Historian at NJIT will discuss disseminating scientific knowledge in 19th century

11/09/05



How to reach out and touch someone before the telegraph was even invented, fascinates historian Kevin Gumienny, PhD, a special lecturer in the history department at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). Gumienny, who specializes in the history of science and technology, will highlight three men of science, the history of print and more, Nov. 19, 2005, at a daylong symposium in Madison.

"I'll focus on how scientific ideas were shared, and explore how people used face-to-face communication, written letters, boxed plants, and prints to disseminate, promote and challenge ideas about the natural world," Gumienny said. Editor's Note: To interview Gumienny, call Sheryl Weinstein, 973-596-3436.

Gumienny's talk will highlight work from 1780-1820 of significant scientific figures and the role of printed material. To be highlighted are Isaac Greenwood III, a Boston dentist who focused on electricity; "Mad" Captain John MacPherson, a Philadelphia privateer and real-estate entrepreneur whose scientific specialties were astronomy and mechanics; Henry Moyes, a popular Scottish lecturer about chemistry and natural history.

Gumienny will also focus on Humphrey Marshall, a botanist, at the center of a network of natural historians and gardeners. Marshall used letters and boxes to exchange, not only knowledge, but also seeds, shrubs, trees, and flowers. "He created a great blend of commerce, patronage, and barter," said Gumienny.

Print also played an essential role in early communication. "It helped advertise the lectures of natural philosophers by providing catalogs and botanical descriptions and helped people learn more about their world," said Gumienny.

Print was, in many ways, the most important way people could obtain information about science. Whether through newspaper columns, pamphlets or assessments circulating in magazines, people could learn about the natural world, Gumienny said.

Gumienny, a specialist in the history of science and early America, received his doctorate and master's degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and a bachelor's degree in history from Texas A&M University.

The day-long event about the history of communications technology in Morris County will be the focus of the Heritage Commission's 35th Anniversary Symposium. It will be held from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., at the College of Florham Library, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Madison. The registration fee is $25 and includes a continental breakfast, lunch and materials. Students with current ID's will be admitted for $10. For more information, call (973) 829-8117.

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