MacLennan Lecture

Through a generous gift from Oriel MacLennan, a life-long enthusiast of the history of science, the History of Science and Technology Program established the MacLennan Lecture in April 2017.

The newly minted MacLennan Lecture funds a visiting scholar to present a public lecture in the field of Science and Technology Studies or in History and Philosophy of Science. King’s students, as well as interested senior students in the local secondary schools will also be invited to spend time with the visiting lecturer in a seminar setting.

3rd MacLennan Lecture

The MacLennan lecture will be presented by Dr. Kim TallBear on January 30, 2020 at 7 p.m. in Alumni Hall, University of King’s College.

Dr. Kim TallBear, Associate Professor
Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Peoples, Technoscience & Environment
Faculty of Native Studies
University of Alberta

2nd MacLennan Lecture

Stanley’s Dream: The Canadian Medical Expedition to Easter Island

Presented by Jacalyn Duffin, January 16, 2019

Stanley's Dream: The Canadian Medical Expedition to Easter Island. with Jacalyn Duffin.

Dr. Jacalyn Duffin, hematologist and historian at Queen’s University, presented the 2nd MacLennan lecture in the History of Science and Technology. Dr. Duffin will spoke on her new book project Stanley’s Dream: The Canadian Medical Expedition to Easter Island.

In 1964, an international scientific team, led by McGill gastroenterologist Stanley Skoryna, convinced Prime Minister Lester Pearson to donate a navy vessel to a plan to document the biosphere of the word’s most remote community: Easter Island. Emerging in a climate of international cooperation, METEI became one of Canada’s contributions to the International Biological Program It was predicated on the imminent prospect of an airport to link this sheltered island with humans, animals, plants, and microbes everywhere else. With World Health Organization support, the scientists would characterize all life forms in terms of genus and species, but also in terms of genetics, physiology, metabolism, and immunology. It would be complete only when repeated decades later–an exercise that never took place.

Few historians have examined this adventure. With special focus on its medical aspects, this paper focuses on its scientific justifications and products through the publications and personal papers of researchers and the ship’s captain, held in archives in Ottawa, Vancouver and Montreal. This evidence is amplified by interviews with surviving scientist-travellers from Canada, US, Sweden, and South Africa.

The team journeyed from Halifax via Panama, transporting scientific apparatus and supplies, including portable buildings for a laboratory compound. Over three months, they documented the size, lung capacity, blood groups, and immune status of the 1000 human inhabitants. They also tried to characterize all the plants, animals, and microbes. They were captivated by the romance of the island’s past–the mysterious moai statues and the disappearance of its dense forest—features popularized by the famous Kon Tiki expedition of Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl in 1947. Aware that their presence might transmit infection, they volunteered medical services. The team returned in February 1965 to analyze mountains of data, leaving behind one doctor and the buildings to serve as a clinic.

Skoryna boasted 100 percent success, but his opinion was quietly contested; relationships were strained, publications few, and several surprise findings limited the impact. Furthermore, in light of postmodern sensitivities, uncomfortable racist overtones underlie the plan. Nevertheless two unexpected and previously unrecognized benefits, concerning polio and cancer chemotherapy, continue to exert influence even now.

1st MacLennan Lecture

Science and the Rationality of the Social

Presented by Dr. Sundar Sarukkai. October 25, 2017

The national discourse of science in India has been premised on the claim that science has a capacity to make people think and behave ‘rationally’. This association is so strong that the Constitution of India lists ‘scientific temper’ as one of the constitutional duties of an Indian citizen. The belief that something called a scientific temper can remove ‘blind beliefs’ and ‘superstitions’ continues to resonate even in contemporary rhetoric of scientists. Similar claims appear in the public domain on climate change and creationist debates in other countries. The claims about this capacity of science are based on certain assumptions about science and its presumed opposition to religion, rituals, authority and tradition. Are we asking too much of science in expecting it to do this task of creating a ‘rational’ public? Can scientists themselves bear this burden? In this talk, I will explore whether, and how, the rationalities of particular kinds of practices of science (or other humanistic disciplines) can impact the beliefs and actions of the larger society.

Visiting Scholar

Dr. Jacalyn Duffin

2019 Visiting Scholar

M.D. (Toronto), F.R.C.P.(C), Ph.D. (Sorbonne)

Dr. Jacalyn Duffin, MD, PhD, is a hematologist and historian who has occupied the Hannah Chair of the History of Medicine at Queen’s University since 1988. A former president of both the American Association for the History of Medicine and the Canadian Society for the History of Medicine, she is the author of eight books and many articles, holds several awards for teaching and research, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. Her research focuses on disease, technology, religion, and health policy.

Dr. Sundar Sarukkai

2017 Visiting Scholar

BSc (St. Joseph’s College, Bangalore), MSc (Indian Institute of Technology), PhD (Purdue)

Dr. Sundar Sarukkai is a Professor of Philosophy at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Indian Institute of Science Campus in Bangalore. He came to King’s as the History of Science and Technology Programme Visiting Scholar-in-Residence for the Fall of 2017.

Dr. Sarukkai is one of India’s leading public intellectuals and philosophers, having established the Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities (Manipal University) and the section on “Philosophy and Humanities” at the National Institute. His highly respected work covers a wide range of topics, from classic philosophy of science, globalised humanities, phenomenology, and the interactions of Western and non-Western forms of knowledge.