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I spent the weekend at the Three Societies* meeting Oxford with 500 historians of science, a disproportionately large number of whom were from Toronto. I love academic reunions. We stayed at Keble College, gave papers in some of their non-stripey buildings, heard two excellent plenaries in the Oxford Union Society Debating Chamber (Simon Schaffer and the author of An Instance of the Fingerpost), and generally exchanged ideas. I have never had such good feedback for a paper I've given, in good questions, suggestions for research directions, and in positive comments. The downsides were more quirks than negatives: I was filed alphabetically in lists under C.'s last name, not because it is mine, but because he happened to submit the registration for me; and I accidentally kicked a dove. It was small and white and ever-so-soft in that split second when my toe connected with it and sent it fluttering to my attention.

Thanks to this weekend, I can report back to you on an exciting new topic in the history of science, one which is being widely studied from the perspective of a variety of time periods and angles: Elephants in Dublin. Dublin elephants (not elephants from anywhere else, just Dublin) came up over the course of three different papers over the course of the conference, covering the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. One elephant had been accidentally burnt. The other two were in zoos. This raises all sorts of questions: When and why was the first elephant brought to Dublin? What happened to elephants in Dublin in the eighteenth century? What is the average number of elephants in Dublin at any given time? What is the current elephant situation in Dublin? Clearly, a monograph is in order.

* The History of Science Society, the British Society for the History of Science, and the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science have a joint meeting every four years. The last one was in Halifax.

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Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
chickenfeet2003
Jul. 6th, 2008 07:56 pm (UTC)
The great uncle of a former colleague of mine was Director of the Dublin Zoo and apparently did early experiments on artificially inseminating elephants.
owlfish
Jul. 6th, 2008 09:50 pm (UTC)
See? Elephants in Dublin. A major, undertold story. Perhaps for a good reason.
gillo
Jul. 6th, 2008 08:19 pm (UTC)
Elephants in Royal Leamington Spa is a possibly related issue. Enough to get a book out of, perhaps?
owlfish
Jul. 6th, 2008 09:53 pm (UTC)
Yes - and - so neat!
ellid
Jul. 6th, 2008 09:29 pm (UTC)
I look forward to the answers to all your elephant questions, preferably in an article in the Alumnae Quarterly.

Also, I'm mildly shocked that there are any non-stripey buildings at Keble.
owlfish
Jul. 6th, 2008 09:50 pm (UTC)
Upon further reflection, it could be argued they have stripes, but only because there are horizontal lines involved, whether in brickwork courses (undifferentiated in color) or the occasional same-colored string course. I have photos, but until I upload them, these will have to do:

http://www.keble.ox.ac.uk/about/tour/arco/
http://www.keble.ox.ac.uk/about/tour/hayward-and-de-breyne/
http://www.keble.ox.ac.uk/about/tour/sloane-robinson/

To be wholly truthful, some of the sessions were in truly stripey buildings. By most were not.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )