Cain Conference 2017: Chemistry in the Americas, 1500−1800
Historians in early modern times said that the practice of their art had two eyes, chronology and geography. Together these envisioned the temporal and spatial extensions and ordered sequences of actions that formed the record of human history. Even in such basic terms we currently lack anything approaching a coherent narrative of the chemical arts and sciences as practiced on the premodern American continent. This circumstance differentiates American historiographies from those of European, Arabic, and some eastern Asian cultures, and thus provides a fundamental motivation for the topic of the Cain Conference 2017. While one conference cannot hope to supply such a whole and coherent narrative, we can nonetheless take practical steps toward its provision.
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John Christie is currently the 2017 Cain Conference Fellow at the Institute. He spent much of his career at the University of Leeds, where he was chair of the Division of History and Philosophy of Science and research director for the Department of Philosophy. He was also director of the Centre for Cultural Studies. Christie later became a member of the Faculty of History at Oxford, and has held research posts at the School for Advanced Studies, University of Edinburgh, and the Max Planck Institute for History of Science, Berlin.
Christie continues his longtime research on the history of science in the Scottish Enlightenment with a focus on the scientific work of the English Rational Dissenters, particularly Joseph Priestley. He is also writing on early modern historiography of medicine and on chemistry’s role both in agricultural improvement and in Scotland’s Industrial Revolution. In 2018 he will collaborate on a research project on the historiography of scientific modernity at the Max Planck Institute.
Carin Berkowitz is the director of the Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry at the Science History Institute. She is the author of Charles Bell and the Anatomy of Reform, published by the University of Chicago Press in 2015, and of a series of articles on anatomy, images, and objects published in the Bulletin of the History of Medicine, the British Journal for the History of Science, and History of Science. She is also the coeditor, with Bernard Lightman, of a forthcoming collection entitled Science Museums in Transition: Cultures of Display in Nineteenth-Century Britain and America in which she has a piece on the Philadelphia naturalist Joseph Leidy. Berkowitz teaches courses at the University of Pennsylvania on the history of science, images, and material culture and is working on a new book project on 18th- and 19th-century illustrated folios.
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