Mathematical and Astronomical Practices in Pre-Enlightenment Scotland and its European Networks: Workshop

Mathematical and Astronomical Practices in Pre-Enlightenment Scotland and its European Networks: Workshop

Friday 23 November 2018 (All day) to Saturday 24 November 2018 (All day)
St Andrews University

Call for papers on the topics below (please submit proposals to Isobel Falconer, ijf3@st-andrews.ac.uk by 21 September)

Registration details to follow in mid September

Outline of meeting:

The workshop will focus on Scottish natural philosophy and mathematics, and their innovative developments between 1550 and 1750. The astronomical observatory James Gregory founded at the University of St Andrews in 1673, six years behind Paris, but two years ahead of Greenwich, is just one example of relevant institutional initiatives that were taking place in 17th-century Scotland. However, despite the major shifts in scientific culture taking place elsewhere, traditional Scottish historiography of the period has been framed in terms of religious factions. The question of how scientific innovations flourished in this context has been little addressed.

To understand this question, we are particularly interested in mathematical practices related to measurement both in astronomy and in other contexts — navigation, surveying,  cask gauging, grain measuring, and so on. Early modern professional gaugers and measurers were essentially authoritative mediators, often at the service of local authorities, powerful lords, or the crown itself, mediating between merchants, bankers, landowners, town dwellers, and public authorities. Some apparently paradoxical processes of conceptual change in early modern mathematics, such as of ratio and proportionality, can only be understood by examining the mathematical collective tacit knowledge developed through practices with measuring instruments. Such instruments, and the associated practices, concepts, and books, circulated through networks of exchange.

Topics to be addressed, for the pre- to early- Enlightenment period, include:

  • Scottish natural philosophers and mathematicians away from Scotland
  • Non-Scottish natural philosophers and mathematicians in Scotland
  • The networks of Scottish natural philosophers and mathematicians
  • Circulation of natural philosophical and mathematical practices, instruments, materials, books and concepts to, from, and through, Scotland
  • Theology and natural philosophical and mathematical practices relating to Scotland
  • Politics of Scottish natural philosophical and mathematical practices
  • Economics and value of natural philosophical and mathematical practices relating to Scotland
  • Material culture of natural philosophy and mathematics in, or relating to, Scotland
  • Scientific and mathematical instruments in Scotland
  • Scientific and mathematical practices in Scotland
  • Scottish examples of the interplay between practices and concepts

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Antoni Malet (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona)
  • Alison Morrison-Low (National Museums of Scotland, Emeritus)
  • Pilar Gil (St Andrews,)
  • David Horowitz (Golden West College, California, Emeritus)
  • Davide Crippa (CNRS, Laboratoire SPHERE, Paris)