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.

Läs mer

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.

CFP: From above: On a scientifically privileged postion, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, 12-13 January 2017

Workshop invitation

From above: on a scientifically privileged position

Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm, Linnésalen, 12-13 January 2017

The dream of an ”Apollo’s eye” in viewing the earth goes back to antiquity, but in the modern period technologies have enabled a production of scientific knowledge literally from above, e.g. from mountain tops, balloons and satellites. Seeing the world in overview is a modern capability shaping symbols and narratives of the earth and global contexts. Our sense of the global has a deep historicity, affecting what we can think, feel and say about planetary scales.

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.

The meeting is organised as part of the research programme ”Science and Modernization in Sweden: An Institutional Approach to Historicizing the Knowledge Society”, hosted by the Center for the History of Science at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences is also the venue for the meeting.The theme ties into ongoing research in the programme and at Stockholm University, KTH Royal Institute of Technology and University of Gothenburg.

We invite abstracts of 1-2 pages and a short cv, deadline 10 June 2016. Notice of acceptance will be given no later than 24 June 2016. The workshop will not have precirculated papers however we envision a tight and thematic schedule with engaged comments and discussions. Depending on the interest and outcome of the accepted papers we will consider moving forward with a future publication on the topic. We will cover travel and two nights of accommodation for presenters. Questions and submissions should be directed to:

Nina Wormbs, Associate professor, History of Science and Technology, KTH Royal Institute of Technology,

Staffan Bergwik, Associate professor, History of Ideas, Stockholm University

Björn Billing, Senior lecturer, History of Ideas, Gothenburg University

Workshop: History of Scientific Publication, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, 3-4 December 2015

On 3-4 December 2015 an international workshop on the history of scientific publication will be held at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The workshop will explore the norms and practices of scientific publication 1760-2010. The main emphasis is on the nineteenth century and the rise of print media, particularly scientific journals.

The workshop is organised as part of the research programme “Science and Modernization in Sweden: An Institutional Approach to Historicizing the Knowledge Society”, funded by Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg’s foundation and hosted by the Center for the History of Science at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
The workshop will take place at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and includes lunch and dinner at the Academy on December 3, and lunch on December 4. The full program can be downloaded here.

Besides invited speakers and participants, there are still a few seats available. If you would like to attend, or have any questions, please contact Jenny Beckman ( as soon as possible.

CFP: Abortion in the Nordic Countries: New Historical Perspectives, Approaches and Issues, Uppsala, October 27-28, 2015

[via Solveig Jülich]

A wealth of international historical literature has shed light on legal, religious, political and medical aspects of abortion and how it was experienced by women who had abortions, their doctors and lay abortionists. We have many national histories about abortion, often emphasising substantial differences and variations between countries. There is however still a tendency to treat the Nordic countries as a separate or exceptional group. According to a recent book by the political scientist Dorothy E. McBride, Sweden took the lead and the others closely followed the “Nordic pattern” by beginning to decriminalise abortion as early as the 1930s, and she also stresses the active role played by women’s rights groups in pushing governments to further liberalisation in the 1960s (McBride 2008). McBride sees the Nordic countries as characterised by the support of the majority of citizens for current abortion laws and the importance widely attributed to sex education and family planning as important means of preventing the need for abortions. Yet there are many aspects of abortion history that the notion of a “Nordic pattern” works to conceal, for instance, that the right to abortion was more limited in Norway and Finland than in Sweden and Denmark.

The purpose of this workshop is to bring together historians from different fields to discuss current research on national and transnational aspects of the history of abortion in the Nordic countries during the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries and its global implications. It will comprise of an invited talk, paper presentations and a concluding general discussion.

Confirmed invited lecturer and discussant is Leslie Reagan, professor of history and women’s studies at the University of Illinois, United States. She is author of a number of books and articles on abortion history, including When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867–1973 (1997), and Dangerous Pregnancies: Mothers, Disabilities, and Abortion in Modern America (2010).

We especially welcome research relating to topics such as:

• Abortion law and its effects

• Abortion opposition and anti-abortion movements

• Abortion and religion

• The visual culture of abortion rights

• The emergence of abortion as a feminist issue

• Political cross-border collaboration on abortion

• The medicalisation of abortion

• Uses of aborted embryos and foetuses in medical research and education

• Eugenics, abortion and the welfare state

• The historiography and politics of abortion history

Abstracts for papers of 200-300 words should be submitted no later than August 31, 2015 to David Thorsén, Please provide your full name, institutional affiliation, and contact details. The format of the workshop will not allow for more than c. 10 papers. We will select the abstracts to be presented at the meeting considering original research and relevance to the theme of the workshop as well as an attention to achieving a representative mix of researchers from the Nordic countries. By September 7, 2015 applicants will be notified if their papers have been accepted or not.

The workshop will be two full days, i.e. morning to late afternoon October 27–28, 2015.

The workshop, including lunches, conference dinner and accommodation (two nights at the conference hotel) is free of charge. It will be possible to obtain limited economic support for travel expenses. Please indicate in the application if such support is required for attendance and what level of support is needed.

There are a few places available for additional participants. The deadline for such applications is also August 31, 2015. For those interested, please indicate your reasons for wanting to take part in the conference. No economic support will be given to attendees who do not present papers.

The conference language is English.

Selected papers from the workshop will be considered for publication.

This workshop is the first workshop in the research programme “Medicine at the Borders of Life: Foetal Research and the Emergence of Ethical Controversy”, funded by the Swedish Research Council. It is organised by Uppsala University in collaboration with Södertörn University.


Solveig Jülich (Uppsala University) and Lena Lennerhed (Södertörn University)

CFP: Disaster, Environment and Property: Historical Approaches, 19th-20th Centuries, Paris, 2-3 December 2015

[via Anna Åberg]

Organisers: Marc Elie, Fabien Locher

Supported by ANR project GOVENPRO

Property systems are essential operators in the anthropization of environments. The transformations they cause or enable often contribute to increasing societies’ exposure to natural hazards. Conversely, historical research shows that some forms of ownership and inheritance law can help to avoid the occurrence of disastrous events, such as avalanches in mountainous areas. Central and local authorities have also long sought to constrain property rights in order to prevent the occurrence of disasters and alleviate their effects, for example by compulsory purchase or the restriction of individual property rights.

Taking a historic perspective focusing on the 19th and 20th centuries, the conference will explore the interactions between property systems, resources and environments, and the particular class of socio-ecological processes that is disasters. The concept here is understood broadly to include “natural”, “industrial”, “demographic” and “ecological” disasters. Property systems are taken as the whole range (individual property, public ownership, common property and commons, servitudes, intellectual property) with particular stress on the actual practices (technical, legal, scientific, enforcement, etc.) that underpin their existence and combine to make them operate as historical institutions.

Disasters, in their short- and long-term effects, reshape the operating conditions for private and public actors, enabling them to affect the distribution of property and its workings, i.e. its rules of acquisition and transmission and the rights it entails.

A disaster is an occasion for the transformation of property in ways that may have many purposes and motivations: economic, political, ideological. It is also likely, by design or chance, to produce, at a relatively small scale of space and time, an “emergency situation” for property as ordinary rules are relaxed or relief must be provided. Disasters are also a motive for action, often as part of public policy, affecting property rights in order to prevent a catastrophe in advance, or mitigate or repair its effects afterwards. These three aspects (opportunity, emergency, management) interact and overlap to produce a complex set of processes of historical co-construction of property and disasters that the conference will address.

Issues addressed will include, but are not limited to,

1/ The disaster as a “state of emergency” for property: relaxation of regulating mechanisms, requisitions, “return to order” of ordinary property;

2/ The disaster as an opportunity to appropriate environments and resources, for private actors (private enclosure, speculative sale and purchase, concentration of ownership) via, in particular, market mechanisms, public action, violence or the threat of violence;

3/ The place of property in disaster prevention policies and preparation for disasters: servitudes, zoning, planning rules, expropriation, compulsory or voluntary purchase;

4/ Property and post-disaster repair and reconstruction programmes;

5/ Property, vulnerability and resilience: relationships between property distribution and regulation, and unequal exposure and response; disaster, property and poverty;

6/ Disaster, property, insurance: insurance mechanisms, assessment of damage and size of disaster; role of insurance in policies of prevention, preparation and reconstruction; insurance and permanence of property rights in emergencies;

7/ Disasters in the long history of theoretical discourse on environment/property relations: claims that some forms of property are linked to the occurrence of acute ecological crises, such as the so-called “tragedy of the commons”, criticisms of private property; discourse on the decline, fall and collapse of societies, seen in terms of the environment and property.

The conference will be held on 2-3 December 2015 at EHESS, 190-198 Avenue de France, 75013 Paris. Working languages will be English and French.

Proposed papers (in French or English) should be submitted by email to by 15 May 2015 at the latest.

Each proposal must include the first and last names and email address of the speaker; a CV of no more than one page; a title and proposal text of no more than 600 words. The selected speakers will have their travel and accommodation expenses paid. Responses to the proposals will be sent out by 15 July 2015. Background texts to the papers will be requested by 1 November 2015 so as to be circulated among speakers in advance of the conference.

The Making of Earth Imagery: Workshop on the History of Space Technology and Environmental Perceptions

[via KTH]

On Thursday, 11 June 2015 Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment will host the workshop ”The Making of Earth Imagery: The History of Space Technology and Environmental Perceptions” at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. The workshop will be held on the occasion of Sebastian Grevsmühl from Pierre et Marie Curie University Paris visiting the Division (for his work on space and the global environment see e.g. the e-publication from the conference ”New Perspectives on Global Environmental Images” held in Paris in 2014.

We invite students and scholars working in the broader field of space technology, satellite remote sensing and environmental perception to participate in the workshop and share their research with us. If the schedule permits we will allow for brief project presentations.

Workshop outline

How are historians of technology and environment to understand the interplay between actors, technologies, practices and the development of environmental perceptions in society? This workshop sets out to explore this question by studying the specific set of technologies and environmental images that satellite remote sensing provides. When the first satellites were placed into orbit in the second half of the 20th century, they changed not only the practices of environmental observation but also the study object, the earthly environment. New data became available and was assembled into new images of the Earth.

The diversified environmental monitoring program that took hold with the shift from military to civilian application in the 1970s has been hailed as the ”environmental turn” in the space enterprise. For many observers, among them the Apollo astronauts, seeing Earth from space represented a highly auto reflexive undertaking but, on the other hand, also a deep alienation. The workshop proposes to address the specificity of the space perspective beyond the dialectic of the distanced outer-space ”view from nowhere” and an inner space profoundly shaped by subjective intentions and imaginaries, by exploring earth satellite monitoring and surveillance both as a technoscientific practice and as a new set of ideas about local and global environments.

Our case studies on US and European satellite remote sensing projects from the 1970s to the 1990s will look particularly at the emerging images and messages about nature, at matters of the motivation, creation, appropriation and application of technologies, knowledges and environments.

If you are interested to attend and discuss your research with us, please contact one of the organizers, Nina Wormbs (, Johan Gärdebo ( or Sabine Höhler (