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Science Update Podcast

When I was in Vancouver a few weeks ago, I did a taped interview for Science Update Radio of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The podcast is now online and can be heard here. (Look on the left menu: it’s the March 8 segment, “Science for Society.”)

Interesting to see what one sentence they pulled out from my 15 minute interview for the short broadcast! Of course I would have liked it if William Whewell’s name had made it in there (also “the philosophical breakfast club,” referred to only as a “group of scientists in the 19th century”) but at least Francis Bacon was name-checked! And it’s great to have a little historical segment sandwiched in between those on cutting-edge research in scientific fields. Thanks to Susanne Bard and her colleagues at Science Update Radio!

Lecture Tour in Vancouver

I’m just back from my trip to Vancouver, where I talked about The Philosophical Breakfast Club in front of two great audiences. On Thursday afternoon I lectured on “The Philosophical Breakfast Club and the Invention of the Scientist” at the University of British Columbia. The talk was sponsored by The UBC Nineteenth-Century Studies Association, the Department of History, and the Science and Technology Studies Graduate Program. It was a very interdisciplinary audience of philosophers, historians, literary scholars, and scientists. Lots of great questions during the Q & A!

The next morning I was interviewed by Susanne Bard for Science Update Radio of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She asked me about the meaning and importance of science for the public good today, and how scientists in the 19th century promoted this idea under the influence of Francis Bacon. I’ll post a link here to the podcast when it is online.

Then I went to take part in a AAAS session on “Creating a Global Knowledge Society: Lessons from History, Philosophy, and Sociology,” organized by my colleague Heather Douglas of The University of Waterloo. I spoke first, on “Global Science and the Public Good in the 19th Century: Tidalogy, Meteorology, and Magnetism.” I discussed the way in which William Whewell and John Herschel spearheaded global science efforts in studying the tides, weather patterns, and terrestrial magnetism, as a way both to gain understanding of the fundamental forces of nature and improve the public good through improvements to navigation.

The other speakers were Alan Richardson of UBC, and Edward Hackett of Arizona State University, with commentary by Heather Douglas. It was a large and engaged audience, and it was nice to see some old friends there, and to meet some readers of The Philosophical Breakfast Club!

Two Upcoming Talks in Vancouver

I am getting ready for my trip out West next week. I will be giving two talks on The Philosophical Breakfast Club in Vancouver. On Thursday, February 16th, I will be lecturing on “The Philosophical Breakfast Club and the Invention of the Scientist” to the Nineteenth-Century Studies Group at the University of British Columbia—an interdisciplinary faculty and graduate student consortium. (For further information on the talk, which is free and open to the public, see here.)

Then, the next morning, on Friday February 17, I will be part of a panel on “Creating a Global Knowledge Society: Lessons from History, Philosophy, and Sociology” at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. My talk, “Global Science and the Public Good: Tidalogy, Meteorology, and Magnetism,” will address the way that William Whewell and John Herschel, inspired by their Sunday morning philosophical breakfasts and Francis Bacon’s writings, spearheaded international research on the tides, weather and terrestrial magnetism. See here for more information.

It should be an exciting and busy two days!

Talk at AAAS Meeting, February 17, 2012

I am happy to announce that I will be giving a talk at the 2012 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which will be held in Vancouver, Canada, February 16–20.

The theme of this year’s meeting is “Flattening the World: Building the Global Knowledge Society”—a topic that was very near and dear to the hearts of the members of the Philosophical Breakfast Club! In my paper, “Global Science and the Public Good in the 19th century: Meteorology, Tidalogy, Magnetism,” I will discuss the way that William Whewell and John Herschel spearheaded international scientific cooperation (see full abstract below).

My paper will be part of a session entitled “Creating a Global Knowledge Society: Lessons from History, Philosophy and Sociology,” which will be presented at 10am on Friday, February 17th. The session was organized by Heather Douglas; the other speakers will be Alan Richardson and Ed Hackett. It should be a stimulating session!

William Whewell

Abstract
In the nineteenth century, global scientific cooperation was spearheaded by the British scientists John Herschel and William Whewell. They were Influenced by the seventeenth-century philosopher and politician Francis Bacon, who believed that science should be for the public good, to bring about “the relief of man’s estate.” Herschel and Whewell saw global cooperation as necessary not only to uncover new knowledge but also to bring about a global public good. Their efforts led to international cooperation in studying meteorology, the tides, and geomagnetism. Whewell’s world-wide study of tidal patterns made it much safer for ships to sail the seas; Herschel’s work in promoting global meteorological research spurred research on the relation between weather and solar activity and the relation between atmospheric conditions and the intensity of terrestrial magnetism. Whewell and Herschel joined forces in promoting a network of global magnetic observatories to gather geomagnetic data. This information would, they believed, not only help uncover the nature of the universe’s fundamental forces, but also be valuable for navigation, in explaining and predicting the variation of the mariner’s compass. Their example can help us today in creating global knowledge societies that work for the public good.

For more information about the AAAS meeting, or to register, see here.

★ Starred Review from Science Books and Films

The Philosophical Breakfast Club received a starred review from Science Books and Films, a magazine of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“A unique view of the background and times in which these men lived, and a peek at the implications that their work and philosophy had on today’s modern science.”

I love that the magazine included an image of the book’s cover that takes up 2/3 of the page! It’s the only book with such a large spread—kudos to the jacket designer, Evan Gaffney, for creating a cover that no one can resist!

Subscribers can read the full review here.