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1st European Regional IHPST Conference

  Plenary Speakers


Goethes Theory of Colour Reconsidered: New Experiments on the Symmetry of Spectral Phenomena

By Prof. Dr. Joh. Grebe-Ellis, Bergische Universität Wuppertal

Goethe's look through the prism started a description of spectral appearances as complementary phenomena. The question, whether he this way denoted a generalizable structural feature, had to remain unanswered, as long as it was just theorized. Through systematic broadening of Newton's experiments based on Goethe's concept of inversion it can be shown that complementary spectra are indeed interdependent. Against this background, Goethe's remark on the symmetry of spectral phenomena can be justified.


Scientific proficiency through philosophical literacy

By Hanne Andersen, Head of Department, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

The role of history and philosophy of science in science education has been an important topic in science education over the last half century. However, most analyses of philosophy, history and sociology of science and science teaching have focused on how history and philosophy of science can be brought into science education at the K-12 level and in teacher education with the aim of improving the scientific literacy of the general public. In contrast, there have been only few analyses of the possible roles of history and philosophy of science in higher education in the sciences. In this talk, I shall argue that history and philosophy of science also have important roles to play in higher education. I shall argue that scientists are continuously required to reflect on scientific knowledge creation as well as on the societal contexts in which scientific knowledge is put to use, and that philosophical-analytical skills acquired through the display of historical and contemporary exemplars can improve scientists’ proficiency in identifying and solving the various kinds of epistemological and ethical problems that they encounter qua scientists. In this way, not only can scientific proficiency be seen as a complement to the scientific literacy aimed for in general science education, scientific proficiency also requires that professional scientists acquire a certain philosophical literacy.


Looking through the Kaleidoscope

By Professor Iwan Morus,  Aberystwyth University

When we think about kaleidoscopes now, we think of them as children’s toys. That was not how David Brewster, who invented the kaleidoscope in 1818, regarded the novel instrument. For Brewster, the kaleidoscope was a serious matter: it was an instrument that illustrated optical principles, that taught its users how to see properly, or even offered a way of industrializing art. Brewster’s invention was understood at the time as part of a broader visual culture of knowledge and science. Turning knowledge into spectacle was integral to the practice of this kind of public natural philosophy. In this lecture I want to tease out some of the kaleidoscope’s broader connections and its place in the early nineteenth-century culture of optical experimentation. By looking at the kaleidoscope as an example of the nineteenth century’s visual culture of science and the ways in which experimenters worked to make knowledge visible, I want to conclude by asking whether producing scientific spectacle might still be a promising strategy for communicating scientific knowledge.