The Flashtalks initiative was begun by Janet Browne (then President of the HSS) in 2017, who partnered with John Krige, then president of SHOT. She and John co-chaired the session at the annual HSS meeting in Toronto and John invited Janet to co-chair the session at SHOT in 2018. The original concept was to provide one full session for graduate students to present a five-minute talk on their thesis project followed by a five-minute question period. (If anyone goes over their 5 minute presentation time they lost the time from their 5 minute question period.). Graduate students were invited to submit proposals on their topic and these proposals were evaluated by Janet and John. The meeting program chairs were not involved in the selection process but were asked to find a morning slot for the session. The Executive Office managed the announcement inviting proposals and was responsible for collecting them for the presidents. The fourteen best were selected to be presented at the Flashtalks session. It was thought that having the presidents co-host the session would add lustre to the Flashtalks and indicate how important graduate student participation was for the annual meeting. This session generated a lot of interest and encouraged graduate students to participate in the HSS meeting. They were permitted to also present a paper in a session if it was accepted.
Not Quite Filling in the Blanks: Reinterpreting Geography in French West Africa 1840-1870
European colonial geographers depended upon local brokers to lead them as they mapped colonized areas, in the process relying on indigenous landscapes to undergird their own explorations in the field. Through a close reading of the geographic reports of Louis Faidherbe, the French governor of Senegal in the mid-1800s, and those of his contemporary Abbé David Boilat, a métis priest, I aim to create a flexible, nuanced understanding of how local, colonized places in French West Africa came to be portrayed in regional geographies. By creating a map or a description, I argue that the colonial geographer did not preserve a certain place “as an immutable and combinable mobile,” but instead translated conflicting landscapes—the geographer’s and the local community’s—into an ongoing and power-laden discourse of colonization and extraction.
Eugenics and the Pseudoscience Demarcation
Wayne State University
Eugenics, once considered a respected science of human genetics and its applications, has since been dismissed as a pseudoscientific movement tainted by various ideological views. But when did this change occur, and for what reasons? Historians have shown that the demise of eugenics in the United States occurred decades after the synthetic theory of evolution and the downfall of Nazi Germany, instead attributing it to sociopolitical changes. I argue that, much like how the relevant scientific community accepts certain theories or research programs, they also reject those, such as eugenics, that become pseudoscientific. Rather than refutations from new scientific theories, or from political and cultural changes, what made eugenics pseudoscience was that the scientific community agreed to make it so.
"A Paradoxical Ode": James Clerk Maxwell’s Poetry and Physical Science, 1844-1878
University of Notre Dame
In his Preface to The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1890), W. D. Niven writes that Maxwell found his “true calling” in Science, considering his “poetical efforts” as a “mere pastime.” It is not surprising, based on Niven’s account, that Maxwell’s poetical efforts along with his countless poems remain underexamined by historians of science and literary critics alike. Drawing from Maxwell’s theories of scientific metaphor and analogy, this paper will consider his poetry as another mode of scientific expression, a medium whereby the relations of physical science could be discovered, measured, and evaluated.
The Conscious and the Automatic
Lily Xiaolei Huang
University of Chicago
This flash-talk offers a brief episode in the history of attention, examining the origin of a theory of conscious automatism in the philosophy of Henri Bergson. Bergson, otherwise famous for a philosophy of free will, developed a psychology in which a person's attention to the present was its own form of automatism. With archival evidence, I show how Bergson's conception of the mechanics of this theory can be traced to his reading and note-taking practices.
Fundamental Foundations of Practical Applications: Henry Armsby and Early 20th Century Agricultural Science
University of Notre Dame
When agricultural science is viewed as consisting solely of agricultural researchers wishing to solve specific practical problems or develop more efficient techniques, historians and scientists fail to recognize the goals of many agricultural scientists. This presentation will look to the early 20th century to provide an example of one agricultural scientist, Henry Prentiss Armsby, who was motivated by the pursuit of scientific investigation which focused more on the uncovering of fundamental laws than on practical application. Armsby recognized the necessity of applying scientific investigation to solve societal problems, but he believed that effective practical application could only be fully realized when scientists pursued fundamental research. This presentation aims to use Armsby's distinction to provide a framework for viewing the fundamental foundations of practical investigations in early 20th century agricultural science.
Principles of Equivalence: The Significance of Arno Peters for the History of Knowledge
The German historian Arno Peters (1916-2002) is most known for the world map projection he devised as an alternative to the Mercator world map projection. Inspired by the African-American William Pickens, Peters postulated the condition of a universal view of time and space or what he called his “principles of equivalence”: for a truly scientific view of the world no area or period should be overvalued at the expense of another. Furthermore, it was impossible for him to compose history in a narrative form. Peters’ idiosyncratic work bears significance for the history of science in two ways. First, he had a sharp eye for the implicit Western biases in the history writing of his day and was among the first who confronted this problem in its theoretical and practical implications. Second, Peters problematizes the discursive nature of knowledge production. In both cases, Peters inspires the current transformation from the history of science proper into a broader history of knowledge.
Indian, Authentic and Obsolete? Late Nineteenth-Century Sanskrit Equinoctial Sundials
University of Cambridge
A group of hitherto unstudied equinoctial sundials were made in Jaipur in the late nineteenth century. To British colonialists and visitors they seemed to show how an archaic timekeeping tradition stemming from obsolete astronomy still relied on sundials copied from earlier European devices, but really their makers always intended them for other uses (either as pedagogical tools or as souvenirs for Western tourists). I explore how historians sometimes assign value to an object according to orientalist-derived preconceptions of what we think its use ought to be, and suggest how the study of obscure and seemingly obsolete instruments can help us question notions of authenticity and modernity in colonial-era sciences.
Revolution and Influenza in the Air: The 1918 Flu Pandemic’s Role in the March 1st Movement in Japanese-Occupied Korea
Danyale Celise Kellogg
Texas A&M University
As the 1918 Spanish Flu emerged from US Army camps and ripped through the battlefields of Europe, leaving tens of millions dead in its wake, so too did it leave an equally gruesome trail of devastation in Japanese-occupied Korea. As millions in Korea became infected, the Japanese imposed strict quarantines and even more restrictions on daily life, further stoking brewing Korean resistance and anti-Japanese sentiments. This flash talk will explore the societal and political impacts of the 1918 flu in Korea leading into the March 1st Movement of 1919.
Intellectual and Moral Virtues of the Japanese Bacteriological Warfare Program
Abigail L. Holmes
University of Notre Dame
During World War II, the Japanese government funded research into bacteriological warfare (BW) using prisoners as research subjects. This research is often dismissed by bioethicists and historians as not only unethical, but as 'sloppy research' and 'bad science.' The underlying assumption is that moral and intellectual virtue is unified. Instead of exploring this philosophically, I will do so via a historical study of the BW program. I will analyze the Japanese BW research as a communal practice, and in particular a scientific practice, using the method described by Daniel Hicks and Thomas Stapleford in “The Virtues of Scientific Practice: MacIntyre, Virtue Ethics, and the Historiography of Science.”