The Nobel Prizes and the Public Image of Science: A Symposium at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, May 11–12, 2017

The notion of “excellence” in science has been turned into a cliché through the indiscriminate use of it for policy and branding purposes. Centres of excellence are ubiquitous, whereas real excellence is rare. The Nobel Prize has since 1901 occupied a unique position in the reward system of science and has been considered a gold standard of accomplishment, whether associated with serendipity, genius or excellence.

Because of their instantaneous renown, the Nobel Prizes offer a great opportunity to study the public visibility of research since the early 20th century. Some Laureates in the sciences have had a remarkable impact on societal perception and discourse about science. The aim of the symposium is to discuss the media impact of the prizes in order to explore what it tells us about how ideals of science, including those of individual achievement and personae, have been communicated. The symposium will hence be focused on the communication and visibility dynamics of the Nobel prizes in the sciences and their relation to the public image of science and scientists.

Contributions are given in the following areas:

  • Case studies of Nobel Laureates in the public sphere in a historical and sociological perspective;
  • Analysis of media coverage and social conversation (also through digital media) about the Nobel assignments in the sciences;
  • Historical/anthropological studies of the Nobel ceremony as ritual;
  • Studies of the broader social and cultural impact of individual assignments and Laureates;
  • Studies and analyses of Nobel Laureates’ representation in fiction (e.g. cinema);
  • Analysis of Nobel speeches and lectures.

Draft Programme

Introduction: S. Widmalm, Uppsala; M. Bucchi, Trento

  1. Condit (UGA), Challenges Regarding Scientific Character for the Nobel Prize Speeches
  2. Bergwik (Stockholm), Prizes and private lives: Svante Arrhenius and the gender politics of scientific elites
  3. Fahy (DCU), The Character of genius: How Scientific American profiled Nobel Laureates in the 1990s
  4. Fuller (UK) The Watson-Crick Parallax: The Nobel Prize as an Enabler of Scientific Heterodoxy
  5. Gouyon (UCL) From News to Storytelling: The representation of Nobel Prize winners on British television, 1962–2004
  6. Brodesco (Trento) Nobel Laureates in Fiction: from Robert Bekämpfer des Todes (1939) to A Beautiful Mind (2001); from to La fin du monde (1931) to Futurama (Matt Groening, 1999–2013); from The Prize (1963) to Breaking Bad (2008–2013).
  7. Tsabari (Techion) Nobel Prizes as a teachable moment: Public information seeking of Laureates and their scientific work following Nobel prize announcements

Discussants: Nils Hansson (Düsseldorf), Gustav Källstrand (Nobel Museum)

From above: On a scientifically privileged position

An international workshop, “From above: On a scientifically privileged position,” takes place 12–13 January at the Academy of Sciences as part of the research program Science and Modernization in Sweden.

The Earth seen from Apollo 17. NASA.

The aim of this workshop is to explore the modern history of scientific technologies, cultural practices and aesthetic conventions that produced extra-ordinary views from above. The workshop focuses on the period 1750–2000 and investigates what a history of observations from an elevated position looks like. Instruments, at times intertwined with the vessels which carry them, have a history which give them meaning far beyond the task of measurement. Positions involving overview have been considered privileged. Accordingly, the workshop also aims at exploring imagery as well as cultural narratives of overview relating the highs and the skies to power, indeed to ideas about freedom, paradise, afterlife and the eternal.

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PhD position in the history of mathematics

There is a funded PhD opportunity in the history of mathematics at the University of Basel, within the Bernoulli-Euler Online project, starting 1 July 2016 at the earliest.

Period:  1 July 2016 – 30 June 2019 (start date is flexible)

Location: University of Basel, Switzerland

Institutions: Bernoulli­Euler Centre and Digital Humanities Lab

Project Title: Bernoulli­Euler Online (BEOL): Development of a platform for digital editing and a virtual research environment for historical scientific texts

Application deadline: open until a candidate is selected

Project Description

We are an interdisciplinary group of scholars and software developers who make innovative tools for interacting with sources and data in the humanities. We are building a web­based research platform for presenting and working with critical editions of printed works, manuscripts, and correspondence by the Bernoulli dynasty and Leonhard Euler. We aim to offer open access to facsimiles, transcriptions, critical texts, translations, indices, and commentaries, as well as an environment for carrying out new research using these materials. We encourage experimenting with new ideas, we offer a friendly working environment, and we have a sense of humour.

Job Description

  • You will undertake your own research on a topic you propose, which should focus either on the works of Leonhard Euler and the Bernoullis or on the methodological aspects of digital critical editions.
  • You will play an active role in implementing software for processing transcriptions and annotations, modelling text structures, mathematical formulae and/or figures, and developing a web­based user interface.
  • You will be affiliated with the faculty of science in the discipline ‘History of Natural Sciences’.
  • The PhD position is paid according to the s alaries defined by the Swiss National Science Foundation.


  • You have an interdisciplinary background, including mathematics (such as an MSc in mathematics or similar experience) as well as historical research.
  • The sources of BEOL are written in Latin, German, and French. Basic knowledge in one or more of these languages is desirable but not required.
  • You have experience in computer programming and an interest in working with a variety of programming languages.
  • You enjoy working with people from different academic disciplines, learning new technologies, and imagining new ways of using them.
  • Experience with Semantic Web technologies would be an asset.


    Your Application

    Please send your letter of application to Prof. Dr. Lukas Rosenthaler <> . The application should include your CV, copies of your diplomas, and relevant job references. Please also attach a short sketch (max. 1 A4 page) of your proposed research project. If needed, you can obtain a description of the BEOL project from us.

    Questions and Contact

    Please contact Dr. des. Tobias Schweizer <> for more information about the position.

    The University of Basel is an equal opportunity and family friendly employer committed to excellence through diversity. Applications from women are strongly encouraged.

Civilisationshistoriens skönaste kapitel: L.F. Svanbergs presidietal 1849

När L.F. Svanberg lade ner sitt presidium vid KVA 11 april 1849 höll han talet: ”Några reflexioner i anledning af kemins studium och om denna vetenskaps ställning i staten”. Där skriver han bl.a. följande:

Det är vetenskapernas historia, som tydligast lägger i dagen huru kulturen gått framåt, och huru vår själ tid efter annan företagit sig problemet af allt högre och högre ordning att lösa. Mången gång har jag tänkt på huruvida ej denna vore förtjänt af att mera framhållas än hvad som hittills varit händelsen, och innerligt är jag öfvertygad om att, såvida denna historia en gång kommer att utvecklas och studeras i alla våra undervisningsverk, man skall förundra sig över att den ädlaste af all historia blivit i så långliga tider försummad. Den utgör dock, kan man säga, civilisationshistoriens skönaste kapitel.

Svanberg, Lars Fredrik (1805-78), foto 1863, HS, Album 1, sid. 11

L.F. Svanberg

Electromagnetism: The Road to Power

New series of International Conferences on the History of Physics starts in 2014 with a Conference in Cambridge, UK.

Organised by IOP History of Physics Group
Supported by the European Physical Society

The conference will inaugurate a new international series, bringing together professional historians of science, practicing physicists, science museum staff, lecturers, teachers and others with interests in any aspects and periods of physics history.

Student attendance and participation will be encouraged in the firm belief that a study of the history of the subject can inspire future generations by informing them about the lives and work of great scientists, and also facilitate a better understanding of topics that present conceptual problems today just as they did to their discoverers.

The conference, being sited at Trinity College, will offer the opportunity to present some aspects of Cambridge’s scientific history. Visits to Woolsthorpe Manor where Sir Isaac Newton was born and undertook much of his work, and to the Cavendish Museum, with its rich history of exhibits, will be arranged.

The leading theme of the inaugural conference will be:

Electromagnetism: the Road to Power

However, invited papers will extend to other topics, and contributed papers on all aspects of physics history will be considered for inclusion.

2 Postdoc positions in history of science

[via Mersenne]

Centre for Science Studies
2 Postdoc positions in history of science

to be filled as part of the research project “Shaping Cultures of Prediction: Knowledge, Authority, and the Construction of Climate Change” funded by the Danish Council for Independent Research (Humanities).

The project “Shaping Cultures of Prediction” examines the emergence of climate modeling as a culture of prediction in the formative period between ca. 1960 and 1985. It aims at investigating 1) how climate modeling emerged from a competition between different knowledge claims and epistemic standards to attain hegemonic status, and 2) how the use of climates models shifted from heuristic research instrument to application as a predictive tool for long-term climate prediction. See also the project website on

Postdoc position 1: Subproject “From heuristic to predictive climate simulation: Agendas in the modeling communities”

This subproject examines the shift from heuristic to predictive use of climate models and asks how climate models came to enjoy scientific authority as predictive tools. It will focus on investigating the work and impact of leading US climate modelers such as Stephen H. Schneider, William W. Kellogg and James E. Hansen in the period from about 1970 to 1985. This subproject will (1) help to illuminate the different interests, perceptions and practices within the climate modeling community, and the decisions they entailed, (2) explore the interaction of scientific and political interests in the climate modeling context, and (3) provide a better understanding of scientific, political and cultural sources of confidence and trust in climates models and their use as predictive tools.
Requirements for this position are:

  • Several years of experience in the history of science. Experience in the history of atmospheric science, climatology or climate modelling will be an advantage;
  • A very good command of English;
  • The ability and willingness to spend time for archival research in the USA (and possibly other countries) and to pursue interviews;
  • Experience and interest in collaborative research and international collaboration.
  • Expected start of the position: As soon as possible.

Postdoc position 2: Subproject “Negotiation of simulation knowledge: Responses from climatology”

This subproject examines the discussion and negotiation of new modeling approaches and knowledge by climatological communities in the UK, Germany and Scandinavia and will focus on leading climatologists. This subproject will (1) investigate responses to climate modeling by leading climatologists in Sweden and/or Germany such as Hermann Flohn and Richard T. A. Scherhag in Germany, and Hans W. Ahlmann, Carl-Gustaf Rossby and Bert Bolin in Sweden, and (2) prepare and organize a dedicated website to be hosted by the Center for History of Physics (American Institute of Physics) with the materials, sources and findings of the project.
Requirements for this position are:

  • Several years of experience in the history of science. Experiences in the history of atmospheric science, climatology or climate modeling will be of advantage;
  • A good command of either Swedish or German (or both) and the willingness to acquire sufficient language skills in the other language; additionally a good command of English is needed;
  • The ability and willingness to spend time for archival research in Sweden and Germany (and possibly also Austria and Switzerland) and to pursue interviews;
  • Experience and interest in collaborative research and international collaboration.
  • Expected start of position: ca. August 2014.

“Shaping Cultures of Prediction” is a collaborative research project between Aarhus University, the University of Stockholm and King’s College, London. The postdocs will be part of a research team based in Aarhus, and the working place will be the Centre for Science Studies at Aarhus University. Both positions will be filled for a project period of 2 years.

The Centre for Science Studies is one of the big university centers in the history and philosophy of science in Europe and the biggest in Scandinavia. Its research activities focus on the history and philosophy of contemporary science. For more information see:

Aarhus is located at the coast of the Baltic Sea in Jutland. It is the second biggest city in Denmark with about 300,000 inhabitants. With more than 40,000 students it is considered the youngest city in Denmark. It, has one of the largest harbors in Northern Europe, holds numerous historical buildings and cultural institutions and offers a rich cultural and student life.

Applications must be in English and must include a CV, a complete list of publications, all degree documents, one letter of recommendation, and two writing samples (articles, dissertation chapters, etc.). Applications have to be submitted online by following the link below.

Please specify in your application letter whether you wish to apply to postdoc position 1 or to postdoc position 2 or both.

For more information please contact: Associate Professor Matthias Heymann,<>

All applications must be received by 30 September 2013.