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Re-enacting past experiments: how and why

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In recent decades ‘re-enactment’ has become an accepted, even fashionable, mode of historical work. Building on the talk he gave in the Cabinet of Natural History series last year, Hasok Chang will consider different purposes that are served by different types of historical experiments (historical replication, physical replication, and extension). And then he will discuss his own line of work, which he calls ‘complementary experiments’, which seeks to recover lost scientific knowledge from the past and further extend what has been recovered. The discussion will be illustrated with cases from his current work on the history of ‘battery science’ in the 19th century. He will invite reflections from the audience on the functions of historical experiments for history of science, for science education, and for citizen science. (If there is demand, a follow-up hands-on workshop may be organised in the Easter Term.)

This talk is part of the Cabinet of Natural History series.

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