XL Symposium of the Scientific Instrument Commission
25-31 July 2021
Call for Papers
Symposium theme: Giants, Dwarfs and Scientific Instruments
For its annual symposium to be held at the 26th International Congress of History of Science in Prague, the Scientific Instrument Commission invites papers related to the congress theme of “Giants and Dwarfs”, that is, the question of scale in the making and using of scientific instruments (see https://www.ichst2021.org/welcome-remarks/). In particular, we would welcome papers that deal with the impact of “nations and regions,” both large and small in all possible senses of the terms, on the production, sale, use, and museological display of scientific instruments.
As always, we will also welcome proposals for sessions, papers or posters on any topic dealing with the material culture of science.
In addition, the SIC and the Commission of Science and Literature invite papers for two special sessions in Prague that we are co-sponsoring.
Session I: Literary Instruments
Since at least the seventeenth century, scientific instruments and apparatus have appeared in novels, poetry, drama and other literary genres, including more recently cinema and television. Literary authors might refer to contemporary science (John Milton on Galileo’s telescope), to future science (Star Trek Original Series on the “tricorder” of the 23rd century), or to past science (Luchino Visconti’s recreation of a nineteenth-century astronomical observatory in his 1963 film The Leopard). Papers in this symposium will offer case studies of such literary representations of scientific apparatus, authors’ interactions with scientific practitioners or instrument makers, and audience and critical responses to these literary representations.
Session II: Behind Closed Doors: Crime Fiction in Museums and Labs
Since the mid-nineteenth century, a relatively large number of crime novels have been set in science museums or laboratories. In The Musgrave Ritual (1893), for example, Arthur Conan Doyle has Sherlock Holmes educate himself in the British Museum before embarking on his detective work; Agatha Christie’s A Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920) is a veritable encyclopedia of poisons and their chemistry. How might crime novels perpetuate public images of the “museum” or the “laboratory”? Papers in this session will evaluate the circumstances of these settings, the crime authors’ sources for their portrayals of scientific institutions, contemporary scientists’ evaluations of the settings depicted in the novels, and readers’ responses to the settings.
Note that according to the usual rules, you can only present one paper at the Prague Congress.