History Lab

Join us each summer for History Lab, a series of free monthly seminars taking place from June through August. We’ll explore big questions from science and history that have immediate, real-world implications.

Science is an important part of modern life; it solves big problems and deeply affects our everyday lives. But many people remain excluded from full participation. We have a lot of assumptions about disability and its place in modern science, but are they grounded in something that isn’t really true? And what do we lose by making science a place where only the able-bodied can participate?

This summer, to build History Lab, we are using more than 30 oral histories we have collected from members of the U.S. STEM community who are differently abled. We’ll challenge our biases and talk about how to change the ways we view participation in science. Philadelphia is a city with a thriving scientific culture and a long-standing disability advocacy community, so come and join your friends, neighbors, and colleagues for lively discussion and a fun deep dive into a topic that affects our community.

History Lab: Disability and the Myth of the Independent Scientist

Saturday, August 17 | 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Mobility impairments shape how some people perform their tasks of daily living. For those with physical disabilities, activities that able-bodied individuals can complete with little forethought often require acts of collaboration with other humans, animals, and machines. But are the able-bodied really doing things “independently”? This program looks at the ways the life stories of scientists with mobility disabilities can prompt us to ask questions about how networks of hidden labor and privilege enable the production of modern scientific knowledge and why the myth of the “independent scientist” is indeed just that, a myth.

History Lab: Moving beyond Scientific Genius
Saturday, July 27 | 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Psychologists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries began developing standardized methods for testing and measuring human intelligence. Since then, STEM fields have grown especially enamored with the idea of intelligence and the appearance of a purely merit-based reward system in science. But what about people who learn in ways that are not well-supported by our modern educational or scientific institutions? What about those who require more time, additional support, or altogether different teaching approaches to learn? By examining the participation and experiences of individuals with learning differences and cognitive disabilities, this program examines how harmful narratives about genius impact who pursues scientific careers as much as it shapes what we count as “real science.”

History Lab: Through the Lens of Disability
Saturday, June 22 | 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Modern science relies upon vision, and not just the metaphorical kind. Since the age of the Scientific Revolution, natural philosophers and scientists have worked to develop tools and knowledge that are almost entirely dependent upon what we can see with our eyes. But is vision necessarily any more reliable or less subjective than our other senses when it comes to understanding the world around us? Why do we privilege sight in the history and modern creation of science and what happens when we learn things using other senses? Help us explore how the experiences and contributions of scientists who are blind or low-vision challenge long-held assumptions about the nature of scientific truth and the many ways of knowing it.

We’re Working to Make Our Programming Accessible
Each session of History Lab will have ASL interpretation and closed-caption technology for presentations. Please contact Zack Biro at zbiro@sciencehistory.org if you need accessible parking or other accommodations.