ESHS 2020 - CfP on the nature of scientific discovery in the chemical sciences

Annette Lykknes's picture
Call for Papers
Subject Fields: 
History of Science, Medicine, and Technology

Call for contributions for a symposium on the nature of scientific discovery in the chemical sciences for the meeting of the European Society for the History of Science in Bologna, 31 August-3 September 2020.


Organizers: Annette Lykknes and Brigitte Van Tiggelen



History of science is full of examples of scientific discoveries, priority disputes related to such discoveries, and discussions on what aspects of a discovery that qualify for credit. In textbooks and popular accounts, however, discoveries are often presented as clear-cut and a point for sudden change of thought (or even as decisive for paradigm shifts), while insight into the context in which the discovery took place, the time involved in developing new knowledge, and the contributions by a range of actors of different rank, is often omitted.

This tension appeared especially clearly in the course of the International Year of the Periodic Table (IYPT) in 2019: popular accounts often celebrated the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev as the sole discoverer of the periodic system, and presented his discovery as an eureka moment, while historians of science insisted on the multifaceted and collaborative character of the work related to the development of the periodic system and discoveries of elements.


We will propose a symposium/session which will focus on the nature of scientific discovery in the chemical sciences and technology, broadly construed, that is including also geo- and life sciences as well as material sciences for instance. Papers that flesh out case-studies of discoveries are welcome, with an emphasis on:


  • The unfolding of the discovery process as it can be reconstituted through historical documentation
  • The contexts in which they took place and how the episode of discovery was accounted for by the actors
  • How one (or more) ‘discoverer(s)’ found their place in popular historical accounts
  • Contemporary descriptions of scientific discoveries, in popular media and/or in scientific communities
  • Dilemmas in the history of scientific discovery: What stage in a discovery constitutes the ‘discovery’?


Please send your abstract to AND by 25 November.

Please include the following:

1. Title

2. Author(s) (full name(s), academic title, institution, address, email and a short biographical note of max.150 words). In case of multiple authors the first author should be the presenting and corresponding author.

3. Abstract (max. 300 words, including possible references)

4. Keywords (3)


Find more information about the ESHS conference on


Best wishes,


Annette Lykknes and Brigitte Van Tiggelen