HELD IN CONJUCTION WITH Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science



The location of the Seminar may change from time to time so please check room number on the day

PLEASE NOTE NEW TIME 5pm - 7pm (approx)



Monday 4th


 Berris Charnley

The Trouble with Rogues: genetics, plant breeding and purity in Edwardian Britain

The purity of hereditary factors, or genetic purity, was a central plank in early genetic thought. It was a key assumption on which much else rested. When the first geneticists looked to Gregor Mendel’s work, this was the insight they gleaned from his now infamous pea experiments.To a Mendelian (as the self-described followers of Gregor Mendel’s work initially knew themselves) a plant’s characteristics were determined solely by the hereditary factors it received from its parents. Such factors never blended. If a plant inherited a green factor, the factor was green through and through and devoid of any yellow making factor that might have been present in its distant ancestors. It was this de-historicisation of factors that added value to the Mendelian insight. The stability of factors could be harnessed to create stable varieties which would be economically important.The problem that this paper follows is that of rogues: out of type plants that looked like neither of their parents or close relatives and pointed to impurity of the hereditary factors and ancestral influence. Despite several Mendelians' best efforts to explain or eliminate rogues these deviant plants refused to disappear. However, rather than abandoning the theory, in short order, such anomalous phenomena were hived off as merely a practical concern. This paper tracks the initial promise of stability in plant breeding offered by Mendelian theory, the problem presented to such claims by rogues, the attempts of several Mendelians to deal with such exceptions and the eventual side lining of their theoretical import.                                                                                               

No further seminars to be held in August.



Monday 1st


***Please note time***

Nick Rasmussen (UNSW)

The Interferon Tournament: Economies of Honor and Credit in the Race to Clone Cancer's Cure

Monday 8th

Giovanna Colombetti  (Exeter)

Extending the 'extended mind' to the domain of affect

Monday 15th

Sophie Roux (ENS, Paris)

What kind of Mechanisms for Cartesian Physics?

Monday 22nd


Sujit Sivasundaram (Cambridge)

Imperial Transgressions:The Animal and the Human in the Idea of Race

***Venue: New Law Annexe, Seminar Room 115***

This paper reconsiders how race in the British Empire has operated at the intersection of the human/animal divide after c.1800. Rather than paying attention - as others have done - to the discursive or literary entanglement of animality and race, the argument picks up the disciplinary and conceptual genealogies which stretch over these two alternative modes of differentiation. Transgressing as well as policing the human/animal divide it is argued was central to the project of empire; exposing empire’s power requires a widening of critical attention so that non-humans are worthy of serious post-colonial critique. The cases considered in the paper come from widely spread terrains; but a particular focus in the second half of the paper is on South Asian talk about animal descent, both on the part of British imperialists and nationalist successors, and the way this talk has intersected with the sciences and ethnicity.



No further seminars to be held in September



Monday 13th


David Kaplan (Macquarie)

Philosophy of Neuroscience

Monday 20th

Tony Aspromorgos (Sydney)

Thomas Piketty, the Future of Capitalism and the Theory of Distribution

***Venue: Carslaw Lecture Room 452***

Monday 27th

No Talk


Friday 31st (1pm-7pm approx)


Keynote Speaker: Sarah Walsh (Sydney)

Answering the Social Question: The Naturalistic Fallacy, Chilean Eugenics, and Nation Building

Full schedule to be announced.

***Venue: Carslaw Room 450***


The Journal of the History of Ideas is pleased to announce the winner of the Selma V. Forkosch Prize for the best article published in the Journal of the History of Ideas each year.

The winners for 2010 are Ofer Gal and Raz Chen-Morris, for "Baroque Optics and the Disappearance of the Observer: From Kepler's Optics to Descartes' Doubt," Volume 71, Number 2, pages 191-217.


2014 Sydney Winter International Graduate School (SWIGS)

2014 SWIGS
2014 SWIGS

The first History and Philosophy of Science (HPS) Sydney Winter International Graduate School (SWIGS) welcomed 12 local and international graduate students to its inaugural program last week.

The week-long initiative saw students from as far afield as Cambridge, Columbia, Brown and Princeton participating in an advanced seminar tutored by visiting convener Professor Anthony Grafton from Princeton University and University of Sydney Associate Professor Ofer Gal

The theme of the seminar - Representation and Causation in Early Modern Science - explored some of the reflections and embedded assumptions about the structures and functions of representation in epistemology, metaphysics, politics and natural philosophy.

"The first SWIGS program has been a great success," Associate Professor Gal said.

"It was a fantastic opportunity to showcase the University's commitment to first class scholarship, in which research and teaching are inseparable, and it demonstrated again that the best institutions in the world will gladly pay for their students and scholars to study with us."

The Faculty of Science plans to build on the success of this year's program, making SWIGS an annual event in the international HPS field, with changing themes and conveners.

Through such programs, the University offers more opportunities for the brightest students from around the globe to experience world-class research and teaching excellence.



Congratulations to Professor Warwick Anderson, who has just been awarded a Laureate Fellowship! This is a huge win for history of medicine and Science studies.

Professor Anderson’s Laureate project ‘Southern racial conceptions: comparative histories and contemporary legacies’ aims to reveal intense scientific debate about what it meant to be human in the southern hemisphere during the twentieth century, placing Australian racial thought in a new context. Through comparative study, it shows the distinctive character and scope of racial ideas in southern settler societies, and assesses their global impact.The Australian reported on the awards in an article within the Higher Education section entitled “Fellowships reward shining stars” The Australian. Further information can be found on the ARC.


24TH AUGUST 2011
Sydney Ideas

Recent delegation from Jiao Tong University, May 2011

The Unit recently hosted a delegation from the History and Philosophy of Science Department of the Jiao Tong University, Shanghai China.

Prof. Weixing, Prof. Guan, Prof. Dong and Prof Zengjian attended a talk presented to the Physics Department by Ass. Professor Ofer Gal, enjoyed a tour of the campus with Hans Pols, attended the regular Monday evening HPS research seminar and traditional pub dinner afterwards. On Tuesday members of the unit and the delegation met at the Darlington Centre which provided an opportunity to share recent research and to discuss future collaborative possibilities between the two universities. On Wednesday the delegation attended a lunch hosted by the Dean of Science.

Jiao Tong University Newsletter


John Forge won the 2010 Eureka Prize for Research in Ethics for his book The Responsible Scientist: A Philosophical Inquiry, which examines the social, moral and legal responsibilities faced by scientists.


Professor Warwick Anderson was awarded the 2010 Ludwick Fleck Prize for this work The Collectors of Lost Souls: Turning Kuru Scientists into Whitemen