The Eighth International Congress of the History of Science Florence-Milan, 3-9 September 1956

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The Eighth International Congress of the History of Science Florence-Milan, 3-9 September1956Author(s): I. Bernard CohenSource: Isis, Vol. 48, No. 2 (Jun., 1957), pp. 176-181Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of The History of Science SocietyStable URL: .Accessed: 14/06/2014 16:56Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact .The University of Chicago Press and The History of Science Society are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize,preserve and extend access to Isis. This content downloaded from on Sat, 14 Jun 2014 16:56:03 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions Eighth International Congress of the History of Science Florence-Milan, 3-9 September I956 By L. Bernard Cohen * THE Eighth International Congress of the History of Science was the fourth to be held since the end of the Second World War.' The Congress was organized by an Italian committee under the presidency of Professor Vasco Ronchi, Direttore del Istituto Nazionale di Ottica (Florence), ably assisted by Dott. Maria Luisa Bonelli, of the Museo di Storia della Scienza (Florence) and Professor Maria Timpanaro Cardini. Thirty-two nations were represented, with delegates present from every major country in which the history of science is studied, including Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas, and countries on both sides of the Iron Curtain.2 So great was the number of announced papers that the Congress had to be held in six separate sessions, devoted respectively to: The History of Mathe- matics, Physics, and Astronomy; The History of Chemistry and Pharmacy; The History of Geography and Geology; The History of Biology and Medicine; The History of Technology and Applied Science; The History of Science in General. A pleasing and notable feature of the Congress was the preparation of bound books containing mimeographed abstracts of each communication presented in the three official languages of the Congress - Italian, French, and English - which were handed out to each participant when he registered. * Harvard University. 'The first Congress was held in Paris in May I929 (see Archeion, I929, 2: i-cix), followed by the London Congress held in June-July I93I (described in Archeion, vols. I3, 14). The third and fourth Congresses were held respectively in Porto and Coimbra in September-October I934 and Prague, September I937 (see Archeion, I934, 16: 335-372; I937, I9: 390-396; and Isis, I938, 28: I35-I38). A complete account of the third Congress was published in Actes, conferences et communications (Lisbon, I936), and an English translation of the Russian papers delivered at the London Congress was published in a book en- titled, Science at the Cross Roads (London I93I). The fifth Congress was held in Lausanne in September-October I947. The Actes du Ve Con- gres were published in the "Collection de Travaux de F'Acad6mie, Internationale d'Histoire des Sci- ences," No. 2 (Paris, I948), the papers gathered together there being reprinted from their first publication in the Archives. The sixth Congress was held in Amsterdam in August I950; see Actes du VI' Congres Internationale d'Histoire des Sci- ences, published in the "Collection de Travaux de lI'Acad6mie," No. 6 (Paris, I95I-I953). The seventh Congress was held in Jerusalem in Au- gust I953; the Actes were published in the "Col- lection de Travaux de l'Academie," No. 8 (Paris, I954). An account of this Congress, by George Sarton, was published in Isis, I954, 45: 63-77. 2 Official registrations included Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Czecho- slovakia, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Holland, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Roumania, Spain, Syria, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, the U.S.A., the U.S.S.R. 176 This content downloaded from on Sat, 14 Jun 2014 16:56:03 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions EIGHTH INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS I77 The abstracts made the understanding of the different papers much simplier than it would have been merely to have heard them in their respective languages. This was but one of the many thoughtful acts of the organizers of the Congress, who set no bounds to the attention they paid to the diverse needs of all who attended. We shall long harbor a deep debt of gratitude to our Italian hosts for the pleasant and courteous way in which they saw to the day-to-day tasks, and particularly for the arrangements that they made to insure a rewarding experience to the members of the Congress, as well as to their families (for whom special tours were arranged).3 Most of all we are especially grateful to Dott. Bonelli, who was responsible for all the details, and whose radiant good humor enhanced the pleasure of everyone present. The inaugural session of the Congress was held in the beautiful Sala dei Dugento in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, and opened by Professor Ronchi, who introduced Professor Roberto Almagia, President of the Gruppo Italiano di Storia delle Scienze. Brief greetings were delivered by Professor Raymond Klibansky (of McGill University, the representative of the National Research 'One of the difficulties that arose at the Con- gress may be mentioned here, primarily to serve as an aid to the organizing of future congresses. Despite the preparations made long in advance by the organizers of the Congress, there were a great many last-minute changes imposed by the sudden and unexpected appearance of official delegates and individuals who wished to present papers, and the withdrawal of others who found it impossible to attend the Congress. Owing to this circumstance, outside the control of the Italian group, some confusion arose as to which papers were being given and which were not. It is certainly to be hoped that in future some policy may be adopted by which last-minute papers may be gracefully refused. Of course, there is probably nothing that can be done to insure that those persons who have announced papers will actually appear. In this regard, the organizers of the Congress wisely adopted the rule that no papers could be delivered in absen- tia, and that every paper to be read had to be presented by its author. It might be helpful if the presidents of the past congresses could be prevailed upon to draw up a set of rules based upon their experience, which could be adopted by the International Union of the History of Science as a guide for the future. Another sug- gestion for future congresses which may be re- ported here is that several sessions organized round central themes of special interest might be planned. It is greatly to be hoped that in future it will be kept in mind that the purpose of the congress is the history of science, and not merely the ag- gregate of the history of the separate sciences. At the Italian congress, the emphasis was on the latter, at the expense of the former, and this made it difficult for any participant to attend sessions in sections other than a particular one, such as the history of mathematics. Congress members, for example, did not receive abstracts of all the papers read at the Congress, but only of those in one section. Furthermore, the re- arrangements of schedule (necessitated by the appearance of new speakers and the defection of others who had announced papers) were an- nounced only to members of the particular sec- tions involved. As a result, some one who had registered in the section of the history of physics did not know when papers were being read on the history of technology, the history of chemis- try, etc. Surely some thought must be given in future to the fact that historians of science are not of such narrow interests. Professor Giorgio de Santillana adds the fol- lowing comments: "The Congress at Florence was a little triumph of organization, owing to the work of Vasco Ronchi and Maria Luisa Bonelli. If one were to draw some lessons from it for future organizers, it would be to have Florence again for a setting and Dott. Bonelli for a secretary. Now, as to the inevitable sorrows inherited by all congresses from past ceremonials, it is quite clear that some strong and decisive action is needed to hold down the official speak- ers and welcomers. That a country should offi- cially wekome its visitors in its own language is fair and proper, and authorities will always de- liver a formal address. Thus, there is not so much that can be changed about the opening session of congresses. But when we were taken to Pisa and a speech was given for more than an hour in the most ornate Italian on the past of Pisa, we felt that something should be done to prevent a repe- tition of the occurrence. If the speaker had been really interested in his subject and not in the sound of his own voice, he would have spoken a few words and then yielded the floor to a pres- entation in French or in English. The same oc- curred again in Milan. The intelligent way to do those things, as opposed to the pompous, was shown to us in Vinci during one unforgettable afternoon, when the people of Vinci truly and freely spoke to us and with us in their hundreds, in the setting of a rustic open-air banquet, and made us feel welcome as no orator could. This content downloaded from on Sat, 14 Jun 2014 16:56:03 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions I. BERNARD COHEN Council of Canada), Professor Coching Chu (of the Academia Sinica of Pe- king), M. Franqois Le Lionnais (of UNESCO), and Professor W. H. Schopfer, Vice-President of the International Union of the History of Science, who spoke in place of President Louis de Broglie, who was unable to attend. Four major addresses followed. Professor F. S. Bodenheimer, President of the International Academy of the History of Science, gave an eloquent and moving account of the life and work of George Sarton, and Dr. Rene Taton, Secretary of the Union, spoke of the life and services of Pierre Sergescu. Professor Alexandre Koyre spoke on the Accademia del Cimento, while Professor Giorgio Abetti discussed the pupils of Galileo. Following this meeting there was a reception, at which the members of the Congress were provided with their first opportunity of meeting one another socially. The regular meetings in Florence took place in the Villa Favard, Via Curta- tone i, one of the branches of the University of Florence. Here was located the registration desk and the official headquarters, staffed by a group of young ladies who appeared completely competent to deal with any questions that might arise, and whose linguistic skills provided eloquent testimony to the high level of Italian education. One welcome feature of the arrangements in the Villa Favard was the space provided for the exhibition of sample copies of journals and other publications in the history of science. Some members of the Congress brought with them reprints of their publications, so that anyone in- terested might help himself. Following the afternoon sessions at which papers were read, there was a meeting of the General Assembly of the International Academy, and later in the evening a reception was held for the members of the Congress by the Societa "Leonardo da Vinci." The second day of the Congress, Tuesday, 4 September, was spent in Pisa, to which members of the Congress and their families were transported by bus. A morning meeting was held in the great hall of the University, after which luncheon was provided. The afternoon was free for exploration of the beauties of Pisa, a city rich in architectural and other artistic treasures, and dear to his- torians of science everywhere for its memories of Galileo and of Vesalius, and their successors. In the late afternoon, two representatives of each nation were invited to the Domus Galilaeana, where the President, Professor G. Polvani, described the activities of this organization, which is devoted to collecting ma- terials on the history of science and to publishing notable works such as Pro- fessor J. 0. Fleckenstein's forthcoming edition of the correspondence of Euler with Italian mathematicians. Professor Edoardo Amaldi gave a brief talk on Enrico Fermi, whose manuscripts (journals, working notebooks, correspond- ence) have been deposited there. On Wednesday, 5 September, regular sessions were held in the morning, and in the afternoon there was a trip to Vinci, the natal town of Leonardo. For many members of the Congress the visit to Leonardo's house at Anchiano was one of the most memorable events of the week, and it will be a long time before they forget the hospitality of the local authorities, who organized an admirable picnic among the pine and olive trees. Each member of the Congress was given a bottle of the regional Chianti wine, with the stamp of Vinci. What This content downloaded from on Sat, 14 Jun 2014 16:56:03 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions EIGHTH INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS I79 was most impressive was the way the whole population turned out in a body as if to express its gratitude for this international pilgrimage, and its eagerness to engage the visitors in conversation. In the evening there was a General As- sembly of the International Union, and opportunity was provided for a guided tour through the Museo di Storia della Scienza. The visit to this Museum will long be remembered for the graciousness of our hostess and guide, Dott. Bonelli. Thursday morning there were further sessions, and the members of the Con- gress attended the ceremonies unveiling the stones prepared by the Commune di Firenze, under the auspices of the Congress, to mark the residences of Fran- cesco Redi and Paolo Mascagni. At a general session in the afternoon, an ad- dress of Professor Roberto Savelli, "On the occasion of the fourth centenary of the death of Luca Ghini," was read in his absence by Professor Edward Rosen of New York. At this meeting, in the presence of many old friends and col- leagues of George Sarton, the award of the Sarton Medal of the History of Science Society was made. The Council of the History of Science Society had agreed to take advantage of this International Congress to present the Medal jointly to Charles and Dorothea Waley Singer. Unfortunately, neither Dr. nor Mrs. Singer was able to attend the Congress, and the Medal was given in their absence to Dr. A. R. Hall of Christ's College, Cambridge, who is associated with Dr. Singer in the editing of the monumental History of Technology. In giving the Medal to Dr. Hall for conveyance to Dr. and Mrs. Singer, Dr. I. Bernard Cohen, Editor of Isis, sent the greetings of all who were present to the Singers. (The official text of the presentation will appear in the Actes of the Congress.) Then a visit to Arcetri followed, and the official dinner was held that evening. The last day in Florence was Friday, 7 September, with sessions in the morn- ing, and an afternoon reception held by the Accademia Toscana di Scienze e Lettere, "La Colombaria," at which Professor Ronchi spoke on the transcrip- tion of "De Telescopio" of G. B. Della Porta, and Professor E. De Felice dis- cussed linguistics and positive science. That evening the members of the Con- gress embarked in special coaches reserved for them on the train to Milan, where the final sessions were held at the Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tech- nica. There our host was the Director, Ingegnere G. Ucelli, the distinguished historian of technology. Thus, opportunity was given the members of the Con- gress to visit this famous museum, and to see the fruits of the efforts made to show the rise of technology. Professor Carlo Foa spoke of the work being done in the history of science in Italy, with special reference to the efforts of Professor Andrea Corsini. Professor Luigi Belloni spoke of Agostino Bassi, this being the centenary of his death. A sumptuous reception and luncheon were held at the Royal Villa, offered by the Mayor and done truly in the royal style as regards setting, food and drinks. Professor Giorgio de Santillana (of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology), as a delegate of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, addressed the Mayor in the name of the Congress, first in English, then in Italian. Following the luncheon there was an afternoon meeting, at which papers were read, and then our hosts provided a conducted tour through the city. The final session in Milan was held on Sunday morning, This content downloaded from on Sat, 14 Jun 2014 16:56:03 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions I. BERNARD COHEN 9 September, followed by the closing sessions of the International Academy and the International Union. For most of us, the Congress will live on in our memory because of its setting, so especially rich in association for all historians of science. The opportunity to renew old acquaintances and to make new ones was of inestimable value, and it re-emphasized the international character of work in this field. Everyone was particularly pleased that there was representation from both parts of a politically divided world, and that opportunity was given Westerners to learn of the work going on on the other side of the Iron Curtain, notably from Pro- fessor Coching Chu of Peking and Professor V. P. Zubov and Professor N. Figurovsky of the Russian Academy of Sciences.4 America was well repre- sented at this Congress, thanks largely to the National Science Foundation, which awarded grants to fourteen Americans to enable them to travel to Italy for this purpose. (See Isis, I956, 47: 4I8-4I9.) The official American delegates were the writer, and Dr. Marie Boas of Brandeis University, Secretary of the History of Science Society. It was voted that the Ninth International Congress of the History of Science would be held in Barcelona under the presidency of our esteemed colleague, Professor J. M. Millas Vallicrosa. Reports on the sessions of the International Union and the International Academy will eventually be published in the Archives.5 It may be of general interest, however, to report the announcement of the amalgamation of the Inter- national Union for the History of Science and the International Union of the Philosophy of Science, to be known in the future as the I.U.H.P.S. (Interna- tional Union of the History and Philosophy of Science). As at all international meetings, there was a linguistic problem, since not every member of the Congress understood spoken Italian or spoken English. Probably French was the language best understood by the greatest number of Congress members, although not by everyone. Many must have shared the writer's regret that there is no longer a single universal language of scholarship and science, as once was the case for Arabic in the Orient and later for Latin in the West. The linguistic difficulties were solved at the sessions in which papers were read, because of the tri-lingual abstracts prepared and distributed by the organizers of the Congress. But at the general sessions, where there were no abstracts, the problems of understanding foreign languages were aggravated by the distortions of the public address systems. At the regular sessions, how- ever, the presented papers were well discussed, despite the linguistic barrier; in moments of crisis, there were always present some people who could interpret questions and answers to everyone's satisfaction. My only personal regret about the Congress is that it was too short, that there was not more time to visit the great art treasures of Florence, and to see more of our colleagues from all over the world. Indeed, the high point in our memory of the Congress will remain the many conversations with other Congress members from all over the I These were the only Russians who attended the Congress, but there was a large number of other delegates from Iron Curtain countries, notably Poland, Czechoslovakia and China, as well as a representation from Yugoslavia. The writer attended the Congress at the end of a summer in Europe spent in research supported by the National Science Foundation of the U.S.A. and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. 'I have not referred to any of the papers read at the working session of the Congress, for these will eventually be published by the Italian group in the Actes of the Congress. 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'55!X\i'G'r"x" X X i~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 0 This content downloaded from on Sat, 14 Jun 2014 16:56:03 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions EIGHTH INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS I8I world. I can still see in my mind's eye the busy little international groups in their avid discussions of common problems and exchanges of information. Everyone who attended the Congress will have known my feeling of a renewal of inspiration on finding a purpose shared with so many scholars of different lands and tongues, and will look forward eagerly to the next Congress. THE FOLLOWING AMERICANS WERE PARTICIPANTS IN THE FLORENCE-MILAN CONGRESS, AS LISTED IN THE OFFICIAL ELENCO DEI PARTECIPANTI Margaret Baima (Detroit, Mich.) Marie Boas (Cambridge, Mass.) Robert A. Buyers (Norristown, Pa.) I. Bernard Cohen (Cambridge, Mass.) Carolyn H. Eisele (New York City) Howard F. Fehr (New York City) Paul Friedman (New York City) John F. Fulton (New Haven, Conn.) Charles C. Gillispie (Princeton, N. J.) Roger Hahn (New York City) Karel Hujer (Chattanooga, Tenn.) Thomas P. Hughes (Charlottesville, Va.) Francis R. Johnson (Stanford, Cal.) Loren C. McKinney (Chapel Hill, N. C.) Hyman Miller (Beverly Hills, Cal.) Genevieve Miller (Cleveland, Ohio) Anderson Nettleship (Little Rock, Ark.) Charles D. O'Malley (Stanford, Cal.) Roland I. Pritikin (Rockford, Ill.) C. Doris Hellman Pepper (New York City) Duane H. D. Roller (Norman, Okla.) Edward Rosen (New York City) Theodore Rothman (Beverly Hills, Cal.) Giorgio de Santillana (Cambridge, Mass.) Alexander Rytel (Chicago, Ill.) Alexander J. Schaeffer (Los Angeles, Cal.) Henry Schuman (New York City) Wilson L. Scott (Washington, D. C.) Richard H. Shryock (Baltimore, Md.) Isidor Silbermann (New York City) William D. Stahlman (Cambridge, Mass.) Ivan Cyril Tiholiz (Northridge, Cal.) Anne Tjomsland (Jersey City, N. J.) Frank J. Tornetta (Norristown, Pa.) Ilza Veith (Chicago, Ill.) William Henry Venable (Pittsburgh, Pa.) Edward M. Weyer, Jr. (New York City) Elliott R. Weyer (New York City) L. Pearce Williams (Newark, Del.) Harry Woolf (Seattle, Wash.) Jacob Zeitlin (Los Angeles, Cal.) Messrs. Ettinger, Darby, and Rappaport. PAPERS PRESENTED BY AMERICANS AT THE FLORENCE-MILAN CONGRESS Marie Boas: The eighteenth-century reform of chemical nomenclature. I. Bernard Cohen: Newton's personality and scientific thought. John F. Fulton: Mascagni and his forerunners. Charles C. Gillispie: The formation of Lamarck's evolutionary views. Karel Hujer: On the history and the philosophy of the Purkyne effect. Genevieve Miller: The earliest attempts to attenuate smallpox virus. Anderson Nettleship: An analysis of certain ideas which contributed to the origin of Greek scientific medicine. Charles Donald O'Malley: A Latin translation of Ibn Nafis (I547) related to the problem of the circulation of the blood. R. I. Pritikin: History of the treatment of congenital and hereditary eye defects with synopsis. History of the introduction to the management of mass eye casualties resulting from radiation trauma. Alexander Rytel: II sessantesimo anniversario della scoperta della prova della sedi- mentazione del sangue fatta da Edmund Biunecki. Ilza Veith: Some early nineteenth-century concepts of the causes of insanity. Harry Woolf: The solar parallax and the growth of international scientific coopera- tion in the eighteenth century. This content downloaded from on Sat, 14 Jun 2014 16:56:03 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions Contentsp.176p.177p.178p.179p.180[unnumbered][unnumbered]p.181Issue Table of ContentsIsis, Vol. 48, No. 2 (Jun., 1957), pp. 101-280Front Matter [pp.101-101]Notes on John Donne's Alchemical Imagery [pp.103-123]Joseph Black and Fixed Air a Bicentenary Retrospective, with Some New or Little Known Material [pp.124-151]The Discovery of the Leblanc Process [pp.152-170]Was Maurolico's Essay on the Nova of 1572 Printed? [pp.171-175]The Eighth International Congress of the History of Science Florence-Milan, 3-9 September 1956 [pp.176-181]Notes & Correspondence [pp.182-188]Eighty-Second Critical Bibliography of The History of Science and Its Cultural Influences (To 1 January 1957) (Endorsed by the History of Science Division of the International Union of the History and Philosophy of Science) [pp.189-280]Back Matter