Spring 2022 Colloquium
This series is jointly hosted by the Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science (MCPS), the Program in History of Science and Technology, and the Program in the History of Medicine. Each semester we invite scholars from around the country and the world to present on scholarship in the history and philosophy of science, technology and medicine.
Lectures begin at 3:35pm in 125 Nicholson Hall on the East Bank of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus. As a reminder, masks are required indoors by University of Minnesota policy.
At this time, all events will be in-person unless otherwise stated. Some events may be subject to change. Please check back for updates or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
To learn more about MCPS sponsored lectures please visit their website.
Matt McGue, January 21, 3:35 pm
Psychology, University of Minnesota
Title: Far from the Tree? Evolving Perspectives on the Nature of Parent to Offspring Transmission.
Abstract: One of psychology’s defining issues has been to understand how children come to resemble their parents.
Throughout most of the 20th century, psychoanalytic, behaviorist and social learning traditions dominated within
psychology and parents were seen to be the primary socializers of the children they raised. This view was challenged by a series of behavioral genetic studies in the late 20th century, leading some of the more extreme behavioral geneticists to question whether parents had any effect in shaping their children’s psychology. The current century has seen a moderating of extreme positions and a more nuanced view of parent-offspring transmission. I will make use of findings from a series of long-term longitudinal family studies to discuss how genetic and genomic research designs have helped us understand the nature of parent-offspring resemblance. Illustrations will be drawn from four trait classes that show different patterns of parent-offspring resemblance: personality, academic abilities, mental health and social attitudes.
Erika Milam, January 28, 3:35 pm
Department of History, Princeton University
Title: "Philosopher Kings of the Rocky Mountains: Marmots, Time, and Animal Behavior."
Abstract: This talk explores the history of behavioral research on marmots at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in the mountains of Colorado. Started in 1962, this is one of several long-term studies of animal behavior that started in the decades after the Second World War that have become central to behavioral ecology as a discipline. Why did researchers decide to return to the same site year after year, and how have those reasons changed for subsequent generations of ecologists? How were affective connections to place—from danger to freedom—important in cementing ecologists’ commitments to field sites like RMBL? Charting the history of this project allows me to navigate the relations of activity and torpor, sociality and solitude, and station and university over the last sixty years, so as to understand the role of remote research stations as crucial places for the production of knowledge about the natural world in which we live.
Mariola Espinosa, February 11, 3:35 pm
History; Biomedical Ethics, University of Iowa
Title: Vital Connections: A Global Perspective on the History of Disease and Medicine in the Greater Caribbean.
Abstract: This talk discusses how the history of disease and medicine, which is usually studied in very localized geographical contexts, benefits from also being evaluated from a broader, more global, perspective. The Caribbean provides a perfect example to see how connections among islands and mainland ports—between their inhabitants, their economies, their environments, among others—are manifested in the history of epidemics and of medical knowledge. Studying the history of disease and medicine in this manner reveals the interconnections between the islands and the networks of medical knowledge to be multi-directional exchanges that at the same time transcend the boundaries of language and empires.
Christopher Kindell, February 18, 3:35 pm
Visiting Assistant Professor and Lecturer, History of Science, Technology and Medicine
Title: Brothel of the Pacific: Syphilis and the Urban Regulation of Laikini Wahine in Honolulu, 1855-1875.
Abstract: By 1860, Hawai‘i's Indigenous population had declined by 75 per cent when compared to its estimated pre-contact level. Legislators and physicians attributed this crisis to the seasonal migration of Hawaiian women engaged in sex work. After contracting syphilis from sailors in Honolulu, these women returned to their Native villages where they unwittingly spread the disease. Drawing on legislation, health reports, and newspapers, this presentation will underscore the urban-rural nature of Hawai‘i's syphilis epidemic by analyzing the 1860 Act to Mitigate the Evils and Diseases Arising from Prostitution. The law compelled alleged prostitutes to enlist on a government registry, undergo medical inspections, and submit to treatment if infected. Arresting depopulation, adherents argued, hinged on the government's ability to police Indigenous women within a conspicuous urban environment. In designing and enacting the Act to Mitigate, legislators and physicians characterized Honolulu as a syphilitic breeding ground that catalyzed Indigenous depopulation by sheltering transient carriers of this highly gendered disease.
Andrew Janiak, February 25, 3:35 pm
Philosophy, Duke University
Title: The Philosophical Aftermath of Newton’s Physics: The Case of Émilie Du Châtelet’s Foundations of Physics.
Abstract: Newton’s startling conclusion in Book III of the Principia that all bodies gravitate toward one another
defied easy interpretation. Whereas the editor of the Principia’s second edition, Roger Cotes, claimed that gravity is
a primary quality, Newton demurred, merely denying that he regarded gravity as essential to matter. In the aftermath
of this dispute, Du Châtelet argued in her Foundations of Physics (Paris, 1740) that the first task of philosophers is
to broach the very metaphysical questions concerning the essence of matter that Newton eschewed. Only such an
approach would enable them to understand the principal conclusion of the greatest discovery of the Scientific
Revolution, a revolution that was first proclaimed by Du Châtelet herself in 1738.
Joel Isaac, March 18, 3:35 pm
Social Thought, University of Chicago
Corinne Bloch-Mullins, March 25, 3:35 pm
Philosophy, Marquette University
Hyeok Hweon Kang, April 1, 3:35 pm
East Asian Languages and Cultures, Washington University – St Louis
Title: The Artisanal Heart: Craft and Experimentalism in Early Modern Korea.
Abstract: This talk recasts the history of early modern science from the perspective of artisans and practitioners in Chosŏn Korea (1392–1910). It argues that from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, craftspeople in the military factories of Seoul developed a hands-on, experimental approach to investigating the material world. Their experimentalism originated from the shopfloor—the artisanal practice of “prototyping.” But as it passed on from the army workshops to poetry associations and literati studios, it spread across society, prompting the rise of new practitioners who emphasized a bodily, experiential approach to knowledge. The talk reconstructs this Korean artisanal science and expands our understanding of experiment and empiricism in the early modern world.
Chris Hamlin, April 8, 3:35 pm
History of Forensic Medicine; Notre Dame, ret.
Jessica Ratcliff, April 15, 3:35 pm
Science and Technology Studies, Cornell University
Title: Natural Monopoly: Colonial Science, Orders of Access, and the East India Company in London, 1757-1858.
Abstract: This project investigates changing patterns of knowledge resource management at the British East India Company. It covers the years between the Company’s takeover of Bengal in 1757 and the abolition of the Company in 1858. At the beginning of the period, the Company generally depended upon individuals for the historical, linguistic, navigational, botanical, medical and other sciences upon which their operations depended. By the end of the period, the Company had taken over the direct management and production of many domains of colonial science. Along the way, the Company would become a key institution of science in London, establishing around 1800 a library, museum and two colleges in Britain. In this talk, I will first give an overview of the changing structure and geography of science under the Company. Out of this overview, the role that the East India Company played in shaping British science becomes clear, as does the debt that the organization of both modern states and modern sciences owe to the corporation as a form of governance. I will then consider the importance of this case for our understanding of the relationship between “state science” (or public science) and “corporate science” (or private science), and the fuzzy historical boundaries between these two orders of access.
Sarah Richardson, April 22, 3:35 pm
History of Science and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, Harvard University
Evelyn Brister, April 29, 3:35 pm
Philosophy, Rochester Institute of Technology
Title: Interdisciplinary Integration as “Coordinated and Unified Action.
Abstract: There is a fundamental paradox in interdisciplinary research: while aiming to tear down the epistemic and
linguistic barriers between disciplines it also leads to increasingly specialized knowledge. Scientific research and
training institutions are set up so that knowledge grows toward greater specialization. Often, what starts as
interdisciplinary research becomes a discipline in its own right. And yet, the downsides to scientific specialization
have long been recognized. Otto Neurath’s anti-reductionist approach to unified science illuminates contemporary
hurdles to interdisciplinarity—and, in particular, to research that draws on disparate fields, such as from natural and
social sciences. I argue that we should conceptualize interdisciplinary integration as aiming, in Neurath’s words, at
“coordinated and unified action” and that the predominant metric of interdisciplinary integration fails to show
whether this epistemic goal has been achieved.
Fall 2021 Colloquia
Stephen Casper, September 10, 3:35pm
Department of History, Clarkson University
A Dorothy Bernstein Lecture in the History of Psychiatry
Title: "Punch Drunk Slugnuts: Violence and the Vernacular History of Disease"
Abstract: Since hits to the head can cause dementia, why is our culture only now realizing it? This essay argues that the observation that neurological illnesses follow recurrent hits to the head was tempered by the very languages that first called the diseases into scientific existence: punch drunk, slug nutty, slap happy, goofy, punchie, and a host of other colloquialisms accompanying class identities. Thus the discovery of disease and its medicalization ran straight into a disbelief about losers - losers in boxing, losers in life, losers in general. To medicalize such individuals, was to fly in the face of a culture that made them jokes. Yet, a subculture began to emerge around pathological understandings, first in medicine, then in journalism, then in the courts, and then finally with patient accounts about illness. These new understandings never achieved canonical status in English-speaking cultures prior to the 2000s but they persisted and grew stronger throughout the post-war period.
Mikio Akagi, September 17, 3:35pm
Mikio Akagi, History and Philosophy of Science, Texas Christian University
Title: "Microaggressions in social explanation and individual phenomenology"
Jole Shackelford, September 24, 3:35pm
History of Medicine, University of Minnesota
Title: "Normal and Abnormal Rhythms in the Search for Biological Clocks: An Epistemological Gap Between Early Twentieth-Century Biology and Experimental Psychology."
Abstract: I will posit an epistemological gap between the research designs and interpretations of results of experimental psychologists and animal physiologists during the first half of the twentieth century, evident at least in the study of biological rhythms and the pursuit of biological clocks. That scientists working in different fields often operated within their own silos, as this is sometimes called, is not a particularly novel idea, but I will show that in the history of rhythms studies this has led to a mistaken priority claim in the search for “the biological clock” – one that led to a nomination for a Nobel Prize on historically dubious grounds. It remains to be seen whether this finding can be applied more broadly.
Andre Wakefield, October 8, 3:35pm
Department of History, Pitzer College
Title: Toxic Anachronism in the History of Science and Technology: The Case of Leibniz
Abstract: The history of science and technology has long been especially prone to Whiggish anachronism. You might say it’s built into the marrow of our discipline. While the complete elimination of anachronism from our histories may be a fool’s errand, certain forms of anachronism, instantiated in what I have elsewhere called “Disney History,” constitute a problem worth discussing. I will use the case of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and his experiments with mining machines in the Harz Mountains, to demonstrate what I mean.
Jacob Steere-Williams, October 15, 3:35pm
Department of History, College of Charleston
Title: Carbolic Colonialism: Race, Labor, and Plague in the British Empire
A Charles E. Culpeper Lecture in the History of Medicine and HSTM Alumni Lecture
Abstract: This talk examines the entanglements of colonial public health through the history of a singular chemical technology; carbolic acid. Derived from coal tar production in British and German industrial factories, carbolic acid exploded in use from the 1870s after Joseph Lister advocated for aseptic and antiseptic surgeries. By the early twentieth century, carbolic acid and other chemical disinfectants were domesticated as common household tools in the fight against germs. An unexplored history of carbolic acid, however, are the practices—gendered and racialized—whereby carbolic acid became the central and everyday weapon used by colonial public health officers and indigenous laborers in fighting outbreaks of infectious disease. This talk, using the rich archival material derived from anti-plague work in British India and South Africa around 1900, shows how carbolic acid and the practices of disinfection were key sites of scientific knowledge transfer, debate, and contestation, over colonial environments, bodies, and what bodies produce.
Benjamin Feintzig, October 22, 3:35pm
Department of Philosophy, University of Washington
Title: Why care about quantization?
Abstract: The modern mathematical theory of quantization provides methods for both constructing quantum theories from information about classical physical systems as well as analyzing the limit of small values of Planck's constant, which relates quantum theories to their classical predecessors. In this talk, I will suggest that quantization provides tools for contributing to long-standing issues in philosophy of science. First, I claim the tools of quantization can help clarify the extent to which one can formulate an intertheoretic reduction between classical and quantum mechanics. Second, I claim the tools of quantization can make precise the sense in which there is structural continuity between classical and quantum mechanics, as required by certain kinds of structural realism. Third, I claim that quantization highlights whether certain heuristics for theory construction could possibly be justified. My discussion will be programmatic, aiming to provide an introduction that avoids technical details, and I will conclude with a number of open questions.
Elizabeth Toon, October 29, 3:35pm
University of Manchester
Title: The Do-It-Herself Smear: Prevention Technology, Medical Practice, and Cervical Cancer Screening in 1960s Britain
Please note: this lecture will be held virtually via Zoom: https://umn.zoom.us/j/97588163771
Abstract: This talk is part of my larger project, 'Making Screening Work', on the history of cervical cancer screening in the United Kingdom. While national health authorities registered support for a regular programme of cervical cancer screening early in the 1960s, it took until the end of that decade for facilities, practitioners, and systems to be fully ready to take on the challenge of providing the service to the UK's women. Even so, policymakers and leading medical experts disagreed about the best approaches to delivering screening, and were particularly worried about reaching rural women and women thought less likely for cultural, social, or economic reasons to attend. One approach they trialed was what they called the 'do-it-herself smear', a form of self-sampling that -- theoretically, at least -- would allow women to participate in screening without visiting a GP or clinic. In this talk, I discuss why this approach initially seemed appealing, and why it failed in practice, asking what it can tell us about the technological, social, and political challenges associated with the introduction of screening. By focusing on historical discussions about the mundane realities of smear-taking, I show that we can better understand the larger challenges that instituting screening presented to medical organisation, and grasp how this new technology of prevention reshaped both the delivery of care and women's health experiences.
Elena Conis, November 5, 3:35pm
School of Journalism, UC-Berkeley
Title: Vaccination and its Historical Documents
Abstract: Hesitancy and resistance to vaccination is more common than not in U.S. history. This talk will explain how and why public attitudes toward vaccination have changed over time, with an emphasis on twentieth and twenty-first century trends. Many age-old vaccination objections—including those grounded in religious beliefs, secular values, political ideology, and distrust in powerful interest groups—have persisted for more than two hundred years. But the modern era of vaccination, which dawned in the 1950s, is unique for its emphasis on compulsory vaccination of children, the visibility of so-called anti-vaccine views, and the often-overlooked but historically unprecedented acceptance of mandatory vaccination of the youngest citizens. This talk will place trends in the modern era of vaccination in the context of issues related to the nuclear family, economy, health care, and federal politics. It will also discuss how shifting social values, environmental concerns, gender roles, the valuation of children, and the relationship between secular and religious values inform vaccination skepticism. Finally, it will consider how today’s vaccination discourse and behaviors both echo and depart from historical trends in vaccination resistance and acceptance.
This lecture will be held virtually via Zoom: https://umn.zoom.us/j/92335536120
Mackenzie Cooley, November 12, 3:35pm
Department of History, Hamilton College
Title: Making Razze: Knowing and Controlling Animal Generation, 1500-1600
Abstract: The Renaissance is celebrated for its belief that man could fashion himself to greatness. But there is a dark parallel to this fêted history. Those same men and women who were offering profound advancements in understanding the human condition, laying the foundations of the Scientific Revolution, were fascinated with controlling that condition and the wider natural world. This talk introduces The Perfection of Nature: Animals, Humans, and Race in the Renaissance (In Press, The University of Chicago Press), a book that traces how the Renaissance world – from the Mediterranean to Mexico City to the high mountains of the Andes – was marked by a lingering fascination with breeding. Just as one strand of the Renaissance celebrated a liberal view of human potential, another limited it by biology, reducing man to beast and prince to stud. Aristocrats, breeders, and intellectuals thought through generation as those around them endeavored to create improved animal bodies, traced here through the cases of Italian horses, Mesoamerican dogs, Andean camelids, and other creatures. As the idea of controlled breeding was brought to life again and again, a rich, complex, and ever-shifting language of race and breeding developed. The bureaucratic language of “razze,” employed to designate a selected population thought to embody fragile differences over a few short generations, slipped from animals, becoming more permanent and hierarchical when applied to humans living in European colonies in this chapter of the long and convoluted history of race.
Subrena Smith, November 19, 3:35pm
University of New Hampshire
Title: "What’s to be Gained from an Evolutionary Approach to Behavior?"
Abstract: To explain something is to illuminate it, to render the thing understandable, to make it clear. Human behavior is that domain that is constituted by the many different ways that human beings “move” themselves. I wish to understand such “movements.” But what kinds of explanations best illuminate them? One framework has it that for at least some of our behaviors, an evolutionary grounding is best. I’ll attempt in this talk to specify what is at stake in the evolutionary approach, and therefore what is supposed to be gained by taking the evolutionary stance.
Ashley Inglehart, December 3, 3:35 pm
College of Medicine, Florida State University
Title: "Genesis, Creation, and Generation in Robert Boyle's Natural Philosophy"
Abstract: This paper examines the problem of generation -how plants, animals, and minerals come into existence- as considered by eminent English Aristocrat, Robert Boyle. Boyle, most noted today for work in pneumatics, addresses the problem in more than twenty treatises spanning roughly forty years. His understanding of the forces of generation, moreover, would remain closely tied to his ideas about God and the biblical account of Creation throughout his life.
I show how Robert Boyle took up the imagery of seminal principles for religious purposes and made them cohere with his larger mechanical and experimental project. I likewise expand upon the influence that Boyle’s Theological Voluntarism had upon his epistemology and methodological approach to experiment. In doing so, Boyle would contribute to a larger project of rejecting Aristotelian essentialism in favor of a modern approach to science. Both his approach and ideas about the forces of generation would go on to have tremendous influence in medicine, philosophy, and the birth of science itself.