JBS Haldane Lecture - Prof. John Tresch (Warburg Institute) 17th October
6:00 pm to 8:00 pm, 17 October 2018
The Department of Science and Technology Studies hosts its second JBS Haldane lecture of 2018, with Prof. John Tresch (Warburg Institute) giving his talk on "Barnum, Bache and Poe: Forging American Science in a Media Revolution"
This event is free.
Any questions? You can contact us via the methods below. – Department of Science and Technology Studies.0207 6791328
The JBS Haldane Lecture Series is the flagship public lecture series of the Department of Science and Technology Studies. For our second Haldane Lecture of the year, the department welcomes Professor John Tresch, Mellon Professor of History of Art, Science, and Folk Practice at the Warburg Institute, School of Advanced Studies, University of London. He will give his talk on "Barnum, Bache and Poe: Forging American Science in a Media Revolution" on the evening Wednesday 17th October, from 6pm, in the JZ Young Lecture Theatre, Anatomy Building, Gower St.
Today’s scientific and political institutions face severe challenges, nowhere more visibly than in the USA— where scientific evidence of climate change is scorned by a media-obsessed president whose heroes include the nativist demagogue Andrew Jackson and the con-artist P.T. Barnum. This lecture returns to the 1830s and 1840s, the era of Barnum, Jackson, and a communications revolution, to explore competing visions of the cosmos and of the relation between science and the demos in a moment of turmoil. Two opposed tendencies characterised antebellum public culture: first, a sharp increase in printed communication, with periodicals, audiences, styles, and authors exploding in number and diversity; second, a coordinated movement by educated elites to control knowledge through centralised and hierarchical institutions. In the sciences, the Lyceum movement and Barnum’s “American Museum” typified the first, while the U.S. Coast Survey, directed by Benjamin Franklin’s great grandson, the West Point-educated polymath, Alexander Dallas Bache, exemplified the second.
The work of Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) was shaped by both tendencies. Trained at West Point, Poe wrote frequently about the sciences, even as he invented new forms of literary sensationalism. He “forged” American science and letters in two senses: by supporting projects to establish a unified and regulated intellectual infrastructure, and by crafting believable fakes which fed popular uncertainty about authority over knowledge. Poe thus offers astute, prophetic, and dramatically conflicted commentary on science, its publics, and the stories it tells.
About the Speaker
Prof. John Tresch
at Warburg Institute
John Tresch is Mellon Professor of History of Art, Science, and Folk Practice at the Warburg Institute, School of Advanced Studies, University of London. He is the author of The Romantic Machine: Utopian Science after Napoleon (Chicago, 2012, Pfizer Prize, History of Science Society), and co-editor of Aesthetics of Universal Knowledge (Palgrave, 2017) and Bibliotechnica: Humanist Practice in Digital Times (Fondazione Cini, 2019). He is completing a scientific biography of Edgar Allan Poe, The Reason for the Darkness of the Night.More about Prof. John Tresch