Isis

Published by University of Chicago Press
Online ISSN: 1545-6994
Publications
Article
History of science and history of medicine are today largely organized as distinct disciplines, though ones widely recognized as interrelated. Attempts to evaluate the extent and nature of their relation have reached varying conclusions, depending in part on the historical period under consideration. This essay examines some characteristics of European medicine from the fifteenth to the early seventeenth century and considers their relevance for the history of science. Attention is given to the range of interests and activities of individuals trained in or practicing medicine, to the impact of changes in natural philosophy, to the role of observation, description, and accumulation of information, and to the exchange of knowledge among the medical community.
 
Article
This essay proposes that the well-documented interest in empirical and experimental practice at the early modern German courts was not limited to male practitioners. Just as princes evinced an interest in practical alchemy, mathematics, and astronomy, a large number of gentlewomen became expert medical practitioners. Using a case study of one noblewoman, Electress Anna of Saxony, I would like to expand the notion of "prince-practitioning" to a more general and inclusive "court experimentalism." Like the prince-practitioners, Anna engaged in a laborious attempt to learn the hands-on techniques involved in becoming an expert; she collaborated with both noblewomen and noblemen in her efforts; and she semantically linked her medicine to the alchemical skills (Künste) practiced by her husband, Elector August. Although court experimentalism cannot be equated with experimentation in the modern sense, medicine is one area in which women actively shared in the early modern fascination with empirical knowledge.
 
Article
Within the context of national traditions in colonial science, the scientific activities of Jesuit missionaries present us with a unique combination of challenges. The multinational membership of the Society of Jesus gave its missionaries access to virtually every Portuguese, Spanish, and French colony. The Society was thus compelled to engage an astonishingly diverse array of cultural and natural environments, and that diversity of contexts is reflected in the range and the complexity of Jesuit scientific practices. Underlying that complexity, however, was what I see as a unique combination of institutional structures; namely, European colleges, overseas mission stations, and the regular circulation of personnel and information. With this institutional framework as a backdrop, I briefly trace what I see as the most salient themes emerging from recent studies of Jesuit overseas science: (1) the Societys ability to use scientific expertise to its advantage amid the complex web of dependencies upon which it missionary activities rested; (2) the ability of its missionaries to become intimate with a wide range of cultures and to appropriate natural knowledge held by indigenous peoples, especially in the fields of material medica and geography; and (3) the different ways Jesuits used published accounts of "remote nature" (i.e., natural histories of overseas colonies) to advance their corporate and religious causes.
 
Article
The Valencian engraver Crisóstomo Martínez (ca. 1638-1694) arrived in Paris in July 1687, commissioned to create an anatomical atlas. Impressed by Govard Bidloo's Anatomia humani corporis (1685), Martínez decided to make a comparable work on osteology. His unpublished atlas of anatomy was exceptional in its choice of topic, its quality, and its overall visual approach. Martínez's work revolves around the dissolving effects of microscopic study on the traditional understanding of the connections between parts and whole. Underlying his investigation into the most effective composition of an anatomical atlas was the idea of the self-organizing and complex nature of the body as itself a composition, an idea rooted in the way observation and judgment, the seen and the unseen, and notions about collections and communities were connected in the vanitas culture. This essay explores the links between Martínez's work and the cultures of a time in which observation and interpretation of the processes of death, decay, and fragmentation played a primary role in defining a common human nature around which notions of destiny could be articulated.
 
Article
The transits of Venus in 1761 and 1769 appear to mark the starting point of instrumental science in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). This essay examines the conditions that triggered and constituted instrumental and institutional science on Indonesian soil in the late eighteenth century. In 1765 the Reverend J. M. Mohr, whose wife had received a large inheritance, undertook to build a fully equipped private observatory in Batavia (now Jakarta). There he made several major astronomical and meteorological observations. Mohr's initiative inspired other Europeans living on Java around 1770 to start a scientific movement. Because of the lack of governmental and other support, it was not until 1778 that this offspring of the Dutch-Indonesian Enlightenment became a reality. The Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen tried from the beginning to put into effect the program Mohr had outlined. The members even bought his instruments from his widow, intending to continue his measurements. For a number of reasons, however, this instrumental program was more than the society could support. Around 1790 instrumental science in the former Dutch East Indies came to a standstill, not to be resumed for several decades.
 
Article
This essay analyzes the controversy that attended the prize essay question on monads proposed by the Berlin Academy of Sciences in 1746. The controversy was first touched off by an anonymous pamphlet published by the mathematician Leonhard Euler, the academy's most well known member, that attacked the doctrine of monads. It peaked with the awarding of the prize to Johann Heinrich Gottlob Justi, whose winning essay closely followed Euler's arguments. This essay discusses the controversy as one instance in a broader quarrel in the German academic community over the suitability of Christian Wolff's philosophy as the foundation for a broad range of academic disciplines, including natural philosophy. It also analyzes the controversy as displaying the central role of the periodical press in the emergent German public sphere.
 
Article
The significance of Herbert Spencer's evolutionary philosophy has been generally recognized for over a century, as the familiarity of his phrase "survival of the fittest" indicates, yet accounts of the origins of his system still tend to follow too closely his own description, written many decades later. This essay argues that Spencer's own interpretation of his intellectual development gives an inadequate impression of the debt he owed to provincial scientific culture and its institutions. Most important, it shows that his evolutionism was originally stimulated by his association with the Derby philosophical community, for it was through this group--of which his father, who also appears to have espoused a deistic evolutionary theory, was a member--that he was first exposed to progressive Englightenment social and educational philosophies and to the evolutionary worldview of Erasmus Darwin, the first president of the Derby Philosophical Society. Darwin's scheme was the first to incorporate biological evolution, associationist psychology, evolutionary geology, and cosmological developmentalism. Spencer's own implicit denials of the link with Darwin are shown to be implausible in the face of Darwin's continuing influence on the Derby savants, the product of insecurity in his later years when he feared for his reputation as Lamarckism became increasingly untenable.
 
Article
In the period 1800-1870, French physicians approached psychic illness (Philippe Pinel's "neurosis") within competing "cerebralist" and "visceralist" frameworks. Cerebralism, which dominated the specialty of mental medicine, sought the origins of psychic illness in lesions of the brain and central nervous system. "Visceralism," upheld by generalists, clung to the view of the ancients that psychic disorder was seated in the abdominal viscera. The distinction enjoyed credibility thanks to widespread acceptance of Xavier Bichat's "two lives" doctrine, which demarcated functions of the central and the "vegetative" nervous systems. Once the "two lives" conception was undercut after midcentury, cerebralists sought to draw disturbances of appetite, digestion, and eating within the domain of the central nervous system. This essay suggests that historical study of "hysterical anorexia" and related disease entities that displaced "neuroses of the stomach" has overemphasized sociocultural determinants to the neglect of the internal dynamics of biomedical science.
 
Article
Historians of science, inasmuch as they are concerned with knowledges and practices rather than institutions, have tended of late to focus on case studies of common processes such as experiment and publication. In so doing, they tend to treat science as a single category, with various local instantiations. Or, alternatively, they relate cases to their specific local contexts. In neither approach do the cases or their contexts build easily into broader histories, reconstructing changing knowledge practices across time and space. This essay argues that by systematically deconstructing the practices of science and technology and medicine (STM) into common, recurrent elements, we can gain usefully "configurational" views, not just of particular cases and contexts but of synchronic variety and diachronic changes, both short term and long. To this end, we can begin with the customary actors' disciplines of early modern knowledge (natural philosophy, natural history, mixed mathematics, and experimental philosophy), which can be understood as elemental "ways of knowing and working," variously combined and disputed. I argue that these same working knowledges, together with a later mode-synthetic experimentation and systematic invention-may also serve for the analysis of STM from the late eighteenth century to the present. The old divisions continued explicitly and importantly after circa 1800, but they were also "built into" an array of new sciences. This historiographic analysis can help clarify a number of common problems: about the multiplicity of the sciences, the importance of various styles in science, and the relations between science and technology and medicine. It suggests new readings of major changes in STM, including the first and second scientific revolutions and the transformations of biomedicine from the later twentieth century. It offers ways of recasting both microhistories and macrohistories, so reducing the apparent distance between them. And it may thus facilitate both more constructive uses of case studies and more innovative and acceptable longer histories.
 
Article
During the first half of the nineteenth century, while Georges Cuvier ruled over natural history and the Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle (MHN) was at its institutional acme, a French banker and industrialist with a Swiss family background, Benjamin Delessert, was developing an important botanical museum in Paris. His private collection included both a rich botanical library and a massive herbarium: the close integration of these two dimensions, together with the magnanimity of Delessert's patronage, contributed to making this private institution a worthy rival to the powerful and state-funded MHN. Delessert's museum had the favor of both professional and amateur naturalists. Knowledgeable and dedicated assistants (Antoine Guillemin and Antoine Lasègue) curated the collections. Moreover, Delessert was an intimate friend of the Genevan botanist Augustin- Pyramus de Candolle. Although Delessert's herbarium followed the Linnaean order, the Delessert Botanical Museum (DBM) contributed to the development of Candolle's natural system, especially through the publication of costly volumes of engravings, the Icones selectae plantarum rariorum. This essay draws together the main steps in the evolution of Delessert's collections, stressing the interdependency between books and dried plants. It focuses on the DBM as a case of cooperation between institutional and amateur expertise, private and public collections, and field collectors and cabinet naturalists.
 
Article
William Kirby and William Spence's Introduction to Entomology is generally recognized as one of the founding texts of entomological science in English. This essay examines the ideological allegiances of the coauthors of the Introduction. In particular, it analyzes the ideological implications of their divergent opinions on animal instinct. Different vocational pursuits shaped each man's natural history. Spence, a political economist, pursued fact-based science that was shorn of references to religion. Kirby, a Tory High Churchman, placed revelation at the very heart of his natural history. His strong commitment to partisan sectarianism cautions against reference to a homogeneous "natural theology" that was an agent of mediation. Fissures in the "common intellectual context" reached beyond the clash between natural theologians and radical anatomists to render the intellectual edifice of natural theology structurally less sound for the future.
 
Article
During the military administration of Algeria, which lasted for forty years, the foundation of the French colony was laid. Indispensable to the military in Algeria was its sizable medical corps. While the ostensible reason for its presence was to maintain the soldiers' health and thus the army's efficiency, it role extended beyond this primary objective. Starting from the intellectual and political influences that shaped the training in France of the members of the medical corps, this essay examines the ways in which they contributed to the creation of a French colonial space in Algeria. It traces how their involvement in the intellectual, cultural, and political life of the colony enabled them both to further their own ambitions and to influence wider developments. It explores how colonial physicians and surgeons, deemed to be among the most efficient agents of the civilizing mission owing to their humane contacts with the indigenous population, in fact contributed to that population's categorization and marginalization.
 
Article
This essay recovers the experiences of women at the meetings of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS) from its founding in 1831 to the end of the Victorian era. It aims to add to research on women in science by reconsidering the traditional role of women as consumers rather than producers of knowledge and to that on science popularization by focusing on audience experience rather than on the aims and strategies of popularizers. The essay argues that, in various ways, the ubiquitous and visible female audience came to define the BAAS audience and "the public" for science more generally. The women who swelled the BAAS audiences were accepted as a social element within the meetings even as they were regarded critically as scientific participants. Portrayed as passive and nonscientific, women allowed the male scientific elites to distance themselves from their audiences. Arguing from diary and other evidence, we present examples that complicate existing notions of audiences for science as necessarily active.
 
Article
The theological doctrine of biblical inerrancy is the intellectual basis for modern creation science. Yet Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield of Princeton Theological Seminary, the theologian who more than any other defined modern biblical inerrancy, was throughout his life open to the possibility of evolution and at some points an advocate of the theory. Throughout a long career Warfield published a number of major papers on these subjects, including studies of Darwin's religious life, on the theological importance of the age of humanity (none) and the unity of the human species (much), and on Calvin's understanding of creation as proto-evolutionary. He also was an engaged reviewer of many of his era's important books by scientists, theologians, and historians who wrote on scientific research in relation to traditional Christianity. Exploration of Warfield's writing on science generally and evolution in particular retrieves for historical consideration an important defender of mediating positions in the supposed war between science and religion.
 
Article
Charles Darwin hoped that a large body of working naturalists would embrace evolution after the Origin of Species appeared in late 1859. He was disappointed. His evolutionary ideas at first made painfully little progress in the scientific community. But by 1863 the tide had turned dramatically, and within five years evolution became scientific orthodoxy in Britain. The Origin's reception followed this peculiar trajectory because Darwin had not initially tied its theory to productive original scientific investigation, which left him vulnerable to charges of reckless speculation. The debate changed with his successful application of evolution to original problems, most notably orchid fertilization, the subject of a well-received book in 1862. Most of Darwin's colleagues found the argument of the Origin convincing when they realized that it functioned productively in the day-to-day work of science-and not before. The conceptual force of the Origin, however outwardly persuasive, acquired full scientific legitimacy only when placed "in the harness of daily labour".
 
Article
Paleoanthropology emerged as a science during the late nineteenth century. The discovery of prehistoric artifacts in Pleistocene deposits soon led to the excavation of fossilized human bones. The archaeologists and geologists who unearthed them were primarily concerned with determining whether the human fossils and the artifacts found with them actually dated from the Pleistocene, thus offering evidence for the geological antiquity of humans. Prehistoric archaeologists reconstructed the way of life of prehistoric peoples through the artifacts found, while anthropologists examined the human fossils. They wanted primarily to identify the races of prehistoric humans. It was within this context that French anthropologists began to use the term "paléo-anthropologie" to refer to a new scientific discipline devoted to the study of prehistoric human races and human paleontology. This essay examines how paleoanthropology was defined as a science during the 1870s and 1880s. It shows that a tension existed between the objectives and methods of archaeologists and anthropologists. Paul Topinard criticized archaeologists and argued that a new type of scientist; the paleoanthropologist trained in anatomy or zoology, was needed to study human fossils properly.
 
Top-cited authors
Peter Robert Dear
  • Cornell University
Paul Forman
  • Smithsonian Institution
Ronald R. Kline
  • Cornell University
Samuel J M M Alberti
  • National Museums Scotland
Keith Hutchison
  • University of Northern Iowa