I continue to weave a balance between my interests in history of science and supercomputing. In January my review of The Lab Book: Situated Practices in Media Studies appeared in H-Net Reviews in Humanities & Social Sciences. About the same time the December 2022 issue of CONNECT, the digital newsletter of the Special Interest Group on High Performance Computing of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM SIGHPC), came out with my short column that offered a historical contrast between a 1922 hand-cranked calculator and the modern EXAFLOP supercomputer Frontier located at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Future plans include attending the upcoming Biennial History of Astronomy Workshop to be held 21-25 June 2023 at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, and hopefully the 42nd Scientific Instrument Symposium in Palermo, Italy, on 18 – 22 September 2023.
More news: In November I enjoyed attending a pair of conferences that allowed me to catch up with colleagues, former classmates, and friends in the history of science and supercomputing fields. Closest to home was the annual History of Science Society meeting in Chicago where I volunteered to chair the session titled “Physics in Perspective.” The other gathering was the annual supercomputer conference SC22 held in Dallas where my badge indicating my position as a ‘historian / independent scholar’ generated no few questions.
Update: On June 17, 2022, I deposited my dissertation to complete my Ph.D. in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology at the University of Wisconsin. It is done! Celebrations included the formal UW commencement ceremony and a smaller department hooding ceremony, both shared with family and friends.
It is early 2022 and the end of my long graduate student career at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is near as I will be defending my dissertation on The Place of Science in Nineteenth-Century American Catholic Higher Education later this spring. Much remains to be done, but soon I will be giving my committee a full draft for their consideration. With thanks for their help, I list their names below:
- Susan M. Lederer, Professor and Chair, Medical History and Bioethics (Advisor)
- John Rudolph, Professor, Curriculum and Instruction
- Adam R. Nelson, Professor, Educational Policy Studies and History
- William Reese, Professor, Educational Policy Studies and History
- Ronald L. Numbers, Hilldale Professor Emeritus of the History of Science and Medicine
Watch this spot for more details as I work my way toward walking across the commencement stage on May 13th (a Friday the 13th, so appropriate) at the UW Kohl Center.
Virtual talks remain the order of the day given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In March, I gave an online talk titled “Teaching Astronomy and Nineteenth-century American Catholic Higher Education” to members of the Madison Astronomical Society. The following month I presented a dissertation-related paper titled “Cattell’s Catholics: Who were these American Men (and Women) of Science?” given virtually at the 2021 Midwest Junto.
Also, in the Spring I was finally able to travel and utilize my 2020 Summer Award for Off-Campus Upper Division and Graduate Students travel grant from the Charles Redd Center at Brigham Young University for dissertation-related research. My proposal to explore “Early Science Education at St. Mary’s Academy in Salt Lake City, 1875–1900,” developed from seeing intriguing pre-1900 details about this school for young girls in newspaper articles that mentioned astronomy, physics, physiology, and other sciences. I enjoyed two days working the in Special Collections at BYU along with time in the Archives of the Catholic Church in Utah in downtown Salt Lake City where I found good material to help me decenter Protestantism in this one instance by looking at St. Mary’s to provide an example for my dissertation of Catholic higher education in an alternative religious context.
I presented an online talk at the Science History Institute conference on Pedagogy, Popularization, and the Public Understanding of Science. Titled “Such an important and widespread influence on our society today”: Teaching Computer Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the 1960s which explored how this now familiar field came to be taught in the new departments of computer science that first appeared in the United States during the early 1960s.
I went to Denver in November for the 31st annual Supercomputer Conference in support of the University of Wisconsin-Madison booth on the main exhibition floor. Nearly 14,000 people attended this event, including many UW alums whose work involved high performance and throughput computing. Having prior experience in this field along with my historian sensibilities helped me to prepare various documents for display at the booth related to past UW activities in this highly technical realm.
In September I gave my department’s first History of Science Colloquium talk for the fall semester. Here I expanded on my summer HSS talk with the new title “Practicing what they Preach: The Bachelor of Science degree in Nineteenth-Century American Catholic Higher Education.”
Summer found me in The Netherlands for a pair of geographically and chronologically adjacent conferences. The first event, the 28th International Conference on the History of Cartography, took place in Amsterdam where I enjoyed the numerous good talks, fun evening social events, and assisting at the History of Cartography Project display table. The next gathering was the annual History of Science Society conference held in Utrecht where I helped to organize a session on science education along with presenting a dissertation-related talk titled “The B.S. Degree: A New Objective in Nineteenth-Century American Catholic Higher Education.”
The 14th Biennial History of Astronomy Workshop held at Notre Dame University in June gave me a chance to present a dissertation-related poster titled “James Curley, S.J., a Jesuit ‘comet’ in Nineteenth-Century American Astronomy.” For someone who enjoys science, technology, religion, Japan, astronomy, and all things in between, these many gatherings were useful and informative.
I was in Washington, D.C., in April for a one-day conference titled Religion and Innovation held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Two months later I returned to D.C. to attend the 24th “Science in Japan” Forum organized by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (or JSPS) on the theme of “New Eyes on the Universe,” a one-day event featuring two sessions about multi-messenger astronomy: gravity waves and cosmic rays.
In November I worked as a Graduate Student Research Assistant on the 30th Anniversary Committee in support of the annual Supercomputer Conference held in Dallas, Texas. As the Artifact Display Lead, I installed historical materials in multiple display cases to help mark the conference’s 30th Anniversary in an area open to the 13,000 people attending the event. Besides working in the display area with various historical items (including a Cray-1 supercomputer) and collecting remembrances, I had the chance to renew acquaintances with colleagues from the 1980s when I worked on a Cray X/MP-48 system (SN 209) at NASA/Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. Yippie-ki-yo-ki-yay!
In October I presented a ‘flash talk’ titled “What Hath God Taught – Teaching Telegraphy at Notre Dame in the 1870s” at the SHOT conference held in St. Louis, Missouri. I also took in the 10th Annual SIGCIS gathering titled Stored in Memory held on the last day of the conference.
January started off with a happy bang related to my work as the Illustrations Editor for the History of Cartography Project when the 950+ map images destined for Volume 4, Cartography in the European Enlightenment, the next volume in the History of Cartography series due to appear in 2019, went off to our publisher the University of Chicago Press.
In November I travelled to Toronto for the annual History of Science Society conference where I chaired a session on Science Education in the United States.
My book chapter “To Any Degree”: Jesuit Medical Schools in Nineteenth-Century America came out in August in Crossings and Dwellings: Restored Jesuits, Women Religious, American Experience, 1814-2014, volume 11 in the Jesuit Studies series from Brill edited by Kyle B. Roberts and Stephen R. Schloesser, S.J., about the history of the restored Jesuits in America.
In July I enjoyed my first visit to Brazil at the 25th International Congress of History of Science and Technology held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where I served as the secretary to the conference program chair along with giving a talk to the Scientific Instrument Commission group titled The ‘personal’ equations of American astronomer Joel Stebbins. While in Brazil, I also participated in the 27th International Conference on the History of Cartography held in Belo Horizonte.
I attended the SIGCIS-organized conference Command Lines: Software, Power, and Performance in March at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.
A wide-ranging set of presentations highlighted my 2016 news as seen from these titles: Branching over History in the Teaching of Computer Science at the University of Wisconsin, A ‘New Aspect’ to Charles Coppens, S.J., and his teaching Medical Ethics, and The many universes of Seddie Bingham / Sister Aloysia (1873-1899). Besides working on my dissertation, an edited chapter for a volume about the history of the restored Jesuits in America, titled “To Any Degree”: Jesuit Medical Schools in Nineteenth-Century America, has gone through copyediting and will hopefully appear next year.
In my work as the Illustrations Editor for the History of Cartography Project, the release of Volume 6, Cartography in the Twentieth Century in the History of Cartography series in April with its 1000+ illustrations over 1900 pages proved a definite highlight with celebrations held in Chicago at AAG and here in Madison. Next for me at the Project will be to procure the images needed for the two remaining volumes, work measured in years as these books will also have over 1000+ images each among their many pages.
As the year drew to a wintery close, I looked back over a fairly productive year. I attended several conferences, including the Midwest Junto for the History of Science here in Madison, the Biennial History of Astronomy Workshop at Notre Dame, and the annual History of Science Society meeting in San Francisco where I organized a session and presented a paper.
My future plans included giving another dissertation-related talk, titled “To Any Degree” – Jesuit Medical Schools in Nineteenth-Century America, at a conference marking the bicentennial of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus in 1814 to be held in October at Loyola University Chicago. My presentation involves a close look at the first three American Jesuit medical schools – St. Louis, Georgetown, and Creighton – and the way science appeared in their curriculum versus how these institutions dealt with science in their classical education offerings.
The year got off to a busy start. In January I presented a dissertation-related talk at the American Catholic Historical Association Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., titled Cattell’s Catholics: Who were these American Men of Science? In February I participated in the 4th JSPS Multidisciplinary Science Forum in Washington D.C. (back again). April saw me at the Midwest Junto for the History of Science at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, with four other grad students from my department.