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The Whipple Museum of the History of Science
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Book description

In this book the diverse objects of the Whipple Museum of the History of Science's internationally renowned collection are brought into sharp relief by a number of highly regarded historians of science in fourteen essays. Each chapter focuses on a specific instrument or group of objects, ranging from an English medieval astrolabe to a modern agricultural 'seed source indicator' to a curious collection of plaster chicken heads. The contributors employ a range of historiographical and methodological approaches to demonstrate the various ways in which the material culture of science can be researched and understood. The essays show how the study of scientific objects - including instruments and models - offers a window into cultures of scientific practice not afforded by textual sources alone. This title is also available as Open Access on Cambridge Core.


'The Whipple Museum and its associated scholars continue to illuminate how matter and meaning intersect in fourteen fascinating items from the collection, from mosses to mechanical monkeys, computers to cloud cameras. Taken together, these lively essays are an object lesson in how close attention to the material history of science changes how we think about what science is, who does it, and how it changes.'

Lorraine Daston - Max Planck Institute for the History of Science

'The real power of a world-class museum is not only to preserve, but to illuminate the past, through constantly interrogating its collections and reassessing them in light of ever-increasing historical perspective gained through fresh and deep scholarship. This collection of essays attests to the Whipple’s continuing intellectual, cultural and social vitality.'

David H. DeVorkin - National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

'Cambridge is fortunate to be the home of the Whipple Museum - and it is fitting that its 75th anniversary should be celebrated by a book that deserves wide readership. The Museum's collection fascinates and enlightens all who visit. And we are doubly fortunate that these artefacts have inspired so much scholarly interest - as manifested by the fascinating and authoritative chapters gathered in this fine volume.'

Martin Rees - Astronomy Royal and Former Master of Trinity College

‘The volume exemplifies the best of science writing. Many helpful illustrations and an appendix of student research conducted at the library accompany the text.’

N. Sadanand Source: Choice

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Full book PDF
  • The Whipple Museum of the History of Science
    pp i-i
  • Frontispiece
    pp ii-ii
  • Copyright page
    pp iv-iv
  • Contents
    pp v-vi
  • Illustrations
    pp vii-xii
  • Contributors
    pp xiii-xviii
  • Acknowledgements
    pp xix-xx
  • Introduction
    pp 1-10
  • 1 - Sacred Astronomy? Beyond the Stars on a Whipple Astrolabe
    pp 11-32
  • 4 - ‘That Incomparable Instrument Maker’: The Reputation of Henry Sutton
    pp 83-100
  • 5 - Specimens of Observation: Edward Hobson’s Musci Britannici
    pp 101-118
  • 6 - Ideas Embodied in Metal: Babbage’s Engines Dismembered and Remembered
    pp 119-158
  • 7 - Galvanometers and the Many Lives of Scientific Instruments
    pp 159-186
  • 10 - Wanted Weeds: Environmental History in the Whipple Museum
    pp 223-236
  • 12 - Robin Hill’s Cloud Camera: Meteorological Communication, Cloud Classification
    pp 257-274
  • 14 - Stacks, ‘Pacs’, and User Hacks: A Handheld History of Personal Computing
    pp 291-312
  • Appendix: - Student Research Conducted on the Whipple Museum’s Collections since 1995
    pp 313-322
  • Index
    pp 323-334


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