Abstracts Archive

Between 1858 and 1859, Emperor Napoleon III’s government determined a national pitch to which musicians should tune their instruments. The following year, the British Society of Arts attempted to emulate this standard. Amid tense Anglo-French relations, however, British audiences interpreted the French pitch as a measure of the country’s politi...

Physical SciencesContributed Paper

In their efforts to follow the instructions emanated from the Council of Trent, Sixtus Vth Bull Coeli et Terrae, and the rules established by the commissions of the Roman and the Spanish Indexes of Forbidden Books, Spanish Inquisitors involved in trials for the practice of astrology dealt with not only the reports of experts about the discipline, b...

Physical SciencesContributed Paper

In the 9th century, al-Farghānī composed a work on the elements of astronomy which remained well-known for centuries during the medieval period. Through thirty chapters, he presented Ptolemaic astronomy in a way whose “rearrangement” and “rewording” was praised by medieval readers. Not bearing a particular title, this book spread the popu...

Physical SciencesOrganized Session

In 1977, a pair of unmanned spacecraft built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), launched on a mission to explore the outer solar system. As the spacecraft arced toward Jupiter, JPL’s team of imaging scientists prepared to receive and shape data collected by Voyager's scientific instruments into high-resolution photographic images. A sec...

Physical SciencesOrganized Session

Alfonsine astronomy flourished in Latin Europe from the second half of the 13th to the middle of the 16th century. It is arguably among the first European scientific achievements and shaped a scene for well-known actors like Regiomontanus or Copernicus. There has been, however, little detailed analysis of its comprehensive development. ALFA (2017-2...

Physical SciencesOrganized Session

The nineteenth century witnessed a gradual liberalisation of the mathematical objects and forms of mathematical reasoning permissible in physical argumentation. Historians of physics note, but take for granted, the co-development of the necessary mathematics and its unproblematic application to physical problems. Conversely, historians of mathemati...

Physical SciencesOrganized Session

A panel discussion with the audience.

Physical SciencesOrganized Session

Premodern science considered nature through Aristotle’s definition of an intrinsic principle, driving species and individuals towards perfection, in a less or more regular manner which allows scientific knowledge. However, sometimes things go wrong—nature incidentally makes mistakes. Can natural errors (like “monsters”) be amended? This pan...

Physical SciencesOrganized Session

Roger Bacon's Scientia experimentalis is driven by a new apocalyptic Christian vision of reform and renovation on earth. It involves the manipulation of light and sight in the production of new technologies of war. It involves a new vision of Chemistry/ Alchemy in the renovation of the human body. Since the body is closely united to the intellectua...

Physical SciencesOrganized Session

The College of Sorbonne was founded in the University of Paris by Robert de Sorbon in the mid-thirteenth century. Soon after its foundation, thanks to several large bequests, it included two collections of books : a library for loans and a chained library for consultation. Both collections were representative of the knowledge available and circulat...

Physical SciencesOrganized Session

What was the role of astronomical tables as pedagogical tools for the teaching of astrology in the medieval period? In considering the genres of texts used for teaching astrology in Islamic contexts, the introductory text (mudkhal) was a central component of study. Oftentimes these introductions make reference to a table of planetary motion (zīj),...

Physical SciencesOrganized Session

The slow changing position of the fixed stars with respect to the vernal point, directly observable through the stars’ changing ortive amplitude, were accounted for by diverging models during the Middle Ages. Ptolemy assumed a linear increase of stellar longitude over time. A text on the movement of the Eighth Sphere (the sphere of the fixed star...

Physical SciencesOrganized Session

During the Hongwu Reign (1368-1398) of the Ming Dynasty, a set of Zij was translated into Chinese under the Chinese title Huihui lifa (Chinese-Islamic System of Calendrical Astronomy). This paper will try to show how the Zij was looked upon and understood by Chinese astronomers thereafter. In view that the Zij contained some astronomical techniques...

Physical SciencesContributed Paper

If you can spray them then they are real” is Ian Hacking’s pithy answer to the question of when we should believe in the existence of microscopic entities we cannot see. Much history and philosophy of science has concerned the second half of Hacking’s slogan. Historians have investigated how scientists came to believe in things like electrons...

Physical SciencesOrganized Session

Materials research has contributed to pervasive, profound, yet largely invisible changes to both society in general and the sciences in particular. From computers to nuclear reactors, many high technologies – including the technologies of theory and experiment – require advanced materials. Yet we have no systematic history of materials research...

Physical SciencesOrganized Session

There is no bright line between representing and intervening – even microscopes can be used to, for instance, fabricate atomically-precise devices. Yet materials scientists routinely make a rough distinction between tools associated with characterization and those associated with fabrication. In general, historians and philosophers have paid more...

Physical SciencesOrganized Session

The German physicist Pascual Jordan (1902-1980) is renown not only for his contributions to the development of quantum mechanics but also for trying to reconcile religious and scientific world views. Science, he thought, had repealed materialism. Aiming at a wider audience, Jordan lectured at Radio Bremen. These lectures were reworked in 1954 into ...

Physical SciencesContributed Paper

Girolamo Cardano writes of how people can find themselves in love against their will: if we imagine something beautiful, we cannot withhold our love. Hence, when a beautiful form enters the imagination, the will can be submitted through the inflammation of medical spirits (Cardano then goes on to discuss the vagaries of erectile disfunction). In 15...

Physical SciencesOrganized Session

At the turn of the 20th century, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), inspired by kinetic gas theory, calculated the dimensions of the universe based on stellar velocities in the vicinity of the Solar System, giving rise to "stargas" models of star clusters -- and of the universe -- pursued from 1904 to the early 1920s by J. C. Kapteyn, Henri Poincaré, ...

Physical SciencesOrganized Session

Ulugh Beg’s 15th c. Samarqand observatory and associated madrasa is one of the most famous Islamic scientific institutions, producing astronomical observations that were not equalled until Tycho Brahe. Less is known, however, about the process of research and education at Samarqand, but a number of commentaries produced by Samarqand scholars shed...

Physical SciencesContributed Paper

The papers in this session recall the intellectually-challenging context in astronomy and astrophysics at the turn of the 20th century, when a wealth of empirical data became available, giving rise to a host of new, and quite puzzling statistical correlations, the reality of which was often deemed uncertain. Several theorists braved the uncertainti...

Physical SciencesOrganized Session

This paper proposes a comparative investigation of the use of emblems in two leading vitalist natural philosophies of the Renaissance, Giordano Bruno and Francis Bacon. Bruno and Bacon are rarely treated together. And yet, they share a lot: an“operative” vision of scientia, an appetitive matter-theory, a belief in the powers of imagination. Bot...

Physical SciencesOrganized Session

From the late-19th century to the early 21st century, space and planetary imaging has evolved along with the introduction of new technologies/techniques and new disciplines in science, engineering, art, and design. The 19th century astronomical artists and illustrators could hardly anticipate the Hollywood matte painting techniques that would be br...

Physical SciencesOrganized Session

The idea of a general legality in nature is found in the writing of Roger Bacon already in the thirteenth century. Bacon moved towards a new conception of nature by rendering natural regularities into laws. He wrote of the law of reflection, the law of refraction, the law of the gravity of water and the laws of stars. He explained dissenting phenom...

Physical SciencesOrganized Session

The paper explores the richness of scientific and philosophical approaches to matter in the thirteenth century. The twelfth-century Arabic- and Greek-into-Latin translation movements provided, in a relatively short time, Latinate audience with different accounts of matter as epistemic object proper to diverse disciplines—natural philosophy, logic...

Physical SciencesOrganized Session

Byzantine scribes and copyists working with manuscripts stemming from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries employed several strategies on arranging and presenting knowledge with regard to astronomy and astrology, especially reworking Greek-Ptolemaic astronomy and incorporating Islamic astronomical materials. From manuscript evidence we are able t...

Physical SciencesOrganized Session

The astrophysical research of Anton Pannekoek (1873-1960) is characterized by epistemic virtues like precision, diligence, and exactitude, which he valued over expeditiousness or scope. In theoretical research these virtues were present in his development of laborious numerical methods for the fine analysis of stellar spectra, while in observation ...

Physical SciencesOrganized Session

“It is remarkable how slow natural philosophers… have been to make use of [Lagrangian and Hamiltonian] methods… [But] now the feeblest among us can repeat the words of power and take part in dynamical discussions” (Maxwell, 1879). Through their work in the 1860s and 70s, James Clerk Maxwell and his influential friends William Thomson and Pe...

Physical SciencesOrganized Session

Vinculum vinculorum amor est. Giordano Bruno’s statement, “the chain of chains is love,” served Ioan Petru Culianu, in his classic on Renaissance magic, to summarize the conception that eros is the universal principle agitating nature. The living cosmos is sentient in all of its parts; desire keeps together reality at the micro-scale of terre...

Physical SciencesOrganized Session