Philadelphia Area Center for History of Science

Promoting Public and Academic Understanding of the
History of Science, Technology and Medicine

431 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia PA 19106

News of the Center
December 2012

Gilbert Chemistry Experiment Lab, No.12052
Collections of the Chemical Heritage Foundation
photo by Gregory Tobias

The Center and its consortium partners are delighted to welcome Drexel University as a new member. Drexel's addition to the consortium was expedited by its 2011 affiliation with the Academy of Natural Sciences, a founding member of the consortium. The University offers a master's degree in Science, Technology and Society and is home to about a dozen faculty working on the history of science, technology and medicine as well as related contemporary social and political issues. Several of Drexel's faculty have already been very active in the Center's activities. In addition to its own collections in science and technology education as well as the rich collections of the Academy in natural history and environmental sciences, Drexel brings to the consortium the collections of Drexel University College of Medicine and its predecessor institutions (the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania, the Medical College of Pennsylvania and Hahnemann University) which focus on the history of women in medicine. We look forward to our expanded partnership.


The Center invites applications for Research Fellowships and Dissertation Writing Fellowships for 2013-2014. Applications can be submitted at until January 7, 2013. Short-term Research Fellowships are for scholars who will use the collections of two or more members of the consortium. Year-long Dissertation Writing Fellowships are available to U.S. nationals and to students at U.S. institutions.

News of Current and Past Fellows

The Center welcomes its first postdoctoral fellow this year thanks to a generous grant from the Richard Lounsbery Foundation. Rebecca Onion recently completed her Ph.D. dissertation, How Science Became Child's Play: Science and the Culture of American Childhood, 1900-1980, in the American Studies Department at the University of Texas at Austin. Her project at the Center will be a history of the ways that environmental problems and risks were represented in children's culture in the 1970s. Onion was awarded the Nathan Reingold Prize at the 2012 meeting of the History of Science Society.

Andrew Berns (2009-2010 Research Fellow) is the Melville J. Kahn fellow this year at Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. Following his fellowship he will take up a position as Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University of South Carolina.

Susan Hanket Brandt (2011-2012 Research Fellow) is currently a fellow at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She has written several forthcoming pieces including an entry for The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Scientific, Medical and Technological History, part of a new twelve-volume Oxford Encyclopedia of American History, and a book review for The Historian.

Terry Christensen (2007-2008 Research Fellow) is currently working on a biography of the theoretical physicist John Archibald Wheeler.

Chris Heaney (2011-2012 Research Fellow) and Ben Breen (2011-2012 Research Fellow) are starting an online journal of archival and narrative history, The Appendix.

Christopher F. Jones (2008-2009 Research Fellow) is a Ciriacy-Wantrup Fellow at UC Berkeley. Two of his articles that draw heavily on materials in the collections of consortium institutions have recently been recognized—one winning the 2011 Joel A. Tarr Envirotech Prize for best article published in the previous eighteen months in the relationships between technology and environment in history, and one receiving an honorable mention for the 2012 Oxford Journals Article Prize for best article published in the journal Enterprise and Society in the previous year.

Kurt MacMillan (2011-2012 Dissertation Writing Fellow) has received a fellowship from the Leslie Center for the Humanities at Dartmouth College to participate in the 2013 Humanities Institute, "Towards a Global History of Sexual Science, 1880-1950."

Joanna Radin (2010-2011 Dissertation Writing Fellow) is Assistant Professor of History of Medicine and of History at Yale University. Publication news includes a forthcoming article in a special issue of Social Studies of Science for which she is a guest editor.


The joint meeting of the Canadian, UK and US societies of historians of science: opening reception at the Chemical Heritage Foundation (top) and the closing banquet at the University of Pennsylvania (bottom).

The British Society for the History of Science, the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science, and the History of Science Society held their 2012 joint meeting in Philadelphia in July. The meeting was hosted by the Center and its consortium partners the American Philosophical Society, the Chemical Heritage Foundation and the University of Pennsylvania. About 310 scholars from North America, Europe and East Asia attended three days of talks and enjoyed tours, receptions and local treats across the city. You can view online a plenary session on the state of the profession.

Eva Åhrén of the National Institutes of Health and Carin Berkowitz of the Chemical Heritage Foundation organized the conference Artifacts, Aesthetics and Authority, which was sponsored by the Center as part of its Conference Support Competition. Participants met at the American Philosophical Society on September 6-7 to discuss precirculated papers exploring authority, epistemology, and aesthetics in the history of anatomy in preparation for an edited volume.

Thirty scholars who are new to the area or to the field helped launch this academic year at our annual Introductory Symposium. Over the course of a day, these scholars from more than a dozen different institutions and fellowship programs in the region introduced themselves and their work. Their research topics ranged from 16th century alchemy to 20th century environmental history. It was a day of talks, food and drinks and an evening social hour, a chance to meet new colleagues and make new connections to start a new year.

As the presidential election approached, Jonathan Moreno and Audra Wolfe, discussed the changing relationships between scientists in the physical and life sciences and politicians of both political parties since WWII. They spoke at Science and the Election: Historical Perspectives at the Franklin Institute and took questions from an audience ranging from college students to retirees—some of whom had lived through the events Moreno and Wolfe discussed.

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University hosted a panel discussion cosponsored by the Center on Telling the Stories of Science. Ivan Amato, Faye Flam and Bruce Lewenstein described their experiences interpreting science to a wider audience. Faye Flam discussed her experiences moving from writing columns at the Philadelphia Inquirer to blogging at WHYY, where you can find her reflections. Bruce Lewenstein, who is professor of science communication at Cornell University, compared different views of imagination in books and film about science. Ivan Amato described his work editing magazines, writing books and hosting a science cafe for public and scientific audiences.

Gary Hatfield of UPenn and Miriam Solomon of Temple are convening a new working group at the Center on history and philosophy of science. A second new working group meeting at the Center is on the history of physical sciences. These two bring the total of working groups at the Center to six. Each group meets monthly at the Center and is organized by one or two local scholars.

  Collections Updates

The Reading Room of the American Philosophical Society Library
filled to capacity during the Three Society Meeting
photo by Charles Greifenstein

The Hagley Museum and Library has recently completed a major rehousing and cataloging of the images of the Sperry Corporation UNIVAC Division. Hagley has also acquired the William Pahlmann Papers, the Pennsylvania Saving Fund Society Howe and Lescaze Design Archive, the Herman Schroeder Papers, the Letterpress copybook of E.E. Hendrick 1899-1903 and the Hendrick Manufacturing company business records, 1861-1980, as well as the Rolf Dessauer Papers.

One of the ways that researchers can find material in collections of member institutions is through the Center's Consortium Special Collections Search Hub. The Search Hub has answered more than 82,000 queries in the last year, which is a 170% increase over the previous year. The Center's website as a whole has broken 200,000 pageviews a year, a 50% increase over the previous year.

  Looking Ahead

A talk (upstairs) and a break (downstairs) at the Cassatt House of the Library Company of Philadelphia during the 2012 Annual Introductory Symposium.

As this newsletter illustrates, the consortium's programs, our regional fellowships, our public and academic events, and our online resources are developing well. We have begun discussions with our friends and colleagues, both inside and outside the consortium, about how we might increase our partnerships. How might we run a national fellowship program? How can we share our events with consortium partners outside of Philadelphia? Can we expand our online resources to include more institutional partners? We are excited to see where these discussions might lead.

  Help Build The Center

The Center has made great strides in the last year. We have established a new postdoctoral fellowship program, held three conferences, awarded our fiftieth fellowship, relaunched our public events program and expanded our topical working groups.

Please consider supporting the Center by making a donation.

With best regards,

Babak Ashrafi, Executive Director
Philadelphia Area Center for History of Science
431 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106

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