*** Temporalizing the great chain of being: a reappraisal after 70 years ***

A one-day workshop in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge on Tuesday 16 January 2007, 10.00 — 6.00

Why engage today with Arthur O. Lovejoy’s The great chain of being (1936)? Not, surely, to revive the history of ideas for which this book was the manifesto, but, for this workshop, as a starting point, stimulating as well as obligatory, from which to reconsider the history of seriality in the sciences. Re-reading is above all an opportunity to reflect on the influential thesis of Lovejoy’s last chapters, that the eighteenth century witnessed the profound transformation of a static scale of beings into a ladder of progress, an inventory into a developmental programme. Seventy years since Lovejoy’s book, and over 30 since William F. Bynum’s appraisal in the journal History of science, we invite colleagues to revisit this historical problem in the light of recent scholarship. How, now that historians of science are more at home with practices and pictures than unit-ideas, might we best describe and explain the new kinds of seriality of the decades around 1800?

Attendees will be expected to have studied Lovejoy’s book, especially the last three chapters, and it would be very helpful also to have read Bynum’s ‘The great chain of being after 40 years: an appraisal’, History of science 13 (1975), 1-28.

Organized by Nick Hopwood, Jim Secord and Simon Schaffer Assistant: Melanie Keene Funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Cambridge Victorian Studies Group


Simon Schaffer Lovejoy’s chain

Discussion of Lovejoy’s book, especially the last three chapters, introduced with commentaries by Marie-Noëlle Bourguet (University of Paris 7) and Nicolaas Rupke (University of Göttingen)

Carlos López Beltrán (UNAM, Mexico City) Hereditary tales: contingency and narrativity versus the chain of being

Staffan Müller-Wille (University of Exeter) How the great chain of being fell apart

Renato Mazzolini (University of Trento) Human skin colour and the chain of being

Janina Wellmann (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin) Life as a series: the embryological work of Christian Pander and Karl Ernst von Baer

Joan Steigerwald (York University, Toronto) Inversions of the chain of being: Schelling and Ritter

Martin Rudwick (HPS) Testing the temporalized chain against real (deep) time

A booking form can be downloaded from http://www.hps.cam.ac.uk/medicine/greatchain.html. To register, please complete and send it with your cheque to Melanie Keene, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, Free School Lane, Cambridge CB2 3RH, by 20 December 2006. Numbers are strictly limited by room capacity and our wish to encourage informal discussion. First come, first served. Inquiries to Melanie on [email protected].