Department Blog

H/SS & Gov Info Services

New Book on Georges Canguilhem

June 24th, 2014 by Michael Winter

Nowdays Canguilhem is probably better known as Michel Foucault’s mentor, but in his day he was a major French philosopher and historian of science, as this collection of articles reveals. For the basic bibliographic description and more information about the library’s copy, check the Harvest library catalog record.  The cover art is a reproduction of a painting by Maurice Matieu that is based on some lines from Henri Michaux.

Richard N. Schwab Papers

June 22nd, 2014 by Michael Winter

Richard N. Schwab taught in the history department at UC, Davis. The two linear feet of papers he donated to the Shields Library Department of Special Collections relate specifically to his lifelong work on the French Encyclopedia of Diderot and D’Alembert–or, as it is more formally known, Encyclopedie, ou Dictionnaire raisonne des sciences, des arts et des metiers, which appeared in fascicles and then eventually as bound volumes between 1751 and 1765. Special Collections also owns an original 17 volume edition of this work, along with the numerous supplementary volumes of engraved illustrations/plates accompanying the text, as well as  other supplementary material issued along with the original text and plates.

Schwab’s contributions to the study of the Encyclopedie and indeed the study of the Enlightenment more generally are much too numerous to mention here, though it should be noted that he produced the English translation of the Preliminary discourse to the Encyclopedia contributed by D’Alembert.  A number of years ago Professor Schwab also began a fruitful collaboration with the University of Chicago and the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, and participated in the eventual issue of a digital version of this landmark reference work.

Medical Humanities Grant Open to UC Davis Grad/Prof Students

June 16th, 2011 by David Michalski

This looks like an exciting opportunity, and certainly one that can lead to innovative uses of the University Library’s deep collections in the Humanities, Social Sciences and Life Sciences.

Medical Humanities Grant Open to UC Davis Graduate and Professional Students

Three fellowships are available to graduate or professional students at UC Davis to conduct research in the Medical Humanities. These grants are sponsored by the cross-UC Medical Humanities Consortium and will run during the 2011-2012 academic year. Grantees will pursue an individualized research project relating to the theme of “language and de/humanization in a medical setting.” They will also be expected to assist in organizing and running a spring or summer 2012 conference building on their research themes and the research themes of three other campuses in the Consortium. During the academic year, students will be expected to participate in themed monthly interdisciplinary discussion groups with members of the UC Davis academic community. These meetings are currently held at a faculty member’s home in Sacramento and are attended by scholars of medicine, history, literature, cultural studies and nursing.

The ideal candidates for these grants will be graduate or professional students in humanities or healthcare disciplines who wish to pursue a personal and professional interest in the developing field of Medical Humanities. Applicants should have a strong commitment to cross-disciplinary collaboration and be able to demonstrate good communication and organizational skills. Conference-related duties may vary from arranging accommodations for speakers to liaising with caterers to helping plan panel topics and selecting conference attendees. This grant offers the opportunity to build experience in the fast-growing and dynamic field of Medical Humanities, to work with a small, committed group of scholars from across UC Davis, and to develop strong networking and event organization experience. Students must have access to independent transport and be willing to travel reasonable distances to pursue their research.

A stipend of $1200 will be awarded. This amount includes the student’s gas costs and mileage, as well as time allocated to research and organization. Extraneous expenses incurred, such as those for copying and any food provided for official grant-related events, will be reimbursed.

Interested applicants should provide a 300-word research proposal outlining a project of interest on the theme of “language and de/humanization in a medical setting.” Students may choose to take a historical, practice-led, or theoretical approach to this topic, just to name a few options. The proposal should explain the importance of the project, what evidence the student will examine, the project’s methodologies, and how the findings could contribute to the field of Medical Humanities. Students should keep in mind that proposals will be read by an interdisciplinary selection committee, and thus should avoid the use of disciplinary-specific terminology without adequate contextualization.

Please also include a current copy of your CV. Applications are due by June 30, 2011 via email to Questions may also be sent to this address. Successful applicants will be notified by July 31, 2011.

British Library Sound Archive

December 23rd, 2010 by Michael Winter

Dan Goldstein just let me know about a remarkable new archive of recorded sound, music, and other materials recently made available by the British Library.  At the very least it should be of interest to scholars in anthropology, history,  the performing arts, and performance studies.  Its breadth is quite impressive.

How to Equalize Access to Digital Collections

September 16th, 2010 by Daniel Goldstein

I published this essay in the July, 2010 issue of the Newsletter of the History of Science Society.

How to Equalize Access to Digital Collections

It is no news that scholars at major universities have better access to research materials than do their colleagues elsewhere. But lately, there has been growing concern that the imbalance is getting worse because of the way that digitized collections are being made available. It turns out that, in terms of equalizing access, digitization is a mixed bag.
Continued . . .

Royal Society Historic science papers go online

November 29th, 2009 by David Michalski

BBC: The Royal Society marks the start of its 350th year by putting 60 of its most memorable research papers online.
Historic science papers go online

“One of the world’s oldest scientific institutions is marking the start of its 350th year by putting 60 of its most memorable research papers online. The Royal Society, founded in London in 1660, is making public manuscripts by figures like Sir Isaac Newton. Benjamin Franklin’s account of his infamous kite-flying experiment is also available on the Trailblazing website. Society president Lord Rees said the papers documented some of the most “thrilling moments” in science history. The Royal Society grew out of the so-called “Invisible College” of thinkers who began meeting in the mid-1640s to discuss science and philosophy. Its official foundation date is 28 November 1660 and thereafter it met weekly to debate and witness experiments. “

November 4th, 2009 by Daniel Goldstein

I’ve just finished reading Richard Fortey, Dry Storeroom No. 1 (Knopf, 2008), a memoir about the British Museum (Natural History) by the museum’s Trilobite expert.  Fortey walks his reader through the different behind the scenes working sections of the museum and introduces the reader to the buildings,  the collections, the research and most of all the people who inhabit those spaces.

In one way the book reminds me of James Herriott’s All Creatures Great and Small in that it is a collection of curious facts, stories and anecdotes about (mostly) charmingly eccentric people.  But the book has a much more serious purpose as well.  It contains a powerful argument for the importance of foundational scientific research–in the museum’s case, systematics–, of the collections of specimens and needed to support it, and of the people who have built up decades worth of taxonomic knowledge.  In one powerful passage he states:

But I do understand the primacy of collections as a record of the world, both human and natural.  There is more to collections than the golden rule about never throwing things away.  There is inherent value in having people who “know their stuff.”  The apparently esoteric can suddenly illuminate unsuspected areas of knowledge.  those who have devoted their lives to collections–obdurate people, odd people, admirable people–actually make a museum what it is and should be.

Passing Strange:

June 17th, 2009 by Daniel Goldstein

I’ve just finished reading Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line, historian Martha A. Sandweiss’ take on the secret marriage of Clarence King, geologist, explorer and author to Ada Copeland, a domestic worker who had been born a slave.  The fact of the marriage had been public knowledge since the 1930s, but Sandweiss has built a remarkable book around around it that ties together stories of race and class, economic and social change, adventure and love.   Sandweiss discovered that King “passed” as a black man when he met Copeland, and kept from her the secret of his name and his identity as one of the most celebrated men of his day.   She found out only in a letter he had written her from his deathbed.  The book explores the complexity of this relationship and the question of how King could pull this deception off for more than a decade.  More than a microstudy, it is also an extraordinarily rich portrayal of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America, and would, I think be a splendid read for an undergraduate course.   Sandweiss sums it all up in the final paragraph of the book.

The story of Clarence and Ada King is about love and longing that transcend the historical bounds of time and place. . .  .  But it is also a peculiarly American story that could take root only in a society where one’s racial identity determined one’s legal rights and social opportunities.  At every turn it exposes the deep fissures of race and class that cut through the landscape of American life. . . .

Passing Strange is in the library at Call Number: E 185.625 .S255 2009

Journals Under Threat

June 3rd, 2009 by Daniel Goldstein

There’s a new editorial, “Journals Under Threat,” appearing in 61 international history of science, technology and medicine journals. It was issued jointly by the editors of all 61 journals and should be read by anyone involved in the humanities. (Link to editorial in Medical History via PubMed Central.)

This collaborative editorial critiques an initiative from the European Science Foundation called the European Reference Index for the Humanities (ERIH). According to the editors, “The ERIH is an attempt to grade journals in the humanities. . . . The initiative proposes a league table of academic journals, with premier, second and third divisions.  But, while the editors direct their objections to this specific initiative, their core critique challenges the underlying premise of any journal ranking scheme as it applies to the humanities.

Journals’ quality cannot be separated from their contents and their review processes. Great research may be published anywhere and in any language. Truly ground-breaking work may be more likely to appear from marginal, dissident or unexpected sources, rather than from a well-established and entrenched mainstream. Our journals are various, heterogeneous and distinct. Some are aimed at a broad, general and international readership, others are more specialized in their content and implied audience. Their scope and readership say nothing about the quality of their intellectual content.

We are in a time when academic publishing is under strain and the University of California is confronting a future of sharply reduced state support. As we, collectively and as individuals, are forced to make difficult decisions about what research to fund or not to fund, where to publish, what journals to purchase or to cancel, the temptation is strong to base our choices on seemingly objective measures like the ERIH. This editorial is a strong and timely reminder that despite their allure, such ranking systems are of questionable value. Indeed, the authors of this editorial feel so strongly that the ERIH is antithetical to interests of the research community that they have all asked to have their journals removed from its lists.

RESOURCE: Nevada Test Site Oral History Project

May 29th, 2009 by Roberto C. Delgadillo


Based at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the Nevada Test Site Oral History Project is “a comprehensive program dedicated to documenting, preserving and disseminating the remembered past of persons affiliated with and affected by the Nevada Test Site during the era of Cold War nuclear testing.” From 2003 to 2008, oral history narrators participated in this project, and they included national laboratory scientists, military personnel, Native American leaders, and peace activists. On the homepage, visitors should look through the three thematic sections, including “Contested Landscapes” and “Community of Voices”. Through these oral histories and testimonies, visitors can learn about the complex set of processes and experiences surrounding the test site. Along the left hand of the site, visitors can search the collection, make a list of their favorite interviews, and also get assistance with using the site.