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"The Experimental Self: The Characters of Humphry Davy" - Lecture by Dr. Jan Golinski

Friday 20th of March, at 12:00, Institut d'Estudis Catalans (IEC)
CEHIC 20/03/2015

Humphry Davy (1778-1829) was a pivotal figure in the emergence of new scientific disciplines at the beginning of the nineteenth century, but his career cannot be understood through the traditional narrative of specialization and professionalization.  Davy was a protean individual who forged his social persona with remarkable creativity.  He exploited his institutional location to build a charismatic reputation with a public audience.  He applied new electrical instruments and powers to reconfigure the discipline of chemistry.  And he engaged in a sustained and profound exploration of his own subjectivity, through testing nitrous oxide and galvanism on his own body, and through literary exercises of poetry and fiction.  Social ambidexterity, interdisciplinary creativity, and sometimes grueling self-experimentation were the keynotes of this extraordinary individual’s self-made identity.  I shall argue that Davy’s experiments in selfhood illuminate the historical formation of the man of science in an era when social institutions and personal subjectivity were both in flux.

Jan Golinski has a B.A. and M.A. in natural sciences from Christ's College, Cambridge University. His Ph.D. is in history and philosophy of science, from the University of Leeds, U.K. He is a professor in both history and humanities and is chair of the history department at the University of New Hampshire. His research interests include the history of science, intellectual history, and historiography.

CV Jan Golinski