Editor Charlotte Sleigh writes:
Waddling into Autumn 2015, the third issue of BJHS for 2015 opens with Natalie Lawrence’s account of how early-modern naturalists fitted the dodo into contemporary systems of taxonomy. Dodos are somehow inherently intriguing, but this paper makes a more general contribution to the history of science by showing how the emblematic and the natural-historical were blended even in early-modern systems of knowledge.
Two articles deal with the current hot research topic of nineteenth-century observatory sciences, one at the heart of the British empire and the other farther afield. Lee Macdonald’s story of the Kew Observatory is the former. Far from being the creation of John Herschel, as some might suppose, this institution turns out to be the awkward product of several institutions, and of ‘scientific servicemen’. Such apparently non-central figures of science – military and medical men – also played an important role in the foundation of the observatory in the Straits Settlement, as Fiona Williamson explores in her study of imperial meteorology.
Bill Jenkins, meanwhile, subjects the father of phrenology, George Combe, to investigation in relation to another infamous science of his day – transformism. He argues that Combe’s hereditarianism was not directly related to Lamarckian science but formed part of a wider discourse on heredity in the early nineteenth century. David Livingstone tackles another sometimes controversial combination, namely religion and science. His essay examines two late nineteenth-century figures – Alexander Winchell in the United States and William Robertson Smith in Britain – both of whom found in anthropology resources to vindicate divine revelation: in Winchell’s case from the physical anthropology of human origins and in Smith’s from the cultural anthropology of Semitic ritual. It did not end well for either of them.
From Book Reviews Editor, Don Leggett:
This quarter we are delighted to publish a review article on sound studies and twenty-six individual book reviews on topics from ancient medicine to Cold War rationality. In charting the coming to age of a fairly new academic field, Tim Boon’s ‘Sounding the field’ explores the major questions and themes around which sound studies has developed over the past ten years. Reviewing recent publications by David Hendy, Trevor J. Pinch, Karin Bijsterveld and Alexandra Hui, Boon shows how insights and interests from HPS, STS, musicology and cultural studies have found new form in the study of sound, providing a rich interdisciplinary perspective on the relationship between sound and culture.
The book reviews section displays a similarly rich array of scholarship under review, featuring works in English, French and German; research monographs and edited volumes on topics from the history of the history of science to recent museum exhibitions. While we publish reviews on a range of topics, clusters of reviews always form, and in this issue we have an insightful set of reviews on recent work on psychology and emotion by Ute Frevert, Colin Jones and Angelique Richardson; while historians of physics will be interested to see discussions on topics from James Clerk Maxwell to quantum mechanics and nuclear weapons.
Your contributions are key to the book reviews section in the BJHS, and while we are always keen to hear proposals for book reviews, we are especially enthusiastic to commission review articles, like Boon’s, that serve us all by charting the important historiographical trends and debates taking place in our discipline and beyond.
See also: BJHS at Cambridge University Press.