The idealization of scientific biography is the theme of “On the Uses of Scientific Biography: Warren S. McCulloch and American Cybernetics,” the next installment in the Science and Technology Studies (STS) Seminar Series talk by University of Guelph history Professor Tara Abraham. The talk will take place on Oct. 14, from 12:30 to 2pm in the Paul A. Delaney Gallery, 320 Norman Bethune College.
Until quite recently, scientific biography has received a bad rap among historians of science. In the wake of constructivist studies of science emphasizing it as contingent on social, cultural and historical contexts, biographical treatments in the history of science were seen to suffer from a hagiographical perspective. More recently, scientific biographies reject this empiricist framework and use their subject as a lens through which to critically examine the past.
Abraham will explore part of her larger biographical project that tells the story of American cybernetician and neuropsychiatrist Warren S. McCulloch. By focusing on identity, Abraham will frame McCulloch’s scientific life as opening a window onto the complex transformations that took place in American brain sciences, cybernetics and scientific philosophy in the 20th century. By examining some of his processes of self-fashioning during the 1920s, Abraham will show that while McCulloch drew on cultural markers of the post-First World War era, including progressivism, scientism and the “lost generation,” he ultimately followed an unusual and singular path as a nascent psychiatrist.
Now in its 15th year, the series has hosted more than 500 speakers from Canada and around the world. It is open to the public and STS majors are encouraged to attend. Members of the program also help coordinate the Bethune Seminar Series, which features three to four large public lectures each academic year.
All seminars take place on Tuesdays from 12:30 to 2pm in the Paul A. Delaney Gallery, 320 Norman Bethune College (unless otherwise noted), and are open to the public. Refreshments will be served. For more information, contact the conveners, Professors Kean Birch and Denielle Elliott.
On Oct. 28, John Dupuis, associate librarian in the Steacie Science and Engineering Library will deliver a talk titled “Evidence vs. Ideology: The Canadian Conservative Government’s War on Science.”