Blogging the Renaissance

One of the blogs I’ve been following is Thony Christie’s The Renaissance Mathematicus, dedicated to the history of science – and in particular, Renaissance astronomy. It’s a good example of effective use of the blog as a medium.

First of all, it’s important to note what Christie’s blogging isn’t. It’s not a presentation of academic, peer-reviewed history-of-science research. While I’m quite far from expert in that field, I suspect that much of what he writes about is pretty uncontroversial to professional historians of Renaissance physical sciences. As an example, a recent post takes David Love to task for the subtitle of his recent book Kepler and the Universe: How One Man Revolutionized Astronomy. Kepler was far from one man working alone to revolutionized astronomy, Christie points out, detailing not only Kepler’s well-known debt to Nicolaus Copernicus and Tycho Brahe but also such less well-known scientists as Michael Maestlin and David Fabricius. This is one of the blog’s recurring themes: pushing back against various popular but wildly inaccurate views of the operation of science, particularly during the Scientific Revolution. (Christie does acknowledge, incidentally, that the fault in this case lies undoubtedly with marketing drone at Prometheus Press who cared more about a sensational title than accuracy.)

And this gets to where Christie’s blog excels. His writing is accessible, often colloquial, and not infrequently coarse – see, for example, his post on the problem of longitude. Yet he is not interested in presenting a simplified pop-historical or isn’t-science-cool narrative, even while he eschews anything smacking of poststructuralism. His discussion of the importance of scientific dead-ends like phlogiston theory or his revision of the Catholic Church–vs.–science narrative are illustrations.

About

I’m a first-year Ph.D. student in Northeastern’s world history program. Coming from a background is nineteenth-century French history, I’m moving toward comparative nineteenth-century European imperialism with a particular interest in the effects of modern transport and communication technologies.

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