University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

History of Science and Technology/Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science Colloquium

Friday, April 17th 2009
Speaker: Jed Z. Buchwald, Department of History, California Institute of Technology, and Noel M. Swerdlow, Professor Emeritus of History and of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Chicago
Subject: Symposium in honor of Alan E. Shapiro
Refreshments served in Room 216 Physics at 3:15 p.m.

Jed Z. Buchwald
"Isaac Newton and the History of Civilization"
Abstract: Isaac Newton, who renovated the foundations of mathematics, optics, and mechanics in the 17th century, aimed also to overturn the entire history of civilization. Convinced that the Egyptians and the Greeks had studied at the feet of the ancient Hebrews, Newton set out to prove that Solomon’s kingdom set the pattern for all organized social life. He canvassed ancient texts for words that could be pruned and transformed into supporting evidence – deploying in the process the earliest known procedures for handling discrepant data. We will see how the most sophisticated of techniques can produce error when data is massaged to fit a strongly-held conviction.

Noel M. Swerdlow
"Galileo's Theory of the Tides"

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