Category Archives: General

Hermann Helmholtz’s Graphical Recordings of the Speed of Nervous Stimulations

The September issue of Science in Context includes an article by Henning Schmidgen as part of a topical section on “Surfaces in the History of Modern Science: Inscribing, Separating, Enclosing.” In his piece Schmidgen explores the importance of Hermann Helmholtz’s graphic recordings of the speed of nerve transmissions. Full details follow below.

“Leviathan and the Myograph: Hermann Helmholtz’s “Second Note” on the Propagation Speed of Nervous Stimulations,” by Henning Schmidgen. The abstract reads,

In the winter of 1849–1850 in Königsberg, German physiologist Hermann von Helmholtz (1821–1894) conducted pioneering measurements concerning the propagation speed of stimulations in the living nerve. While recent historians of science have paid considerable attention to Helmholtz’s uses of the graphic method, in particular his construction of an instrument called “myographion,” this paper draws attention to the inscription surfaces that he used in effective ways for capturing and transmitting his findings. Against the background of recent archival findings, I show that Helmholtz used isinglass copies of his graphical recordings in order to communicate the basic principle of previous measurements to the academic public. As the correspondence with his Berlin-based friend and colleague Emil du Bois-Reymond (1818–1896) and the subsequent development of the myographion make clear, these curves were not meant as measurements but functioned as demonstrations. In other words, Helmholtz’s curves did provide “images of precision” (Olesko and Holmes 1993) – but they were not precise images.

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Help Save Wilhelm Wundt House!

Professors Hans Strasburger and Gerd Jüttemann are spearheading an effort to save Wilhelm Wundt’s house near Leipzig. You can contribute funds to the crowdfunding effort, or simply offer your support, here. Full details follow below.

Dear colleagues,

Wilhelm Wundt (1832–1920), as is well known, pursued his historically outstanding work at the University of Leipzig and it could be said that he counts as the most distinguished founder of Psychology. He not only built the world’s first laboratory of experimental psychology in Leipzig but also developed a theory of conscious experience that was underpinned by the method of introspection. Wundt wrote influential books on many aspects of psychology and he was a champion of investigating psychological processes by means of experiment.  He further initiated a culture-historically oriented developmental psychology, for which he coined the – now obsolete – term “folk psychology”.

The houses in Leipzig where Wundt lived were destroyed in the Second World War. His last residence, in Großbothen near Leipzig, has been preserved, however. Wilhelm Ostwald (1853–1932), the Nobel Prize winner for chemistry with whom Wundt was close friends, lived across the street; there is a well-kept memorial site there for Ostwald that is quite popular. Wundt’s building was constructed in the style of its time (see photo). It is no longer in the possession of Wundt’s descendants and was uninhabited for quite some time. Though it is heritage-protected, its current owner has no interest in its preservation and would be willing to sell it at a reasonable price. High renovation costs would arise in case of its acquisition but at the same time the German Foundation for the Maintenance of Historical Monuments (Deutsche Stiftung für Denkmalschutz) has signaled that it would generously support such a project. There already exists the “Wilhelm Wundt Room” at Leipzig’s Department of Psychology and the Adolf-Würth Center for the History of Psychology in Würzburg. Yet it would be desirable if there were a place where we could commemorate the person behind all these achievements, to inspire future generations, and Wundt’s house in Großbothen could be a possible location for it.

So to save the Wundt house we are considering initiating crowd funding. As you are probably aware, donations by that method are initially virtual. Only if the number of backers and prospective sums appear sufficient for realizing the project would those who have participated be asked whether, indeed, they would be willing to donate the prospective amount.

Please use the following link:
http://www.hans.strasburger.de/wundt_house_project.html

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Call for Papers: 2016 Joint ESHHS/Cheiron Meeting in Barcelona

The first call for papers for the 2016 joint meeting of ESHHS (European Society for the History of Human Sciences) & Cheiron (International Society for the History of Behavioural and Social Sciences) has been issued. The meeting will take place in Barcelona, Spain, June 27-July 1, 2016. The full call for papers follows below and can also be found here.

ESHHS and CHEIRON invite submissions to their joint conference to be held from June 27 to July 1, 2016, at the Centre for History of Science (CEHIC), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

Sessions, papers, workshops, round-tables and posters may deal with any aspect of the history of the human, behavioural or social sciences. However, this year’s conference will devote particular interest in topics such as:

historiography
history and philosophy of science
popularization of science and the role of experts in modern society
the circulation of science and technology in the European periphery

Submissions: must be received by January 15, 2016. Please send your proposal electronically as attachment in MSWord (.doc/.docx) to the three members of the programme committee:

Ingrid Farreras (farreras@hood.edu)
Sharman Levinson (slevinson.eshhs@gmail.com)
Annette Mülberger (annette.mulberger@uab.cat)

Only original papers should be sent. Please indicate the submission type (session, paper, poster, workshop or round-table proposal). Any submission must include the name, email, and institutional address of the author.
Papers: send a 500-600 word abstract in English plus short bibliography. In case your communication will be in another language, please inform the committee in order to assist in planning linguistic support, if necessary.
Posters: send a 300 word abstract.
Session, workshop or round-table: send a 500-600 word rationale of the event (plus short bibliography) as well as a short abstract for each paper or intervention.

Notification of acceptance will be sent by February 29, 2016.

A limited number of travel stipends will be available to students or scholars who present a paper or a poster and need economic support. Please indicate along with your submission if you wish to be considered for this arrangement. For updates on the conference, check any of the following websites www.eshhs.eu, www.uakron.edu/cheiron/ or www.cehic.es.

Organization: Annette Mülberger, Mònica Balltondre, Mariagrazia Proietto, Thomas Sturm, Jorge Molero, Carlos Tabernero, Oscar Montero Pich, Sergi Mora, Lara Scaglia, Sónia Recuerda, Vanessa Márquez, Patricia Torres, Aina Elias y Arthur Arruda Leal Ferreira. E-mail: eshhs2016@gmail.com

The local organizing committee welcomes you to Barcelona!

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Historiography in the Social History of Medicine: Records at the NIH and the UK Web Archive

3.coverThe latest issue of Social History of Medicine includes two pieces related to historiographic research methods that may be of interest to our readership.

In light of (and as case against) the downsizing of the Office of History at the American National Institutes of Health and the prevailing uncertainty about its future capacity to be of service to historians, David Cantor has taken it upon himself to provide a guide to the available records, those beyond the collections held at the National Library of Medicine, the National Archives and in private possession, “those squirreled away in the NIH itself, in filing cabinets, on servers and computer systems, and within the records management system, many of which are uncatalogued and can be tricky to find.”

It also outlines how to best approach the bureaucratic system for viewing available records. Upon the dismantling of their historical office, historians will be left to navigate the complexities and social politics of finding and accessing materials at the Institutes without guidance, and as such the insights provided by this short work will likely prove invaluable.

The abstract can be found here: Finding Historical Records at the National Institutes of Health.

Martin Gorsky, out of the Centre for History in Public Health (Faculty of Public Health and Policy), London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, provides another methodological guide. His work employs a case study (on the recent decentralization of public health services in Britain) to introduce the search engine interface of the UK Web Archive (colloquially called the Dark Domain Archive) and discuss the opportunities it provides, the challenges posed by its current functionality, and its relation to the future of historiography at large. The analyses conducted were both quantitative and qualitative, and analytic processes include thematic analysis, discourse analysis, and analyses of the selected sites as visual artifacts.

The full article can be found open access here: Into the Dark Domain: The UK Web Archive as a Source for the Contemporary History of Public Health.

 

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Networking the Early Years of the American Journal of Psychology

The most recent issue of the American Journal of Psychology includes an article exploring the journal’s earliest years of publication. In “The Evolution of The American Journal of Psychology 1, 1887– 1903: A Network InvestigationChristopher Green and Ingo Feinerer use the methods of the digital humanities to network the journal’s content. The abstract reads,

The American Journal of Psychology (AJP) was the first academic journal in the united states dedicated to the “new” scientific form of the discipline. But where did the journal’s founding owner/editor, G. Stanley Hall, find the “psychologists” he needed to fill the pages of such a venture 1887, when he was still virtually the only professor of psychology in the country? To investigate this question we used the substantive vocabularies of every full article published in AJP’s first 14 volumes to generate networks of verbally similar articles. These networks reveal the variety of research communities that hall drew on to launch and support the journal. three separate networks, corresponding to 3 successive time blocks, show how hall’s constellation of participating research communities changed over AJP’s first 17 years. Many of these communities started with rather nebulous boundaries but soon began to differentiate into groups of more distinct specialties. some topics declined over time, but new ones regularly appeared to replace them. We sketch a quasievolutionary model to describe the intellectual ecology of AJP’s early years.

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’37’- A Forthcoming Film on the Kitty Genovese Case

The New York Times reports that a film, titled ’37’, on the infamous Kitty Genovese murder is in the works. The Genovese case is often credited with providing the impetus for research into the bystander effect, whereby bystanders fail to intervene in an emergency situation as a result of a diffusion of responsibility. The notion that bystanders failed to intervene in the Genovese case – including the NYT‘s initial erroneous accounting of 37 such individuals – has been called into question (see our previous posts on this myth here). As the NYT reports,

Whether the classic account of the murder is factually true has been disputed for years. The disturbing article in The New York Times at the time (“37 Who Saw Murder Didn’t Call the Police”) got the probable number of witnesses wrong, among other facts. Some people did call the police; at least one neighbor comforted the victim as she died. But over the years, Kitty Genovese has become more than a true-crime statistic. She’s attained the status of a myth aswirl in urban dread.

More details about the film ’37’ can be found in the NYT piece.

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CfP: Special Issue of HoP on History of Psychotherapy in North and South America

A call for papers has been issued for a special issue of History of Psychology on the history of psychotherapy in North and South America. Guest edited by Rachael Rosner, the issue will be released in parallel with a special issue of History of the Human Sciences on the history psychotherapy in Europe (guest edited by Sarah Marks). The deadline for submissions is January 1st, 2016. The full call for papers follows below.

The history of psychotherapy is a topic that cuts across disciplines and cultures. In North America, psychotherapy pre-dates Freud in the faith healing and liberal protestant movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st century, even as Freud took the limelight, the practice passed through many professions including neuropathology, psychiatry, social work, the ministry and clinical psychology, as well as marriage and family counseling, nursing, and a host of others. Psychotherapy also became the darling of cinema and literature. And yet, psychotherapy has never been a licensed profession. Anyone can hang out a shingle as a “psychotherapist.” Psychotherapy has thus been both a staple of, and a lens onto, medicine, science and culture for nearly 125 years.

How can we make sense of this ubiquitous and yet historically elusive practice? This special issue of HOP opens up the conversation to historians from a broad spectrum of specialties. We welcome contributions on any aspect of the subject in North or South America, but ask contributors to keep within the time-frame of late 19th century (when the term “psychotherapy” originated) to the present. Continue reading CfP: Special Issue of HoP on History of Psychotherapy in North and South America

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New JHBS: Race Relationships, Lazarfeld’s Voter Studies & More!

Mary Ainsworth

The summer issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online. Articles in this issue explore the relationships of scientists who disagreed over the nature of race, the origins of Mary Ainsworth’s Strange Situation Procedure, Alfred Binet’s role as editorial director of a French publishing house, and more. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Race relationships: Collegiality and demarcation in physical anthropology,” by Peter Sachs Collopy. The abstract reads,

In 1962, anthropologist Carleton Coon argued in The Origin of Races that some human races had evolved further than others. Among his most vocal critics were geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky and anthropologist Ashley Montagu, each of whom had known Coon for decades. I use this episode, and the long relationships between scientists that preceded it, to argue that scientific research on race was intertwined not only with political projects to conserve or reform race relations, but also with the relationships scientists shared as colleagues. Demarcation between science and pseudoscience, between legitimate research and scientific racism, involved emotional as well as intellectual labor.

“Ainsworth’s Strange Situation Procedure: The origin of an instrument,” by Lenny Van Rosmalen, René Van der Veer and Frank Van der Horst. The abstract reads, Continue reading New JHBS: Race Relationships, Lazarfeld’s Voter Studies & More!

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LSD Research, “Normal Controls,” and the Making of “Vulnerable Populations”

In a recent piece on the Somatosphere blog, historian Laura Stark describes the making of “vulnerable populations” in medical experimentation. Currently writing a book on the emergence of “normal control” subjects in medical research, Stark uses her research on LSD experimentation at the US National Institutes of Health post-WWII to discuss the idea of “vulnerable populations.” The above video features excerpts from some of Stark’s oral history interviews with research subjects used as “normal controls” in this research.

As she describes in “How to make a “vulnerable population”,”

The category of the “vulnerable population” is itself a product of modern (American) bioethics, which invented the concept in its recent vintage and gave it specific meaning in public parlance. The field of modern bioethics emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, and in the post civil-rights period, the bioethical concept of the “vulnerable population” was coded with contemporary rights-based concerns: about minorities, about prisoners, and more. The specific meanings and people associated with “vulnerable populations” were embedded in 1970s human-subjects regulation, as well as in popular discourse….
The concepts of modern bioethics operate at another level, too. Ian Hacking coined the term “moral kinds” to tag what he called meta-ethical issues that people—including scholars—come to embody. We are working to develop Ian Hacking’s framework to show how law (especially U.S. human-subjects regulations) shapes both the memory practices of historical actors and the interpretive practices of present-day scholars. In sum, we are interested in how the concepts of bioethics, such as “vulnerable populations” codified in 1974 and later extended beyond the United States, have narrowed the range of possibilities available to scholars for interpreting empirical evidence. We like Hacking’s approach because it offers a way to investigate how the governing moral sensibilities of a specific time and place both constrain and liberate scholars themselves. The secular, North American, rights-revolution ethos of modern bioethics, we suggest, limits how questions about research practices in the human sciences are conceptualized, and can deflect questions about the historicity of the discipline of bioethics as a knowledge-making enterprise in its own right. We aim to explore medical knowledge-making alongside the ontology of modern bioethics—to ask how, when, where, and with what effects the terms and priorities of this expert domain developed. In doing so, we hope to capture a fuller repertoire of institutions, sensibilities, and activities that eventually came to constitute modern science and biomedicine.

Read the full post online here.

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BPS’ 2015 Stories of Psychology Symposium

The History of Psychology Centre at the British Psychological Society will be holding its 5th annual Stories of Psychology Symposium on Wednesday, October 14th. This year’s title is Clinically Applied: Origins of a Profession. 

According to the website:

The topic of this year’s symposium was chosen as a curtain raiser for the start of the 50th anniversary year of the BPS Division of Clinical Psychology (DCP) in 2016. It looks forward to the Golden Anniversary by looking back at the development of clinical psychology as a profession, a history that reaches back beyond the foundation of the DCP in 1966.

The four main speakers are all contributors to “Clinical Psychology in Britain: Historical Perspectives” edited by John Hall, Graham Turpin and David Pilgrim, which is due to be published by the History of Psychology Centre in December 2015.

Find out more about the featured speakers, session topics and registration details from the event flyer,  or on the Centre’s website.

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