What about the giants? The permanent reorganization of knowledge in the research on multiple galaxy systems (1925-1980)
Im Forschungskolloquium werden zum einen laufende Examensarbeiten und Promotionsprojekte vorgestellt und diskutiert, zum anderen kommen in eingeladenen Vorträgen aktuelle Forschungsthemen der Wissenschaftsgeschichte zur Sprache. Das Kolloquium steht allen Interessierten offen und richtet sich besonders auch an Masterstudierende. Masterstudierende, die einen Vortrag halten möchten, mögen sich bitte spätestens im Ende März beim Leiter des Forschungskolloquiums melden.
Karin Pelte: What about the giants? The permanent reorganization of knowledge in the research on multiple galaxy systems (1925-1980)
In my talk, I will speak about a central activity of astronomers engaged in galaxy studies during the last century, namely the reinvention and reorganization of past and present knowledge claims. As an example for this kind of conceptual customizing, I present the studies on small multiple galaxy systems (MG) undertaken by Soviet-Armenian astrophysicist V. A. Ambarcumân in the mid 1950s. The formulation of his unorthodox hypothesis of galaxy formation led, for instance, to the radical revision both of the work of Swedish PhD student Erik Holmberg published 20 years beforehand, as well as of the ongoing research conducted by Fritz Zwicky on the West Coast of the US. In order to emphasize the creative nature of Ambarcumân's reinterpretations, I highlight the original, very distinct research objectives behind each of these studies on MG. In the second part of my talk, I use a chronological series of co-citation networks to demonstrate how, once published, Ambarcumân's own knowledge claims, in turn, got reorganized within the information flow prompted by the worldwide research on multiple galaxies. Thus juxtaposing the individual with the collective, my study takes a novel approach to the history of 20th century astrophysics; an approach which is shaped along the lines of both Ludwik Fleck's "thought collective" as well as the idea of the self-organizing nature of science developed by Vasilij V. Nalimov, founder of Soviet scientometrics. In sum, the question here is what happens to the giants once you've climbed upon their shoulders.
Karin Pelte is a doctoral student at the Institute of History and Philosophy of Science, Technology, and Literature, Berlin. Under the supervision of Friedrich Steinle she is currently completing a research project on conceptual dynamics in 20th century galaxy studies financed by the German Research Foundation DFG. With a background in both the visual arts and the history of science, she has also been realizing short films on science and culture.
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