Breakfast at the Royal Society, June 2, 2015, 9:00 am – 11:00 am, Knight Library, Browsing Room, University of Oregon
Royal Society Mini Exhibit Self-guided Tour, June 2, 2015, 11am -12 pm, Knight Library, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon
The Royal Society (https://royalsociety.org/), located in downtown London near Whitehall, was founded in 1660 and is the world’s oldest scientific academy in continuous existence. As the publisher of an early scientific journal, an early locus for experiments, and, since its founding, an avid collector of data and speciments, the Royal Society proved foundational for the emergence of modern experimental science. Come have a virtual “breakfast” with the Royal Society in a simulcast event as part of the conference, “Archival Afterlives: Life, Death, and Knowledge-Making in Early Modern British Scientific and Medical Archives” (conference description below).” Coffee, tea and pastries will be served.
Participants will hear the keynote of the conference delivered by Lauren Kassell of Cambridge University (http://www.hps.cam.ac.uk/people/kassell/) and will have the opportunity to participate in the Question and Answer period. A prominent historian of science and medicine, Professor Kassell is the leader of a prominent digital humanities project which offers an important Renaissance magical and medical archive to the public (http://www.magicandmedicine.hps.cam.ac.uk/). For her talk (abstract below), she will focus on the astrological collecting of Elias Ashmole (1617-1692), one of the founding members of the Royal Society, as well as of the Oxford Philosophical Society and of the Ashmolean Museum (still in existence in Oxford).
The UO Special Collections and University Archives is blessed with an excellent selection of rare books relating to the founding days of the Royal Society. Thirteen seventeenth and early eighteenth-century works will be on view through a self-guided tour upstairs in Special Collections and University Archives following the event, allowing participants to interact with the Royal Society through both new digital connections as well as through the older connection of print.
Early modern naturalists collected, generated, and shared massive amounts of paper. Inspired by calls for the wholesale reform of natural philosophy and schooled in humanist note-taking practices, they generated correspondence, reading notes (in margins, on scraps, in notebooks), experimental and observational reports, and drafts (rough, partial, fair) of treatises intended for circulation in manuscript or further replication in print. If naturalists claimed all knowledge as their province, natural philosophy was a paper empire. In our own day, naturalists’ materials, ensconced in archives, libraries, and (occasionally) private hands, are now the foundation of a history of science that has taken a material turn towards paper, ink, pen, and filing systems as technologies of communication, information management, and knowledge production. Recently, the creation of such papers, and their originators’ organization of them and intentions for them have received much attention. The lives archives lived after their creators’ deaths have been explored less often. The posthumous fortunes of archives are crucial both to their survival as historical sources today and to their use as scientific sources in the past.
How did (often) disorderly collections of paper come to be “the archives of the Scientific Revolution”? The proposed conference considers the histories of these papers from the early modern past to the digital present, including collections of material initially assembled by Samuel Hartlib, John Ray, Francis Willughby, Isaac Newton, Hans Sloane, Edward Lhwyd, Robert Hooke, and Théodore de Mayerne. The histories unearthed—of wrangling over the control and organization of the papers of dead naturalists (and by extension, of the legacies of the dead and the living), of putting the scraps and half-finished experiments cast off by fertile minds to work, of extending and preserving their legacies in print—serve not only as an index of the cultural position of scientific activity since the early modern period. They also engage us in thinking about genealogies of scientific influence, the material and intellectual resources that had to be deployed to continue the scientific project beyond the life of any one individual, the creation and management of scientific genius as a posthumous project, and scientific activity as a collective endeavor in which scribes, archives and library keepers, editors, digital humanists and naturalists’ surviving friends and family members had a stake.
Keynote: Lauren Kassell, Stars and scribes, astrology and archives
The story of astrology’s heyday in seventeenth century England is well known. Cheap print and political turmoil fuelled its popularity, while Copernicanism, mechanical philosophy and medical protectionism challenged its credibility. Almanacs and handbooks document one part of the story, polemical books and pamphlets the other. I want instead to focuses on astrological charts, kept singly or in series in casebooks or later amassed in collections. Whether forecasting the weather or judging a person’s fortune, astrologers mapped the stars on pieces of paper. Sometimes these were discarded, but often they were kept, retained, and sometimes collected, reused or recalculated. This history of the accumulation and study of astrological archives—called by one astrologer a ‘body of astrology’ and by another ‘astrological experiments’—parallels the rise of natural history, but astrologers faced distinct epistemological and practical challenges, often answered by consulting increasing numbers of records, current and historical. The ultimate astrologer antiquarian was Elias Ashmole (1617-1692), who collected and studied the majority of English astrological records that now survive. This paper considers Ashmole’s pursuits amidst a broader history of astrology and archives.