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Author Meets Readers

Author: David Marshall MillerCover image of "Representing Space in the Scientific Revolution"
Department of Philosophy, Iowa State University

Samuel Fletcher,
Department of Philosophy, University of Minnesota
Katherine Brading,
Department of Philosophy, University of Notre Dame

Time: Friday, 3:35–5:00 pm, March 31, 2017
Place: 275 Nicholson Hall

"Representing Space in the Scientific Revolution" (2014)

The novel understanding of the physical world that characterized the Scientific Revolution depended on a fundamental shift in the way its protagonists understood and described space. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, spatial phenomena were described in relation to a presupposed central point; by its end, space had become a centerless void in which phenomena could only be described by reference to arbitrary orientations. David Marshall Miller examines both the historical and philosophical aspects of this far-reaching development, including the rejection of the idea of heavenly spheres, the advent of rectilinear inertia, and the theoretical contributions of Copernicus, Gilbert, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, and Newton. His rich study shows clearly how the centered Aristotelian cosmos became the oriented Newtonian universe, and will be of great interest to students and scholars of the history and philosophy of science.

Author: Roy Cook, The Yablo Paradox cover image
Department of Philosophy, University of Minnesota

Stephen Donaho, Department of Philosophy, Normandale Community College
Roy Sorensen, Department of Philosophy, Washington University in St. Louis

Time: Friday, 3:35–5:00 pm, October 3, 2014
Place: 275 Nicholson Hall

"The Yablo Paradox:
An Essay on Circularity" (2014)


The Yablo paradox, which consists of an infinite sequence of sentences, each of which says that all sentences following it in the list are false, seems to provide us with an example of semantic paradox containing no circularity. In The Yablo Paradox Roy T Cook examines this puzzle in detail, paying particular attention to:
(1) The characterization problem: Determining which patterns of sentential reference—circular or not—generate paradoxes.
(2) The circularity question: Determining whether, and in what sense, the Yablo paradox is non-circular.
(3) The generalizability question: Determining whether the infinitely descending pattern found in the Yablo paradox can be used to construct non-circular variants of other familiar paradoxes.


Author: Marlene ZukPaleofantasy book cover
Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota
Susan Craddock, Department of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies, University of Minneosta
Michael Wilson
, Depatment of Anthropology, University of Minnesota

Time: Friday, 3:35–5:00 pm, January 25, 2013
Place: 275 Nicholson Hall

"Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us about Sex, Diet, and How we Live" (2013)

We evolved to eat berries rather than bagels, to live in mud huts rather than condos, to run barefoot rather than play football—or did we? Are our bodies and brains truly at odds with modern life? And has evolution stopped for us?  Although it may seem as though we have barely had time to shed our hunter-gatherer legacy, Marlene Zuk reveals that the story is not so simple. Popular theories about how our ancestors lived—and why we should emulate them—are often based on speculation, not scientific evidence.  What really matters is the rate of evolution, which is sometimes fast and sometimes slow.  Instead of trying to live like cavemen, we need to understand that process.

Author: Dominique TobbellPills, Policy and Power,
History of Medicine, University of Minnesota
Rosemary A. Stevens
, Department of Psychiatry, Weill Cornell Medical College
Elizabeth Watkins
, History of Health Sciences, University of California, San Francisco

Time: Friday, 3:35–5:30 pm, October 12, 2012
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Medicine

"Pills Power and Policy:
The Struggle for Drug Reform in Cold War America
and its Consequence" (2011)

Since the 1950s, the American pharmaceutical industry has been heavily criticized for its profit levels, the high cost of prescription drugs, drug safety problems, and more, yet it has, together with the medical profession, staunchly and successfully opposed regulation. Pills, Power, and Policy offers a lucid history of how the American drug industry and key sectors of the medical profession came to be allies against pharmaceutical reform. It details the political strategies they have used to influence public opinion, shape legislative reform, and define the regulatory environment of prescription drugs. Untangling the complex relationships between drug companies, physicians, and academic researchers, the book provides essential historical context for understanding how corporate interests came to dominate American health care policy after World War II.


Author: Mark Borrello,Cover image Evolutionary restraints
Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota
1. Ben Kerr, Department of Biology, University of Washington
2. Robert Richards, Fishbein Center for the History of Science and Medicine, The University of Chicago

Time: Friday 3:30-5:30 pm, February 24, 2012

"Evolutionary Restraints:
The Contentious History of Group Selection"

Borrello’s book is a history of an evolutionary debate, specifically, the theory of group selection. It’s also a 205-page parable about the often messy way science is done.
Much of the evolutionary debate since Darwin has focused on the level at which natural selection occurs. Most biologists acknowledge multiple levels of selection—from the gene to the species. The debate about group selection, however, is the focus of this book.
Tracing the history of biological attempts to determine whether selection leads to the evolution of fitter groups, Borrello takes as his focus the British naturalist V. C. Wynne-Edwards, who proposed that animals could regulate their own populations and thus avoid overexploitation of their resources. By the mid-twentieth century, Wynne-Edwards became an advocate for group selection theory and led a debate that engaged the most significant evolutionary biologists of his time. This important dialogue bled out into broader conversations about population regulation, environmental crises, and the evolution of human social behavior. By examining a single facet in the long debate about evolution, Borrello provides powerful insight into an intellectual quandary that remains relevant and alive to this day.


Borrowed Knowledge cover imageAuthor: Stephen H. Kellert,
Department of Philosophy, Hamline University
1. William C. Wimsatt, Winton Professor of the Liberal Arts 2010–2013, University of Minnesota; Professor Emeritus, Department of Philosophy, University of Chicago
2. Ron Giere, Professor Emeritus, Department of Philosophy, University of Minnesota

Time: Friday 3:30-5:30 pm, November 18, 2011

"Borrowed Knowledge:
Chaos Theory and the Challenge of Learning across Disciplines" (2008)

What happens to scientific knowledge when researchers outside the natural sciences bring elements of the latest trend across disciplinary boundaries for their own purposes? Researchers in fields from anthropology to family therapy and traffic planning employ the concepts, methods, and results of chaos theory to harness the disciplinary prestige of the natural sciences, to motivate methodological change or conceptual reorganization within their home discipline, and to justify public policies and aesthetic judgments.
Using the recent explosion in the use (and abuse) of chaos theory, Borrowed Knowledge and the Challenge of Learning across Disciplines examines the relationship between science and other disciplines as well as the place of scientific knowledge within our broader culture. Stephen H. Kellert’s detailed investigation of the myriad uses of chaos theory reveals serious problems that can arise in the interchange between science and other knowledge-making pursuits, as well as opportunities for constructive interchange. By engaging with recent debates about interdisciplinary research, Kellert contributes a theoretical vocabulary and a set of critical frameworks for the rigorous examination of borrowing.


Susan Jones book coverAuthor: Susan Jones, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota

1. Peter Koolmees, Descartes Centre, University of Utrecht
2. Dominique Tobbell, Program in the History of Medicine, University of Minnesota

Time: Friday 3:30-5:30 pm, October 21, 2011
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Science and Technology

"Death in a Small Package: A Short History of Anthrax" (2010)

To preserve its own life cycle, anthrax must kill its human host. 
And yet, people throughout history have knowingly put themselves at risk by raising livestock and even by bringing anthrax-infected animal products into factories, laboratories, and homes. Today, anthrax is found on every continent except Antarctica.
Integrating history and science, this book tells the story of how anthrax, an agricultural disease, got transformed into a biological weapon. The story takes us to the places inhabited by anthrax:  the nomadic herds of the ancient Levant; the dusty factories of Victorian Britain; WW II-era laboratories; war-torn Rhodesia; and secret military installations in the former Soviet Union. Death in a Small Package also analyzes the investigations into more recent anthrax outbreaks in Sverdlovsk (the former U.S.S.R.) and the anthrax letters of 2001 (USA). In the twenty-first century, anthrax has become a “premeditated” disease--one unleashed deliberately to terrorize human populations and kill domesticated animals.
Historians do not possess crystal balls, and we are no more able to predict the future than anyone else. One thing is clear, though: Bacillus anthracis will probably remain useful as a biological weapon because of its historical legacy of fear, and because it is unlikely to evolve toward a benign relationship with humans. We are equally unlikely to evolve ways to evade the killing powers of this disease that we have helped to create in its modern form. 


cover Kohlstedt Teaching Children ScienceAuthor Sally G. Kohlstedt,
Department of Geology & Geophysics, University of Minnesota
1. Nancy Beadie (College of Education, University of Washington)
2. Pamela M. Henson (Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Washington, DC)

Time: Friday 3:30-5:30 pm, September 24, 2010
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Science and Technology

Teaching Children Science:  Hand-On Nature Study in North America, 1890-1930

This book traces the object-based approach to teaching about the natural world that first introduced science into the public schools. The widespread curriculum movement coincided with public enthusiasm for zoos, botanical gardens, natural history museums and national parks, which also promoted the idea that direct knowledge of nature would benefit an increasingly urban and industrial nation. Scientists concerned about preparing students for advanced work, educational psychologists attending to child development, and reforming progressive educators found nature study a way to heighten the observational capacity of youth and prepare them to integrate local knowledge with the increasingly scientific culture around them.


Author: Jennifer Alexander,
HSTM and Mechanical Engineering, University of Minnesota


  1. Naomi Scheman (Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies & Philosophy)
  2. Andrew Feenberg (Simon Fraser University)
  3. David Valentine (Anthropology, University of Minnesota)

Time: Friday 3:30-5:30 pm, September 26, 2008

"The Mantra of Efficiency:
From Waterwheel to Social Control"

Efficiency—associated with individual discipline, superior management, and increased profits or productivity—often counts as one of the highest virtues in Western culture. But what does it mean, exactly, to be efficient? How did this concept evolve from a means for evaluating simple machines to the mantra of progress and a prerequisite for success? In this provocative and ambitious study, Jennifer Karns Alexander explores the growing power of efficiency in the post-industrial West. Examining the ways the concept has appeared in modern history—from a benign measure of the thermal economy of a machine to its widespread application to personal behaviors like chewing habits, spending choices, and shop floor movements to its controversial use as a measure of the business success of American slavery—she argues that beneath efficiency's seemingly endless variety lies a common theme: the pursuit of mastery through techniques of surveillance, discipline, and control. Six historical case studies—two from Britain, one each from France and Germany, and two from the United States—illustrate the concept's fascinating development and provide context for the meanings of, and uses for, efficiency today and in the future.

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