The history of the atom is commonly illustrated as a linear monotonic improvement in atomic models driven by lone scientists. Such depictions have been challenged on the grounds that they paint a reductive picture of science that disregards the role of community, alternate hypotheses, and local circumstances in scientific inquiry. Yet, there is an absence of alternative visualizations that engage such factors. Drawing on Historical Research and Feminist and STS studies, this project aims to develop an alternative and interactive visualization of the history of atomic science that highlights these factors and their relationships.
The goals of this historiography are threefold. First, we aim to show how the subject-matter (and not just the context) of science is entangled in its circumstances and consequently, demonstrate the value of Haraway’s concept of ’situated knowledges’ to the historical analysis of science. Second, we aim to provide an alternative approach to the visualization of science history that goes beyond linear ‘factual’ timelines and embraces the inherent non-linearity, simultaneity, and diversity of scientific research while being reflective of its own limitations. Finally, through our process of reviewing literature on atomic history, we aim to investigate how and why certain scientific models are historically prioritized over others despite being comparably (in)valid in those times.
Faculty Advisor: Nassim Parvin