Author Archives: Will Thomas

About Will Thomas

Will Thomas is a junior research fellow at the Centre for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine at Imperial College London. He is originally from Minnesota, and received his PhD in the History of Science from Harvard University in 2007. From 2007 to 2010 he was a post-doctoral historian at the Center for History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics near Washington, DC. There he developed the Array of Contemporary American Physicists resource. His primary interests are in 20th-century America and Britain, and in the histories of physics and the sciences of policy analysis. He maintains the blog Ether Wave Propaganda, usually posting about the problems of maintaining a constructive historiography, and about argumentative systems in all eras.

“arXiv at 20” in Nature

In the latest Nature, Paul Ginsparg reflects on the history of, and intentions behind arXiv, the internet-based preprint distribution system used mainly by physicists.  The arXiv resource is, of course, a topic of much interest to anyone interested in the … Continue reading

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Joseph Banks

Joseph Banks (1743-1820) became a giant in the growing world of British natural history following his voyage with James Cook aboard the HMS Endeavour from 1768 to 1771, though he himself published almost nothing.  He was the informal director of … Continue reading

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BBC Reith Lectures Coming Online

The BBC is now doing a tremendous service in making portions of its programming archive available online.  Today I learned that this includes the Reith Lecture archive, which contains all the transcripts and a growing collection of audio (audio may … Continue reading

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History and Historians of Philosophy

I’ve been noticing lately that historians of philosophy have been articulating some friction with the mainstream philosophy community.  The issues seem to be the straightforward problems of building a history when present disciplinary concerns are overbearing.  In the New York … Continue reading


Thank You and So Long, Roger Hahn

I’ve just learned that historian of science Roger Hahn of the University of California at Berkeley has died.  Prof. Hahn was responsible for the fine work, The Anatomy of a Scientific Institution: The Paris Academy of Sciences, 1666-1803 (1971), as … Continue reading

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The Royal Institution and the Spirit of Improvement

The Royal Institution is now best known as the scientific home of Michael Faraday, Humphry Davy, and (for a short while) Thomas Young.  As such it was one of the cornerstones of nineteenth-century British chemical and physical research.  However, it … Continue reading


David Hume on the Reduction of Sentiments

Thomas Hobbes thought that human emotions could be explained in terms of their reflection of self-interest.  David Hume, writing much later, thought that it was absurd to portray genuinely benevolent sentiments as the result of some “abstruse” mental calculation.  Far … Continue reading

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Sketch of UK Agricultural Research and Education

I have posted a quick outline sketch of trends and institutions in UK agricultural research and education here. Also, a recent post at the Board of Longitude project blog got me thinking a little bit about the idea of a … Continue reading


Lisa Jardine’s Jacob Bronowski Film

Until December 16th Through December 23rd, historian Lisa Jardine’s new film about her father, British mathematician and science popularizer Jacob Bronowski, is available on the BBC website but, alas, it can only be viewed in the UK.  (I can’t tell … Continue reading


The Historiography of Agricultural Science

I have put together a survey of some of the literature on late 19th and early 20th-century agricultural science, focusing on the UK example, at Ether Wave Propaganda.  Although there have been diverse approaches, the history of genetics looms large … Continue reading

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