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One of the common characteristics of science, technology, and medicine is their ambition to epistemologically and organizationally move beyond the confines of nation states. In practice, however, they develop differently in countries or regions. Scientists, engineers, and physicians are constrained as well as enabled by national boundaries and specific cultures. The cultural status of such practices in reverse is influenced by a country's history, politics, and the view of the role of science, technology, and medicine in society. It is the relation between a specific region, Scandinavia, and the history of science, technology, and medicine within this region that this issue of Science in Context sets out to explore. But what is this “Scandinavia”? To many, Scandinavia besides being a specific geographical region of three countries (Denmark, Sweden, and Norway) with entwined histories and closely related languages is a way of denoting a specific style or movement. “Scandinavian design” is renowned for three interrelated features; minimalism or simplicity, functionalism, and “design to the people” i.e. functional products for the average citizen (Beer 1975; Glambek 1997; Fallan 2012).
Recent studies in Sinology have shown that Qing dynasty editors acted as
philologists. This paper argues that the identification of their philological
methods and editorial choices suggests that their choices were not totally
neutral and may have significantly shaped the way modern historians interpreted
specific works edited by mathematicians of that dynasty. A case study of the
re-edition in 1798 of a Song dynasty treatise, the Yigu yanduan
(1259), by a Qing dynasty mathematician will illustrate this point. At the end
of the eighteenth century, Li Rui (1773–1817) was asked to prepare an
edition of the mathematical works written by Li Ye (1192–1279) for a
private collection. Li Rui was a talented mathematician, but he was also a
meticulous editor and trained philologist. He adopted his editorial model from
the preparation of the imperial encyclopaedia, the Siku
quanshu, but Li Rui also made some corrections to the text in an effort
to restore an older version of Li Ye's treatises that had been lost.
Convinced of the Chinese origin of algebra, Li Rui used philological techniques
to recover the lost materials and to restore the roots of “Chinese
mathematics.” The Yigu yanduan contains two
algebraic procedures to set up quadratic equations, one from the procedure of
Celestial Source (tian yuan shu) and the
other from the Section of Pieces [of Areas] (tiao
duan). Curiously, the second procedure has not yet attracted the
attention of scholars so far, although Li Rui's edition is the one
typically used by twentieth-century historians of mathematics. Today, the
Celestial Source characterizes “Chinese
algebra.” However, the specific concerns of Li Rui about the
procedure of Celestial Source, combined with his editorial
methods, contributed to this perspective.
During the two decades before the turning point in Copernicus's personal and scientific development in 1510, he had experience of political activity which has been largely ignored by the existing Copernicus literature but part of which is reconstructed in outline in this paper. Given the close linkage between politics and astrology, Copernicus's likely reaction to astrology is re-examined here. This reconstruction also suggests that the turning point in 1510, when Copernicus left his post as secretary to his uncle Lucas Watzenrode the prince-bishop of Warmia, was not only linked to Copernicus's first version of his heliocentric theory in the Commentariolus, but also to major political setbacks being experienced by Watzenrode during these years, and with the publication of Copernicus's translation of the Letters of Theophylactus Simocatta. Some of these considerations contribute to maintaining the view that Copernicus and his work were in several respects exceptional.
Topical Section: Models at Work – Models in Decision Making
In recent years, research on modeling in both the philosophy of science and the social studies of science and technology has undergone an acute transformation. Philosophers and social scientists have begun to realize that science, in the words of Carrier and Nordmann, has increasingly shifted its focus from “epistemic or truth-oriented” research to “application-dominated” research. “Science is viewed today as an essentially practical endeavor” (Carrier and Nordmann 2011, 1) and should be considered in the context of its application. In accordance with this re-orienting of science, research on modeling has also changed. Still considering models as genuinely scientific tools, philosophers and social scientists promoted the “practice turn” that suggests a sharper focus on pragmatic issues and the performative and productive role of modeling. Application of models for the resolution of practice-related problems is viewed as an extension of science.
This article explores the scientific partnership between geology professor Gerard De Geer and his wife Ebba Hult following their marriage in 1908. De Geer was an influential participant in Swedish academia and international geology. Hult worked as his assistant until his death in 1943. The partnership was beneficial for both spouses, in particular through the semi-private Geochronological Institute, which they controlled. The article argues that marriage was a culturally acknowledged form of collaboration in the academic community, and as such it offered Hult access to geological research. However, the paper also argues that the gendered scientific institutions produced a fractured position. Partly, Hult managed to create her own role as researcher in geochronology. As a woman and a wife, however, she never moved out of her husband's shadow. Gender is understood as a relational category: Hult was an outsider who participated partially in standardized structures which gave great power to her husband and other men. The fact that she shared this status with other women in Swedish science at the time indicates the structural nature of their position. Nevertheless, they all had individual trajectories through academia. Indeed, the study of collaborative couples illustrates the multifaceted links between individual actions and the historical context of science.
Since the 1970s, Danish population registries were increasingly used for research purposes, in particular in the health sciences. Linked with a large number of disease registries, these data infrastructures became laboratories for the development of both information technology and epidemiological studies. Denmark's system of population registries had been centralized in 1924 and was further automated in the 1960s, with individual identification numbers (CPR-numbers) introduced in 1968. The ubiquitous presence of CPR-numbers in administrative routines and everyday lives created a continually growing data archive of the entire population. The resulting national-level database made possible unprecedented record linkage, a feature epidemiologists and biomedical scientists used as a resource for population health research. The specific assemblages that emerged with their practices of data mining were constitutive of registry-based epidemiology as a style of thought and of a distinct relationship between science, citizens, and the state that emerged as “Scandinavian.”
The present paper is an attempt to understand how medieval astronomers working within the Ptolemaic astronomical context in which the annular eclipse is an unjustified and impossible phenomenon, could know, define, justify, and later make attempts that led to success in predicting annular solar eclipses. As a context-based study, it reviews the situation of annular eclipses with regard to the medieval hypotheses applied to the calculation of the angular diameters of the sun and the moon, which was basic for contemplating the possibility of annular eclipses. This gives the premises and the preliminary insights that were necessary to clarify the complex situation of the annular eclipse in the late medieval Islamic period and to explain the historical mechanisms leading to justifying the phenomenon during that period. This was, first due to a convincing and efficient observational evidence which, of course, was available only to a number of medieval astronomers and significantly for only a limited time period, and, second, the result of an amazing interaction amongst various astronomical traditions available to them. At a more general level, the research aims to inspect or, at least, to give some impressions of the essential conditions, i.e., identification of phenomenon, empirical evidence, and the justifying underlying tradition, under which it became possible in the tradition-based science of the `medieval period to permit a not-already-defined and tradition-opposed phenomenon to be posed and justified.
Topical Section: Models at Work – Models in Decision Making
This paper challenges three assumptions common in the literature on expertise: that expertise is linearly derived from scientific knowledge; that experts always align with the established institutional order; and that expertise is a property acquired by individuals. We criticize these ideas by juxtaposing three distinct expert practices involved with flood risk management in England. Virtual engineering is associated with commercial consultancy and relies on standardized software packages to assess local flood inundation. Mathematical experimentation refers to academic scientists creating new digital renderings of the physical dynamics of flooding. Participatory modeling denotes research projects that aim to transform the relationships between experts and local communities. Focusing on different modes of modeling we contribute an analysis of how particular models articulate with specific politics of knowledge as experts form relationships with flood risk management actors. Our empirical study also shows how models can contribute to re-distribution of expertise in local flood risk management.
It seems theoretically convenient to construe knowledge practices in financial markets and organizations as “applied economics.” Alternatively or additionally, one might argue that practitioners draw on economic knowledge in order to systematically orient their actions towards profit-maximization; models, then, are understood as devices that make calculative rationality possible. However, empirical studies do not entirely confirm these theoretical positions: Practitioners’ actual calculations are often not “framed” by models; organizations and institutions influence the choice and adoption of models; and different professional groups in financial markets have diverging attitudes towards model calculations. In order to account for this diversity, this article proposes the concept of cultures of economic and financial expertise; the concept focuses on the patterns of knowledge practices and knowledge-related self-definitions of groups within financial organizations and markets; it also facilitates an analysis of the relations between and, more specifically, the hierarchies among different practices and identities. The article then goes on to explore the process of foreign exchange forecasting in a particular bank. The description immediately reveals that two groups are involved in this process: economists and analysts. These groups maintain quite different practices and self-descriptions in relation to models: While the economists in the bank use the models as organizational resources for consistent forecasting procedures and observe data with the help of simple model structures, analysts approach model forecasts from the perspective of critics: They see limits in the variable-centered, as opposed to a “thematic” approach and they disregard a model's imposed temporality. Nevertheless, analysts use model forecasts as anchors for developing their own “paths” and stories about possible future expectation changes in the markets. The specific division of labor between economists and analysts, and specifically the dominant role of analysts in the forecasting process, fit into a larger picture: The rise of institutional investors in the foreign exchange markets and their demand for genuine market knowledge for speculative investment projects has contributed to the rise and dominance of analysts’ culture.
This paper analyses a process of co-construction of knowledge and its multiple forms of communication in a country of the European periphery in the early twentieth century. It focuses on Lieutenant Manuel Soares de Melo e Simas, a politically engaged Portuguese astronomer, who moved from amateur to professional during the political transition from the monarchy to the republic. Melo e Simas paralleled his professional career in continuous activity of communicating science to the public in the context of republicanism in a double way, by responding to the agenda of republicanism and by playing an active role in shaping it. He aimed at educating lay audiences in the various ways of astronomy, and he reached out to as many people as possible by exploring a multitude of communication channels, from lectures to articles in newspapers and journals. Voiced often within newly created republican institutions, the praxis and the ideas of Melo e Simas helped to mold the new republican scientific ethos. By going beyond mere emphasis on scientism and positivism, usually taken to be the defining characteristics of the new republican ethos, this paper argues that science and the specificities of its multiple forms of communication were central to the way Melo e Simas shaped the republican ideology. Furthermore, popularization of science was used to legitimize the status of professional scientists at the same time that it helped reinforce their institutional setting, still to be negotiated in the forthcoming decades through a complex process which deserves further historical analysis.
In the decades following World War II, the Cowles Commission for Research in Economics came to represent new technical standards that informed most advances in economic theory. The public emergence of this community was manifest at a conference held in June 1949 titled Activity Analysis of Production and Allocation. New ideas in optimization theory, linked to linear programming, developed from the conference's papers. The authors’ history of this event situates the Cowles Commission among the institutions of postwar science in-between National Laboratories and the supreme discipline of Cold War academia, mathematics. Although the conference created the conditions under which economics, as a discipline, would transform itself, the participants themselves had little concern for the intellectual battles that had defined prewar university economics departments. The authors argue that the conference signaled the birth of a new intellectual culture in economic science based on shared scientific norms and techniques un-interrogated by conflicting notions of the meaning of either science or economics.
During the 1950s it became apparent that antibiotics could not conquer all microbes, and a series of tests were developed to assess the susceptibility of microbes to antibiotics. This article explores the development and standardization of one such testing procedure which became dominant in the Nordic region, and how the project eventually failed in the late 1970s. The standardization procedures amounted to a comprehensive scheme, standardizing not only the materials used, but also the methods and the interpretation of the results. Focusing on Sweden and Norway in particular, the article shows how this comprehensive standardization procedure accounted for several co-dependent factors and demanded collaboration within and across laboratories. Whereas literature on standardization has focused mostly on how facts and artefacts move within and across laboratories, I argue for the importance of also attending to regions and territories. More particularly, while arguing that the practices, ideals, and politics related to what have been called the “Nordic welfare state” were contributing to the design of the standardized procedure in the laboratory, I also argue that Scandinavia was drawn together as a unified region with and by these very same practices.
We examine the criteria used to validate the use of nonhuman organisms in North-American alcohol addiction research from the 1950s to the present day. We argue that this field, where the similarities between behaviors in humans and non-humans are particularly difficult to assess, has addressed questions of model validity by transforming the situatedness of non-human organisms into an experimental tool. We demonstrate that model validity does not hinge on the standardization of one type of organism in isolation, as often the case with genetic model organisms. Rather, organisms are viewed as necessarily situated: they cannot be understood as a model for human behavior in isolation from their environmental conditions. Hence the environment itself is standardized as part of the modeling process; and model validity is assessed with reference to the environmental conditions under which organisms are studied.
D’Arcy Thompson has often been portrayed as a loner. His science of form has frequently been labeled anachronistic, idiosyncratic, and unconnected to his contemporary biology. This article aims to challenge this interpretation. Thompson's representation as a loner did not lie in the idiosyncrasies of his science, but in our own historiography. Through the use of unedited archival sources, this study shows that Thompson's biology was well-connected to an international research program – a program mainly shared by developmental biologists, physiologists, and morphologists. In addition, this article also aims to propose a new interpretation of Thompson's On Growth and Form. Drawing on his private correspondence and published sources, the paper re-contextualizes the contents and conclusions of Thompson's seminal work. We will see that Thompson defended a particular kind of organismal biology. The bio-science he supported stemmed not only from Aristotle's zoology or Pythagorean mathematics, but had many allies among twentieth-century naturalists.
The Uppsala school in separation science, under the leadership of Nobel laureates, The (Theodor) Svedberg and Arne Tiselius, was by all counts a half-century-long success story. Chemists at the departments for physical chemistry and biochemistry produced a number of separation techniques that were widely adopted by the scientific community and in various technological applications. Success was also commercial and separation techniques, such as gel filtration, were an important factor behind the meteoric rise of the drug company Pharmacia from the 1950s. The paper focuses on the story behind the invention of gel filtration and the product Sephadex in the 1950s and the emergence of streamlined commercially oriented separation science as a main activity at the department of biochemistry in the 1960s. The dynamics of this development is analyzed from the perspectives of moral economy and storytelling framed by the larger question of the social construction of innovation. The latter point is addressed in a brief discussion about the uses of stories like the one about Sephadex in current research policy.
Topical Section: Models at Work – Models in Decision Making
This article studies the roles three science-based models play in Dutch policy and decision making processes. Key is the interaction between model construction and environment. Their political and scientific environments form contexts that shape the roles of models in policy decision making. Attention is paid to three aspects of the wider context of the models: a) the history of the construction process; b) (changes in) the political and scientific environments; and c) the use in policy processes over longer periods of time. Models are more successfully used when they are constructed in a stable political and scientific environment. Stability and certainty within a scientific field seems to be a key predictor for the usefulness of models for policy making. The economic model is more disputed than the ecology-based model and the model that has its theoretical foundation in physics and chemistry. The roles models play in policy processes are too complex to be considered as straightforward technocratic powers.
Scientific uncertainty is fundamental to the management of contemporary global risks. In 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the start of the H1N1 Influenza Pandemic. This declaration signified the risk posed by the spread of the H1N1 virus, and in turn precipitated a range of actions by global public health actors. This article analyzes the WHO's public representation of risk and examines the centrality of scientific uncertainty in the case of H1N1. It argues that the WHO's risk narrative reflected the context of scientific uncertainty in which it was working. The WHO argued that it was attempting to remain faithful to the scientific evidence, and the uncertain nature of the threat. However, as a result, the WHO's public risk narrative was neither consistent nor socially robust, leading to the eventual contestation of the WHO's position by other global public health actors, most notably the Council of Europe. This illustrates both the significance of scientific uncertainty in the investigation of risk, and the difficulty for risk managing institutions in effectively acting in the face of this uncertainty.
This paper considers some aspects of the reception and development of contemporary mathematics in Spain during the first half of the twentieth century, more specifically between 1910 and 1950. It analyzes the possible influence of scientists’ mobility in the adoption of newer views or theories. A short overview of key points of the social and scientific background in nineteenth-century Spain locates the expounded facts in an appropriate context. Three leading threads are followed. First is the consideration of the mobility of some Spanish mathematicians during a period including World War I and World War II – when Spain was a theoretically neutral country – and the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939). Second, the emergence and socio-political behavior of a dominant mathematical group gathered around Julio Rey Pastor between 1915 and 1936 is also accounted for, as well as its continuity after the Civil War into the 1940s. Third, attention is paid to the migration or interior exile of a number of mathematicians as a consequence of the Civil War. The paper is organized around nine Tables containing information on mobility of mathematicians, doctorates awarded in the mathematical sciences, and mathematical production in Spain during this period, accompanied by statistical résumés and comments on interesting entries. The main conclusions drawn are: 1) a number of integrants of the Rey group, himself included, officially traveled to Austria, France, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland – usually after having obtained doctorates and fixed positions – imported mathematical knowledge into Spain; 2) the group also managed to dominate the mathematical panorama from both the scientific and the sociological viewpoint; 3) social usages in Spanish mathematical affairs established in Spain in the years prior to the Civil War present a clear continuity under the Franco regime once the war was over.
The Scandinavian countries share a solid reputation as longstanding contributors to top level Arctic research. This received view, however, veils some deep-seated contrasts in the ways that Sweden, Norway, and Denmark have conducted research in the Arctic and the North Atlantic. In this paper it is argued that instead of focusing on the geographical determinism of science – the fact that the Arctic is close to, indeed part of, Scandinavian territories – we should look more closely at the geopolitics of science to understand the differences and similarities between these three Nordic countries. Through case studies of, mainly, Swedish Arctic and North Atlantic glaciology in the 1920s through to the 1940s, and of Norwegian preparations in the 1950s for the International Geophysical Year 1957/58, the paper demonstrates how different styles of research – research agendas, methodological choices, collaborative patterns, international networks, availability of infrastructure, relations to politics and power – are conditioned on economic interests and strategic and geopolitical trajectories, either these are explicitly put in the forefront of scientific priorities as in the case of Norway in the 1950s, or when they are manifestly disregarded in the name of scientific internationalism, as in the case of Swedish glaciology. The case of Danish colonial science in Greenland is only cursorily drawn into this analysis but corroborates the overall thesis. The analysis of this wider science politics of Scandinavian circumpolar science is exercised against a brief introductory backdrop of Arctic science historiography. Its chief message is that the analysis of polar science applying modern theory and method of the social studies of science is comparatively recent and that the full potential of merging the literature of Arctic science and exploration with those of security, geopolitics, indigenous voices, and the politics of nationalism is yet to be realized.
This article examines the conception of elements in the natural philosophy of Nicolaus Taurellus (1547–1606) and explores the theological motivation that stands behind this conception. By some of his early modern readers, Taurellus may have been understood as a proponent of material atoms. By contrast, I argue that considerations concerning the substantiality of the ultimate constituents of composites led Taurellus to an immaterialist ontology, according to which elements are immaterial forms that possess active and passive potencies as well as motion and extension. In Taurellus's view, immaterialism about elements provides support for the theological doctrine of creation ex nihilo. As he argues, the ontology of immaterial forms helps to explicate a sense in which creatures are substances, not accidents of the divine substance. In particular, he maintains that immaterial forms stand in suitable relations of ontological dependence to God: creation dependence (since forms would not exist without the divine act of creation), but neither subsistence dependence (since forms continue to exist without continued divine agency) nor activity dependence (since forms are active without requiring divine concurrence).