The Art of Gathering: Chemistry Conferences and the Reconciliation of the International Scientific Community after World War I

Lunchtime Lectures
Wednesday, April 15, 2020
1:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m.
Eastern Daylight Time (UTC -4)
United States

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This week’s talk features Geert Somsen, a historian of science and an associate professor at Maastricht University, the Netherlands.

Conferences are vital to scientific life—as many of us are experiencing now that such large gatherings have been suspended. Still we know very little about the history of conferences and how their peculiar forms of interaction have shaped the development of science. In this talk Somsen will examine these practices by focusing on a few chemistry meetings that were designed specifically to repair a broken community: that of French and German chemists after World War I. Organized by Ernst Cohen on neutral Dutch ground, the conferences had a sole purpose—reconciliation. But how did they do that? What art of gathering facilitated the advancement of science?

This talk is part of “The Scientific Conference: A Social, Cultural, and Political History,” a joint research project led by a team of eight European scholars in conjunction with the Science History Institute and sponsored by the European Union’s Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA).

About the Speaker

Science historian Geert Somsen is an associate professor at Maastricht University, the Netherlands, where he is also the director of studies for the master’s program in European Studies on Society, Science and Technology. His research focuses on science and international relations. He is a former Science History Institute fellow who has held visiting positions at several American and European institutions, including the Marie Curie Fellowship at Columbia University from 2014 to 2017. Somsen is also coeditor in chief of the Journal for the History of Knowledge.

About the Series

Lunchtime Lectures are a series of (mostly) weekly, informal talks on the history of chemistry or related subjects, including the history and social studies of science, technology, and medicine. Based on original research (sometimes still in progress), these talks are given by local scholars for an audience of the Institute staff and fellows and interested members of the public.