Caltech and The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens (The Huntington) are launching a new research center that aims to make the most of what each institute is best at: Caltech's expertise in science and The Huntington's extensive historical archives and status as a premiere research library. The Research Institute for the History of Science and Technology at Caltech and The Huntington, as its name implies, will focus on researching the history of science and technology.
"Despite the fact that the world's societies are ever more dependent on scientific knowledge and technological breakthroughs, the fate of the academic discipline of the history of science and technology remains uncertain," says Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, the Rea A. and Lela G. Axline Professor of Business Economics and Ronald and Maxine Linde Leadership Chair in Caltech's Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS). "Many university history departments across the nation are shrinking as a result of declining enrollments and are often tempted to cut programs in science and technology. The Research Institute for the History of Science and Technology at Caltech and The Huntington aims to catalyze renewed enthusiasm for this area of inquiry and revive the critically important conversation between historians, scientists, and engineers that might serve as a model for the dialog between the humanities and the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines."
The initial phase of the program, slated to begin in the summer of 2019, is an annual residential institute that will provide doctoral students with the opportunity to conduct research in The Huntington's collections and to interact not only with each other but also with a cadre of experienced historians of science and technology from Caltech and other institutions. In the second year, the institute will add a resident senior research fellow at The Huntington and a senior visiting faculty member at Caltech to conduct seminars across southern California. In the third year, the program will expand to include a postdoctoral fellow at Caltech as well as additional short-term visiting scholars at The Huntington. In the fourth year, a search will begin for a new faculty member in the history of science and technology at Caltech, who will ultimately oversee the institute on a permanent basis.
"The Huntington is already an important center for the study of the history of science," says Steve Hindle, W. M. Keck Foundation Director of Research at The Huntington. "This new institute is a collaboration that will strengthen existing activities, add new programs, recruit additional research fellows, and ultimately lead to the appointment of new faculty. I am delighted that it will emphasize support for younger scholars in particular. The creation of the institute represents a significant step forward for this critical area of intellectual pursuit."
Caltech and The Huntington, whose campuses are less than a mile apart, have had a close relationship since Caltech's George Ellery Hale encouraged railroad magnate Henry E. Huntington to transform Huntington's library, art, and botanical collections into a research center nearly a century ago. In recent years, partnerships between The Huntington and HSS have included the Caltech-Huntington Humanities Collaborations, an ongoing series of interdisciplinary research projects that bring together Caltech faculty members and Huntington residential research fellows; the Eleanor Searle Visiting Professorship in History, awarded to a distinguished historian whose interests lie in the history of science and technology; and a recent grant from the Mellon Foundation for a new collaborative initiative in visual culture.
The launch of the new institute has been made possible by a gift from Stephen E. Rogers, a member of The Huntington's Board of Overseers and president of the Caltech Associates, a support group of the university.