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History of Biology Seminars

2007 Seminar: What is the Value of History for Science?

Mon, May 14, 2007 - Sun, May 20, 2007
Woods Hole, MA

For historians of science, digging into historical details and developing narratives gives their work an intrinsic value and no further justification is needed. They rarely question the value of the history of science outside the field. In particular, they rarely ask such questions as "What is the value of the history for Science?"

We start with the hypothesis that science is actually made better when it embraces an historical perspective, and will explore whether and in what way this is true. We will exmaine myths about how the scientific enterprise works, emphasizing the importance of accident and local contigency in science, exploring the role of assumptions and choices made in science, and working on exmmaples of how such selections have shaped the scientific results.

MBL t-shirt

This will be our primary emphasis: on the way science works and then on how history might make a difference. In addition, we will ask what difference it makes to have one view rather than another about how science works. What difference does it make for science, and what difference for the way that we educate students, train graduate students, and interact with the public? Our goal is to develop effective ways that historians of science and scientists can work together to improve the quality and impact of each.

John Beatty, University of British Columbia
James Collins, Arizona State University
Jane Maienschein, Arizona State University
Jane Maienschein, Arizona State University
George Smith, Tufts University