The first issue of BJHS for 2019 brings with it some good news: the joint winner of our 2014 Singer Prize for an article by an early career researcher, Jenny Bulstrode, has gone on to win the 2018 Sarton Prize for History of Science. Awarded by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, this prize recognises her achievement and promise as an emerging scholar in the field. The British Society for the History of Science sends its warm congratulations to Jenny and is proud to have played its part in the advancement and recognition of her scholarship.
So, on to the articles for March, which are geographically and chronologically diverse. They begin with a pair of innovative essays on the early-modern period, each of them challenging long-held conceptions of the era. First up, S. V. Weeks, in ‘Francis Bacon’s doctrine of idols’, argues that Bacon’s theory of idols underpinned his diagnosis of the contemporary condition as one of ‘universal madness’. Although the practice of historiography does not require contemporary justification, readers may find that the paper invokes powerful resonances with current political and environmental discourse … Fabrizio Baldassarri’s ‘The mechanical life of plants’ is equally surprising and original, developing the case that Descartes had a much greater interest in plants than has previously been recognised: an interest that had a direct bearing on his lifelong ambition to explain the nature of living bodies and fuelled the emergence of botany as a modern science
Next, Jim Bennett takes us to sea with ‘Mathematicians on board’, exploring how Nevil Maskelyne and Robert Waddington came to engage with the navigational practices that were part of shipboard routine, and how their experiences affected the development of the methods that they separately promoted on their return. The theme of the training and cultivation of the scientific persona continues with David Stack and his paper ‘Charles Darwin and the scientific mind’. The scientific mind has been a much touted entity over recent decades, and here Stack examines its contingent historical construction, finding new ways to read Darwin’s autobiography along the way.
The almost ceaseless historical appropriation of Darwin also defines Xiaoxing Jin’s ‘Translation and transmutation’. This article demonstrates how Darwin was filtered through the lens of Huxley for Chinese readers of the very early twentieth century, with the Origin of Species translated to reflect what, from British perspectives, look like distinctly Lamarckian and Spencerian principles. Finally, ‘Rothschild reversed’ brings readers right into the era of contemporary history, and in it Stephen M. Davies explains the exceptionalism of British biomedical research during the 1970s, showing how medical elites were able to operate counter to the direction of national science policy
On a side-note, fashionistas (a substantial subset of BJHS readers) will have noticed that last year’s cover colour (coral) was subsequently adopted by Pantone as its colour of the year and was prominently featured in many couture collections. Here’s your heads-up to invest in dove grey for the next few months…
Image: The first edition of Daerwen wuzhong youlai, yijuan (Darwin’s Origin of Species, vol. 1), was circulated on 1 December 1903 by Wenming Book Company and Guangyi Book Company in Shanghai. The volume (pictured here) was reprinted in 1906. © 2018 Trustees of Australian National University Library.