A University of King’s College student has obtained a prestigious Shastri Research Student Fellowship (SRSF), a grant from the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute. Arden Rogalsky is a fourth-year student with a combined honours in History of Science and Technology and classics at King’s.
“It’s a remarkable recognition for a student at this stage of their career and shows the level of achievement of our students in the HOST program,” said Dr. Gordon McOuat, director of the History of Science and Technology program.
Rogalsky will collaborate with Jawaharlal Nehru University and archives in India for his project.
Dr. McOuat has worked with Rogalsky for almost a year on a related project, including throughout the summer when Rogalsky worked as a summer research student. It was Dr. McOuat who encouraged Rogalsky to apply for the grant to cover Rogalsky’s own work relating to Helen Spurway and Indian studies of animal behavior.
Rogalsky’s research focuses on Spurway as an overlooked figure in science history spaces. An academic in her own right with a PhD, Spurway was married to J.B.S. Haldane, a famous biologist. She and Haldane met during her undergraduate degree when he was her supervisor.
In 1957 both Spurway and Haldane renounced their British citizenship and moved to India to help the Indian independence movement. Haldane became the head of the government’s Genetics and Biometry Laboratory. Although Haldane’s journey has been heavily documented, Spurway has been an “often-neglected partner,” according to Dr. McOuat.
Rogalsky’s work looks to highlight Spurway’s role in the fields of genetics and evolutionary biology and ethology in Britain, along with how her thinking practices were altered through the move to India.
Dr. McOuat says Spurway “had a significant role to play in decolonization of knowledge and taking Indian perspectives on nature seriously.”
Rogalsky first became interested in the figure of Haldane in a class on bio-politics, taught by Mike Bennett; Haldane was the subject of an assigned reading.
“I learned that Gordon was working on a project with him, so I asked if I could get involved in some way,” said Rogalsky.
Dr. McOuat was particularly interested in the period of Haldane’s life when he moved to India, and before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Rogalsky travelled to the UK to look through archives related to Haldane’s work. While there, he says he “became interested in Haldane’s work on animal behaviour, and its relationship to his interest in doing research in India.”
“It quite quickly became apparent that Helen Spurway, Haldane’s partner and research collaborator, played an integral role in this work,” says Arden. “I realized that scholars had largely ignored this fact and decided (with Dr. McOuat’s encouragement) to propose a research project focusing on Spurway to Shastri.”
The Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute became a bi-national organization for Canada and India in 2005. The institute works to fund research and host seminars that link bi-national topics of government, business, academia, and civil organizations. Shastri includes 116 universities, including 39 from Canada.
“Thinking about the international exchange of knowledge fit really well with the aims of Shastri,” said Rogalsky.
Typically the institute would offer students a chance to visit the other country during their research.
“Obviously, given the current circumstances, that’s impossible,” said Rogalsky.
Rogalsky has already presented research about Spurway and Indian ethology at “Evolution Study Group,” hosted by Dr. Ford Doolittle of Dalhousie University. This spring, Rogalsky will present his research at the national “Congress of Humanities” conference.
Dr. McOuat credits Rogalsky with doing the bulk of the archival research for their joint project.
“I’ve rarely seen such excellent work at any level,” said Dr. McOuat.
Image: Moore, F. C, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons