HSS 2011

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History of Science Society Joint conference with SHOT and SSSS.

November, 2011

Sessions

Linking the past and the present:

Piers Hale, U OK
Reflecting on the context in which we teach the history of science. Most students are science and engineering majors. They provide diff challenges than students from other fields. Respect from science and engineering faculty. NSF funding for betterment of STEM education may be served by history integration. E.g., see NSF 10-544 Program Solicitation.
Study abroad is an opportunity to address student expectations and foster collaboration between instructors. Experience in the field, at least in this case in Ecuador, led instructor to steer away from the pre-planned syllabus. There were social issues like the relationship between locals and a site of oil extraction at Tiputini. Unpredicted local issues in science and society arose, for example the story of Lonesome George, the Galapagos sea turtle who supposedly has no mate, whose true story may be hidden by those who don't want to lose the sense that local fauna are so endangered that they need intense financial support.
Zoology at U Oklahoma requires history of science course. Faculty debating whether the longstanding requirement should stand. Pre-med and recently engineering have added a requirement.
Benefits of history of science:Questions that vex polity are not completely new, conditions can be identified, mistakes can be identified, there are multiple ways to frame inquiries.
Used pre and post evaluations.
Shawn
Respect from faculty expressed in curriculum integration? History of science abroad—Primary or secondary?
Mark Borrello, U Minnesota, ex Michigan State
Taught history of science in Tropical Biodiversity and Conservation in Panama. Learned about genealogy of scientists in situ. Modified ecology's pedagogical method of generating inquiries based on individual field experience—e.g. what do students think scientists from earlier times were thinking at this site?
The historian helps provide the conceptual framework and story to a scientific inquiry in class. E.g., what is an individual, what is speciation, these are concepts for labs in biology courses that are historically relevant and significant.
James Elwick, York U, CA
Elwick makes a case for lab work in the class, even the 80-student lecture hall. Students should be exposed to novel work with tools, not just redundant, reenacting work. Taught this course three times. Made a lab, students design/make/test timekeeping devices in teams and judged each other. Imitations were encouraged, as long as citations were kept. A second trial occurred more than a month after the first. "High source, Stillman Drake's work figuring out how Galileo kept time; low source, TV show." "The class looked like a science fair, timekeeping devices spread out around the lecture hall." "Students discovered how common good ideas were, but how hard they were to implement." Elwick learned how hard it was to negotiate his rules with wily students. Some students just wanted lectures, essays, exams, no lab work. Elwick stopped teaching about creativity and innovation, and too-large classes, so stopped doing device lab work in class. He also thought he was teaching more about engineering than science.
One member of the audience suggested SCALE UP and NCSU as a way to work with large enrollment courses.
David Sepkoski, UNC Wilmington
Ways historians of science could integrate history ed into science curriculum, undergrads or grads.
One way, offering courses in foundational literature in particular fields. Science students, even scientists, haven't read classic papers in their disciplines.
  • Reading classic papers:
    • Students give an interested response.
    • Gives a new view of contemporary work.
    • Just one way to integrate with science instruction.
Institutional limitation:If it's coming from a history department, there may be much resistance from the science department.
Science students attended Sepkoski's history courses and stated they'd prefer a place where there were less non-science students. Sepkoski recently started a seminar where they assembled private readings since there was no course for science majors in the history of science.
Older ideas get sanitized by presentation in newer textbooks/lectures, original contexts are forgotten, students aren't presented with challenges original thinkers faced. It's even true that new ideas can come from reading old texts.
Sepkoski says that ideally this kind of course should be team-taught.
Sepkoski questions whether some disciplines could be served by reading classic papers, e.g. physics.
Shawn
Perhaps an impediment to physics students signing up for history isn't always that that physics education doesn't feel it needs history, but that the society of historians doesn't always seem quite welcoming/open to physics students who want to do more history but not commit 100% to history at the expense of their study of physics.
Shawn
Are there readings/studies I can read to learn about efforts to integrate history into STEM ed?
Possible studies:Can/need we rewrite classic papers for pre-college readers? Can we make texts, modules, study units?

Scientific Periodicals in Great Britain, 1785-1914

Iain Watts, Princeton U
We can see how, despite snobbery, people in late Georgian England turned to new journals for consumption of scientific publishing, when there were so many limits and rules involved in publishing through the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, which by that time was printed only twice a year, papers (exclusively) vetted up to a year before.
Cameron Murray, York U
Journalism historians have overlooked Egerton Smith's Kaleidoscope and Mercury of Liverpool, England as a filling new, semi-political niche for technical and human ecological knowledge in this important port city
Geoff Belknap, U of Cambridge
The differing utilities of photographs and rapidly developing print technology in Nature and Knowledge in the late 19th century show the differing editorial intents and circumstances of the two journals. E.g., Knowledge uses photographs for description, while Nature uses them as authoritative data.
Melinda Baldwin, York U
Ernest Rutherford uses letters to the editor in the 1900s to avoid the scoop that embarrassed him in his earlier work on roentgen rays, as well as for other reasons. Baldwin contrasts the resulting internationalism with the lack thereof in the arguably internationalist field of Mendelian genetics.

Victorian Networks

Laura Snyder, St. John's U
Whewell, Herschell, and two others of the Cambridge Four, the Philosophical Breakfast Club.
Joan Richards
Young members of the nascent Royal Astronomical Society collectively bullied a narrative, in individual ways, attempting to canonize benefactor Francis Baily and demonize James South. In history, they only succeeded in the latter. The wives, sisters, and adult daughters helped in the background, and considering them helps us realize the story better than previous historiographies.
Amy King, Prof. of English, St. John's U
Seashore Natural History Networks of the 1850s. George Eliot wrote Adam Bede at the same time as her partner, George Lewes was living at and writing a natural history about the seashore.
Bernard Lightman, York U
Lightman hopes to show how labs became so important to the proto-X-Club, the Queenwood-Marburg Network—John Tyndall, Hirst, and Edward Frankland, artisans who became physical scientists. Queenwood was all about applied or 'practical' science. Tyndall and Frankland taught all sorts of industrially useful sciences. Lightman says Tyndall's pedagogical lab work at Quuenwood not only led to his famous pedagogical work, but also served to cleave him to experimental science.
Lightman politely concludes letting us know what he has accomplished and what still needs to be done to explain how german sites inspired british laboratory science of the late Victorian era.

Bringing Science to the Public

Mark Largent, Jane Maienschein, Edward Larson, and Naomi Oreskes
discussed how historians of science can make themselves useful to the public by reaching out to policymakers, school boards, stop making self-fulfilling prophecies that nobody will listen to them. By limiting what we consider authorship, for purposes of tenure and so on, narrows our output.

History project in K-12

Birchwood student Kavya R. prepared a website on the Copernican debate for National History Day. Her teacher was Connie Miller.

Owen Gingererich was the first professor to receive a question via email from Kavya. He immediately asked her to come up with questions about the topic and her own answer to those questions, along with a list of already-read sources, so that he knew what level she was at.

Once Robert Westman heard from Kavya, he determined that she wasn't a spammer, then he was excited by the novelty of hearing from a K-12 student.

Moderator John Lynch asked what historians of science can contribute to the efforts of K12 teachers and students. I would like to answer that historians should offer workshops at teacher conferences.

See National History Day web site:http://www.nhd.org/

An audience member prepared a module, funded by NSF and published by Kendall-Hunt, that hasn't shown obvious impact on K12 education.

How Physicists Learned to Love Abstration, from Helmoltz and Poincaré to Robb, Planck, and Einstein

Tom Archibald, Simon Fraser U
Poincaré innovated and transformed mathematical methods to serve celestial mechanics. His Hamilton-Jacobi methods drew on much older work by Jacobi from general mechanics—Archibald calls this "slow uptake"—Did he mean it took a long time for Jacobi's work to have an impact, or Poincaré is special, like Einstein and Dirac, in selecting ancient work to re-weave into innovation? Archibald says the work was so difficult it took this much time for it to be completed to a level of satisfaction.
Poincaré made many errors and speculations, innovating so fast, working backwards and forwards between deduction and working towards expected responses.

Late 20th Century Scientific Publics

Matt Wisnioski says this session was created at a Feb meeting at Princeton where people decided to study "groovy science."

Patrick McCray, UCSB
Bob Guccione published a lush magazine OMNI so optimistic as to counter anti-science publications of the 60s and 70s. We might think of it as a "para-scientific" publication, for the public. OMNI both popularized existing science, and published science that would already be popular, thus shaping interest and reflecting interest.
Readers seemed anti-regulation, but pro-government-spending, evidenced by readings and letters to the editor. Science articles were optimistic, while science fiction articles were black.
McCray posits OMNI builds a bridge between the Whole Earth Catalog era studied by Turner, and the WIRED era. OMNI was an origin for techno libertarianism and liberalism.