posted by Dániel Margócsy
A review of The Living Rock: Natural, Human, and Sacred Histories of the Earth, 1680-1740, by Lydia Barnett.
How do you write a history of the Earth from Noah’s Flood to the Apocalypse in an age that rewards piecemeal empirical research? How do you reconcile your overarching theories with the tidbits of evidence that the Bible, figure stones and Platonic myths provide? Lydia Barnett’s The Living Rock offers a refreshing intellectual history of how European scholars tackled these problems in the years around 1700. Her dissertation brings to life the heated debates that theories of the Earth...
posted by Miriam Kingsberg
A review of Rationalizing Empire: Nation, Space and Community in Japanese Social Sciences, 1931-1945, by SEOK-WON LEE.
Much of the literature on the Japanese empire in the 1920s and 1930s implicitly addresses the transformation of the imperial worldview from internationalist to Asianist, against a political backdrop of rupture, autarky, and military collision. Seok-won Lee’s dissertation explores this metamorphosis within the social sciences, including the disciplines of political science, sociology, and economics. In the relatively liberal atmosphere of the 1920s, social scientists...
posted by Rebekah Higgitt
A review of Architectures of Astronomical Observation: From Sternwarte Kassel (ca. 1560) to the Radcliffe Observatory (1772), by Alistair Marcus Kwan.
Given the scientific and symbolic importance of astronomical observatories, it is surprising that they have received relatively little analysis. There are accounts of individual observatories, the astronomers who worked in them and the instruments they used, but much less has been said about observatories as type of building. Still less has the relationship between buildings, instruments and people been given sustained consideration, which seems...
posted by Stephen T. Casper
A review of Mental Defectives, Childhood Psychotics and the Origins of Autism Research at the Maudsley Hospital, 1913-1983, by Bonnie Evans.
Bonnie Evans’ excellent dissertation maps out the formation of child psychiatry in the twentieth century while simultaneously exploring the origins and construction of the autistic child in British society. Tracing evolving political standards, upheavals in local and national legislation, changing roles for medical and educational institutions, as well as new trends in psychiatric theory and treatment, Evans’ story captures the ways that the...
posted by Michael Gibbs Hill
A review of the Shanghai Library Modern Documents Reading Room (近代文献阅览室), Shanghai, China.
Over the past ten years I have done research at the Modern Documents Reading Room at the Shanghai Library half a dozen times. In July and August of 2011, I spent three weeks working there. My research focuses on literary writing, intellectual history, and the publishing business in the late Qing and Republican periods. Since most of the major publishers in the first half of the twentieth century were located in Shanghai, it makes sense that the library would have one of the best collections...
posted by Tatjana Buklijas
A review of Teratology and the Clinic: Monsters, Obstetrics, and the Making of Antenatal Life in Edinburgh, c.1900, by Salim Al-Gailani.
Salim Al-Gailani’s dissertation explores the career and impact of the obstetrician William Ballantyne, who in the turn of the twentieth century Edinburgh transformed teratology (study of embryonic and fetal malformations) from a practice of collecting ‘monsters’ and turning them into museum specimens into a clinical discipline of ‘antenatal pathology’. This dissertation is much more than an intellectual biography: through the story of Ballantyne’s...
posted by Claire G. Jones
A review of Speaking for Nature: Mary Somerville and the Science of Empire, by Michal Meyer.
Mary Somerville (1780-1872) is an intriguing figure in the history of science; unusually for a woman, she managed to gain a reputation for herself as an elite practitioner of science, rather than as just a communicator of men’s intellectual product. That Somerville achieved this status, whereas women in the later decades of the nineteenth century faced great obstacles in sustaining a serious scientific reputation, requires an analysis that delves deep into the historically changing understandings,...