ISIS celebrates renewal of five-year editorship at York

Five years after snagging the editorship of ISIS away from universities in the US, York has done it again. Its term at the helm of ISIS – an international review devoted to the history of science and its cultural influences – has been renewed for another five years, which York humanities professor and ISIS editor Bernie Lightman says is reason to celebrate.

That’s exactly what Lightman and his team are planning to do at an ISIS reception on Tuesday, Oct. 14, from 2:30 to 5pm, at Norman’s, 203 Norman Bethune College, Keele campus. ISIS, the quarterly journal of the History of Science Society, is also set to publish its 100th volume in March 2009 – another reason for the reception.

Left: A pastel sketch of George Sarton, founder of ISIS

“It’s considered to be the leading journal in the field. So unless the History of Science Society thought we weren’t meeting their high standards, they wouldn’t have renewed our term for another five years,” says Lightman.

With close to 4,000 subscribers worldwide, ISIS is one of the most-read journals in the field. “We cover all dimensions of the history of science,” Lightman says. That includes the history of science in Britain, the US, Canada, Europe, China and elsewhere.

One of the innovations brought in by Lightman is the Focus section of the journal, a thematically oriented set of think pieces that are centered on a particular development in the history of science field. “So it’s something that would be of interest to a wide range of scholars,” he says. That has included Focus sections on the history of science and modern China, history and philosophy of science, biology, historical novels, a celebration of Einstein’s year of discovery in 1905, and science and the law. In the September 2009 issue, the Focus section explores the theme of Darwin as cultural icon.

For the 100th volume in March 2009, the Focus section will investigate the history of ISIS founder George Sarton. Why did he found the journal, what was going on at the time in 1912 that Sarton felt this journal would be important to bring forward? Those are just some of the questions the articles in the 100th volume will explore. The history of science was a new discipline that Sarton was trying to establish and the journal was an important part of that project. Articles in the 100th volume Focus section will also look at the history of the journal after Sarton and where it’s heading in the future.

“It’s the journal of record in the field. Almost half of the journal is devoted to book reviews…. We do about 280 book reviews a year. We evaluate the scholarship that comes out and try to identify the most important books,” says Lightman. “But the Focus sections have had a tremendous impact. They are pretty broad and are something most scholars are interested in. We’ve been able to identify some of the most significant issues in the field. We’ve tried to encourage innovative and creative research and to open up the history of science to less well-covered areas.”

It’s also been important to York to have ISIS’s home base here. It has boosted York’s reputation for research in the history of science internationally. It has fostered the creation of a unified Science & Technology Studies program at the undergraduate level, now in its third year, as well as the development of a graduate program that will begin in the fall of 2009 pending approval of the Ontario Council on Graduate Studies. Lightman says graduate students working at the journal have also benefited from the experience.

For more information about the journal, visit the ISIS Web site or the History of Science Society Web site.