Call for papers: ” Who needs scientific instruments” 20-22 October 2005 Museum Boerhaave, Leiden, the Netherlands

In October 2005 a three-day conference will be organised in Museum Boerhaave. The conference deals with instruments and their users. More detailed information can be found on

The central topic can best be formulated as a question: who needs scientific instruments? We invite historians of science as well as historians of scientific instruments to give their views and elaborate on the users of scientific instruments. Each day there will be another theme.

Thursday 20th October I. The status of instruments

Chair: Dr. Robert Anderson, Former director of the British Museum, London

Instruments and their users are the cornerstones of science. The surviving instruments demonstrate the development of scientific progress. In addition, they reflect the status of science and scientists over time. For instance, instruments in royal cabinets demonstrate the wealth and interest of their owners. In scientific societies instruments were used for educational purposes and became symbols of the exchange of knowledge. All such instruments can change in stature after their original use, e.g., when they are stored in museums and become cultural symbols.

Papers in this session should deal with: Instruments as symbols (of, for instance, power, wealth, knowledge and/or education) The role of collections and/or cabinets in the history of science The changing status of instruments

Friday 21st October II. Location and organisation

Chair: To be announced

Instruments are not loose entities. They are used in specific environments, created by their users. An example is the rise of the modern laboratory. Without the laboratory environment many instruments would simply not have been developed. Sometimes the environment forces the user to modify his instruments, as with expeditions or experimental fieldwork. Other environments or kinds of research force scientists to work together in groups, with manufacturers, or in research centres.

Papers in this session should deal with: The creation of an instrumental environment The influence of a scientific location on instruments and their users The role of makers and users of scientific instruments in research organisations

Saturday 22nd October III. Innovation

Chair: Prof. Albert van Helden, History of Science, Utrecht University

An important aspect of the development of instruments is innovation. Propagation of instruments has an important part to play in the innovation process. Who brings the new instruments to wider notice, so that they will be used and modified? Users want specific qualities in their instruments. Can their demands be met by the instrument makers or do users make their own adaptations? And do users or manufacturers change the initial purposes of an instrument over time?

Papers in this session will deal with: The innovation and propagation of new scientific instruments The input of users on instrumental changes The collaboration of manufacturer and user as a driving force for innovation

You are invited to give a talk of up to 25 minutes on one of these themes. Proceedings of the conference will be published afterwards. A proposal for a talk can be submitted until the 1st of August 2005. Furthermore it should be accompanied by the theme, a title and an abstract of 250-500 words. To enter a proposal please visit the website