From dedication inscriptions accompanying 17th-century Jesuit astronomical texts to the genesis of today’s animal rights debate, the past and present of scientific discovery were put under the microscope last month as the History of Science Society met at the University of Flor- ida, Gainesville, for its 65th annual conference.

To society officials, several aspects of the three-day event affirmed not only the current vitality of the organization, but also its promising future: overall attendance of 350, standing-room-only attendance at many sessions, animated debate inside and outside the seminar rooms, and, perhaps most important, the youthfulness of the audience.

Indeed, officials of the society, which was founded in 1924, point out that the history of science is alive and very well: About 68 U.S. universities now offer graduate programs in the discipline, pacing the society’s 10% annual increase in membership. which now totals about 4,500.

The burgeoning membership, society officials speculate,...

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