Flashtalks

Flashtalks II

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Session Abstract

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.

Presenter 1

Medical Devices and Social Networks: Two Nordic Examples, 1870 - 1900

Kristin M. Halverson

Södertörn Univesity, School of Historical and Contemporary Studies, Baltic and East European Graduate School

Abstract

A few instrument makers in Sweden and Denmark were in active dialogue with physicians over instruments in the nineteenth century. Research outside of these countries has lifted the importance of social networks in the proliferation of medical devices; however, there have been few studies than have looked at specific cases, and even fewer that study the Swedish and Danish contexts. This talk aims to analyse two cases that highlight the social strategies of instrument makers in manoeuvring nineteenth century medicine. The first will examine the discussions of a hernia truss by Danish instrument maker Camillus Nyrop. The second case studies an operating table made by Swedish instrument maker Max Stille. Both these cases illustrate the social function of introducing new innovations and the importance of social networks in the proliferation of medical devices in nineteenth century Nordic medicine.

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Presenter 2

Smuggling the Sacred as Specimen: Objects, Instruments and the "Scientifically Valuable" in the Peruvian Expedition of Hiram Bingham

Charlotte M. Williams

University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

In 1911, Yale University Professor Hiram Bingham conducted an expedition to Peru, making his “discovery” of Machu Picchu salient to Western audiences. Though originally blocked from exporting his collected material through strict Peruvian laws, Bingham later thwarted antiquities authorities by labeling material in his collection as specimens. Using correspondence between Hiram Bingham and Peruvian President Guillermo Billinghurst in the Yale Peruvian Expedition Archives, I reveal how the terms of what was considered to be “officially scientific” were forged within the 20th century Peruvian context as bound to the specifics of the expedition. I argue that partnering material such as ceramics and human remains with instruments, measurements, and metadata paved the way for archaeological “disciplinary conquest” in Peru that intentionally sidelined indigenous claims.

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Presenter 3

Technical Assistance and Scientific Diplomacy between Mexico and Japan: The Arrival of Plant Tissue Culture to Mexico

Daniela Santamaria Jimenez

National Autonomous University of Mexico

Abstract

Technical assistance programs have been used as political instruments since the end of World War II. They play a role as surveillance, economic and/or propagandistic tools, and at the same time they promise progress and peace through science and technology. Japan went from receiving technical assistance after WWII, to granting it to other countries once the country's economy took off in the late 1960s. In 1971 Japanese scientists helped create the first Plant Tissue Culture laboratory in Mexico, at the Graduate Agronomic School in Chapingo, and 15 years later both countries signed a technical cooperation agreement. This case study will highlight the relevance of scientific networks during the late twentieth century history of science which do not involve the two super powers. A historiographical point is made about the role of diplomatic "diversity" - besides multilateralism -in a world shaped by Cold War polarization.

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Presenter 4

An Ottoman Materialist: Subhi Edhem

Batuhan Akgündüz

Ankara University

Abstract

It is seen that Subhi Edhem, an Ottoman materialist, adopted the views of Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck (1744-1829). The reason for this point of view will be sought in relation to the effectiveness of traditional anthropocentric apprehension in the Ottomans.

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Presenter 5

Before "C.S." Was "Computer Science": Linguistics, Cybernetics, and the "Communication Sciences" at the University of Michigan

Tasha Schoenstein

Harvard University

Abstract

While computer science has come to be one of the ultimate “technical” fields, before its disciplinary identity had formed or stabilized, it had deep connections with both social science and cybernetics as a field called the “communication sciences,” a discipline that operated on the boundaries between linguistics, cybernetics, and computing. The early history of one such program at the University of Michigan, which gradually became a more typical “computer science” program over the course of the 1960s, suggests an alternate story of what “C.S.” might have been. The story of this program reveals how early computer-related research was organized and oriented differently within the university and thus helps reveal additional contingencies in the development and growth of “computer science.” Moreover, this story helps draw new connections between the history of cybernetics and the history of computer science through the study of language rather than the construction of technologies.

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Presenter 6

The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant: Imaginaries of Fear and Reason of State

Benedict Salazar Olgado

University of California, Irvine & University of the Philippines

Abstract

The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) has never generated a single kilowatt of energy, but the histories of its rise, fall, and revival efforts traces the co-constitutive relationship between nuclear power and political power. By juxtaposing the political activities surrounding BNPP during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in the late 20th century with that of the current authoritarian regime of Rodrigo Duterte, I present narratives of the unfulfilled promise and cost of power brought about by the nuclear and its imaginaries of fear, and argue that the BNPP is a Sisyphean endeavor of a violent state driven by the shifting geopolitical ties of the Philippines, then with the United States and subsequently Russia. I attempt to append this nuclear history to Warwick Anderson’s survey of the history of science in the Philippines. It is a form of authoritarian science sustained by invisibilized violence of regimes and empires with the nuclear becoming 'a reason of authoritarian state.'

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Presenter 7

Paleontology and Imagined Geography in Russia

Reese Fulgenzi

University of Chicago

Abstract

Spanning from the Urals in the West to the Pacific in the East, Siberia embodies the promise of nature for Russia. The enigmatic relationship between European Russia and Siberia as a location of productive resources has been characterized as ‘internal colonization.' Replete with forests, coal, petroleum, natural gas, and gold, Siberia has been a site of resource extraction for European powers for centuries. In the 19th and 20th centuries, however, paleontological resources become a significant Siberian cultural and material export. Fossils, I contend, contributed significantly to the European perception and imagination of Siberia. In this talk I address the place of paleontology in conceptualizing Siberia in Late Imperial Russia and the early Soviet Union.

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Presenter 8

Crisis Communications, Scientific Institutions, and Public Trust: The 1979 Accident at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant

Hannah Elaine Pell

Independent Scholar

Abstract

In this flash talk, I introduce several ways in which Metropolitan Edison's (Met-Ed) mismanagement of communications and information flow during the 1979 partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear power plant significantly and unnecessarily exacerbated local residents' fear and mistrust in nuclear power -- feelings which are still felt and expressed by some today. I argue that examining Met-Ed's communication network (or lack thereof) during and after the crisis at TMI offers many useful lessons about crisis communications, especially regarding the relationship between scientific institutions and the local community. This talk is based on an upcoming publication for Physics Today.

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Presenter 9

"Shadow Boxing": The Postwar Fall of Vannevar Bush

Johnny Miri

Independent Scholar

Abstract

During World War II, Vannevar Bush led a remarkable federal agency of almost 6,000 American scientists across 300 universities to invent the fission bomb, develop radar, and forge a technological superpower out of wartime America. Once the unchallenged confidant of FDR, Bush suddenly and completely disappeared from government service shortly after the war's conclusion. Drawing on government documents and Bush's unpublished writings, this flashtalk will discuss factors that led to Bush’s fall from power, as well as how such a fall affected postwar control of scientific administration.

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