351 Hughes Lounge, Claudia Cohen Hall
Koen Vermeir, Professor of Philosophy and History of Science at CNRS, Paris; Visiting Professor at IRH-ICUB, Bucharest
"Historiographical and methodological reflections on the reconstruction of historical experiments"
In the history of science and in media studies, the reconstruction of historical technologies, practices and experiments is attracting renewed interest. The focus of most of these contributions is on canonical experiments and well known technologies or media, such as Newton's prism experiments or Joules experiments with the steam engine.
The import of my paper is methodological. The general question I want to address is the following: How can historians reconstruct and recreate historical experiments without being presentist and positivist, i.e. without taking current experience and knowledge as a starting point? Looking at past technologies or experiences that we do not give credit anymore gives an interesting inroad to address this question. I will clarify what is at stake by means of one or two case studies.