Announcing a History of Science Society Session, November 22, 2013: “The Power of Analogies for Advancing Scientific Knowledge”

Biosphere 2

Biosphere 2

Several colleagues and I are planning a session at the History of Science Society Annual Meeting in Boston, Massachussetts on Friday morning, 9:00 am, November 22, 2013. The session, “The Power of Analogies for Advancing Scientific Knowledge,” brings together four presentations as follows:

  • “The Frontier and the Space Program: Situating Space in the Myth of Manifest Destiny,” Catherine L. Newell, University of Miami
  • “Comparing Antarctic Scientific Stations and Space Operations: Analogies of Public/Private Partnerships for Scientific Investigation,” Roger D. Launius, Smithsonian Institition
  • “Lunar Geology and the Earth Analog,” Lisa Messeri, University of Pennsylvania
  • “Earth Under Glass: Ecological and Ecocultural Mimesis at the Biosphere 2,” Lisa R. Rand, University of Pennsylvania

David H. DeVorkin, Smithsonian Institution, will provide the comment.


Session Abstract: Everyone uses historical analogies to understand current issues and to help make decisions about present-day concerns. Sometimes they use those analogies effectively, and sometimes not. The current debate over national economic policy is rife with historical analogies and sometimes even the same analogues are deployed to support differing positions. There is a long history of the use and abuse of analogs, offering perspectives on how they might be effectively employed in analysis of current challenges. This session will explore the place of analysis using analogies to a set of episodes in the history of technology.

The first paper by Catherine L. Newell, University of Miami, explores the use of the American frontier experience as an analogy for modern space exploration. She notes that by situating space as humankind’s “last frontier,” NASA’s efforts became a fulfillment of America’s new manifest destiny. Roger D. Launius of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum presents a paper on how the analogies of the Antarctic experience to space exploration relate to each other in considering such future space science activities as a lunar base or space station support and a gradual transition from government activity to public/private efforts.

Lisa Messeri, University of Pennsylvania, presents a third paper on the story of Apollo training—first how geology became a science for the Moon and then how astronauts underwent analog training on Earth to prepare themselves for lunar geology. Finally, Lisa Rand, University of Pennsylvania, presents an anthropological analysis of Biosphere 2 and the attempt to duplicate a terrarium that would be helpful in a long duration space travel scenario.

Anyone attending the History of Science Society, please consider attending this session. If anyone has comments on what we are seeking to do in this session, please let me know.

This entry was posted in Apollo, Cold War Competition, Earth Science, History, Science, Space and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Announcing a History of Science Society Session, November 22, 2013: “The Power of Analogies for Advancing Scientific Knowledge”

  1. Will there be proceedings of this conference?


    • launiusr says:

      Sorry, HSS does not publish proceedings. Some of the papers might find their way into print but there is no organized effort to publish them.


  2. mike shupp says:

    Bummer. I’d really really like to read your and Dr. Newell’s papers.


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