Synthesis

David Haldeman

Synthesis, a series of books developed by the Science History Institute, seeks to shed light on the history of chemistry, broadly construed, and its diverse roles in society.


Contributors include top scholars in the history of science and a number of past recipients of Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry fellowships. In addition, the Institute hosts a yearly Synthesis lecture given by a series contributor. The series is published by the University of Chicago Press.

Upcoming Lecture

Stay tuned for more information about the 2018 Synthesis Lecture.

Past Lectures

September 29, 2016
Jan Golinski, University of New Hampshire ♦ The Experimental Self: Humphry Davy and the Making of a Man of Science

June 10, 2015
Joseph Gabriel, Johns Hopkins University ♦  Medical Monopoly: Intellectual Property Rights and the Origins of the Modern Pharmaceutical Industry

May 29, 2014
Angela Creager, Princeton University ♦  Atomic Tracings: Radioisotopes in Science and Medicine

Contributions

The TVs of Tomorrow  •  The Experimental Self  •  Pure Intelligence  •  The Recombinant University  •  The Limits of Matter  •  Medical Monopoly  •  Life Atomic  •  Panaceia's Daughters  •  Secrets of Alchemy  •  Inventing Chemistry  •  Genentech  •  Image and Reality

 

The TVs of Tomorrow: How RCA's Flat-Screen Dreams Led to the First LCDs

By Benjamin Gross

The TVs of Tomorrow is a detailed portrait of American innovation during the Cold War, which confirms that success in the electronics industry hinges upon input from both the laboratory and the boardroom.”
 

 


The Experimental Self: Humphry Davy and the Making of a Man of Science

By Jan Golinski

“Golinski’s The Experimental Self explores the ways in which the iconic Romantic figure and man of science Humphry Davy consciously wove together the identities of a chemist, philosopher, dandy, traveler, poet, genius, and discoverer. Golinski brilliantly reveals a world in which such experimentation and self-invention were necessary, before the establishment of modern science with its institutions and career paths.”—Carin Berkowitz, Science History Institute


Pure Intelligence: The Life of William Hyde Wollaston

By Melvyn C. Usselman

 

“Based upon a study of publications, laboratory notebooks, letters and business records, Usselman tells the story of a polymath physician who entered a partnership to manufacture platinum metals and organic chemicals and found himself in an embarrassing but fascinating ethical dilemma, a man who was at the center of British science.”—William Brock, University of Leicester


The Recombinant University: Genetic Engineering and the Emergence of Stanford Biotechnology

By Doogab Yi

“[Yi] presents a particularly illuminating portrait of the evolution of the Stanford Biochemistry Department, giving us a specific and detailed feel for the dilemmas, motives, and limitations of these scientists in grappling with the possibilities of commercialization.”—John D. Lesch, University of California, Berkeley

 


The Limits of Matter: Chemistry, Matter, and Enlightenment

By Hjalmar Fors

“Hjalmar Fors masterfully demonstrates the decisive role of the Swedish Bureau of Mines in defining the nature of reality, matter and the imagination, science, and who was authorized to practice it. His command of primary and secondary sources and languages is awe-inspiring. This is a learned, original, and important work that is bound to be a game-changer in 18th-century studies.”—Kapil Raj, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales


Medical Monopoly: Intellectual Property Rights and the Origins of the Modern Pharmaceutical Industry

By Joseph M. Gabriel

“Marrying a keen eye for detail with attention to the larger picture, Gabriel explores the tensions between beneficence and business in the emergent pharmaceutical industry. This meticulously researched book establishes Gabriel as one of the nation’s experts on the pharmaco-medical enterprise in America from the early Republic to the Progressive Era.”—Elizabeth Watkins, University of California, San Francisco


Life Atomic: A History of Radioisotopes in Science and Medicine

By Angela N. H. Creager

“[Creager] evenhandedly reveals the close coupling between their exploitation and the dynamics of the Cold War, illuminating how they served at once the purposes of health and security, pressing against the ethical boundaries of research with human subjects while helping to tie together the laboratory and the clinic.”—Daniel J. Kevles, Yale University


Panaceia’s Daughters: Noblewomen Healers in Early Modern Germany

By Alisha Rankin

“This book not only challenges us to rethink our understanding of patronage and court culture in terms of gender but also reminds us of the many varieties of empiricism and experimentalism that flourished in the 16th century.”—Tara Nummedal, Brown University

 


The Secrets of Alchemy

By Lawrence Principe

“With his characteristic erudition, wit, and lucid prose, Lawrence M. Principe synthesizes the explosion of new scholarship in the history of alchemy and makes it available to a wider public. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the historical ideas, practices, and personalities at the heart of this centuries-old tradition, as well as the cultural forces that have shaped how we understand alchemy today.”—Tara Nummedal, Brown University


Inventing Chemistry: Herman Boerhaave and the Reform of the Chemical Arts

By John C. Powers

“In a work of meticulous and imaginative scholarship, [Powers] has shown how Boerhaave built his reputation by organizing chemistry for the purpose of pedagogy. In Boerhaave’s classroom, as Powers shows, chemistry shrugged off its alchemical heritage and emerged as a science of the Enlightenment.”—Jan Golinski, University of New Hampshire


Genentech

By Sally Smith Hughes

“My first job out of my postdoc was at Genentech in early 1981. At the time, I had no idea that all those guys in suits were doing something that had never been done before. . . . Sally Smith Hughes has brought to life the details of what the key players were up to—they weren’t playing it safe, and they created a catalytic environment that generated a whole new industry.”—Cynthia Robbins-Roth, From Alchemy to IPO


Image and Reality: Kekule, Kopp, and the Scientific Imagination

By Alan J. Rocke

“The realm of atoms and molecules has long been a battlefield among scientists: what role should mental images and visual tools play in charting the unseen? In this richly textured and closely argued study, Alan Rocke brings the 19th-century debates alive. . . . Rocke argues for the importance of mental imagery in nudging cutting-edge science along.”—David J. Kaiser, Massachusetts Institute of Technology