Postgraduate Spotlight: Anna Gielas
January 13, 2016 Leave a comment
Anna Gielas, a second-year PhD-student supervised by Dr Aileen Fyfe, has won one of the prestigious travel scholarships awarded by the German Historical Institute in London. Starting January, she will leave St Andrews for three months to carry out research in Germany, specifically analysing the correspondence of editors in seven archives. Amongst the institutions she will visit are the Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek in Dresden and the Universitätsarchiv in Göttingen. There, she will continue her investigation into the emergence and consolidation of commercial scientific journals.
While the first learned journals (or academic journals) appeared in the 1660s, they were published under the auspices of scientific academies. Anna investigates why individuals took to editing and publishing learned periodicals, some hundred years later —even though most of those commercial undertakings led to regular financial losses rather than profits. What were the goals and motives of those editors—and did they consider their publications successful? These are two questions that Anna is curious about. She works comparatively, focusing on commercial scientific periodicals in Britain and the German lands from 1770-1840.
Learned journals are an artefact of collective memory. According to Anna, they provide insight into the cultural and organisational identity of academia—and the evolution of science and scholarship. Her interest in these journals arose from her background as a science journalist. As she worked with the periodicals on a daily basis, she grew interested in the history of these texts: their social context, scientific editorship and editorial policies. Having realised that few scholars had devoted their attention to this particular instrument of communication, Anna decided to research the history of academic scientific journals.
One of the editors Anna will focus on is Lorenz von Crell. This professor of chemistry and mineralogy, working chiefly at the University of Helmsted, founded the first journal on the subject of chemistry. Considering the governmental decentralisation of eighteenth-century Germany, Crell’s journal appears to have been an important contribution to the institutionalisation of chemistry in the German lands. However, Anna believes that the links between Crell’s periodical and the overall institutionalisation are less straightforward than they appear. The archival research funded by the German Historical Institute will provide her with important information to understand the complex processes that took place from the 1770s to the 1800s.
Anna plans to present her findings at three conferences: the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing SHARP conference in Paris; the Three Societies Meeting in Edmonton, Canada, which is jointly organised by the British Society for the History of Science, the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science, and the History of Science Society; and the European Society For The History of Science ESHS conference in Prague.