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

431 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia PA 19106

News of the Center
June 2012

Edgar Fahs Smith Collection, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Pennsylvania

Greetings from the Philadelphia Area Center for History of Science. This academic year, the Center's fifth year of operation, is winding down. We look forward to a busy summer with the Three Society Meeting in July, planning events for next year and then welcoming our 50th dissertation fellow next year.

  2012-2013 Fellows

We will welcome eleven new dissertation research fellows and two writing fellows to the Philadelphia area over the next year. I'm happy to report that we received a total of 42 applications this year, the most to date. Dissertation research conducted by the Center's fellows in the collections of consortium institutions in the coming year will range over a variety of topics, listed below.

For the first time, through a generous grant from The Richard Lounsbery Foundation, we will also have a postdoctoral fellow at the Center. Our readers are now working their way through a very strong pool of applications for this two-year position.

The incoming class is listed below along with their respective research topics. Click through for more information on each fellow's project.

Dissertation Writing Fellows
Jeffrey Brideau Jeffrey Brideau
University of Maryland
A Bond Rather than a Barrier: Constructing the St. Lawrence Seaway, An Environmental History
Ann Robinson Ann Robinson
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Creating a Symbol of Science: The Standard Periodic Table of the Elements
Dissertation Research Fellows
Jeremy Blatter Jeremy Blatter
Harvard University
The Psychotechnics of Everyday Life: Hugo Münsterberg and the Politics of Applied Psychology, 1892-1920
Catherine Bonier Catherine Bonier
University of Pennsylvania
Benjamin H. Latrobe's Philadelphia Waterworks: Instrument and Emblem of Democratic Equilibrium
Tisha Hooks Tisha Hooks
Yale University
Duct Tape and the U.S. Social Imagination
Laura Igoe Laura Igoe
Tyler School of Art, Temple University
The Opulent City and the Sylvan State: Art and Environmental Embodiment in Early National Philadelphia
Lijing Jiang Lijing Jiang
Arizona State University
Degeneration in Miniature: Cell Death and Aging Research in the Twentieth Century
Katrina Jirik Katrina Jirik
University of Minnesota
American Institutions for the Feeble-minded from 1875 to 1920: a reinterpretation
Emily Merchant Emily Merchant
University of Michigan
Prediction and Control: Global Population Projection in the Twentieth Century
Douglas O’Reagan Douglas O’Reagan
University of California, Berkeley
Seizing Science and Technology: American, British, and French Efforts to Take German Technology During and Following the Second World War
Aimee Slaughter Aimee Slaughter
University of Minnesota
Radium Therapy in America, 1898-1939
Simon Thode Simon Thode
The Johns Hopkins University
The Sciences of Observation and their use in the development of the United States, 1770-1820
Jenna Tonn Jenna Tonn
Harvard University
The Show-Room and the Workshop: The Laboratory within the Natural History Museum and the Development of American Biology, 1850-1935


A member of Secret Pants comedy troupe reports on strange tales of medieval births in a sketch at Life, Sex, Death and Food

Public Events

In April, the Center participated in the 2012 Philadelphia Science Festival with two programs on two very different themes. The first, Truth, Trust and Fracking, was a panel discussion featuring Brook Lenker, Director of, Susan Phillips, a reporter for WHYY and contributor to State Impact PA, as well as Sara Wylie, who teaches at RISD and is Director of Toxics and Health Research for The question that this panel discussed with an audience of about 75 was how to make sense of debates in which professional experts disagree, and how to apply lessons learned from history to contemporary debates such as hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale.

With more than 150 in attendance, our second program, Life, Sex, Death and Food: A Historical Look at the Science that Drives Us, was a light-hearted look at some surprising theories and practices over the last several hundred years. Local faculty in history of science teamed up with Philadelphia comedy teams to explain what happened, and then to spoof it in comic skits and improv.

Academic Programs

Several of the participants in Masculinities in Science Conference

The Center relaunched its colloquium series in 2012 with a series of panel discussions. The first was in February with Nathaniel Comfort of Johns Hopkins, Matthew Jones of Columbia and Susan Lindee of UPenn discussing What Matters about History of Science and What Do We Do About It? In March, Fa-ti Fan of Binghamton, Projit Mukherji of UPenn and C. Pierce Salguero of Penn State, Abington discussed their perspectives on Transnational Knowledge. We are especially pleased to have helped to support the 47th Annual Joint Atlantic Seminar for the History of Biology which met at UPenn this year.

The third conference in the Center's Conference Support Competition was organized by Erika Milam of Princeton and Robert Nye of Oregon State University. This was a three-day conference called Masculinities in Science / Sciences of Masculinity. Presenters and other local participants met at the Chemical Heritage Foundation to discuss thirteen precirculated papers in preparation for a published volume of essays.

We are eagerly looking forward to the upcoming Three Society Meeting in Philadelphia on July 12-14.

  Collections Updates

Charles A. Higgins, President of Hercules Powder Company
Image courtesy of Chemical Heritage Foundation

The Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF), has recently acquired records of Hercules, Inc. from Ashland, Inc. The Hercules Powder Company was formed in 1882 by DuPont and the Laflin & Rand Powder Company and was acquired by Ashland, Inc. in 2008.

CHF has also acquired a nearly complete run of the U.S. Field Information Agency, Technical (FIAT) reports on WW2 German chemical technology and industries.

The American Philosophical Society recently added papers from the biologist, John Tyler Bonner, as well as the biochemist and evolutionary biologist, Walter M. Fitch.

  Looking Ahead

Our next conference will be early September. Carin Berkowitz of CHF and Eva Åhrén of the National Institutes of Health are organizing Artifacts, Aesthetics, and Authority: Visual Practices in the History of Anatomy and Medicine.

At the end of September, we will hold our annual Introductory Symposium. This symposium will be an opportunity for scholars new to the field or new to the area to learn about each others' work, to meet each other and to exchange advice about research, writing and area resources. We will also invite several librarians and archivists to introduce themselves and their collections to participants.

We look forward to seeing you at these and other public and academic events over the next year.

With best regards,

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

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