‘You,’ ‘Us,’ and ‘Them’: Glass and Procedural Knowledge in Cuneiform Cultures

You

When you want to make a kiln for glassmaking, you search continuously for a propitious day during a favorable month. You lay the foundations of a kiln with four chambers. You make constant offerings and set up purifying divinities so that no impurities may enter: you make lapis lazuli.

These instructions summarize the contents of a corpus of Akkadian glassmaking recipes from more than two and half millennia ago.1 It was then, in the seventh century BCE, that the king himself claimed to have dedicated clay tablets containing instructions “for your making stones” (colored glasses and frits) to the temple of Nabu and Tašmetu, the patron gods of knowledge:

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Call for Proposals: Journal for the History of Knowledge

The Journal for the History of Knowledge will be launched in 2020 and is now soliciting proposals for its first annual special issue in Fall 2020. The proposal deadline is January 15, 2019.

This official publication of Gewina, the Belgian-Dutch Society for History of Science and Universities, will be “devoted to the history of knowledge in its broadest sense.” That means the history not only of science and scholarship “but also of indigenous, artisanal and other types of knowledge.” In keeping with the journal’s institutional home, it also has a declared interest in “interactions and processes of demarcation between science and other forms of knowledge.” The journal intends to be global and reach from antiquity to the present.

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Knowledge and the Appropriation of Technology

It is striking how profoundly we have come to integrate technological artifacts into our lives and how commonplace these devices appear to us now. There were times when they were entirely new. Just think of indoor water taps replacing public wells, or electric light bulbs supplanting kerosine lamps and gas fixtures. Here I consider how new technologies associated with engineered water supplies became a part of standard household practice in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Specifically, I explore the role that knowledge played in the process in Los Angeles. This city offers a thought-provoking glimpse into the “appropriation of technology” around 1900.

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CfP: Global Knowledge, Global Legitimacy? Transatlantic Biomedicine since 1970

Washington, DC, Sept. 6-7, 2019
Application deadine: Dec. 15, 2018

When the French pharmaceutical company Roussell Uclaff, a subsidiary of the German chemical giant Hoechst AG, was ready to introduce an abortion pill in 1988, American activists flooded the company’s headquarters near Frankfurt with protest letters. In response, the company’s German CEO mandated to stop the project. But the French state, a Hoechst minority shareholder, took the idea across the border, patented it, and embarked on medical trials for the new product in France. Ten years later, scientists in the United States successfully isolated human embryonic stem cells. The country’s regulatory framework had left them free to let the cells proliferate indefinitely. But researchers adopted concepts implemented in Britain to limit the cells’ growth to 13 days after gestation.

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Knowledge Notes

Knowledge and Copyright

The Fall 2018 issue of the GHI Bulletin contains a forum entitled “Knowledge and Copyright in Historical Perspective,” edited by Sarah Beringer and Atiba Pertilla. The forum in this free access publication comprises an introduction and three articles:

  • “Mondrian’s Dress: Copying (and) the Couture Copy” by Nancy J. Troy;
  • “Japanese Industrial Espionage, Foreign Direct Investment, and the Decline of the U.S. Industrial Base in the 1980s,” by Mario Daniels;
  • “Why Are Universities Open-Access Laggards?” by Peter Baldwin.

Knowledge Notes

More than a Manual: Early-Modern Mathematical Instrument Books

In Elizabethan London, one of the more surprising things a wealthy owner of a beautifully illustrated folio volume could do was to take a sharp knife and cut it to pieces. John Blagrave’s 1585 Mathematical Jewel, in fact, demands nothing less.1 This work, which introduced an elaborate instrument of Blagrave’s design for performing astronomical calculations, included woodcuts that were specifically provided in order to be cut out and used as surrogates for the brass original:

get very fine pastboord made of purpose, and then spred your paste very fine thereon, & quickly laying on this picture & clappe it streight into a presse before it bee thorowe wette with the paste (fol. ¶6v)

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