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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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

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.

CFP: The Origin of Life, Second Conference on History and Philosophy of Astrobiology, Höör, Sweden, 8-10 May 2015

[via David Dunér]

Aim of the meeting

It will deal with the transition of non-living to living matter, how chemical processes evolve into biological ones and the onset of biological evolution as well as the tree of life. Scientists and students from humanities and natural sciences will convene to discuss these questions that engaged mankind since centuries.

The conference is co-organised by the Nordic Network of Astrobiology and the EU COST Action ”Origins and Evolution of Life on Earth and in the Universe”. It will also constitute the fourth annual meeting of the Nordic Network of Astrobiology. The conference will be organised by David Dunér (Lund University, Sweden), Wolf Geppert (Stockholm University, Sweden) and Christophe Malaterre (UQAM, Canada).


The conference will take place at Åkersberg Herrgård in Höör, Skåne (Scania) in Southern Sweden. The venue is only a 400m walk from Höör railway station. From Höör station there are direct connections to Copenhagen Airport every hour during daytime and the journey takes only 50 minutes. The event will start on Friday, May 8 in the morning (arrival of participants will be on Thursday, May 7 in the evening) and finish on Sunday, May 10 lunchtime. There will be an optional excursion on Saturday 9th to the beautiful island of Ven, where Tycho Brahe had his observatory. Furthermore, the meeting is held after the summer course Life on Earth and Beyond: The History and Philosophy of the Origin of Life, on Ven Island. This course will be an excellent introduction into the conference. Furthermore, attendees will be able to go on an excursion to Stevns Klint (where the C-T boundary is clearly visible) on the day between the two events.

Scope of the meeting

The meeting is open to interested scientists and students with background in natural, social and political sciences as well as those engaged in humanities from all over the world. However, invitations for visa applications can only be issued to invited speakers and invited poster presenters.

We from the COST Action ”Origins and Evolution of Life on Earth and in the Universe” and the Nordic Network of Astrobiology are looking forward to welcoming you at the conference.

Registration deadline

Deadline for registration, accommodation booking and abstract submission:

31 March 2015

Further information visit the conference website here.

Call for paper: The 7th Tensions of Europe Conference, Stockholm, 3‐6 September 2015

[via Nina Worms]

The 7th Tensions of Europe Conference

Organizers: Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment, KTH Royal Institute of Technology together with the KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory.

Conference theme: Technology and Environment

Tensions of Europe Conference will have as its main theme the interaction between technology and the environment. One way of understanding the environment is to think of it as nature appropriated by humankind through technological, scientific and representational means. From farming to space travel, we use technologies and natural resources to sustain our lives. Our use of technologies leaves traces behind in the form of altered environments. Changes at global historical and geological scales are accumulated as heritage and geophysical strata respectively. The intersection of technology and the environment can also be understood culturally or socially. We use technology in our understanding and appreciation of nature (religious, poetic or physical), in monitoring it, assessing it representing it. Further, technology can be a lens and a tool in shaping our relation to the environment. Technologies not only assist in shaping and transforming nature, they also assist us to perceive, observe, record and communicate natures and environments, including imaginative representations of techno‐natures in art, literature and film.

The conference also invites scholarship in the general themes of the Tensions of Europe network, such as trans‐border flows, common resources, conflicting interests, hidden integration and cultural practices.

We not only invite traditional panel‐sessions with a number of papers and a commentator, but also strongly encourage different formats and new ideas. As long as quality can be demonstrated, the programme committee will not prioritize between formats. By quality we mean suggestions that promise constructive, stimulating and engaging discussion.

We invite scholars from all relevant fields to submit proposals to:


by 15 February 2015. All proposals should include a title, a short abstract, the academic title and affiliation of the applicant(s) and a short bio.  Please name your file with your surname.

Abstracts for individual papers and posters should be no more than 300 words. For panels, we ask for a description of the theme of the panel (max 300 words) together with shorter abstracts (max 150 words) of the individual papers. If you wish to suggest a presentation of a different format, please use these word limits as guidelines.

We will inform applicants by 1 April 2015 whether their contribution has been accepted.

A second call for papers, with information about keynote speakers and the  conference website, will be distributed before the end of 2014.

Welcome to Stockholm in September 2015!

Nina Wormbs
Head of Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment
KTH Royal Institute of technology

CFP: Teknik- och vetenskapshistoriska dagar 2015

[via TVHD]

Den 15–17 april 2015 anordnas den nationella konferensen Teknik- och vetenskapshistoriska dagar i Lund. Konferensen anordnas vartannat år och riktar sig till forskare och doktorander inom teknik- och vetenskapshistoria och angränsande forskningsfält samt till personer verksamma inom museisektorn. Arrangör för 2015 års konferens är avdelningen för idé- och lärdomshistoria vid Lunds universitet i samarbete med Svenska Nationalkommittén för teknik- och vetenskapshistoria.

Inbjuden key-noteföreläsare är Kristin Asdal, Senter for teknologi, innovasjon og kultur (TIK) vid Oslo universitet.

Historiska studier av vetenskap och teknik bedrivs inom en rad discipliner och områden, alltifrån teknik- och vetenskapshistoria, idéhistoria, medicinhistoria, miljöhistoria, ekonomisk historia och teknik- och vetenskapsstudier till etnologi, sociologi och kulturstudier och vi vill uppmuntra doktorander och forskare från samtliga dessa discipliner att delta.

Vi välkomnar deltagare med följande typer av bidrag:

– Individuella papers eller presentationer på valfritt tema

– Förslag på sessioner på valfritt tema

– Individuella bidrag som anknyter till konferensens tema/teman

Inom ramen för konferensen planeras ett antal teman varav ett är ”Universitetshistoria – vägar till vitalisering och reflexion”. Universitetshistoria som genre har varit påfallande traditionell och främst producerats av enskilda lärosäten i samband med olika jubileer. Det universitetshistoriska temat vill därför inbjuda till en bred diskussion om hur denna genre kan förnyas men också göras mer allmängiltig och relevant. Inte minst mot bakgrund av universitetets snabba förändring under senare tid är det angeläget att utveckla en historieskrivning som kan ge nya perspektiv på universitetet som central kunskapsinstitution i samhället. Det inbegriper även kunskapsproduktionens villkor inom andra akademiska institutioner och miljöer samt hur denna kunskap tillämpas inom olika delar av samhället.

På fredag eftermiddag kommer det att finnas möjlighet för konferensens deltagare att besöka kärnkraftverket i Barsebäck för en guidad tur. Noteras bör att antalet platser på denna rundtur är begränsat. Konferensens språk är svenska, övriga skandinaviska språk samt engelska. Sista dag för anmälan av individuella abstracts (250 ord) och förslag på sessioner är 15 januari 2015. Anmälan sker på konferensens hemsida, där även praktisk information om boende, konferensavgift etc. kommer fortlöpande att uppdateras.

Eventuella övriga frågor skickas till:

English summary: 
A national conference on the History of Science and Technology will be held in Lund, April 15–17, 2015. The conference is held every two years and is aimed at graduate students and researchers in the history of technology and science and adjacent research fields and to people working in the museum sector. Organizer for the 2015 conference is the Department of History of Science and Ideas, Lund University in cooperation with the the Swedish National Committee of the History of Technology and Science. The main topic of the conference 
is ”University History—ways to revitalization and reflection.” For further information, please send a message to: or visit our website.