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Home > Archives > Previous years: Seminars > Seminars 2014–2015: archives > History of Science, History of Text 2014–2015

Axis Interdisciplinary Research in History and Philosophy of Science

History of Science, History of Text 2014–2015

This year, the seminar ’History of Science, History of Text’ will mainly explore textual problems related to the ERC Project SAW — "Mathematical Sciences in the Ancient World".

The seminar will address the following issues regarding scientific sources:

  • How textual sources bear witness to the social groups that produced them
  • How textual sources testify to knowledge
  • History of compilations
  • How actors structure their texts and knowledge into parts
  • How textual sources reflect the material environment in which they were produced

Organisers: Karine Chemla with Agathe Keller, Christine Proust, and all HSHT group
of the project SAW

To current year and archives 1996-

PROGRAM 2014 – 2015

On Thursdays, from 9:30 am till 5:30pm, Room tba. Condorcet Building of the Paris Diderot University – Campus map with access.

[June !! Postponed till November 2015 !!
Meeting "ON A TOMB SEALED AROUND 186BCE IN CHINA AND CONTAINING A “MATH BOOK”, organised by Karine Chemla and Daniel P. Morgan, with the SAW group]

Thursday May 28 , 9:30–17:30, Room Mondrian, 646A

  • Isabelle Lémonon (EHESS, Centre Alexandre Koyré)
    Mme Dupiery’s Table alphabétique et analytique de chimie: What’s to know ?
    Le système des connaissances chimiques, published in 1801 by Antoine François Fourcroy in 5 volumes (and supplemented by six other volumes), is accompanied by an alphabetical and analytical table of contents, written by Madam Dupiery. The accuracy and care brought to the table by his fellow member were greeted by Fourcroy himself. This 170 pages long table is one of the thin indicators of Madam Dupiery’s involvement in the scientific enterprise. What does it teach us about the knowledge brought into play by this collaborator of the shadow?
  • Discussion about the seminar "History of science, History of text" for next academic year

Thursday April 16, room Malevitch, 483 A
Meeting on the “Collections used in The History of Sciences – Scholarly value, market value, patrimonial value”, organised by Magali Dessagnes (SPHERE, CNRS & University Paris Diderot, SAW Project), Christine Proust (CNRS, SPHERE & SAW Project), and the group SAW.

The historian of science who uses written objects kept in a collection as a source for his research may use information relating to the path of this object before they join the collection. It is for this reason that we are interested in the processes which led the objects into collections and some of the factors that affected their paths, by focusing specifically on issues relevant to historians of science collections. The process of building collections arise primarily the question of the value that different actors have given to these objects, of why they were torn from their original context, their circulation and their insertion or keeping them in a collection . It is more specifically to this question that day will be spent. Such objects from the time of their discovery until their use as exhibit or source for the work of a researcher, pass from hand to hand, those collectors, but also those of excavators, antiquarian or adventurers. It took each of them in turn to assign them a value so that they are inserted, ultimately, in a given collection.

However, these values differ, depending on the view that each has of the object and his objective in regard to that object. What is the value of a document for different actors who had it in the hands ? And how this valuation has affected the movement of the object relative to others ? To this general question, we associate, in the context of the SAW project, more specific issues. How the academic knowledge, especially mathematics, of which a document testifies, are interacted with the value that different types of actors gave him ? How the valuation of an object, in certain contexts, elicited historical research on the scholarly content, and in particular mathematics, related to these objects ? Can we identify different types of knowledge of the history of mathematics that would sometimes influence the value of a given object ? How a particular content knowledge of a document could, for example, transform his market value ? The objectives that govern the formation of a collection depend on different types of value given to objects and therefore these values influence the constitution of the collection. How these elements could change our approach of the sources of the history of science ? This is an issue that will remain to the horizon of our concerns during the study day.

  • Wendy Shaw (Freie Universität Berlin)
    Intersecting Narratives, Interpolating Collections: the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin.
  • Magali Dessagnes (SPHERE, CNRS & University Paris Diderot, SAW Project)
    Elias Géjou, seller of antiquities from Mesopotamia, heart of a network of collectors and scholars.

Round table chaired by Florence Bretelle-Establet (CNRS, SPHERE & SAW),with the participation of Jens Høyrup (Roskilde University) & Agathe Keller (CNRS, SPHERE & SAW Project)

Monday & Tuesday March 23 – 24, room Mondrian, 646 A
Joint Conference SAW & Brown University: “SCIENCE & SCHOLARSHIP IN LATE BABYLONIAN URUK”, organised by Christine Proust and John Steele

Workshop “HOW DO WRITINGS IN THE ASTRAL SCIENCES DOCUMENT MATHEMATICAL PRACTICES & THE PRACTITIONERS?", organised by Matthieu Husson, Rich Kremer, with the SAW group (3 sessions)

Working group of thress seesion organised by Matthieu Husson, Rich Kremer, with the SAW group, ein the context of the Workshop SAW "Mathematical Practices in relation to the Astral Sciences"

1– Thursday January 15 2015, room Mondrian, 646 A

  • 9:30–11:30: Sebastian Falk (Dept. of History and Philosophy of Science, Cambridge)
    Amateur astronomers learning with tables: the case of the Equatorie of the Planetis
  • 11:45–13:00 & 14:15–15:00: Matthieu Husson (CNRS-SYRTE, Observatoire de Paris and SAW project)
    John of Murs’ eclipse computation in the Escorial O II 10.
  • 15:15–17:15: Richard Kremer (Darmouth College and researcher invited by the SAW project)

2– Thursday February 5, room Mondrian, 646 A

  • 9:30–11:30: Daniel Morgan (ERC-SAW, SPHERE)
    Sphere Confusion: The Textual Reconstruction of First-millennium hun Instruments
  • 11:45–13:00 & 14:15–15:00: Sho Hirose (ERC-SAW, SPHERE)
    What were the functions of the armillary sphere in Paramesvara’s Goladīpikā?
  • 15:15–17:15: Nathan Sidoli (Wasada University, Tokyo, and researcher invited by the SAW project)
    The use of physical devices to do computation. Selections from Ptolemy’s Analemma, and Heron’s Dioptra 35.

3– Thursday February 19, room Mondrian, 646 A

  • 9:30–11:30: Li Liang (Beijing Institute for the History of Natural Science and researcher invited by the SAW project)
    Procedural table as a tool: The calculations in Chinese calendric astronomy.
  • 11:45–13:00 & 14:15–15:00: Mathieu Ossendrijver (Berlin Humboldt University, Topoi, and researcher invited by the SAW project)
    Astronomical tables of the spread sheet type
  • 15:15–17:15: Matthias Hayek (CRCAO, Université Paris Diderot)
    Rotating Disks and Straight Rulers: Paper Instruments in Japanese Early Modern Divination Manuals.

Monday to Thursday December 1 – 4, Room Klimt, 366 A
Conference “SHAPING THE SCIENCES OF THE ANCIENT WORLD 2”, organised by Agathe Keller, with the SAW group

December 1st Chair: Agathe Keller
:: Editing documents

  • Piotr Michalowski (University of Michigan)
    Aleatoric Textuality: On the Tracks of a Very Ancient Philology.
    Commentators: Daniel Morgan (SAW) & Christine Proust (CNRS, SPHERE, SAW)

12:00 – 13:00 & 14:00 – 15:00

  • Jerrold Cooper (Johns Hopkins University)
    Editing the Sumerians: How and Why?
    Commentators: Justin Smith (Univ. Paris Diderot, SPHERE) & Pierre Chaigneau (Univ. Paris Diderot, SAW, SPHERE)

15:30 – 17:30

  • Karin Preisendanz (University of Vienna)
    Editing a Foundational Work on Classical Indian Medicine: The Printed Editions of the Carakasamhitā in context.
    Commentators: Florence Bretelle-Establet (CNRS, SPHERE) & Magali Dessagnes (Univ. Paris Diderot, SAW, SPHERE)

December 2nd Chair: Piotr Michalowski

:: Editing documents (continued)

09:30 – 11:30

  • Micheline Decorps-Foulquier (SPHERE)
    The Critical Edition of Mathematical Texts of Greek Antiquity: Questions of method.
    Commentators: Karine Chemla (CNRS, SPHERE, SAW) & Sho Hirose (Univ. Paris Diderot, SAW, SPHERE)

:: Politics (and the receptions) of critical editions
12:00 – 13:00 & 14:00 – 15:00

  • Han Qi (Institute for the History of Natural Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing)
    Rethinking the Ancient Mathematical Text: Ming-Qing Scholars’ Critical Reflections on The Gnomon of Zhou [Dynasty]
    Commentators: Charlotte de Varent (Univ. Paris Diderot, SAW, SPHERE) & Martina Schneider (SAW)

15:30 – 17:30

  • George Vlahakis (Hellenic Open University)
    Greeks on Hellenes. Ancient Greek scientific texts critically edited in 18th-19th century Greece.
    Commentators: Agathe Keller & Micheline Decorps-Foulquier

December 3rd Chair: Karin Preisendanz

:: Printing it out

09:30 – 11:30

  • Zhu Yiwen (Institute of Logic and Cognition & Department of Philosophy, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou) & Zheng Cheng (Institute for the History of Natural Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing)
    On the First Printed Edition of Mathematical Book in Nine Chapters (1842).
    Commentators: Ivahn Smadja (Univ. Paris Diderot, SAW, SPHERE) & Zhihui Chen (SAW)

12:00 – 13:00 & 14:00 – 15:00

  • Alessandro Graheli (University of Vienna)
    The Editio Princeps of the Nyāyabhāṣya.
    Commentators: Stéphane Schmitt (CNRS, SPHERE) & Justin Smith (Univ. Paris Diderot, SPHERE)

15:30 – 17:30

  • Agathe Keller (CNRS, SPHERE, SAW)
    What do you do with commentaries? What do you do with structure? H. T. Colebroooke, Sudhākara Dvivedi and the mathematical chapter of the Brahma-sphuṭa-siddhānta.
    Commentators: Zhou Xiaohan & Martina Schneider, (SAW)

December 4th Chair: Karine Chemla (CNRS, SPHERE, SAW)
:: Practices of editing Numbers and Diagrams

09:30 – 11:30

  • Christine Proust (CNRS, SPHERE, SAW)
    Representing numbers and quantities in editions of mathematical cuneiform texts.
    Commentators: Julie Lefebvre & Pierre Chaigneau (Univ. Paris Diderot, SAW, SPHERE)

12:00 – 13:00 & 14:00 – 15:00

  • Mathieu Ossendrijver (Humboldt University) (to be confirmed)
    Babylonian Astronomy: editing and interpreting an ancient science.
    Commentators: Chen Zhihui (Univ. Paris Diderot, SPHERE, SAW) & Matthieu Husson (Univ. Paris Diderot, SPHERE)


  • Karine Chemla
    Concluding remarks (and discussion).

Thursday November 13, Room Mondrian, 646A

:: Forms of written knowledge: Compilations, note-taking, commentaries

Commentaries play a central role in the Indian traditions of learning, and Tamil, the second great classical language of the subcontinent after Sanskrit, is no ex-ception in that respect. Tamil looks back on a period of about 2000 years of producing lyrical poetry, while at the same time developing a system of grammar, metrics and poetics meant, in the first place, to describe this body of poetry, to enable young poets to master their craft and to safeguard its understanding for future generations. Once established, then, the theoretical domains also began to have a dynamics of their own, which in part were to have repercussions back in the practical field. The material link between theory and practice is found in the twofold commentary tradition. Commentaries on poetry explain the text and its literary implications, thus displaying mastery of the treatises whose rules are applied, exploited and quoted. Commentaries on grammar elucidate the rules and give examples, often by the thousands, from poetry.
The simplest typeof commentary consists of a conglomeration of isolated glosses, picking out a difficult word here or there, perhaps followed by a remark on syntax. The more complex form is a paraphrase of the whole verse –poetic or theoretical, a root text always is metrical –that supplies the case endings and grammatical relations missing in the word-order oriented original and exchanges rare or complicated words for easier ones. This can be followed by a poetic or theoretical discussion with argument and counter-argument. Tendentially, the simpler gloss commentary is of an anonymous type, the discursive one has a named author.
Typology seems easy enough when proceeding from the standard editions that, in the case of Tamil, where mostly produced between the later 19th and the early 20th century. Seen from the perspective of the primary witnesses, manuscripts on palm-leaf and paper, matters appear less straightforward. There is a considerable amount of fluidity in the size and wording of even the most well-established author commentaries. Given what we know about the Indian intellectual tradition where the root text is re-garded not only as primary in the evolutionary sense, but also as the frame of a theory or school, this should not come as a surprise: it is the commentary where discussion takes place, where new concepts are introduced and tested and where the development of thought is recorded.
What manuscripts let us see is the process of text reception as it took place over centuries, new readers and copyists freely deleting and adding to a certain stock. A comparatively stable root text appears surrounded by invocations, blessings, mnemonic stanzas, titles and inter-titles, notes, colophons and finally commentary in a very wide sense of the word. A commentary can be just one among a surprisingly large number of para-texts or it can be a pretext for inscribing a new theoretical devel-opment into the folds of an established school, thus turning the normal relation be-tween text and para-text upside down.
Documenting and analysing this whole process of transmission is the object of the ERC-financed project NETamil (“Going from Hand to Hand: Networks of Intellectual Exchange in the Tamil learned traditions”) of which I am the PI. The presentation will focus on demonstrating how joint work is realised intellectually on the one hand and physically on the other hand, pointing out the basic architecture and phrasal inventory of a Tamil commentary, which rightfully can be seen as a subtype of Indian commentary, and showing how this can be done in an almost zero-layout tradition on a palm-leaf with scriptio continua.


Previous years

During the academic year 2010 – 2011, the seminar was organized in monthly daily workshops and examined the following issues:
  • Numerical and other kinds of tables
  • Organisation and use of scholarly writings
  • Encyclopedias
  • Paratext and material organisation of texts
  • Note taking & the Inscription of the oral
  • Critical editions of scholarly texts and history of critical editions.