This workshop will reflect about histories of science, going beyond the simple opposition between traditional teleological accounts and more recent narratives of discontinuity to consider the work done by histories of science in particular contexts.  Our general assumption will be that constructing histories of science is itself a historical phenomenon, taking different forms and having different functions according to place and time. To test this view, we will pay close attention to histories presented in scientific milieux from the mid-eighteenth century to the present.

When and where, and by whom, was the history of science put together, and how did these histories bid to inflect the direction of inquiry?

  • Histories of science may have served to describe a method or set of methods over time, telling the story of science as emerging practice.  
  • In certain circumstances, histories may have served to legitimate forms of inquiry by grounding them in a history that was longer and deeper than present concerns.
  • In other circumstances, historical awareness may have served to exclude forms of inquiry believed to be tainted by past improprieties.
  • Elsewhere, history might simply have served the summary purpose of radical modernity, showing all inquiry up to a very recent point to have been fundamentally misguided.   

In many or perhaps all of these cases, intellectual work was and is presumably being done on the very concept of science. What was “science” becoming through the telling of its history in scientific contexts?


Tea and coffee on arrival




Professor Fred D’Agostino (President, Academic Board, UQ)


Chair: Peter Harrison (IASH)



Lorraine Daston (MPIWG)

How the History of Science Made Science Modern


Morning Tea



Chair: Anna Johnston (IASH)



Peter Anstey (Sydney)

D’Alembert’s Conception of the History of Natural Philosophy


Karin Sellberg (IASH)

Pierre Jean Georges Cabanis and the Historicisation of Medicine as Ethical Practice


Peter Cryle (IASH)

Historical Conduct in the Société d’Anthropologie de Paris, c.1860-1870





Chair: Anik Waldow (Sydney)



Richard Yeo (Griffith)

William Whewell (1794-1866), Historian of Science


Ian Hesketh (IASH)

Reading Henry Thomas Buckle’s History of Civilization (1857) as a History of Science


Peter Harrison (IASH)

Science-Religion Conflict and the History of Science


Afternoon Tea



Chair: Tim Mehigan (IASH)



Lucia Pozzi (IASH)

Theories of Heredity and Biology: Examples of the Use of Scientific History in the Catholic Intellectual Milieu between the Wars


Daniel Midena (IASH)

Anthropology and the History of "Indigenous Science"


Elizabeth Stephens (SCU/IASH)

From Strange Facts to Weird Science: Feminist Interventions in the Historicisation of Science


Closing Discussion led by Lorraine Daston





Lorraine Daston is Director at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, Permanent Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, and Visiting Professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. Her recent publications include (co-edited with Elizabeth Lunbeck), Histories of Scientific Observation (2011), and (with Paul Erikson et al.) How Reason Almost Lost Its Mind: The Strange Career of Cold War Rationality (2014) as well as essays on the history of scientific facts, objectivity, curiosity, probability, attention, and the moral authority of nature which have appeared in various journals and collections. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, Corresponding Member of the British Academy, and Member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences.