HSTM Events

Spring 2023 Colloquium - Alma Steingart

Department of History, Columbia University

Title: On Mathematical Measurement and Representative Politics: Rethinking the 1960s Apportionment Revolution

One person, one vote image

Abstract: The Supreme Court’s 1962 decision in Baker v. Carr sparked renewed interest in the mathematics of electoral politics in the United States. In the three months following the Court’s ruling that malapportionment cases were justiciable, challenges to the existing apportionment plan were brought up in 22 states. Initially, however, there was no clearly articulated standard by which malapportionment should be measured. As then New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller retorted when pressed on why New York has not revised its apportionment plan, “But what would be your basis for apportionment? Have you got a formula?” In search of a solution, political scientists, mathematicians, and early computer enthusiasts began asking whether mathematical analysis could be used to achieve fair representation. In this talk, I survey some of the early 1960s attempts to bring mathematical and computational techniques to the study of political representation. I demonstrate how conflicting ideas about how to measure fairness came to influence electoral politics in the Unites States and how claims to mathematical exactitude served to further obscure political questions. 

Automation by Design: Politics, Culture, and Landscape in an Age of Machines That Learn

Automation by Design is a global, interdisciplinary, virtual CBI symposium on the politics and culture of digital automation and will be held as a 1.5-day virtual symposium Friday through Saturday, February 17 & 18, 2023. This symposium will explore how automation—from its algorithmic and architectural design to its structuring, materiality, maintenance, and use—has developed jointly with social politics. 

Learn more and register on the conference homepage

Register

 

Automation by Design: Politics, Culture, and Landscape in an Age of Machines That Learn

Automation by Design is a global, interdisciplinary, virtual CBI symposium on the politics and culture of digital automation and will be held as a 1.5-day virtual symposium Friday through Saturday, February 17 & 18, 2023. This symposium will explore how automation—from its algorithmic and architectural design to its structuring, materiality, maintenance, and use—has developed jointly with social politics. 

Learn more and register on the conference homepage

Register

 

Spring 2023 Colloquium - Erik Heinrichs

History, Winona State University

Title and abstract: TBD

Spring 2023 Colloquium - Elena Aronova

History, University of California Santa Barbara

Title: Collaboration Across and Beyond “Two Cultures”

Abstract:

There is a growing recognition today that the image of the sciences and the humanities as two separate “cultures”, famously described by C.P. Snow in his Rede lecture in 1959, is no longer tenable. Movements within the historical profession, such as “big history,” “deep history”, and bio-history, are trying to articulate modes of constructive engagement between historians and natural scientists. Within natural sciences, there has been a similar pattern in the relatively recent past that involves the increasing blurring of boundaries between the natural and the social/human sciences. The trend is posited as distinctly twenty-first century phenomenon. Against this backdrop, I argue that throughout the twentieth century, when the specialization has driven the
sciences and the humanities father apart, there have been notable examples of collaborations between natural scientists and historians, that were diverse, complex, and, at times, surprisingly productive. In the paper, I consider 3 examples of collaboration across and beyond “two cultures”. The first example considers the case of the International Center of Synthesis in Paris, which promoted and institutionalized interdisciplinary and international collaboration as an end-goal of this institution operating between 1925 and 1939. The second example considers the entanglements between the emergence of Big Science and the project of “Big History” – a large-scale collaborative project of writing a “universal history for the twentieth century,” launched by UNESCO in the 1950s. In the third example, I will consider an effort to carve a space for history within a Big Science project in geophysics, the International Geophysical Year (IGY) and its successor, the World Data Center system. These different programs were designed to straddle across the two cultures. Some of these efforts were more successful, other less so, but this, I would suggest, is in itself a phenomenon worthy of note: that throughout the twentieth century, natural scientists have increasingly recognized that that many scientific questions are composites of the natural and the social, and that many of the problems they address – in physics, in evolutionary biology or in environmental data collection – are hybrid problems, involving interrelationship of the social and natural worlds.

Spring 2023 Colloquium - Graham Mooney

History of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University

Title and abstract: TBD

Spring 2023 Colloquium - Nathan Crowe

Department of History, University of North Carolina - Wilmington

Cover image of the book Forgotten Clones

Title: “Forgotten Clones: The Birth of Cloning and the Biological Revolution”

Abstract: Long before scientists at the Roslin Institute in Scotland cloned Dolly the sheep in 1996, American embryologist and aspiring cancer researcher Robert Briggs and his team developed the technique of nuclear transplantation using frogs in 1952. Although the history of cloning is often associated with contemporary ethical controversies, Forgotten Clones revisits the influential work of scientists like Briggs, Thomas King, Marie DiBerardino, John Gurdon, and University of Minnesota’s own Robert McKinnell before the possibility of human cloning and its ethical implications first registered as a concern in public consciousness. By focusing instead on new laboratory techniques and practices and their place in Anglo-American science and society in the mid-twentieth century, I demonstrate how embryos constructed in the lab were only later reconstructed as ethical problems in the 1960s and 1970s with the emergence of what was then referred to as the Biological Revolution. My work illuminates the importance of the early history of cloning for the biosciences and their institutional, disciplinary, and intellectual contexts, as well as providing new insights into the changing cultural perceptions of the biological sciences after the Second World War.

Spring 2023 Colloquium - Stephen Snobelen

History of Science and Technology, University of King's College, Halifax

Title and abstract: TBD