Science and the History of Science on the Radio
Posted by Darin Hayton on 01/06 at 02:12 PM
For people interested in the history of science, science in society, and general science, there are a number of good radio programs, often available as podcasts (or other audio archives):
- In Our Time—
One of the long-running programs is Melvyn Bragg’s “In Out Time” on BBC Radio 4. Bragg’s program covers all sorts of themes within the broad category of history of ideas. Under that umbrella category, there are a number that deal specifically with the history of science (conveniently collected here). Bragg invites important historians of science, mathematicians, and scientists to join him in discussing a wide range of topics: historians of science like Simon Schaffer (from the HPS program at Cambridge Univesity), Jim Bennet (from the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford), and Vivian Nutton (from University College London) join scientists like Frank Close (physicist at the University of Oxford), Robert Kaplan (mathematician from Harvard University), and Martin Brasier (biologist at the University of Oxford). A recent three-part series explores the history of the Royal Society (archived here). Subscribe to the podcast here.
- Science Friday—
Ira Flatow’s “Science Friday” is a weekly, 2-hour radio program on NPR that focuses on contemporary science, especially science that is currently in the news. Flatow invites experts, usually scientists policy makers, and science writers to weigh in on different topics. Recent programs included discussions on birds and birding, the mythical Defense Advancement Research Projects Agency (part of the U.S. Department of Defense), the psychology of pricing policies, the LHC, climate change, gene patenting, and the Mars rover. Shows are archived here. You can also subscribe to the podcast here.
- How to Think about Science—
The CBC’s David Carly interviewed a number of prominent historians of science, science studies scholars, and scientists about what science is and how it relates to society. The premise for these programs is a tension between a seemingly naïve conception of science and some real, rather more complex practice of science.1 Interlocutors include, among others, Simon Schaffer and Steven Shapin, Lorraine Daston, Peter Gallison, Bruno Latour, and Rupert Sheldrake. The program is available from the “How To Think About Science” website (requires RealPlayer).
It’s nice to see historians of science engaging in these more public fora, though it once again raises the question: why aren’t historians of science writing for this same audience? Clearly history of science and science and society topics remain popular. And at least some historians of science and science studies scholars are willing to speak to these broader audiences. Is there some other impediment that prevents historians of science from writing for these audiences?
In any event, there are shows here that will appeal to all interests. Go listen.
1While this dichotomy is, perhaps, a bit simplistic, it offers an opportunity for scholars to talk about science and its relationship to society. I think historians of science have something to contribute to the public discourse on the relationship between science and society, something that scientists don’t usually contribute.⇑