BSHS President Professor Greg Radick writes:
Hello! And: Goodbye! Yes, by this time next week, our Society will have voted in a new President. My two-year term has almost run its course.
I was fortunate to begin at a moment when, thanks to the outsized success of the 2013 International HSTM Congress in Manchester and the superb stewardship of my predecessor, Hasok Chang, the biggest challenge facing the Society was figuring out how best to spend down its reserves. My fellow Council members and I have certainly tried our best: keeping up the new levels of support for our MA studentships and new open-access journal, BJHS Themes; hiring a new BSHS Intern to help us realize scaled-up ambitions for public engagement and profile-raising; generously subsidizing the travel of members to the recent Three Societies conference in Edmonton (see some pictures below from our Intern, Jessica van Horssen); and offering sponsorship to an ever greater number and range of UK-based conferences, including three this summer with which we’re reviving the lapsed tradition of the BSHS one-day meetings.
What’s most exciting to contemplate, however, is what the future holds. Next spring, for example, will see the first in our annual series of BSHS Postgraduate Conferences to be held outside the UK, at the European University Institute, nestled in the Tuscan hills above Florence. (Brexit schmexit!) In early summer our members and more will be gathering at the University of York for an annual conference that will double-up as a 70th birthday celebration for the Society. Later that summer, and again with generous support from the Society, we hope to help as many members as possible participate in the International Congress due to take place in Rio. In keeping with our determination to be as global in our outlook and engagements as we are in our membership – less than half of the Society’s members are UK-based – my successor will welcome into the BSHS fold a newly invigorated group of international Associated Members, who will advise Council from a truly global perspective.
Historians are rightly wary of predictions, and historians of science above all. But one thing I confidently expect to feature ever more prominently in the Society’s activities are collaborations, of various kinds. To give but one example: we were pleased to announce earlier this year that the BSHS is now working closely with the New Scientist to develop articles about scientific folk from the past that really deserve to be better known. The inaugural article in this endeavour, by our current Vice President, Patricia Fara, on “the bold, brilliant woman who championed Newton’s physics,” Emilie du Châtelet, inspired an article in the Guardian which in turn generated a very timely and large-scale public discussion about women in science and the obstructions that, by 2016, are well overdue for removal. Scholarly history of science can and should serve many roles, a civic role among them. Patricia’s intervention was, I think, a model of its kind. It’s all the more fitting that, pending members’ approval at the upcoming EGM at the “Science in Public” meeting in Kent, Patricia will be the Society’s next President.
Me, I’ll be – members permitting – sticking around for another year as Vice President. Strictly speaking, it’s too soon (if indeed it’s ever time) for an “I’d like to thank…” speech. But I won’t again have this forum to express myself. So, ahem… I’d like to thank, among others: Hasok, Patricia and Jessica; Lucy Santos, our Executive Secretary, who truly runs the Society, and does it with aplomb; Simon Chaplin and David Beck, the former and current Secretary respectively, who’ve worked closely with Lucy to keep Council business in forward motion; Richard Noakes, who as Treasurer has ensured that the Society has stayed in fine fettle financially; Ben Marsden, our Conferences Committee chair, who has been instrumental (and rather brilliant) both in expanding and rationalizing the Society’s conferences “offer”; Adam Mosley and Aileen Fyfe, who did so much to make the 2015 Swansea meeting and 2016 Edmonton meeting, respectively, the outstanding successes they were; Jamie Stark, under whose leadership the Outreach and Education Committee has gone from strength to strength, with the best yet to come; Charlotte Sleigh, Editor of the BJHS, where – as I’ve experienced as a recent author – she maintains the best academic traditions of high standards coupled with generosity of spirit; Alice White, Editor of Viewpoint, who manages to make every issue a visually and intellectually colourful treat; Jia-Ou Song, our Website Editor, who oversaw the transformation of our website into its splendid current incarnation; Erin Beeston, our wonderfully active Postgraduate Representative; Jon Agar, who as Editor of BJHS Themes is doing the heavy lifting in getting this new project off the ground (with a first issue imminent); and the many other colleagues who’ve served the Society so generously as members of Council, members of Committees and in other roles these past two years. Last but not least, I’m grateful to you, our members, for giving me this chance-of-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s been a privilege.