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Nineteenth Century Science in the Making: Communication of Scientific Information as Illustrated by Reading Practices and Correspondence Networks

Miræus lectures, Friday 27 August 2010
Bertrum H. MacDonald (Dalhousie University)


The nineteenth century witnessed dramatic evolution in scientific work. Mass migration, developments in education, and advances in transportation and communications technologies significantly influenced how scientific investigations were pursued. The spread of scientific research triggered a substantial increase in the production of scientific publications and led to the systematizing of communication among scientists. Information and publications circulated worldwide to the mutual benefit of scientists in many countries. This lecture will describe this complex interdependence on information through discussion of reading practices and correspondence networks of scientists of the period. Examples will be drawn primarily from research on Canadian scientists.


Bertrum H. MacDonald is Professor of Information Management at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. His research focusses on the communication of scientific information both historically and present day. He has investigated international scientific correspondence networks through a Fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, and is studying reading practices through detailed case studies of scientists. He is the recipient of the Marie Tremaine Medal, the highest honour awarded by the Bibliographical Society of Canada, and the international GreyNet Award which he won with two Dalhousie University colleagues for research on the production and use of contemporary environmental information. Dr. MacDonald is currently the President of the Canadian Science and Technology Historical Association (CSTHA) and a member of the international executive of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing (SHARP).