seminars

Seminars take place on Thursdays from 3.30pm to 5pm in Mill Lane Lecture Room 9 and on Zoom unless otherwise stated.

Organised by Richard Staley.

21 October (Rausing Lecture)
María M. Portuondo (Johns Hopkins University)
The kinetic Caribbean: technologies of mobility in a pre-modern world

4.30pm in the Peterhouse Theatre

The early modern Caribbean can come across as a fractured region whose political history conspired against the cohesion nature conferred upon it. And yet, it shared a maritime culture that transcended political boundaries and unified the region in unexpected ways. This talk proposes nautical technologies-in-use and their supporting infrastructures as functional relations that contributed to this maritime culture and also reordered the region for its inhabitants. It will consider as examples pre-Columbian nautical technology, the consolidation of a maritime culture within trans-Caribbean smuggling and piratical operations, and the technological infrastructure that supported the kinetic Caribbean.

28 October
Andrew Buskell (University of Cambridge)
Cultural groups, essentialism, and ontic risk

The comparative study of cultural groups – ethnology – experienced a dramatic reversal of fortune in the twentieth century. Though initially central to the field, by the millennium's end many in social anthropology had not only abandoned ethnology but also adopted sceptical attitudes toward the culture concept (and those nearby, like 'cultural group'). The opposite seems true for the social sciences, which increasingly adopted both the culture concept and comparative methods over the same period of time. The study of cultural groups is now in an unusual epistemological situation: researchers in one set of disciplines take themselves to have repudiated the comparative study of cultural groups and the culture concept, yet in another, researchers take these to be critical for ongoing empirical work. What are we to make of such a situation?

This talk considers some longstanding metaphysical critiques of ethnology. These are concerns around a supposed 'essentializing' tendency of comparative cultural work. This 'essentializing' is taken to be bad scientific practice, leading to wrongheaded characterizations of human populations and empirically unprincipled research. I’ll be arguing that these concerns are not as serious as they appear. If contemporary work is 'essentialist' in some way, it is not the kind of 'essentialism' that should trouble critics. Yet I'll suggest there is a more pressing kind of metaphysical worry for the comparative social scientist: what Joeri Witteveen has called ontic risk. Choices around how cultural groups are ontologized (in models, theoretical claims, classifications) can generate harms and costs for extant populations. While ontic risk does not repudiate comparative social scientific work, it does point to potentially serious consequences that should be considered in research design.

4 November (McConnell Lecture)
Gloria Clifton (Emeritus Curator, National Maritime Museum and Royal Observatory, Greenwich)
Tracing scientific instrument makers: the importance of researching the actual objects they made or sold

Historians tend to regard manuscripts, letters and books as the primary sources of information for their research, but for the history of scientific-instrument making, the objects themselves are just as important, sometimes even more so. This lecture will examine the various ways in which instruments in collections or shown in catalogues can reveal information about the careers and work of their makers. Sometimes the information provided by an object is the only source for a particular detail, in other cases the objects point to documents and other materials which can be used to build a fuller picture of a particular maker's work. Where possible, examples will be taken from the collections at the Whipple Museum, but there will also be illustrations from collections elsewhere.

11 November
Vera Keller (University of Oregon)
Charlatans and the making of research: the undisciplining and redisciplining of experimental philosophy in seventeenth-century Europe

Online only

This talk explores the making of academic experimental philosophy as the product of a century-long dynamic that began with the undisciplining of knowledge. The ancient concept of discipline sought to protect the transmission of knowledge from master to disciple, crystallizing forms of knowledge in distinct structures and hierarchies meant to preserve them unharmed through the tempests of time. Whereas the early modern period is often interpreted as a time of social and epistemic disciplining, I argue that in fact it demonstrates the undisciplining of knowledge as the authority of masters and distinct boundaries between forms of knowledge were rebuffed. Undisciplining produced hybrid forms of knowledge drawn from across a wide social and epistemic hierarchy, such as the 'experimental philosophy' that first appeared in England in the 1630s. A case in point was the trend for integrating the performances of wandering 'charlatans' – waterspouters, fire-eaters, and sword-swallowers – into experimental study. Undisciplined forms of knowledge posed a challenge for seventeenth-century German pedagogues who sought to introduce English-style experimental philosophy into their curricula and who established the first chairs of experimental philosophy. These academics developed new infrastructures for working playful, unstable and heterogeneous experimental philosophy (including the performances of charlatans) into an academic framework. In so doing, I argue, they transformed practices of disciplinarity as a whole, framing knowledge as both transmissible and changing, that is, as research.

18 November
Mark Sprevak (University of Edinburgh)
Physical computations are idealisations

What does it mean when we say that the brain implements a computation? In this paper, I build on recent work on idealisation to suggest that we should re-think this question about computational implementation. First, it is a mistake to approach the problem in the abstract, by reflecting on physical computation in a topic-neutral way. It is essential to have an idea of why theorists apply the notion in certain domains, why they feel motivated to provide a specific computational model of a physical system, and what benefits they regard flow from doing so. Second, an underappreciated feature of computational descriptions is that they involve a major degree of abstraction and idealisation. Normally, only a handful of physical properties of a target physical system feature in a computational model and these are themselves idealised in ways that depart from reality. The dynamics of a select, idealised group of properties are the fare of a computational model. I suggest that one should expect this rationale to be reflected in conditions of computational implementation. I argue that this explains the appeal of rival, incompatible theories of implementation among philosophers: in the real world – and in particular, in cognitive neuroscience – implementation is often constrained in different ways for different ends.

25 November
Kate Vredenburgh (London School of Economics)
Causal explanation and revealed preferences

Revealed preference approaches to modelling choice in the social sciences face seemingly devastating predictive, explanatory, and normative objections. In this talk, I will focus on predictive and explanatory objections, and offer two defences. First, I argue that when revealed preferences are multiple realizable, revealed preferences can causally explain behaviour well. But, considerations of multiple realizability open the revealed preference theorist to an equally plausible interpretation of these models, that they pick out a coarse grained psychological disposition. Second, I argue that when agential preferences cannot be easily analytically separated from the environment that produces the relevant behaviour, revealed preferences also causally explain, if one adopts a counterfactual dependence account of causal explanation. An upshot of these two arguments is an explanatory argument against a unified dispositional interpretation of 'preference'.


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 science and scientists, we could benefit from more explicit discussions about the relationship between HPS and science itself, and from more opportunities for HPS-scholars and scientists to help each other's work.

We meet on Fridays, 3.30–4.30pm, with informal conversations before and after the formal session for those who are interested. Further information and any reading materials 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).

15 October Prof. John Aston (Statistical Laboratory, University of Cambridge)
What are the long term effects of COVID-19 on science advice to government?
Arts School Lecture Theatre A
29 October Coffee with Clinicians, Joint meeting with Birkbeck Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Mental Health (CIRMH)
Dr Ruth Kloocke (Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust) and Kiara Wickremasinghe (SOAS)
Open dialogue
Seminar Room 2, HPS


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 and in Seminar Room 2 (unless otherwise stated). In person attendance will be limited and advance booking will be required.

Organised by Olin Moctezuma-Burns (om345).

11 October
Xinyi Wen (HPS, Cambridge)
The 'lesser herbals' in early modern natural history

In many traditional historiographies, the history of early modern English herbals ended with John Parkinson's encyclopaedic Theatrum Botanicum (1640), followed by the rise of pre-Linneaus botany in the eighteenth century. This paper will unravel a forgotten history of late seventeenth-century English 'lesser herbals' and their significance. A term borrowed from the pseudo Hannah Woolley, the 'lesser herbals' refer to a group of herbal literature emerged in the second half of seventeenth century characterised by their small size. Written by learned physicians, these herbals usually focused on plants locally available in England, aiming to offer the public practical guidance for collecting, preserving and curing. Characteristically, they were heavily influenced by astrological botany and the doctrine of signatures – a Paracelsian theory connecting plants' medicinal value to their morphological resemblance with human body parts. This paper will exhibit a reading history of the 'lesser herbals' through actors ranging from London wine merchants to apothecary James Petiver and natural historian John Aubrey. I will show how the 'lesser herbals' were highly regarded by readers from various backgrounds, and how their compactness and unique structure benefited readers' retrieval and reorganisation of herbal knowledge. More importantly, it was those so-called superstitions – astrological botany and the doctrine of signatures – that provided new methods and diverse practice-oriented taxonomies, which influenced latter history of botany.

18 October
Patrick Anthony (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)
The upland exchange: village life in natural history, 1771–1832

This talk centres the mountain village of Muggendorf (Germany) in the history of natural history. It traces the guiding and collecting enterprise of the family Wunder over three generations, alongside corresponding generations of naturalists who came 'like pilgrims' each spring after the snows had melted. Wainwrights by trade, the Wunders first turned to natural history as a source of supplemental income in 1771, the 'Year of Hunger'. For over a half-century, their cabinet supplied collections in Erlangen and Bayreuth with rare plants and fossils, like the antediluvial megafauna that drew the likes of Buckland and Cuvier to Muggendorf. While the market for natural trade and travel came from distant courts and university towns, traditional centres of science, the enterprise itself – the labour, infrastructure, and organization – came from a marginal upland community. There, the combination of learned interests and rural economy produced something altogether new: an upland exchange in knowledge and naturalia that gave form to natural science ca. 1800, in herbaria and geo-theory. I am especially interested in deploying working-class history perspectives (about inter-household collaboration, for instance, and artisanal notions of honour) to understand how the Wunders were not simply discovered by Romantic visitors but active in promoting a commerce of scientific goods and services. I close by suggesting the Wunders belong to a larger social group in the history of science: across (and surely beyond) central Europe, highland families employed everyday working practices in natural inquiry, revealing the extent to which natural inquiry was itself embedded in the everyday.

25 October
Charlotte Connelly (The Polar Museum), Jack Ashby (University Museum of Zoology)
'Environment and Empire... in the museum': Cambridge and the platypus

This talk comes in two parts, first an introduction to a new network that explore the legacies of empire and enslavement in natural history museums, and the ways those legacies are still influencing environmental science today. This will be followed by an example of the research in this area.

The Environment and Empire project was designed to address a particular challenge that natural history museums face. Unlike many other types of museums, natural history collections are curated and cared for by people who have typically been trained as scientists, rather than historians. While many natural history museum staff are interested in the histories and legacies of their collections, they do not necessarily have the time or skills to interrogate them alongside their day-to-day work. This project sought to bring together museum professionals working with natural history collections and interested historians to discuss some of the colonial legacies embodied in those collections, and the ways they continue to affect natural science today.

Across former European empires, collecting became part of the act of colonisation, with implications for how, why, where and by whom science was done. Jack Ashby will explore this theme by focussing on Australian mammal collections in the University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge. Cracking the question of how platypuses and echidnas reproduce became a decades-long mystery for nineteenth century naturalists, even though Indigenous experts told Europeans that they lay eggs soon after the British invaded. The matter was settled to the satisfaction of the European scientific establishment only when a Cambridge academic saw the evidence for his own eyes, and that would not have been possible without the efforts of over 150 Aboriginal collectors.

Thursday 28 October: Special session, 10am, online only
Maree Clarke, Mitch Mahoney, Fran Edmonds (University of Melbourne)
The Living Archive of Aboriginal Art and Knowledge

The Living Archive of Aboriginal Art and Knowledge project seeks to reveal the dynamic and interconnected relationships of First Nations Australians with their collections located in Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums (GLAMs) across the world. Part of this process includes exploring Storytelling as an Indigenous method of enquiry that challenges the way 'archives' structure Indigenous histories and cultural heritage. Storytelling is an embodied practice and can be reflected through oral transmission (often supporting traditional languages); artmaking; photography; performance; writing and other expressions of cultural production. The Living Archive is supported by the practice of Storytelling and is entwined with an ongoing past, located in the present and future orientated – reflecting Indigenous knowledge systems. In this discussion we will outline our concept of the Living Archive in relation to the work of Mutti Mutti/Yorta Yorta/Wemba Wemba/Boonwurrung artist Maree Clarke and her great nephew Mitch Mahoney (Boonwurrung/Barkindji), as they work in Maree's backyard/artists' studio to revitalise their Ancestral material culture and stories. We will also discuss our work with the Ngukurr community in southeast Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, reinstating their ongoing connections with their Ancestral collections held in GLAMs to produce a Living Archive.

1 November
Niklaas Görsch (University of Lübeck)
Remarks on Joachim Jungius's work method in botany: Ficus indica in his letters, notes, garden and Isagoge Phytoscopica

The polymath Joachim Jungius (1587–1657), professor and temporary director of both academic schools in Hamburg, was one of the first scholars to use dichotomous diagrams to carry out a systematic analysis of the morphology of plants. The plant named Ficus indica is at the centre of this investigation because a significant impact of Jungius's network on his botanical work can be illustrated by this example. Ficus indica is mentioned several times in Jungius's legacy which contains various kinds of handwritten sources testifying his ways of recording information systematically and preparing them for his lessons. With the sample of Ficus indica intersections of different spheres of Jungius's work method can be explained. These spheres describe, for instance his botanical network which included individuals from diverse areas of society, among them friends, colleagues, students, politicians, citizens and trade gardeners. Specific academical and commercial interests were related to these groups. Conditions of transport and interest in seeds, leaves and specimens of Ficus indica become retraceable by means of seed lists and different sorts of catalogues as well as invoices. The worlds of trade and education in a sense are bound together which becomes evident by this example. What can be said about 17th-century naturalists' work processes in general and regarding their relationships with society?

8 November
João Joaquim (HPS, Cambridge)
The biological age of plant virus research: studying viruses through other organisms in 1920s and 1930s Britain

Starting in the mid-1930s, virus research was revolutionised by advancements in biophysical and biochemical instrumentation, which allowed for the physicochemical isolation and analysis of these pathogens and heralded the dawn of molecular biology. Historians of science and science studies scholars have written much on this subject, particularly in what concerns the study of viruses in the context of biomedical sciences. This presentation focuses on an earlier period, when the mere existence of viruses was uncertain, as they could only be studied indirectly through the observation of their hosts’ disease symptoms. Here, the emphasis is on the integration of agricultural scientific knowledge, expertise and practices into early virus research. Therefore, the central case study is an institution emblematic of the development of state-sponsored agricultural research in the first half of the twentieth century: the Potato Virus Research Station, installed in Cambridge in 1927 to study and control plant virus diseases. Especial attention is given to the research of Kenneth M. Smith, an agricultural entomologist, who developed a method of virus isolation using complex multi-species biological interactions as 'models'. This implied deploying different organisms as instruments in a then-novel space of science: insect-proof glasshouses.

15 November
Ernesto Schwartz-Marin (Exeter University)
The frog and the vine: indigenous knowledge, biomedical innovation, and biopiracy in Latin America

The nexus of 'western' and 'indigenous' knowledge, toxicity, and biodiversity has transformed biomedical fields ranging from drug development to microbial resistance, yet it has not been marked by just research practices. This chapter delineates the intersections of indigenous and western knowledge practices in relation to toxic organisms, in order to advance insights that shed light into the ways in which biomedicine has been (or failed to be) committed to justice and solidarity. Due to their porous nature and ability to travel across boundaries, toxins – in the forms of potent and potentially poisonous plants and animals – are an ideal place from which to inquire into questions of justice and knowledge. The use of indigenous knowledge of nature for research illuminates central tensions in biomedical research practices today. Despite policies such as Genomic Sovereignty doctrine, due to histories of manipulation, lack of benefit sharing, and limited indigenous research representation, the relationship between indigenous and western knowledges is fraught with suspicion and conflict. One particularly salient concern is that patents filed in the global north have claimed ownership over indigenous knowledge and organisms, thus exploiting inequalities and enabling proprietary colonial uses of biodiversity in Latin America (Thacker 2008; Hayden 2003; Chavez 2012; Schwartz-Marin and Restrepo 2013). Drawing on ethnographic & historical methodologies, this chapter interrogates landmark cases linked with biopiracy and medical innovation: 1) Ayahuasca and 2) the Poison Dart Frog. These two organisms have been identified as important cases, because both have been subject to patents (Tidwell 2002; Males 2015), are at the centre of significant biomedical investment, and are deeply embedded in the ancestral knowledge of Latin American indigenous groups, as well as biomedical innovations and forms of capitalist profit making via pharmaceutical research.

22 November: Online only
Marieke M.A. Hendriksen (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences)
Tasting the past, or the fallacy of historical accuracy

The material turn in the history of science has led scholars to successfully study the past through new methods, such as object-driven and performative research, including the reconstruction and analysis of historical recipes. Reconstructions in the history of science are a restaging of historical experiences rather than replications; they help us access and understand historical embodied and sensory knowledge embedded in texts and materiality. Yet the 'ephemeral' sense of taste is often still perceived as too subjective and thus difficult and problematic to study historically, and the supposed importance of historical accuracy is used as an argument to dismiss the use performative methods more generally. In a new project, I challenge these contentions, meanwhile contributing to new standards to study historical taste with performative methods. In this talk I will explore how we can surpass the fallacy of historical accuracy to successfully use performative methods, and in particular taste reconstructions, to study the past.

29 November: Online only
Elizabeth Yale (University of Iowa)
Tender curiosities: natural history and gendered knowledge-craft at country houses, counting houses, and Royal African Company factories

In Britain in the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries, households were key sites for developing scientific, medical, and other forms of learned knowledge. At the same time, Britons collected natural historical and medical know-how – and materials – as part of the trans-Atlantic trade in spices, sugar, luxury goods, and enslaved West African labourers. Yet how were households connected to Royal African Company ships, merchants' offices, and coastal African slave factories in networks of knowledge and mercantile profit? One way, I argue, is through women's paper keeping activities. In learned households, women recorded experimental results and observations; managed correspondence; archived and preserved papers; translated scientific texts; took and maintained reading notes; and edited, authenticated, and published scientific books. They generated records that transited between households and public institutions, between learned, medical, and mercantile users, accruing different kinds of value in different hands. In reading these records closely, we see how early modern Britons – both men and women – sought out and built on West African and indigenous Caribbean botanical and medical knowledge even while erasing enslaved and free Africans and indigenous people as knowers.


History of Medicine

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

Early Science and Medicine

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

19 October Sara Caputo (Magdalene College, Cambridge)
Ship tracks on European maps and charts, c.1500–c.1800
Mill Lane Lecture Room 9 and Zoom
9 November Guido Giglioni (University of Macerata)
Philosophy for anatomists: Francis Glisson and the peculiar fits of irritable matter
23 November Dror Weil (Faculty of History, Cambridge)
Arabo-Persian texts as a vehicle for transmission of medical knowledge in late medieval and early modern China
Mill Lane Lecture Room 9 and Zoom
7 December Nahyan Fancy (DePauw University)
Lovesickness (ʿishq) in the Arabic medical commentaries (1200–1520)
Cockroft Lecture Theatre and Zoom

History of Modern Medicine and Biology

Organised by Salim Al-Gailani, Helen Curry and Staffan Müller-Wille.

12 October Chris Otter (Ohio State University)
'Constipated, toothless fatties': body and diet in twentieth-century Britain
16 November Ryan Nehring (HPS, Cambridge)
Technoscience in the tropics: public agricultural research and environmental imaginaries in Brazil
30 November Jaipreet Virdi (University of Delaware)
'She's wearing it!' Gender, tinkering, and the design of hearing aids

Generation to Reproduction

Organised by Staffan Müller-Wille and Dániel Margócsy.

26 October Anna Echterhölter (University of Vienna)
Mismatched filiations: the family in German colonial surveys on indigenous law (c. 1910)



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 on Zoom.

10 November
Jacob Stegenga (HPS, Cambridge)
Sisyphean science: why value freedom is worth pursuing

Coauthored with Tarun Menon (School of Humanities, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru)
The value-free ideal in science has been criticised as both unattainable and undesirable. We argue that it can be defended as a practical principle guiding scientific research even if the unattainability and undesirability of a value-free end-state are granted. If a goal is unattainable, then one can separate the desirability of accomplishing the goal from the desirability of pursuing it. The state with the ideal degree of value involvement cannot be given an independent characterisation, and cannot serve as an action-guiding target, so it can only reliably be attained if scientists treat value-freedom as their goal.

17 November
Mathias Frisch (Leibniz University Hannover)
Climate storylines and managing uncertainty

In this talk I examine the use of storylines in the most recent IPCC report, AR6, and argue that, in light of the deep uncertainties affecting detailed projections of climate futures, presenting low-likelihood but high-impact storylines serves an important purpose for structuring public policy decisions.


The Anthropocene

The Anthropocene (Climate Histories) offers alternating sessions in the related fields of climate history and Anthropocene studies. Meetings will involve a mix of invited speakers and reading group sessions held fortnightly on Thursdays at 1pm on Zoom, unless otherwise specified. We meet on the odd weeks of term. All are welcome!

Organised by Harriet Mercer, Claire Oliver and Richard Staley.

7 October, 12noon

A Year Without a Winter with Dehlia Hannah (Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts/ARKEN Museum of Modern Art)
Please note earlier meeting time

  • Hannah, Dehlia. 'Introduction,' 'Cloudwalking,' and 'Monsters of the Deep,' from A Year without a Winter (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018).

Optional readings:

  • Charrière, Julian and Dehlia Hannah. 'An Invitation to Disappear: Postcards from Tambora,' from A Year Without a Winter (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018).
  • Sobecka, Karolina. 'A Memory, An Ideal, and a Proposition,' from A Year without a Winter (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018).

21 October, 1pm

Harriet Mercer (University of Cambridge): 'Finding Climate in the Archives: an Inter-disciplinary Perspective'

4 November, 12noon

Ecopoetics with Jessica J. Lee (University of Cambridge)
Please note earlier meeting time

Optional background reading:

18 November, 2.30pm

Jen Rose Smith (University of Wisconsin, Madison): 'Ice-Geographies: Race, Indigeneity, & Coloniality'
Please note later meeting time


Scientific Thought Experiments Reading Group

The Scientific Thought Experiments Reading Group will be meeting weekly on Thursdays at 2–3pm UK time on Zoom. Organised by Ruward Mulder (ram202) and Sam Rijken (

Scientific Thought Experiments: what do they do and how do they do it? Thought experiments are everywhere, both in the history of science and in present science, often with far-reaching consequences. STEs first and foremost demand analysis because they are performed in the imagination, which is a dubious source of knowledge. Yet we seem to learn about the world by performing a thought experiment. The main explanandum, therefore, is this: how can we learn about the world by performing a thought experiment, that is, by merely using our imagination?

7 October

  • Kuhn (1964), 'A Function for Thought Experiments' (in: The Essential Tension: Selected Studies in Scientific Tradition and Change)

A cornerstone of contemporary literature. Formulates central questions concerning STEs – how can we learn about the world by merely using the imagination? – and formulates a possible non-controversial answer: we can learn to adopt concepts, and, consequently because of the legislative role of concepts, we can learn about the world. Discusses Galilei vs Aristotelians on the concept of 'speed'.

14 October

  • Brendel (2018), 'The argument view: are thought experiments mere picturesque arguments?' (in: The Routledge Companion to Thought Experiments)

Incredibly helpful article on a central question in the contemporary literature on STEs: are thought experiments mere picturesque arguments? Discusses the debate on this questions between Norton and Brown, and distinguishes usefully between several conflated claims in this debate. Also discusses the conceptual space in between Norton and Brown, and places the more 'intuitionist'-approaches by e.g. Nersessian and Gendler therein.

21 October

  • Damper (2006), 'The logic of Searle's Chinese room argument' (Mind Mach 16)

A rather technical but insightful application of modal logic to thought experiments. Almost all thought experiments contain a modal claim that asks us to imagine something that we deem 'possible'. Therefore, modal logic is bound up to be useful in the formalisation of thought experiments. Damper uses a logical framework developed by Sorenson to evaluate Searle's Chinese Room Argument (making this arguably the least scientific thought experiment that we cover).

28 October

  • Gendler (2004), 'Thought Experiments Rethought – and Reperceived' (Philosophy of Science 71)

An important paper in the literature on STEs. Takes important steps in getting an analytic grasp of the 'quasi-sensory intuitions' at work in STEs that are a source for new beliefs and even justifications of beliefs, thus play a possibly irreducible epistemic role in thought experiments.

4 November

  • Salis and Frigg (2020), 'Capturing the Scientific Imagination' (in: The Scientific Imagination)

Using an adapted version of an STE by Galilei, the authors propose a taxonomy of the scientific imagination and argue that a specific type of propositional imagination called 'make-believe' is the only type of imagination necessary to account for all the use of imagination in science – certainly for thought experimenting and model-based reasoning. Contrast their view of the imagination with e.g. Nersessian (and judge her 'mental-modelling' neither necessary nor sufficient) and mere counterfactual reasoning.

11 November

  • Stuart (2018), 'How Thought Experiments Increase Understanding' (in: The Routledge Companion to Thought Experiments)

Connects the philosophy of STEs to the literature on scientific understanding, as opposed to scientific knowledge (the more commonly discussed epistemic product in the context of ETEs), and discusses several specific STEs in the process.

18 November

  • Norton (2018), 'The worst thought experiment' (in: The Routledge Companion to Thought Experiments)

Discusses Maxwell's Demon in Norton's characteristic style. Nice to read something by Norton that is not a 'meta-STE'-paper, and a must-read to understand (or avoid misunderstanding) Maxwell's Demon.

25 November

  • Ian Hacking (1992), 'Do thought experiments have a life of their own?' (Philosophy of Science 2)

A critical reflection on the literature, from right when the literature took off. Hacking is not impressed, neither by the questions that are posed nor by the answers provided by authors such as Norton, Brown, and Nersessian. For Hacking, the literature on STEs does not manage to explain the aspects of STEs that we want to have explained. This paper will help us to reflect, at the end of this reading group, on the contemporary literature on STEs: have we progressed, where are we now, and where are we going?


Decolonise HPS Working Group

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


Pragmatism Reading Group

The Pragmatism Reading Group is held on Mondays at 11am–12noon in the Board Room. Organised by Oscar Westerblad and Céline Henne.

This term's theme is Pragmatism and Science: Historical and Contemporary Views.

Historical views

4 October: online meeting

Peirce, C. S. (1902). 'On Science and Natural Classes', ch. 9 in The Essential Peirce: Selected Philosophical Writings Volume 2 (1893–1913), Indiana University Press, 1998: 115–132. (Available through iDiscover.)

18 October

Dewey, J. (1929). 'Ideas at Work', ch. 5 in The Quest for Certainty, The Later Works 4, 1925–1953, Southern Illinois University Press: 87–111. (Alternative link)

25 October

Dewey, J. (1929). 'The Play of Ideas', ch. 6 in The Quest for Certainty, The Later Works 4, 1925–1953, Southern Illinois University Press: 112–135. (Alternative link)

1 November

Sellars, W. (1965). 'Scientific Realism or Irenic Instrumentalism: A Critique of Nagel and Feyerabend on Theoretical Explanation', in Philosophical Perspectives: Metaphysics and Epistemology, Ridgeview Publishing Company 2011: 147–173. (Scan will be provided.)

8 November

deVries, W. (2005). 'Science and reality: induction, laws, theories and the real', ch. 6 in Wilfrid Sellars, Routledge: 142–170. (Available through iDiscover.)

Contemporary views

15 November

Haack, S. (2001). 'Clues to the Puzzle of Scientific Evidence', Principia, 5 (1–2): 253–81.

22 November

Blackburn, S. (2002). 'Realism: Deconstructing the Debate', Ratio, 15: 111–133.

29 November

Pihlström, S. (2012). 'Toward Pragmatically Naturalized Transcendental Philosophy of Scientific Inquiry and Pragmatic Scientific Realism', Studia Philosophica Estonica, 5 (2): 79–94.

6 December

Chang, H. (2019). 'Pragmatism, Perspectivism, and the Historicity of Science', in Massimi, M., McCoy, C. (eds.) Understanding Perspectivism: Scientific Challenges and Methodological Prospects, Routledge: 10–27.


Science Communication Reading Group

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

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

This term's theme is Science Communication in Popular Culture.

Week 1 (11 October): Introduction & recap session

  • Lock, S. J. (2011). Deficits and dialogues: Science communication and the public understanding of science in the UK. In D. Bennett & R. C. Jennings (Eds.), Successful science communication: Telling it like it is. Cambridge University Press.
  • [Optional] Introduction, Priest, S. H., Goodwin, J., & Dahlstrom, M. F. (Eds.). (2018). Ethics and practice in science communication. The University of Chicago Press.
  • [Optional] Miller, S. (2008). So Where's the Theory? On the Relationship between Science Communication Practice and Research. In D. Cheng, M. Claessens, T. Gascoigne, J. Metcalfe, B. Schiele, & S. Shi (Eds.), Communicating science in social contexts: New models, new practices. Springer.
  • [Optional] Freeing the Voices: A Science of the People, Irwin, A. (1995). Citizen science: A study of people, expertise, and sustainable development. Routledge.

Week 2 (18 October)

  • Bowler, P. J., & Morus, I. R. (2005). Popular Science. In Making modern science: A historical survey. University of Chicago Press.

Week 3 (25 October)

  • Excerpts from The Tribal Scientist (pp. 18–39) in Goodell, R. (1977). The visible scientists (1st ed). Little, Brown.
  • Carl Sagan – First episode of Cosmos (1980)

Week 4 (1 November)

  • Scientists in popular culture: the making of celebrities, Fahy and Lewenstein. In Bucchi, M., & Trench, B. (Eds.). (2014). Routledge handbook of public communication of science and technology (Second edition). Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.
  • Susan Greenfield – Technology & the human mind (2014)

Week 5 (8 November)

  • Before and After Science: Science and Technology in Pop Music, 1970–1990, Bucchi and Lorenzet. In Cheng, D., Claessens, M., Gascoigne, T., Metcalfe, J., Schiele, B., & Shi, S. (Eds.). (2008). Communicating science in social contexts: New models, new practices. Springer.
  • Supplemented by discography referenced in reading.

Week 6 (15 November)

  • Science and technology in film: themes and representations, Kirby. In Bucchi, M., & Trench, B. (Eds.). (2014). Routledge handbook of public communication of science and technology (Second edition). Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.
  • Film viewing (title TBD).

Week 7 (22 November)

  • Science communication in fiction, Turney. In Holliman, R. (Ed.). (2009). Practising science communication in the information age: Theorizing professional practices. Oxford University Press.

Week 8 (29 November)

  • Science in Public Culture. In Gregory, J., & Miller, S. (2000). Science in public: Communication, culture, and credibility. Basic Books.



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).

Currently we are continuing with the format of online discussion meetings run from Cambridge. This term we will be exploring philosophical perspectives on the history of chemistry, and each time we will be joined by the author herself or himself in the discussion.

We will be meeting on Mondays at 6.30–8.00pm UK time. Please contact Hasok Chang (hc372) if you would like to be on the mailing list of the group. Those on the list will receive the links for joining the online meetings, the exact specification or copies of the readings, and all updates on future activities.

18 October

Karoliina Pulkkinen (University of Helsinki/Helsingin Yliopisto), 'Values in the Development of Early Periodic Tables', Ambix 67:2 (2020), 174–198.

1 November

Sarah Hijmans (Université Paris VII Diderot), 'Analogy and Composition in Early Nineteenth-Century Chemistry: The Case of Aluminium'.

15 November

Zoe Screti (University of Birmingham), 'Christian Theology and Alchemical "Theorick": The Relationship Between the Reformation and Alchemical Philosophy in England'.

29 November

Klaus Ruthenberg (Technische Hochschule Coburg), '"Caught in the Amber": A Sketch of Chemical Underdetermination', in Adam LaCaze and Barbara Osimani, eds., Uncertainty in Pharmacology (Springer, 2020), 173–184; 'About the Futile Dream of an Entirely Riskless and Fully Effective Remedy: Thalidomide', HYLE 22 (2016), 55–77.


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 usually meet on Monday evenings, but there will be some variations of timing this term, as indicated below. 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.

Monday 25 October, 5.00–6.30pm

Mary Morgan (London School of Economics)

Monday 22 November, 7.00–8.30pm

Greg Radick (University of Leeds)

Tuesday 7 December, time TBC

Kärin Nickelson (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)


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 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 and Jessica J. Lee.

This term's theme is Green Revolution.

19 October: New Perspectives on the Green Revolution

Optional additional reading:

2 November: Gender, Race, and the Green Revolution

16 November: Crop Legacies of the Green Revolution

30 November: Speaker: Sigrid Schmalzer

For this session we'll be hearing from speaker Professor Sigrid Schmalzer, University of Massachusetts Amherst.


Philosophy of Medicine Reading Group

We meet each week on Tuesdays at 1pm–2pm 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.

This term we will be reading Anya Plutynksi's recent book Explaining Cancer.

The first two weeks will be on Zoom, after which we will decide if we can meet in person for the remaining weeks.

12 October

Reading: Introduction
Presenter: Jacob Stegenga

19 October

Reading: Chapter 1
Presenter: Hamed Tabatabaei Ghomi

26 October

Reading: Chapter 2
Presenter: Oliver Holdsworth

2 November

Reading: Chapter 3
Presenter: Adria Segarra

9 November

Reading: Chapter 4
Presenter: Cristian Larroulet Philippi

16 November

Reading: Chapter 5

23 November

Reading: Chapter 6

30 November

Q&A with Anya Plutynksi
Chair: Jacob Stegenga


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. Below is a provisional schedule which may be modified as meetings progress.

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

12 October

Anastasia Buyalskaya, Marcos Gallo, Colin F. Camerer (2021) 'The golden age of social science.' Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118 (5) e2002923118.

19 October

Christensen, G., Freese, J., & Miguel, E. (2019). Transparent and Reproducible Social Science Research. University of California Press. Read pages 15–147 (skimming through the boring bits).

26 October

Ashworth, Scott, Berry, Christopher R. and de Mesquita, Ethan Bueno. Theory and Credibility: Integrating Theoretical and Empirical Social Science, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2021. Introduction and conclusion (skimming through the content in between).

2 November

K. Paige Harden. '"Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated": Behavior Genetics in the Postgenomic Era', Annual Review of Psychology 2021 72:1, 37–60.

9 November

Besbris, Max, and Shamus Khan. 'Less Theory. More Description.' Sociological Theory 35, no. 2 (2017): 147–153.

16 November

Lohse, S. (2017). 'Pragmatism, ontology, and philosophy of the social sciences in practice.' Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 47(1), 3–27.

23 November

Kohler-Hausmann, Issa. 'Eddie Murphy and the dangers of counterfactual causal thinking about detecting racial discrimination.' Nw. UL Rev. 113 (2018): 1163.

30 November

Majeed, R. 'On Biologising Racism.' British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.


Philosophy and History of Physics Reading Group

This reading group meets on Tuesdays, 4.45pm to 6pm UK time on Zoom starting on 12 October. Organised by Jeremy Butterfield, Matt Farr and Bryan Roberts.

We will read a sequence of papers, all downloadable from the usual website:

Further information and readings


Early Science and Medicine Work-in-Progress

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

If you would like to participate, please email the organisers, Dr Sebestian Kroupa (sk796) and Dr Sara Caputo (sc914).

Convened by Prof. Lauren Kassell (on leave 2021/22), Dr Silvia De Renzi (OU) and Dr Dániel Margócsy.

The first meeting of the year will take place on Tuesday 5 October, 5–8pm in Seminar Room 1.


Kinds of Intelligence Reading Group

Organised by Ali Boyle (asb69) and Henry Shevlin (hfs35).

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. This term, the group will be reading Peter Godfrey-Smith's book Metazoa about the evolution of cognition, intelligence and consciousness. See the (glowing) New York Times review.

We will be meeting remotely on Wednesdays, 3.00–4.30pm on a biweekly basis starting on 13 October, covering two chapters each week (see below for a detailed schedule). All meetings will take place on Google Meet.

All are welcome, and we look forward to enjoying this interesting and provocative book together.

Subscribe to our mailing list

13 October

Chapters 1 & 2: 'Protozoa' and 'The Glass Sponge'

27 October

Chapters 3 & 4: 'The Ascent of Soft Coral' and 'The One-Armed Shrimp'

10 November

Chapters 5 & 6: 'The Origin of Subjects' and 'The Octopus'

24 November

Chapters 7 & 8: 'Kingfish' and 'On Land'

8 December

Chapters 9 & 10: 'Lins, Legs, and Wings' and 'Put Together by Degrees'


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.

20 October: Nineteenth-century travel instructions

  • British Association for the Advancement of Science. Notes and Queries on Anthropology, for the Use of Travellers and Residents in Uncivilized Lands. London, E. Stanford, 1874.
  • Urry, James. '"Notes and Queries on Anthropology" and the Development of Field Methods in British Anthropology, 1870–1920.' Proceedings of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, (1972): 45–57.

24 November: Economic botany in the nineteenth century

  • Nau, Eugène. 'Flore indienne d’Haïti', in Émile Nau. Histoire des Caciques d’Haïti, Paris: Gustave Guérin et cie, Éditeurs, 1894).
  • Reyes, Michael. 'Caribbean ethnobotany before Roumain: Eugène Nau's nineteenth-century contribution to an understanding of the "Indian flora of Haiti"', Caribbean Quarterly 63(4) (2017), 467–483.


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.

3 November Phillip Hintikka Kieval
Dimensionality and the empirical justification of measurement standards in cognitive neuroscience
10 November Silvia Marchiori
The transmission and reception of Cornelius Celsus' De medicina from late antiquity to the early modern age
17 November Adria Segarra
The metaphysics of evidential support
24 November Leo Chu
How gardens became resilient: cities, knowledge and sustainability, 1970–2010


Postgraduate Seminars

The Postgraduate Seminars offer a sustained and systematic introduction to specific cutting-edge areas of research, led by leading experts in those areas.


Projects and Prospects

Weekly seminars, Tuesdays at 10am, Seminar Room 2

This series of hour-long seminars presents current research work and collaborative projects conducted by members of staff in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science. Several involve postdoctoral and postgraduate researchers. Each seminar includes a fifteen-minute summary of the research project followed by time for discussion with seminar members.

12 October
Anna Alexandrova: Definitions of social science and why they matter

I report on joint work with a sociologist Federico Brandmayr on the history and the contemporary life of the category 'social science'. We ask what becomes of the older tradition of thinking about social science as special and distinctive, in our age of interdisciplinarity.

19 October
Jacob Stegenga: The science of sexual desire

Sexual desire is the subject of numerous sciences. These sciences deploy a fantastic range of empirical methods and formulate numerous theories about its subject. However, critics – from constructivists to conservatives – claim that these sciences cannot teach us about the real nature of sexual desire. In my current research, I attempt to develop a philosophical lens through which we can respect the lessons of these critics, yet still learn from the sciences of sexual desire.

26 October
Rob Ralley & Philippa Carter: The Casebooks project

In the decades around 1600, the astrologers Simon Forman and Richard Napier produced one of the largest surviving sets of private medical records in history. The Casebooks Project transformed this paper archive into a digital archive. Along the way, we confronted challenges in medical history and digital humanities, and worked with numerous people, including animators, artists, and video game developers. We will talk about the challenges and opportunities of this kind of work.


2 November
Hasok Chang: Philosophy of active scientific knowledge

I aim to make a philosophy of science that can give a full and appropriate account of scientific practices. This involves understanding knowledge as an ability, and crafting pragmatist notions of truth and reality.

9 November
Marta Halina: Major Transitions in Cognitive Evolution

As we come to appreciate the wealth and diversity of intelligences, the challenge becomes how to make sense of this complexity. How can we comprehend it in a systematic way? We argue that one important piece of the puzzle involves treating the evolution of cognition as series of major transitions. Each transition involved a qualitative change in information flow within nervous systems. Each transition opened up new cognitive capacities, while transforming the power and scope of existing cognitive functions. Our project uses tools from computational and comparative neuroscience and philosophy. We explore transitions in terms of the capacities enabled by each transition, and the consequences of transitions for our understanding of different kinds of intelligence. Our outcome will be a framework within which to comprehend cognitive evolution. It will provide a common ground to relate intelligences of radically different types – animal, artificial, or otherwise.

16 November
Jim Secord and project members: Darwin's Networks of Correspondence

Like many engaged in the sciences in the nineteenth century, Charles Darwin depended a vast range of correspondents from across the world. A team of researchers has been editing and publishing all the letters to and from Darwin, over 15,000 in all. This session will explore these networks of correspondence and at what has been involved in making them publicly accessible.

Darwin Correspondence Project

23 November
Stephen John: Expertise – COVID and Climate

This project, undertaken jointly with colleagues in Hannover and Berlin, compares the role of scientific experts in debates over climate change and over COVID-19. The cases share important similarities – for example, in concerns over the 'politicisation' of expertise – but also disanalogies – for example, in terms of our understanding of relevant mechanisms. By comparing the cases, we hope to uncover the nature, value and communication of uncertain knowledge.

30 November
Staffan Müller-Wille: Diagrammatics of relatedness

I am engaged in interdisciplinary project dedicated to the bewildering variety of diagrams that have been used to conceptualize, determine, and produce kinship and affinity in the life sciences since the Late Medieval Period. Together, we analyse diagrams as visual techniques that transcend such binaries as 'thought and action' and 'image and text'. This includes the reconstruction of practices of collection, observation, experimentation, modelling, drafting, commenting, explaining with the help of diagrams, as well as investigating the politics of their production and use.

In the Shadow of the Tree: The Diagrammatics of Relatedness as Scientific, Scholarly and Popular Practice


Aims and Methods of Histories of the Sciences

Thu 12noon, weeks 1–4 (4 one-hour seminars) on Zoom
Nick Jardine (leader)

These seminars will consider aspects of the history, aims, methods and current problems of the history of science. The opening session will give an overview of the formation of history of science as a discipline and of the range of recent approaches. Subsequent sessions will discuss uses of histories of the sciences by scientists, the pioneering work of Hélène Metzger on the purposes of history of science, and the relations between history and philosophy of science.

7 October Nick Jardine
Formation and transformations of history of science
14 October Jeff Skopek and Nick Jardine
Scientists' uses of history
21 October Cristina Chimisso and Nick Jardine
Hélène Metzger on the methods and aims of history of science
28 October Hasok Chang and Nick Jardine
Philosophers' uses of history of science

Aims and Methods of Histories of the Sciences on Moodle


Communication in the Sciences

Thu 12noon, weeks 5–8 (4 one-hour seminars)
Jim Secord (leader)

All science is grounded in communication, but the literature in this field has not been as central to the history and philosophy of science as it should be. These seminars will examine a series of key topics in the sociology, philosophy and history of communication: scientific rhetoric and argumentation; genres and material forms; models of communication; audiences and reception; translation and cross-cultural communication. The seminars will be led and presented by Jim Secord, with occasional additional contributions from others. Each session will feature a 20-minute presentation from the organiser, with the rest of the session devoted to discussion and questions based on short readings.

Communication in the Sciences on Moodle


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 Arthur Harris.

We meet weekly, Fridays from 11am to 12noon, on Zoom. The first meeting will be Friday 8 October.


Greek Therapy

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. It's a very friendly and casual way to improve your Greek for new learners or to keep it active if you've already gone to the trouble to learn it! Students, if you're writing on Greek materials we're always very happy to go through research texts as a group. We meet on Wednesdays at 5.30pm during term time. Sessions will be on Zoom. For more information contact Liz Smith (els47).