Editor Charlotte Sleigh writes:
Two controversial elaborations of evolutionary theory open this issue of BJHS. Sarah A. Swenson, joint winner of the 2014 Singer prize, sets out the early work of Neo-Darwinian W. D. Hamilton, and the development of his anti-altruist account of mutual aid, amidst cold war politics. Reaching back to the inter-war period, meanwhile, Alper Bilgili describes a critical but open-minded evaluation of Darwinism in the late Ottoman Empire. Though believing Darwin to be mistaken, Turkish intellectual İsmail Fennî argued for his inclusion in the education system, and contemplated the revision of Islamic theology should his account of evolution prove to be correct.
The next pair of articles takes us back to the early modern period, beginning with Ian Lawson’s examination of Margaret Cavendish and her characterization of experimental philosophers as hybrids of bears and men. By paying attention to early-modern meanings of both microscopes and animals, he illuminates her critique as a subtle one concerning the order of both nature and society. Next, Koji Yamamoto gives a rare account of that much-maligned eighteenth-century figure, the ‘projector’. Using the example of Moses Stringer he finds that the projector’s practices, networks and rhetoric were – in this case at least – closely intertwined with those of more respectable contemporaries.
We travel from the early modern to the modern world in the unlikely company of the parasitic Ichneumon wasp. In her article, Sheila Wille uncovers how its meaning changed from bringer of God-given balance, in the former period, to the tool of science in the latter: a briefly touted – though ultimately unsuccessful – early instance of biological pest-control.
Finally, Jung Lee finesses standard metropole-periphery accounts of colonial science by examining how Imperial Japanese botany attempted to assert itself as a centre in its own right. It examines the case of Nakai Takenoshin, who endorsed and acted upon European claims of universal science, whilst simultaneously unsettling them with his regionally shaped systematics. Eventually he came to promote his own systematics, built regionally on Korean flora, as a new universal.