The British Society for the History of Science (BSHS)

BJHS Preview: Issue 4, 2017

BJHS rounds off its golden volume with a typically diverse set of articles, stretching over 400 years in time, and bridging in space England, Italy, France, Scotland and the Netherlands.

Anna Marie Roos takes us on tour in early eighteenth-century Italy with Martin Folkes, a freemason, numismatist and Newtonian protégé, to discover how he saw the world through Newton’s eyes and helped to establish his master’s reputation on the continent. A second paper on the Newtonian legacy, by Steffen Ducheyne and Pieter Present, critically re-evaluates Pieter van Musschenbroek’s commonly ascribed status as a follower of Newton, and through articulating his crucial points of divergence from the author of Principia, suggests a new genealogy for the ‘law of nature’ in the eighteenth century. A final early-modern paper by Oded Rabinovitch explores a more unusual engagement with early modern science: an artisan who was both prepared and willing to debate with scholars on nothing less than the nature and form of the cosmos itself.

We cross into the nineteenth century with Mark Grossman, who pieces together evidence to suggest that John Dalton’s work on atomic theory may be indebted to a contemporary chemist, Bryan Higgins, and his theories concerning caloric and chemical combination. Matthew Eddy follows this with a foray into child psychology of the Victorian era, and the extent to which emergent evolutionary thinking connected with liberal notions of education.

Finally, Dmitriy Myelnikov takes us into an era where science was, in some respects, less valued. He proposes the Animal Breeding Research Organisation in Edinburgh as a case study in tracing interaction between government policies, research council agendas and local strategies, showing how novel research programmes such as genetic modification could act as a lifeline for struggling institutions.

Image from Matthew Eddy’s paper: Henriette Browne, ‘A Girl Writing; The Pet Goldfinch’, c.1860-1890. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London