SCHCT seminar program – 2010-2011

In the 2011-2012 academic year, the seminar program is organized in 5 series whose common link are the relationships between SCIENCE, CULTURE AND SOCIETY, and the commitment to a large and open participation through public discussions that encourage engagement with the latest international debates with high academic standards, but a clear commitment to inform and educate.

The series have a common denominator beyond their interest to the community of historians of science, technology and medicine, which is that they bring science to the public. By combining specialized discussions with debates open to everybody the SCHCT intends, one more year, to be a public forum for the discussion of scientific culture open to all citizens. The series address the role of science museums, the links between science, literature and history, the relationship between cinema and science, experts and contemporary policies of expertise, and the role of social groups in the public understanding of science.

Each series has its own coordinator and the program has benefited from collaborations between the SCHCT, the CEHIC, the Institució Milà i Fontanals, and the Institut d’Història de la Medicina i de la Ciència. The SCHCT Seminar Commission oversees the running of the five series, provides intellectual, technical and material tools, coordinates communication and organizes parallel activities integrated in the series.

The 2011-2012 program also offers other special conferences in Barcelona and València, organized in conjunction with the CEHIC, IMF, and IHMC.

1. Series Science, Literature and History, coordinated by Pasqual Bernat

The last decades have seen an emergence of the historical novel in all its thematic and temporal dimensions. A boom which has had subject peaks with a large publishing impact. One of these has been the literary recreation of scientific and philosophical knowledge. The publishing success of “The World of Sofia” by Jostein Gaarder or “Longitude” by Dava Sobel are good examples.

Science, literature and history would seem at first separated by fundamental issues such as the distance between fiction and reality and between past and present. But in fact they form a crucial crossroad that links these three fields in a mission which has a long-range social and cultural scope.

Aware that our discipline has produced a literature that has recently enjoyed great demand among the reading public, we want to contribute to its promotion and dissemination. It is for this reason that this series will engage both literary authors and academic specialists to illustrate the key aspects of this genre, delving into the narrative and methodological difficulties that historical fiction of science involves, as well as assessing the impact that this literature has had among the reading public and the community of historians of science.

The series is constituted by three sessions featuring two writers and an academic specialist, and is open to all audiences. This formula will combine theoretical and practical experience to provide tools for the public to reflect on the reading and writing of historical and fictional literature on science.

It presents works in Catalan (original or translated) in order to aim at a larger impact among the Catalan public and it promotes ​​a format close to a reading group, in which the audience is expected to read the works presented.

This series is organized in collaboration with the Library Network of the Diputació de Barcelona which provides the premises where the talks will take place and contributes to the diffusion of this initiative among the general public.

2. Series on Natural Sciences Museums. Coordinated by José Pardo Tomás (IMF, CSIC)

In February 2011, the Museu Blau, the new site for the Museu de Ciències Naturals de Barcelona was opened at the old building of the Fòrum. Two members of the Societat Catalana d’Història de la Ciència i la Tècnica (SCHCT), Ricard Guerrero and Mercè Piqueras have played a notable role in this project. Taking advantage of their willingness to explain to us this project, this series will discuss on the models of science museums in the 21st century.

Science museums have always been an area of ​​interest to historians of science and technology; our Society is no exception. The first European Spring School organized by the SCHCT in 2001 was devoted to this subject. It is a fundamental issue within the context of history of science popularization. Museums are places of production, exhibition, education and representation of science, which in addition to promoting science popularization have an interest in themselves as objects of historical study.

The intervention of historians in presenting, documenting, contextualizing and narrating collections and exhibitions should be very important, but is often not. This deficiency affects the presentation of complex scientific knowledge. Furthermore, scientific object collections and museums have also a major role in the context of science teaching and pedagogy.

The presentation of the new natural history museum of Barcelona by two SCHCT members will conclude this series, which also includes two international experts which have been invited to discuss their experiences on how to design a science museum or organize a nineteenth-century science collection in order to communicate with a 21st-century audience.

3. Series Experts and Controversies: History of Science and the STS Movement (CEHIC-SCHCT). Coordinated by Agustí Nieto-Galan (CEHIC) and José R. Bertomeu (IHMC)

This series will discuss the relationship between history of science and technology studies and the Science Studies movement. It includes three talks which tackle, the vision of a recognized expert in this area, examples of relations between the two disciplines through a case study and, finally, a round table including both Science Studies scholars and historians of science and technology.

The starting point for this series is Lorraine Daston’s article, “Science Studies and the History of Science” (Critical Inquiry 35 (4), 798-813) which discusses the lack of reciprocity in the relationship between historians of science and science studies scholars. Social scientists recognize and use the work of historians of science, but this interaction is weaker in the other direction, keeping the field of history of science close to contributions of other fields.

However, at the academic and institutional level, it is clear that while there is a progressive reduction in history of science positions, Science Studies is increasing its academic space. For this reason some historians have raised attention to the need of opening the discipline to closer collaboration, in order to ensure its future.

The series is presented as a discussion about whether or not collaboration between these two scientific fields is possible. Since most of the public of these talks are closer to history of science, we have invited speakers belonging to Science Studies. The first talk will be given by Helga Nowotny, a  well known expert with a long international career in the field of social studies of science and technology, who also chairs the European Research Council. Her experience can have a major interest to analyze how will the academic map of knowledge be shaped  in the future (in particular in connection to the policies of the institutions that fund research).

The second session will be devoted to the presentation of a discipline, genetics, largely shaped by historians from the standpoint of Science Studies. Finally, the third talk aims to open the debate among scholars in the field of science studies and historians. The round table includes together with academic researchers, a Science Studies student, given that many of the members of the Barcelona public are involved in masters and doctorates in history of science.

4. Series Science, Technology and Medicine at the Plaça Catalunya: Governance, Resistances and Knowledge Appropriation. Coordinated by Jaume Valentines

Many communities have a symbolic public space from which they are able to project their interests, concerns and political projects. Recently, this phenomenon has been captured in Barcelona with the occupation of the indignats in May 2011. Also recently, the Tahrir Square in Cairo, space of social upheaval and icon of the fragmentation of Hosni Mubarak’s oligarchy. And previously, the squares of Azadi, in Tehran, of the Tres Culturas in Mexico City, and of Tiannanmen in Beijing, are other examples.

Before the advent of the movement of Plaça Catalunya, in our country, the Plaça Sant Jaume in Barcelona had become a space with this role and symbolism. Surrounded by buildings loaded with symbolism such as that of the Ajuntament de Barcelona and the Generalitat de Catalunya it has been and is periodically occupied by heterogeneous social groups who wish to raise their voice against the dominant voice.

The discourses and politics of science have not been alien to this type of events. Examples include the protests connected to the National Hydrological Plan (PHN), High Voltage lines (MAT), the introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (OMGs), the future of nuclear power stations and cemeteries, the privatization of expertise, war and military science spending, the reform of public education or the pathologization of transgender.

These public policies have been questioned by social movements through dialogue with academic knowledge and practices which can be contradictory or, at best, plural. In this sense, the appropriation, non-appropriation and science reformulation beyond official expertise constitutes a focal point for scientific sovereignty and, therefore, for participatory democracy (parallel to the struggles for food, energetic and political sovereignty).

This series is launched this year with a conference aiming at visualizing, studying and promoting this dialogue and civil confrontation, between contra-experts or lay experts and orthodox experts (governmental, academic or private) in the present. Moreover, it also intends to identify the mechanisms and actors involved in decision making in the scientific enterprise.

For this purpose, the series offers an additional parameter for dialogue: the temporal. The history of science, technology and medicine, provides fundamental elements – although neither sufficient nor strictly necessary –  to get to know the parallel construction of knowledge and power, as well as cases of resistance to this type of construction in the past. All together is an acknowledgement of the permeability of disciplinary theoretical frameworks in history, and of subaltern thought.

5. Series Film and Science. Coordinated by Carlos Tabernero (CEHIC)

Film and science are two sets of practices and discourses, i.e. forms of everyday action and interaction between people, groups and institutions that play a fundamental role in the construction and operation of modern societies, and which offer intersections that are plural and multidimensional.

This seminar series invites to explore and experience film as a vehicle of socio-cultural construction and reflection regarding the generation, distribution and management of scientific, medical and technological knowledge.

Directly connected to current debates on popularization in the area of science studies and history of science, this series aims to contribute to the analysis of cinema, among other media, as a space in which the complex relationships between science and its public is presented, and where experts and laymen interact within the processes of socio-cultural construction of science, medicine and technology.

This series aims to explore film as a fundamental tool for research, documentation and the teaching of history of science in relation to the socio-cultural transformations of the 20th century.

This first series on ‘Film and Science’ is divided into five sessions that reflect the breadth and diversity of this field of research, including among others: the tragic story of biologist Paul Kammerer and the political implications of his experiments, with the German-Soviet film “Salamandra” (1928), presented by Klaus Tashwer; the exploration of the relationship between ideology and technology in the American context of the first half of the twentieth century, with the film written by Lewis Mumford “The City” (1939), presented by Jaume Sastre; a panoramic view on the relationships between genetics and cinema in the 20th century, by Sophia Vackimes, and two sessions on the relationships between natural science and television, the first focused on British productions presented by Tim Boon, the second on the impact of the series “El Hombre y la Tierra” (1973-1980) of Felix Rodriguez de la Fuente in 1970s Spain, presented by Carlos Tabernero.

6. Seminars in Osona. Coordinated by Pasqual Bernat

Francesc Nicolau (URL). “Certesa científica i fe cristiana”. 11 October 2011.

Oliver Hochadel (CSIC). “Haciendo una montaña mágica. Los fósiles de Atapuerca y el nuevo inicio de la historia de España”. 29 November 2011.

Adrià Casinos (UB). “Cuvier i el canon morfològic”. 22 May 2012.

OTHER Seminars

Simon Schaffer (University of Cambridge). “Easily Cracked: Instruments in a State of Disrepair“. CEHIC-SCHCT. Institut d’Estudis Catalans, Barcelona.

Presentació del llibre Llorenç Garcias Font, científic i promotor cultural. Institució Catalana d’Història Natural-SCHCT. Institut d’Estudis Catalans, Barcelona.

Josep Lluís Barona (Universitat de València). “L’exili científic republicà: una reflexió historiogràfica“.
CEHIC-SCHCT. Institut d’Estudis Catalans, Barcelona.

Gregory Radick (University of Leeds). “Scientific Inheritance”. IHMC (CSIC-UVEG), València.

James R. Moore (The Open University). “Darwin and the ‘Sin’ of Slavery”. IMF-SCHCT, Institut d’Estudis Catalans, Barcelona.

CALENDAR & PROGRAM OF THE SERIES (for the complete calendar and more details click here)

-Series Literature, Science and History:

“L’evolucionisme en la literatura catalana del segle XIX” . Xavier Vall. (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona). 5 October 2011.

“L’escàndol de la vivisecció en la literatura de l’Anglaterra victoriana”. Jordi Lamarca (Universitat Rovira i Virgili). 23 November 2011.

“Les confidències del Comte Buffon”. Martí Domínguez (Universitat de València). 13 December 2011.

– Series Experts and controversies: History of Science and the  STS Movement

És possible la col.laboració entre STS i Història de la Ciència?“. Roundtable. Participants: Eduard Aibar (UOC), Miquel Domènech (UAB), and Francesc Rodriguez (STS graduate student). 17 January 2012.

“STS i història de la ciència. El cas de la genètica”. Miguel García Sancho (CSIC). 17 February 2012.

“La ciència democràtica”. Helga Nowotny (European Research Council). 10 May 2012.

– Series Natural Science Museums

“Futurismo o historicismo en los museos de ciencia”. Sophia Vackimes (Universitat de Girona/Institut Català de Recerca en Patrimoni Cultural ,ICRPC). 6 March 2012.

“Teodolitos, aerolitos e ídolos: el Museo Nacional de México en el siglo XIX”. Miruna Achim (Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, México DF). 27 March 2012.

“Claus de la nova exposició permanent del Museu de Ciències Naturals de Barcelona”. Ricard Guerrero and Mercè Piqueras (Institut d’Estudis Catalans). 12 April 2012.

-Series Science, Tecnology and Medicine at the Plaça Catalunya: Governance, Resistances and Knowledge Appropriation

“El despatologizadora que lo despatologize”. Roundtable with Rosa María Medina Doménech (Universidad de Granada), members of groups against pathologization of transgender and the audience. 15 March 2012.

– Series Film and Science

“The Toad Kisser and the Bear Cave. Revisiting the Case of Paul Kammerer” + Film Salamandra. Klaus Taschwer (periodista de “Der Standard”, Viena). Coordinated by Oliver Hochadel (IMF). 30 September 2011.

“Llums i ombres de la tecnologia: les tecnocràcies dels anys 30 a la llum del documental ‘The City’ de Lewis Mumford”. Film The City (1939). Presentation by Jaume Sastre (CEHIC). 12 January 2012.

“Natural History Filmmaking / Science on Television”. Film to be determined. Presentation by Tim Boon (Science Museum, London). 9 February 2012.

“Beasts, Men and Mutant Categories; a cinematic panorama / Bestias, hombres y mutantes: un panorama cinematográfico”. Film The boys from Brazil (Franklin J. Schaffner, 1978). Presentation by Sophia Vackimes (Universitat de Girona / Institut Català de Recerca en Patrimoni Cultural). 8 March 2012.

“L’enemic a la sang: medicina i ordre a l’Europa d’entreguerres”. Film El enemigo en la sangre (Walter Ruttman, 1931; Spanish version by Díaz Alonso, with the collaboration of Dr. Jaume Peyrí Rocamora). Presentation by Alfons Zarzoso (CEHIC-MHMC). 18 April 2012.

“Geología y Paleontología españolas, del museo a la pantalla. Un tema inédito en el cine español de la primera mitad del siglo XX”. Projecció de la pel·lícula La Historia de un mundo perdido (1951, with scientific script by Dr. Miquel Crusafont i Pairó). Presentation by Carlos Acosta (CEHIC). 25 April 2012.

“Documentales sobre vida salvaje para tiempos salvajes: Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente y ‘El Hombre y la Tierra’ en la España de los años 70”. Show of two TV chapters of El Hombre y la Tierra (1973-1980). Presentation by Carlos Tabernero (CEHIC). 17 May 2012.

SCHCT Seminar Commission:

Pasqual Bernat (
Miquel Carandell (
Sara Fajula (
Jordi Ferran (
Clara Florensa (
Ximo Guillem (
Agustin López (
Jaume Sastre (
Josep Simon ( [coordinator]
Miquel Terreu (
Jaume Valentines (