Well. How five years can zip by. This time five years ago the people of Scotland narrowly voted to remain part of the United Kingdom. President Obama announced the resumption of normal relations between the US and Cuba. And the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the final part of its Fifth Assessment Report, warning that the world faced ‘severe, pervasive and irreversible’ damage from global emissions of CO2. Some things feel impossibly far away, others – alas – all too current.
In the time since September 2014, I’ve been kept busy by BJHS. It has been the most tremendous pleasure and privilege to keep abreast of the latest scholarship and be in touch with some of the sharpest minds and kindest advisors in the academic world. I’ve been particularly pleased to see articles published by Early Career Researchers and scholars from around the world. I’d like to thank everyone who has been a part of keeping BJHS at the forefront of global HSTM scholarship, including colleagues at Cambridge University Press, Trish Hatton (editorial assistant), Jamie Stark (book reviews editor), the editorial board, and all of our patient and generous reviewers.
My replacement is Dr Amanda Rees of the University of York. She has already proved her mettle with BSHS, editing one of the first issues of BJHS Themes (as well as editing and writing numerous other collections, articles and books in the field). She will be an excellent head for BJHS, intellectually curious and eclectic, with a sure eye for a good and well-evidenced argument.
In what feels like a slightly partisan selection, but is honestly the result of chance, the first two articles in my final issue reflect my own research interests in insects. In ‘Why does Aristotle think bees are divine?’ Daryn Lehoux takes us into the beehive to demonstrate how divinity operated even at fairly mundane levels in Aristotle’s natural philosophy, as an important explanation for order, proportion and rationality in even the smallest of animals. Matthew Wale’s insects are of multiple species, and in ‘Editing entomology’ Wale discusses how expert communities and practitioner identities were fashioned via the medium of periodicals.
From tiny creatures to the enormous (or from Wale to whale): Felix Lüttge’s article ‘Whaling intelligence’ examines how the figure of the intelligent whaler became pivotal in US-American visions of expansionism, exploration and science, the creator of tabular and synoptic ‘facts’. The creation of facts is also central to Coreen Mcguire in ‘X-rays don’t tell lies’, which explores the instrumental measurement and establishment of respiratory disability amidst mid-twentieth century British miners.
Continuing Wale’s theme of the shaping of expertise, the final research article – Oliver Marsh’s ‘Life cycle of a star’ – considers how the research and personal reputations of astronomer Carl Sagan circulated alongside one another, and how different forms of knowledge (biographical and scientific) influence one another.
Finally, the journal features a special essay by Michael Wintroub, winner of the 2018 BSHS Pickstone Prize for best scholarly book in history of science. ‘The pharmakon of “If”’ revisits Steven Shapin’s important monograph A Social History of Truth after 25 years to consider its role in scholarship – and wider discourse – today.
It’s a bumper issue – happy reading and au revoir!