Modern Sciences Working Group

Coordinators: Erik Baker and Chris Rudeen
Faculty Sponsors: Alex Csiszar and Sophia Roosth

Click here for the Modern Sciences Working Group website for a full schedule of events and RSVP form.


The Modern Sciences Working Group is a regular meeting of History of Science Department graduate students, faculty, and visiting scholars. The group provides a forum for participants to discuss their work and share ideas. Topics generally focus on the history of the physical and life sciences post-1800. Through regular meetings, the group generates lively and productive conversations about relevant topics, gives graduate students the opportunity to obtain useful feedback on their projects, and keep students in contact with scholars in the history of modern science community. It is organized by graduate students in the History of Science department in consultation with the faculty.

The Modern Sciences Working group is the product of a merger of the History of the Physical Sciences Group and the History of the Life Sciences / Environmental Science Group. The merger took placed when we realized that many of the graduate student attendees of the respective groups were writing on topics that cut across the traditional boundary between physics and biology. Further, insofar as historians of biology and physics continue to work on somewhat distinct sets of historical actors, we all encounter similar thematic and methodological opportunities and challenges. For these and other reasons, it has become increasingly obvious that historians of biology, physics, and technology have much to say to and learn from one another.

In 2018-19, the Modern Sciences Working Group will meet weekly. In the past, the Modern Sciences Working Group has been a completely open-ended forum for work on any aspect of the sciences in the last several centuries. This year, however, each semester will also feature a theme of special emphasis, to encourage week-to-week cohesiveness and community conversation. In Fall 2018, the working group theme will be “Science at Work.” We invite projects that address questions like: How have scientists, in a variety of disciplines, thought about labor? How has scientific labor itself changed materially over time? What is the place of the figure of the scientist in cultural understandings of what work is? How has scientific knowledge itself been put to work for particular employers: corporations, governments, foundations, and so on?

We are planning a varied, lively program of meetings that aim to foster a lively community of interacting, engaged graduate students and scholars. We hope to do this through graduate student presentations, discussions of current trends in the history of modern science, and special guest speakers with whom the graduate student community wishes to engage. Our primary aim is to encourage graduate students to present their research in-progress, including drafts of dissertation chapters, prospectuses, seminar papers, and practice conference talks. However, we plan to supplement these presentations with graduate student led discussions of recent literature in the field, classic books and monographs, and other important materials, as well as with guest speakers.

A light lunch will be served at all of our meetings.