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Departmental Seminars

Easter Term 2020: Virtual Conversations

During Easter Term we are holding a special series of virtual conversations on the relevance of the history and philosophy of science for the 21st century.

All events take place on Thursdays from 3.30pm to 5pm UK time (except for the one on 7 May, which starts at 4pm). They will all be held on Zoom.

Organised by Dániel Margócsy (dm753).

7 May at 4pm
Pandemic and Policy

The threats of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, and the effectiveness and harms of the social policies meant to mitigate these threats, rapidly became the most important scientific issues in many years. This session will analyse the pandemic and policy response from a variety of angles. Topics will include the nature and empirical basis for the relevant epidemiological models, the difficulties with exporting policies out of European contexts, and the challenges of democratic citizen science in a context of lay conspiratorial skepticism of science.

Speakers: Elizabeth Anderson (University of Michigan – Ann Arbor), Alexander Broadbent (University of Johannesburg), Eric Winsberg (University of South Florida)

Chair: Jacob Stegenga

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14 May
Histories of Medicine for the 21st Century

Historians of medicine study numerous periods and places, traditions of healing, and kinds of knowledge and practice. What does this rich and diverse field contribute towards analyzing, critiquing and shaping concerns about health, health care, and society in the 21st century? This panel brings together four scholars with widely differing areas of expertise to build connections across time, place and methods, and discuss what history of medicine has to offer for the 21st century.

Speakers: Lauren Kassell (University of Cambridge), Projit Bihari Mukharji (University of Pennsylvania), Ahmed Ragab (Harvard University), Dora Vargha (University of Exeter)

Chair: Dániel Margócsy

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21 May
Legacies of Early Modern Colonial Science

How was natural knowledge made in colonial encounters across the early modern period? How did natural knowledge contribute to the construction of racial and ethnic difference? And how did the process of colonization reconfigure the concept of knowledge? This panel examines how the 21st-century world continues to be shaped by the answers that early modern peoples provided to these questions.

Speakers: Maria Portuondo (Johns Hopkins University), Simon Schaffer (University of Cambridge), Suman Seth (Cornell University)

Chair: Dániel Margócsy

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28 May
Calculating Trust

Trust is a central category in the social history of science and philosophy of scientific practice. It is far from obvious that trust should be placed in the veracity and relevance of scientific claims in political decision processes, especially if one keeps in mind that scepticism and pluralism are sometimes highly valued by scientists themselves. This virtual conversation will question the epistemological, cultural and political settings that generate trust in knowledge claims, or else lead to its breakdown. Particular attention will be paid to disciplines that rely on statistical modelling, since these can be seen as trading in uncertainty and the calculability of trust.

Speakers: Stephanie Dick (University of Pennsylvania), Sabina Leonelli (University of Exeter), Staffan Müller-Wille (University of Cambridge), Ted Porter (UCLA)

Chair: Dániel Margócsy

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4 June
Central European Science in Perspective

The Central Europe of around 1900 saw the emergence of significant elements of modern physics, the environmental sciences and psychology. This seminar investigates the particular political, cultural and social geographies of this region and how these geographies have shaped and may still influence the trajectories of these scientific disciplines. What are the connections between Einstein's physics, late 19th-century understandings of madness and rationality, and the cultural politics of the German and Habsburg Empires?

Speakers: Holly Case (Brown University), Michael Gordin (Princeton University), Richard Staley (University of Cambridge)

Chair: Dániel Margócsy

11 June
Citizen Science

Recent decades have seen pleas and initiatives for public participation in science as a way of increasing the trustworthiness of knowledge production and making it more accountable. Three speakers examine central issues surrounding citizen science, democratisation and trust from the perspectives of sociology, epistemology and philosophy of science.

Speakers: Jennifer Gabrys (University of Cambridge), Axel Gelfert (TU Berlin), Inkeri Koskinen (Tampere University)

Chair: Tim Lewens

Watch the video