Aspects of Scientific Practice/Organization Drift 13, Rm. 004 Organized Session
26 Jul 2019 01:30 PM - 03:30 PM(Europe/Amsterdam)
20190726T1330 20190726T1530 Europe/Amsterdam Correspondence Networks: Exploring Space, Class and Gender through the Material Object

Between the early nineteenth and the mid-twentieth centuries, contributions to knowledge about nature depended on correspondence networks as a means for exchanging information, ideas, and specimens. The importance of these networks to the most eminent figures in science has been widely acknowledged. Much attention has been paid to their cultivation of style, construction of personae, and conformity to set formulae for corresponding knowledge through the medium of the letter. This panel will explore some lesser known sites and actors. To do so, we consider the materiality of correspondence as a global practice. By framing letters as material objects, we locate letters and correspondence networks in continuous relationship to other spatial entities, in line with recent work on the geographies of books and other paper documents. We pay attention to the physical page, the use of postage stamps to pay for scientific labour, the mobilisation of botanical specimens for self-presentation, and the value of pencil and ink diagrams for communicating observations. We consider the nature of correspondence itself in shaping scientific disciplines and explore how it may help us integrate the histories of excluded groups. We look across different areas of science, from botanical knowledge to phrenology, and at different social contexts and genders, to interrogate the coherence of scientific correspondence practices. It is by taking seriously the places of paper, we argue, that we may investigate more fully the porosity of borders in science.

Organized by Laura Brassington

Drift 13, Rm. 004 History of Science Society 2019 meeting@hssonline.org

Between the early nineteenth and the mid-twentieth centuries, contributions to knowledge about nature depended on correspondence networks as a means for exchanging information, ideas, and specimens. The importance of these networks to the most eminent figures in science has been widely acknowledged. Much attention has been paid to their cultivation of style, construction of personae, and conformity to set formulae for corresponding knowledge through the medium of the letter. This panel will explore some lesser known sites and actors. To do so, we consider the materiality of correspondence as a global practice. By framing letters as material objects, we locate letters and correspondence networks in continuous relationship to other spatial entities, in line with recent work on the geographies of books and other paper documents. We pay attention to the physical page, the use of postage stamps to pay for scientific labour, the mobilisation of botanical specimens for self-presentation, and the value of pencil and ink diagrams for communicating observations. We consider the nature of correspondence itself in shaping scientific disciplines and explore how it may help us integrate the histories of excluded groups. We look across different areas of science, from botanical knowledge to phrenology, and at different social contexts and genders, to interrogate the coherence of scientific correspondence practices. It is by taking seriously the places of paper, we argue, that we may investigate more fully the porosity of borders in science.

Organized by Laura Brassington

"Off Alone on My Tramps": Correspondence Networks of Women Botanists in the U.S. Frontier WestView Abstract
Organized Session 01:30 PM - 02:00 PM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/26 11:30:00 UTC - 2019/07/26 12:00:00 UTC
This paper will explore the correspondence of women botanical collectors in the U.S. Frontier West and will discuss the hidden histories of women’s scientific work taking place in the nation’s mining, mountain, and border outposts. Letters exchanged both between women in the West, and between these women and their eastern, generally male correspondents, demonstrates the range of motivations, hazards, rewards, and sacrifices that prompted women such as Alice Eastwood (1859-1953), Sarah Plummer Lemmon (1836-1923), Mary Katharine Brandegee (1844-1920), Rebecca Merritt Austin (1832-1919), and Emily O. Pelton (c.1858-1945) to pursue plants across remote landscapes. This paper will investigate the degrees of candor with which these women talked both to each other and to those outside their close circles about issues we would now classify as sexual harassment, pay equity, and professional advancement.
Presenters
TG
Tina Gianquitto
Colorado School Of Mines
Materials of the Mind: Phrenology, Correspondence, and the Global History of Science, 1815-1920View Abstract
Organized Session 02:00 PM - 02:30 PM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/26 12:00:00 UTC - 2019/07/26 12:30:00 UTC
In 1828, the Edinburgh phrenologist George Combe (1788-1858) published his now famous work, The Constitution of Man. Over the course of the nineteenth century, this book sold more than 300,000 copies, and was translated into at least six different languages, including Bengali and Japanese. From American senators to Indian social reformers, phrenology soon found supporters stretching across the globe. These individuals were bound together by the increasingly globalised postal networks of the nineteenth century. In this paper, I explore how phrenologists used the postal service to build a global movement. In doing so, I focus particularly on the materiality of these networks along with the objects that were sent alongside letters. These objects include skulls collected in the Arctic, plaster busts manufactured in Paris, and phrenological charts printed in Bengal. This focus on materiality also allows me to explore the limits of phrenology as a global scientific movement, suggesting the ways in which particular people and regions were cut out of the story. More broadly, this paper suggests how the global history of science can be written through the global history of material culture. In the nineteenth century, what it meant to be a global science of the mind was in part a product of global material exchange.
Presenters
JP
James Poskett
University Of Warwick
The Politics of Botanical Objecthood in Nineteenth Century Correspondence NetworksView Abstract
Organized Session 02:30 PM - 03:00 PM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/26 12:30:00 UTC - 2019/07/26 13:00:00 UTC
In December of 1822, Danish naturalist Nathaniel Wallich (1786-1854) left his home in Kolkata, and visited British colleagues in Bengkulu and Singapore on a collecting mission that was designed to unite the flora of the East Indies and India. During his months abroad, Wallich collected thousands of plants in the East Indies, transported them both alive and dead back to India, and shipped out sample sets and descriptions to Britain, France, and the Netherlands. Wallich’s objectification of these tropical plants functioned as a way of managing and facilitating global trade, even amidst the Napoleonic Wars, which enabled him to continue building natural history institutions within South and Southeast Asia. The process both exploited and complicated colonial competition. The history of botany has largely been told as a circulation of goods between “center and periphery” or, in more recent studies, between colonial botanic gardens that upheld imperial structures. The realities of collecting in situ, however, present a far more complicated story: one in which middle-class practitioners worked across national alignments, sometimes double- and triple-timing their patrons in supplying rivals with duplicates and triplicates of specimens. Indeed, many of these “professional” collectors occupied liminal spaces alongside their indigenous colleagues, acting as political prisoners, commercial nurserymen, and illustrators for hire. Pairing circulating herbarium specimens with correspondence records and the glass and paper technologies that accompanied them, I trace the complex networks of “global” botanical transfer and communication across the Indian Ocean in the early-nineteenth century.
Presenters
EA
Elaine Ayers
New York University
Trespassing Tigresses and "Pig-Headed Celts": Corresponding beyond Class Boundaries, from Scotland to CalcuttaView Abstract
Organized Session 03:00 PM - 03:30 PM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/26 13:00:00 UTC - 2019/07/26 13:30:00 UTC
Between 1862 and 1879, 291 letters were exchanged between the most celebrated nineteenth-century naturalist, Charles Darwin (1809-92), and self-taught, working-class gardener, John Scott (1836-80). Scott was a foreman at the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens when he first wrote Darwin to point out an error in The Fertilisation of Orchids (1862). Darwinism was controversial in 1860s Edinburgh, particularly at the Gardens. However, Scott infiltrated the Garden’s lectures, appropriated their microscopes, and, by virtue of Scott’s low social class, could sneak from his bothy on the edge of the gardens into its hothouses on Sundays, to perform observations and experiments. Scott not only provided specimens for Darwin, but, from a garden intended for economic botany, he also engaged in theory. The price for Scott’s trespasses was his job. Through Darwin’s patronage, Scott became curator of the Calcutta Botanical Gardens. Scott challenged the borders of spaces physically, temporally, and theoretically inaccessible to a man of his station. His instrument was the letter. Yet correspondence also reveals the limitations to Scott’s trespasses. In this paper, I seek to find an analytical bridge between the situatedness and the mobility of Scott and his science. By taking the letter itself as a spatial entity, one co-constructed – quite literally in dialogue – by sender, recipient, and their respective networks, I explore how Scott functioned as a mediator of social and scientific hierarchies. I argue that whilst Scott’s status may seem to defy stable definition, it was simply constructed and perceived differently by different correspondents and their respective contexts.
Presenters Laura Brassington
University Of Cambridge
New York University
University of Cambridge
Colorado School of Mines
University of Warwick
Janet Browne, Harvard University
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Mr. Chaokang Tai
University of Amsterdam
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