From Cambridge Mathematician to Harvard Philosopher

Peter Farleigh (Centre for Human Aspects of Science and Technology)

What would the consequences be, if rather than substances and structures, we took events and processes to be the primary entities that make up the universe? And what if instead of the traditional mechanistic model we used the concept of the organism, as the key metaphor in our understanding of the world?

These are two central questions that Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) wrestled with in his later years. Whitehead of course, was famous for his early collaboration with Bertrand Russell on one of the most important works of mathematics in history—the three volumes of Principia Mathematica. While the two equally shared the work of this heroic attempt to establish a logical foundation for mathematics, it is not commonly known that there had been a fourth volume planned, which Whitehead alone began working on. But what became of the unfinished volume and why was it important for his philosophical development?

When 6:00pm – 7:30pm, Wednesday, 25 August 2010
Where Lecture Theatre 101, New Law School

Writing Science Lives: Why Biography Matters

Professor Janet Brown (Harvard University)
Professor Iain McCalman (University of Sydney)
Professor Alison Bashford (University of Sydney)

What do we learn when we revisit scientists’ past worlds? How might one write a life as famous as Charles Darwin’s? Why is biography the best-selling genre of all? Pre-eminent Darwin scholar and Harvard Professor of the History of Science Janet Browne, talks with Sydney’s prizewinning historian Professor Iain McCalman, about the challenges and delights of the biographical genre for historians. In conversation with Alison Bashford, this is an evening that probes the intellectual life of these keen observers and interpreters of the world of Victorian science.

When 6:30pm-8:00pm, Thursday, 12 August 2010
Where The Seymour Centre
Cost FREE for USYD students (SID required)
$20 Adult/$15 Concession
RSVP Please click here

About the Speakers

Janet Browne’s interests range widely over the history of the life sciences and natural history. After a first degree in zoology she studied for a PhD in the history of science at Imperial College London, published as The Secular Ark: Studies in the History of Biogeography (1983). Ever since then she has specialized in Charles Darwin’s work, first as associate editor of the early volumes of The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, and more recently as author of a biographical study that integrated Darwin’s science with his life and times. The biography was awarded several prizes, including the James Tait Black award for non-fiction, the WH.Heinemann Prize from the Royal Literary Society, and the Pfizer Prize from the History of Science Society. From 2006 she has been a member of the History of Science Department at Harvard University. She was previously based for many years at the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at University College London.

Iain McCalman was born in Nyasaland, Africa and now lives in Sydney, where he is a Research Professor at the University of Sydney. He has held numerous visiting research fellowships in Britain and the United States, most recently at Duke University, North Carolina. In 2007 he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for services to history and humanities. His most recent book, Darwin’s Armada, winner of the Sid Harta Literature Award has been published in Australia, USA and the UK, and was made into a three-part documentary, Darwin’s Brave New World.

Alison Bashford is Professor of Modern History at the University of Sydney. In 2009 -2010 she was Chair of Australian Studies, Harvard University, based in the Department of the History of Science. She has held fellowships at Edinburgh, University College, London, and Warwick Universities in the UK. Her recent books include a biography of geographer and Antarctic explorer Griffith Taylor, and a world history of eugenics.

In Transit: European Cosmologies in the Pacific

Professor Simon Schaffer (University of Cambridge)

Astronomical interests prompted a series of entries by European travellers into the Pacific. In studies of the complex motives and effects of these expeditions, it has been common to treat astronomical interests either as rationales for more profound political and economic enterprise, or as of a strictly utilitarian character. Here the aim is to understand the cosmologies on which certain forms of European astronomy depended, and how the Pacific encounters changed and reoriented their meanings. These cosmologies embraced models of the globe and of its populations, and were very much in question in the patterns of interaction between Pacific peoples and other experts.

Professor Schaffer is a professor in the history of science at the University of Cambridge. He recently co-edited The mindful hand: inquiry and invention from the late Renaissance to early industrialisation (2007) and The brokered world: go-betweens and global intelligence 1770-1820 (2009). He holds a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship to study the history of astronomy and British colonialism. He is principal investigator on a project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council to write a history of the Board of Longitude 1714-1828.

When 6:30pm-8:00pm, Thursday, 5 August 2010
Where The Seymour Centre
Cost FREE for USYD students (SID required)
$20 Adult/$15 Concession
RSVP Please click here