Museum exhibits & workers homes

Since I am currently, ahem, “between museum jobs”, I thought I might start to use this space to do what I never seemed to have time for in my curatorial days. That is, I thought I might try a thought experiment or two on what could be done in an exhibition, if you were to take away the deadlines and the budgets and the sponsors that need pleasing and the government targets that need hitting and so on. What would I like my exhibition to say and how would I manage to say it with objects?

For my first imaginary exhibition I would like to consider a question that came up last week in a conversation I had with my in-laws. They both worked, my father-in-law all his life, in a factory in the Black Country called Kendricks. This factory, like Saltaire Mill in Bradford (which they’d recently visited), had once provided its workers with housing. So far, so familiar. These kind of philanthropy of early industrialists is well known, and often used in arguments to show how kind and public spirited capitalists could be in the olden days. Perhaps my exhibition could start here, with a few models of such factory + housing set ups. I could perhaps add a few personal items from the first occupants of the houses, alongside letters and account books showing the discussions and negotiations that went into getting this housing built and perhaps revealing a deeper understanding of why.

I would next have a section on the industrial machinery, records of accidents, records of child employment of the same period just to counter-balance the altruistic capitalist story from the previous section. I may even broaden the story out a little here with some protest banners, and newspaper articles showing where this episode of employer-employee relations fit within a bigger, national story.

Next I would get on to the very essence of my question. You see I’m not so much interested in retelling the story of how these early industrialists provided their workers with accommodation. What I’m interested in is how they managed to stop providing it without apparently tarnishing their reputation. Kendricks housing is now council housing. My guess is that this is true elsewhere. Perhaps others were sold off to workers or on the free market or to landlords. It would be interesting to trace those routes. Councils, tenants and housing benefit now pay for the accommodation of workers, formerly housed by their employers, presumably at a saving to the company. How do I represent that in objects?

This is an area of history I’m not too familiar with; I’m better in the rather niche field of scientific instruments. I can only take fairly rough guesses, based on objects I’ve seen in social history museums, on the objects that might be available to tell this story. One approach might be to show that process of historical investigation in action. To show the layers gradually uncovered as you go from searching company records and/ or the histories of a sample of houses (as a solicitor might do) to find a date. On to newspaper archives for any public acknowledgement of the sale to trade union records for evidence of  opposition. All of this, though necessary for telling the story, might make for a rather dry, paper heavy display. So perhaps a better alternative might be to focus on a few case studies. To look at the history of a few, ideally representative houses as homes, whose occupants, decor, possessions, changed overtime, and the impact of changing ownership on those individual lives.

The time to produce such a display would obviously be much greater than than simply reproducing the historian’s research journey since it embodies all that research and more, but the result would I think be infinitely more engaging, and tell the story with more feeling.

My experience of museums is that at their best such displays, that involve so much invisible research behind the scenes are possible,  but are also a luxury. More often than not displays are put on with tight deadlines, with sponsors encouraging certain angle and being less supportive of others. Often there is a funding incentive to linking exhibits to the national curriculum. All of this is well and good. However, I think there is also something quite lovely about an exhibition that is pure and simply a conversation between a curator and their audience, driven only by the desire to share a passion for research and explore interesting questions. I hope, in our cash strapped, profit driven times, that museums do not lose this entirely.

Science v arts…again

I still haven’t quite got the hang of academic blogging.  Who is it for & why? I sometimes mean it to be a quick history-of -science-led response to something topical, but my mind just doesn’t seem to work that way. Either my gut reaction is the same as everyone else, in which case what does my take on it add? Or its so different I feel I must have missed a point somewhere & will need to do a lot more research for fear of exposing my ignorance.

My reaction to the Nicky Morgan on science versus arts article probably falls somewhere between these two extremes. My first reaction to her comments, mainly because I’d been reading a lot recently about 19th century debates on education, was that this was an extrapolation of those arguments to their most ridiculous and unintended extreme. At the same time, I’ve noticed a lot of other reactions to it that seem to suggest people are generally, albeit reluctantly in agreement with her. There is this general consensus that arts are nice but don’t do much while science is useful but functional. In both cases there doesn’t seem to be much of an attempt to understand where we get these clichés from. So that, using history, is what I’d like to do now.

John Herschel wrote in 1830 about the utility of science to society and how important it was that science should form some part of all children’s education. This was partly because applied science had the potential to make our lives increasingly more comfortable. It was also because, so he argued, a well rounded education, training the mind to be curious and enquiring, made for well rounded people. He added too his hope that soon all subjects – including history – would take from science this evidence based, investigative method.

Later in the century other scientists (as a few had taken to calling themselves) took up the championing of science. There were famous debates – Newman v Arnold; Huxley v pretty much everyone – in which the merits of a science and mathematics based education versus one grounded in the Classics were discussed. In this process practitioners of science got better and better at spelling out why their subject was brilliant and important and undervalued.

Skip forward a few decades to the 1950s and we come to C.P. Snow’s famous lecture The Two Cultures. The two cultures were science and humanities and Snow was complaining that science was still considered the the lesser of the two.  His evidence? Socially, among the ‘well educated’ you would find far more shame attached to not knowing any Shakespeare than to not knowing the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

At the same time that Snow was complaining about status however, there were other changes that suggest science was not as undervalued as he was claiming. This was the birth of ‘Big Science’, of huge investment in big scale scientific projects that would eventually lead to the space race, particle accelerators and the Human Genome Project. This arguably made a considerable amount of science the servant of politics, which is perhaps how scientists managed to still cling on to this image of themselves as a useful but undervalued group.

Part of the problem for scientists was and is of their own making. You can’t go around telling everyone what you do is incredibly, incredibly hard and much more difficult that an arts degree and then get upset when people preemptively tell you they don’t understand or that they failed their maths GCSE three times.

At the same time, these clichés persist because while science has been busy honing its arguments about how useful and important it is no such case has been made for the arts. Instead we are left with some vague ramblings about becoming better writers and communicators, which understandably irritates many in science, particularly those with a strong involvement in outreach. So what do arts and humanities add to society?

For me, I think arts and humanities add hope. By reflecting on societies of the past we can envisage a better tomorrow. Through the arts we can gain a better understanding of the human condition and just as astronomers look for life on other planets to prove we’re not alone, so too through arts and humanities we can discover that we are not alone in our thought and feeling and hopes and dreams. Science is about understanding and helping us to make sense of and in some cases make use of the natural world. Arts and humanities are about understanding human society, creativity and the human condition. Without those tools how can we ever hope to make a better world? Is that too much, an over-romantisisation? Or are we just becoming so functional as a society that we have lost our ambition?

Regarding Nicky Morgan’s more mundane message – not about the kind of society we’d like to create but about teenagers and the job market – I would like to see her stats. The job market for teenagers and recent graduates is bleak and unfair. Unpaid internships for interesting jobs, the 200 people who apply to ever entry level job etc. Possibly while science and maths degrees are still in the minority they give you a slight advantage. That is probably the best that can be said of them in this context, and even then justifying £30,000+ debt for the privilege is tricky. If there is a science you love do that, the same goes for arts and humanities. With that much debt, you may as well enjoy it, and who knows, like the Minecraft YouTubers my 7 year old son watches obsessively, you may with that passion to drive you, find a way to make it pay after all.

Wanted: humanities fansites

If you haven’t seen Becky’s latest post, I recommend you take a look. In it she articulates very clearly some popular feelings on the subject of ‘science’ and ‘scientists’. They’re arguments that will seem familiar to many, though have rarely been so calmly and rationally explain. And yet.

And yet. My gut reaction to this is the same as it was over the twitter squabblings around Christmas. It is to pout, and stamp my foot, and grumble that being good and being right is no fun. Because that, it seems to me, is what’s missing in all of this. That, for many is the key attraction in all those community building enterprises like Facebook’s I fucking love science page, or of dressing up and/ or collecting all the trinkets of science iconography, the lab coats, the test tubes and so on. They make knowing things and learning things seem fun. Science becomes a symbol for that, which is great for science, but I don’t think there’s any strong reason why they should hold the monopoly.

Which made me think, maybe, rather than complaining about what the practitioners and fans of ‘science’ are doing and how they’re using language (which was never part of our training anyway, we observe and analyse historical characters, we don’t or we shouldn’t judge, why have different rules for the present?), we should instead be making our own subject similarly desirable. And so here is my proposal: let’s start our own Facebook page ‘I fucking love humanities’. We could fill it with picture of manuscripts and objects and cartoon representations of historical theories and conversations. We could (in the way science includes pictures of nature) include images of people now and in the past at work, at home, taking part in social and political activities, looking after children and so on. It could be fun.

As I start to think through what might go on an I fucking love humanities page, it occurs to me, I’m not really sure what counts as humanities. But then, humanities doesn’t have the same history as science. It doesn’t have all those centuries of arguing a special place for itself, of spelling out why it is needed. But maybe it could. Every time this debate comes up, the same historical episode comes to my mind. Now, I suspect that every historian of science is going to have their own episode, their own key text, key character or key moment to illustrate and help explain this phenomenon, but for me its the unpromisingly titled A Preliminary Discourse on the study of Natural Philosophy, by John Herschel in 1830.

Herschel’s Discourse was widely read at the time, and is cited by people like Darwin and Faraday as part of the reason they got into science. It was written at a time when there wasn’t any kind of homogenous definition of science (indeed, its even missing from the title, Herschel in the end opted for the safer Natural Philosophy). Instead there were separate disciplines such as astronomy, chemistry and mineralogy and what Herschel did in this book was to use his experience of dabbling in these various disciplines to try to extract some common link between them all. What he came up with was this:

‘Science is the knowledge of many, orderly and methodically digested and arranged, so as to become attainable by one. The knowledge of reasons and their conclusions constitutes abstract, that of causes and their effects, and of the laws of nature, natural science.’

He surrounded this definition with examples to show just how unexpectedly beneficial science was to society, how even the most apparently non-utilitarian investigation could lead to knowledge, invention and/or processes that could enhance our quality of life. He suggested that our relative comfort and ease of living were ‘the fruits of reason’. He pointed to science as the key mode of thinking to separate the civilised world from the ‘savages’ and looked forward to the day when the scientific process was applied not just to science but to legislation, politics and history.

Which brings us to now. In the intervening years science, scientists, amateurs, professionals and armchair enthusiasts have all embraced and developed this virtuous ‘what we do makes your lives better even if that wasn’t our initial intention’ understanding of science. That lazy journalists will sometimes say ‘scientists say’ is neither here nor there. I don’t think its any more annoying or inaccurate a generalisation than lumping together all tax payers or motorists or immigrants and pretending they all speak with one voice. What perhaps we should be upset about and set out to change is the idea that science alone represents knowing stuff and improving lives. Now who’d like to volunteer to set up that Facebook page?

Herschel’s telescope

Working in museums you spend a lot of time thinking, ‘why might that be interesting to other people?’. So when it comes to the Herschels I am dimly aware that broadly speaking astronomers love William, politically aware educators love Caroline, John has a handful of fans on the fringes of various disciplines (astronomy, photography, history of various things scientific and intellectual), and no one but me has even heard of the rest. Which is why the BBC stargazing Live’s piece on the Herschel 20ft took me a bit by surprise.
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Here is a telescope that William Herschel built (cue all sorts of interesting asides on what it means to be the named maker of a telescope in the 18th c and the teams of uncredited individuals involved in the process). A telescope he used in partnership with his sister Caroline (women in science stories aside) and was effectively the culmination of his project to build ever bigger telescopes (aside on why this wasn’t the 40ft). It was the telescope he trained his son John to use, who in turn then took it to South Africa, to use to complete his father’s work for the southern hemisphere and to show visitors the sky when they dropped round for ‘tea and stars’. It was the telescope John’s children grew up with and grew old with until in the 1950s it was finally sold to the National Maritime Museum who have since displayed it, stored it and, loaned it to museums around the world.
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There was so much potential for historians of science in this piece, but what did it actually deliver? Well, it looked fun. All those people who got together to build the telescope looked like they had a really fun time. Herschel was mentioned a lot, I can’t deny I was delighted with that. But then ‘the history bit’ was just a 30 second interview with Allan Chapman, who was marvellous but cut short, tacked onto the end. It was as though they though they should have some history since they were rebuilding a historic telescope, but just couldn’t quite see the point.

How could it have been better? I’ve complained before about people criticising popularisers of science for their shaky grasp of history without attempting to say how the story might be changed but still remain entertaining, so I feel I should at least try to offer a solution. Assuming the piece had to remain the same length, they could still have talked as they built about what they were doing and in what way it was similar or different to the past. In particular, they showed very clearly that the telescope could neither have been built nor operated by one person; they could have mentioned there that in William Herschel’s time, those people would have been servants or workmen or women and so discounted from the record. They could have talked about the materials they were using and why they were chosen. They could have talked about the experience of transporting this contraption and using it in different climates and what it must have felt like growing up with such a thing in your back garden with all the visitors it inevitably attracted. In other words, they could have made the history an integrated part of the piece instead of a tack on half-heartedly at the end.

A long time ago, I assumed that history of science more naturally lent itself to the kind of edu-tainment I enjoy watching than science alone because it offered stories where science offered facts. At the time, my general impression of science programming – rightly or wrongly – was that it consisted mainly of ‘look at these lions we’ve cleverly filmed’, ‘here are some facts about galaxies’ or ‘see our massive telescopes’ awe and wonder type spectacles. Since then however, it seems to me, scientists have got a lot better at telling stories. Like good science fiction, they can leave us pondering the nature of existence, and what it means to be human although so can history of science. All of which raises the question, what can historians offer now? Well, we still can offer good stories. Jim Al-Khalili knows this – there are historians of science involved in many of his programmes – but do the others know? And what about TV historians, it always seems harder to identify how and where they might include more science, but I think it might still be worth thinking all the time about where our subject fits in. Whether that might eventually lead to a few programmes of our own, well, who knows?

Bedtime reading in 2012

Judge me. Inspired by Helen Finch @HelenCFinch and Sylvia McLain @girlinterruptin, but much less organised, I have decided to lay myself metaphorically bare and reveal the shame that was my bedtime reading in 2012.  Or at least what I’m pretty sure I read in 2012 based on what is still waiting to be put away and what I think I associate with my current house, which we moved into last January. Before I begin, I would just like to add that this was the year after I handed in my PhD and therefore completely vacuous literature is perfectly acceptable. I was resting my brain. With that caveat taken care of, judge away.

In no particular order, in 2012 I read:

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Douglas Adams’, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
I put off reading these for years having been obsessed for most of my childhood with the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I used to listen to Hitchhiker to get to sleep at night and I remember laughing hysterically on a sleepover with my friend Vicky at the line ‘he just rang up to wash his head at us’, so I approached these books with some intrepidation. But I loved them! They’re nothing like the TV series, they infinitely more complicated and convoluted than that. I will have to read them several more times to have the faintest idea what was going on. Though it pains me to say it, Douglas Adams was never great on female characters, but then you can’t go around judging books like that, or you’d never have anything to read. So all in all, I would happily, and in fact will probably have to, read them again, and would certainly recommend them to others.

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Tim Harford’s The Undercover Economist

I read this because I felt I would like to understand economics better, and because I found myself at my parents’ house with nothing to read and this was lying about. I began, naive and open minded. He convinced me to change supermarkets on the grounds that apparently there are no expensive shops, only lazy shoppers. Then I got to the bit about airports. Airports don’t have to be the soul destroyingly awful places that they are because there isn’t the money to make them nicer he says. They have to horrible because otherwise rich people won’t pay extra to wait in first class lounges. He said this not in a ‘and so that is why wealth should be redistributed’ kind of a way, but in a ‘this is how it is, and we are powerless to change it, and why would we want to anyway, since this system is perfect’ kind of a way. It was at that point that I began to lose faith in his arguments and continued to do so, on much the same grounds, for the rest of the book.

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Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic ties the knot
Chick lit tends to be my standard trash book. Everyone has their genre – boyf’s is SciFi, for my parents its murder mysteries – we all have a sort of comfort trash genre in which all critical faculties are temporarily suspended. My 8 year old daughter and I had watched the film, Confessions of a Shopaholic, and I’m ashamed to say, both very much enjoyed it. So when I saw this, for 50p at a school fair, I snapped it up. On reflection, I possibly should have looked for a different one in the series. I have no wedding fantasies (I only realised I was supposed to watching Friends in the late ’90s); I grew up reading Virago press. The big climax of the book is that she has two lavish and expensive but subtly different weddings. I could not bring myself to care.

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Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
I dare not say very much about this because I gave up any academic study of English Literature at 16 and feel I’m almost certain to get it wrong. All I can say is that I enjoyed it, and a lot more than when I read it as a teenager.

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50 Shades of Grey
I feel I ought to say these were badly written and misogynistic, but in truth I didn’t find either to be true. They’re not Salman Rushdie, Literary awards type good writing of course, but I found them to be an effortless read, and fast paced enough to prevent too much dwelling on the occasional awkward phrase. And of course Dickens and Rowling were similarly regarded as too popular to be well written when they came out. In terms of misogyny, again, didn’t find them to be so. They have the standard chick lit tropes of course, slightly older, impossibly good looking and even more improbably wealthy, bossy man; woman adored by all but unaware of her own attractiveness. But at least the man was often wrong in his bossiness and challenged on it in a way that men in standard chick lit never are. And this is essentially why I liked them. The books were lent to me by a friend, so I was already predisposed to at least trying to like them, but also I read them as chick lit, and in that context I think they faired pretty well. In particular, the female protagonist was not amusingly flaky and incompetent. She was perfectly self contained, clear in what she wanted and how she felt, and was able to stand up for herself and articulate her feelings in a way my 21 year old self would never have managed. Also, there is a lot of sex in all three books (did you know?), and alongside it what I chose to read as a subtext on the relationship between trust and intimacy, though it is just possible I maybe over-intellectualizing. Obviously the neat cod psychology ending grated a little, but then no one has ever pretended this was social realism, and chick lit does require a happy ending.

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Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha
Like films, the more a book is praised and promoted, the more disappointed I feel sure I will be when I read it and find it doesn’t live up to the hype. For this reason, and more often than not because I simply never get round to it at the time, I like to avoid the much hyped until all I can remember is that there was hype, but none of the reasons why I was supposed to like it. Memoirs of a Geisha came out years ago, I only read it now because it was in a friend’s pile of books for the charity shop and she said I might like. And I did, very much. It gave me the illusion of learning all about early 20th century Japanese culture, while at the same time being very readable and with a good story. Probably shouldn’t have been so suspicious when it came out.

Solutions

Isn’t blogging brilliant? You write something, people read it (a surprise in itself), and their opinions make you think, and reevaluate and refine your original argument. Brilliant. A little bit like a conversation or conference paper I suppose, but over a longer period of time allowing for more thinking time.

Thank you everybody who responded to my last post. You gave me a lot to think about. I also liked these, which I came by via Twitter since I wrote my last post:

Ken Perrott’s excellent blog post – where I especially liked the neat summation on the entire argument in one of the comments. Basically they argued that scientists and historians of science were failing to communicate properly because each assumed, or was too quick to read into the other’s comments, an overly positivist or relativist agenda. It rang true for me anyway.

Melvin Bragg programme on Two Cultures

link to Steve Shapin’s 1999 chapter, ‘how to be anti-scientific’ showing how depressingly long this debate, in this exact form, has been going on.

While now even I am bored to tears with the whole Cox/Ince debate, I do like to tidy up loose ends, if only in my own thinking. So, this is the last thing I’m ever going to write on the subject, but I thought I would just throw out a few questions the debate has raised for me that I would really like answers to, before offering, finally, my own cowardly solution.

James Elder raises an excellent point (see comments on my last post) when he talks about all the history of science already in science programming. I know these are still figure headed by scientists in the main, which may grate a little, but, as I think I’ve said already, they are good at it and have skills, contacts and experience in that area which, to my knowledge we do not currently have within our ranks in history of science. If we want our subject out there – which I think was part of what motivated Becky, Vanessa, Thony et al – wouldn’t it make more sense to build on this? Perhaps by trying to ensure more lost characters are woven into their narratives? Or encouraging Science Club to include a more imaginative and diverse range of options on their wall of fame?

I know I’m being really dim, and I sort of think this I probably identifying me as not a proper historian but just can’t understand what might be achieved by insisting scientists or science popularisers avoid the term ‘scientific method’ or at least avoid using it without qualification. I am not trying to accuse anyone of being overly relativistic or anti-science here, I really do want to be a proper historian, but I also really, quite genuinely do not get it. I appreciate that everyone, even every scientist will give a slightly different definition of what scientific method is. But for the purposes of a throw away line in a non-specialist, non-scientific magazine are they really that different? Surely as historians of science we recognise ‘science’ as meaning a particular group of disciplines sharing some common ground, even if that changes over time. Otherwise why call ourselves historians of science? Why not historians of ideas or just historians? Would it have been better for the article to have argued that politicians listen to experts in all field relating to the climate change including but not exclusively scientists? I’m inclined to think that it would but at the same time I can’t see it having quite the same rhetorical flourish. Its just gets messy and the point gets lost.

For my part, I think I will stick to a relatively uncontroversial approach to history of science and look to find and promote lost stories and characters. Incrementally, that may even change the way science is seen, as the scientific work of mothers educating their children or of instrument makers promoting their wares become part of the grand narrative of science. I’m not brave enough or smart enough to pick the big fights, but if someone could explain them to me, I would really appreciate it.

Science wars

My daughter is in the other room playing with her chemistry set with her grandparents. My son is on my knee watching Batman. I have bred geeks and I could not be more proud. Elsewhere, in the twitter sphere the spat between Ince/Cox/Milinovich and the sci comm/ history of science people seems finally to have petered out after it’s ferocious start on 20th Dec 2012. Linked to this, have been a couple of blogs sneering at the so-called geek movement, caricaturing it as a fan club for Richard Dawkins and related arrogance and suddenly, over the space of just a few days, I find myself feeling distinctly uneasy about being part of the history of science community.

The history of science community is very small and as a result I know and like many of the people on the history of science side of these online arguments and debates. I know them to be generally sensible, reasonable people, self aware and with a sense of humour. This has made me assume for some time that I must be missing something important. Now I’m not so sure.

We talk a lot in histsci about the public perception of science and about its ‘popularisation’ over time and what exactly that might mean. To paraphrase Douglas Adams we ask ‘what do we mean by popular?’ and ‘how can we reach an empirical definition of science?’ We look at the historical context for different attempts to ‘popularise’, at the motives of all those involved, at their cultural influences, and so on. And we draw on all this research to better empathize and understand the choices made by our historical actors. We look at the consequences of those decisions and gradually, piece by piece, we build up a picture of how we got to where we are today.

Our subject gives us the tools to empathize, to understand the processes through which new knowledge is created, disseminated and transformed. By understanding the historical context, we can better understand why an idea took a particular form, or why it was explained in a certain way. Yet for reasons that I cannot explain, none of these tools seem to have been used in the current debates.

History of science is not, or should not to my mind be about insisting everyone qualifies every statement with the phrase ‘I think you’ll find its a little bit more complicated than that’. It seems to me there is a place for broad brush generalizations in the history of science. You need the broad narrative to then understand the significance of the more nuanced detailed analyses. To those with no knowledge of the history of science, a rough timeline is useful for working out some kind of chronology into which to place different stories.

The online debates have shown none of the subtleties, none of the more admirable and attractive qualities of the subject, instead they made us look humourless, vain, and completely unaware of the purpose or context of the article or of what the geeks and popularizers are trying to do. These are people who are very successfully introducing science content into the entertainment industry in a way that doesn’t immediately make it feel worthy or improving. We should respect and try to learn something from their expertise in that area. If they didn’t quite get, weren’t convinced by, or could not find a way of ‘popularising’ some of the histsci arguments we think are important, then that is quite frankly our fault. We have not done our job if we can’t even convince those who are basically on the same side.

And this brings me neatly back to what has become a fairly constant theme in this blog: what exactly is the point of history of science?

In the interests of trying to persuade funding bodies to give me money for research and more loftily, in an attempt to give myself the illusion that what I do matters and will make the world a better place, I have been trying to work out an answer. Ludmilla Jordanova suggests its important for preventing, or correcting a misuse of science’s history for political ends, though I doubt this debate was quite what she had in mind. She also talks about heroism in stories of science and our job in trying to find an attractive alternative. Graeme Gooday presented another good reason in a recent interview. For scientists, prospective scientists, and even for those completely outside professional science who feel science has nothing to do with them, it can give a sense of perspective and possibility. While traditional heroic and progressive stories of science in the past tend to give roles only to a handful of predominantly dead, white men, (otherwise know as the pale, male and stale) current history of science research shows us a much richer picture, where, in its most idealised form, every contribution is valued. History of science also give us the tools to properly empathize with characters from the past. It allows us, without judgment, to understand why certain decisions were made, where particular ideas came from and how mistakes played their part. It gives us a way of understanding how we got to where we are, but, it should also help us stand back and understand better what’s going on today.

Links:
Original editorial
Responding blog posts included:
Becky Higgitt’s
Jon Butterworth
Peter Coles’
Martin Robbins’
Jack Stilgoe’s