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The Whipple Museum of the History of Science
Objects and Investigations, to Celebrate the 75th Anniversary of R. S. Whipple's Gift to the University of Cambridge


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Liba Taub, Joshua Nall, Seb Falk, Catherine Eagleton, Adam Mosley, Jim Bennett, Anne Secord, Simon Schaffer, Charlotte Connelly, Hasok Chang, Tabitha Thomas, Boris Jardine, Helen Curry, Caitlin Wylie, Henry Schmidt, Matthew Green, Michael F. Mcgovern
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  • Date Published: August 2019
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108498272

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About the Authors
  • 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.

    • Showcases the holdings of the Whipple Museum of the History of Science
    • Based on a range of types of historical sources, including material, documentary, and visual
    • Shares examples of state-of-the-art research on the substance of science
    • This title is also available as Open Access
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    • Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2020, Choice Reviews.

    Reviews & endorsements

    '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, Choice

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    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2019
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108498272
    • length: 352 pages
    • dimensions: 253 x 178 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.85kg
    • contains: 61 b/w illus. 2 maps 4 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction Liba Taub and Joshua Nall
    1. Sacred astronomy? Beyond the stars on a Whipple astrolabe Seb Falk
    2. What were portable astronomical instruments used for in late-medieval England, and how much were they actually carried around? Catherine Eagleton
    3. 'Sundials and other cosmographical instruments': historical categories and historians' categories in the study of mathematical instruments and disciplines Adam Mosley
    4. 'That incomparable instrument maker': the reputation of Henry Sutton Jim Bennett
    5. Specimens of observation: Edward Hobson's Musci Britannici Anne Secord
    6. Ideas embodied in metal: Babbage's engines dismembered and remembered Simon Schaffer
    7. Galvanometers and the many lives of scientific instruments Charlotte Connelly and Hasok Chang
    8. Buying antique scientific instruments at the turn of the twentieth century: a data-driven analysis of Lewis Evans' and Robert Stewart Whipple's collecting habits Tabitha Thomas
    9. Like a Bos: the discovery of fake antique scientific instruments at the Whipple Museum Boris Jardine
    10. Wanted weeds: environmental history in the Whipple Museum Helen Curry
    11. What 'Consul, the Educated Monkey' can teach us about early twentieth-century mathematics, learning, and vaudeville Caitlin Wylie
    12. Robin Hill's cloud camera: meteorological communication, cloud classification Henry Schmidt
    13. Chicken heads and Punnett squares: Reginald Punnett and the role of visualizations in early genetics research at Cambridge, 1900–1930 Matthew Green
    14. Stacks, 'pacs', and user hacks: a handheld history of personal computing Michael F. Mcgovern.

  • Editors

    Joshua Nall, University of Cambridge
    Joshua Nall is Curator of Modern Sciences at the Whipple Museum of the History of Science. His first book is News from Mars: Mass Media and the Forging of a New Astronomy, 1860–1910 (forthcoming).

    Liba Taub, University of Cambridge
    Liba Taub is Curator and Director of the the Whipple Museum of the History of Science, Professor in History and Philosophy of Science, and a Fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge. She received the Joseph H. Hazen Education Prize from the History of Science Society and a Pilkington Teaching Prize from the University of Cambridge.

    Frances Willmoth, University of Cambridge
    Frances Willmoth (1957–2017) was Archivist at Jesus College, Cambridge. She worked on a three-volume edition of John Flamsteed's correspondence.


    Liba Taub, Joshua Nall, Seb Falk, Catherine Eagleton, Adam Mosley, Jim Bennett, Anne Secord, Simon Schaffer, Charlotte Connelly, Hasok Chang, Tabitha Thomas, Boris Jardine, Helen Curry, Caitlin Wylie, Henry Schmidt, Matthew Green, Michael F. Mcgovern


    • Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2020, Choice Reviews.

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