Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry (SHAC) Online Seminar

Thursday 23 September 2021

‘The Discrete Charm of Platinum’ 

Dr Mariana Sanchez-Daza (Université Paris Diderot) and Dr John Christie (University of Oxford)

This talk will analyze temporal aspects of the material platinum, beginning briefly with the astrophysical processes which originate it and the astronomical and geophysical processes which have embedded it in planet Earth, then proceeding to the historical temporalities within which platinum became a subject of human cognizance, enquiry and use 
After a résumé of archaeological evidence indicative of early human uses of platinum, our emphasis will be upon the history of scientific discovery, experimental enquiry and manufacturing development, and the economic and political histories of empire with which platinum became, and remains, deeply entangled. Although platinum received increasing experimental attention from chemists in the eighteenth century, it remained for the most part a refractory material, resistant to reactivity and to fusion, and only in the early decades of the nineteenth century was it rendered amenable to processes usable for large scale production. Platinum’s imperial entanglements began to take form in the middle decades of the eighteenth century, focused first upon the Hispanic empire, then later, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, upon the British, leaving a post-imperial aftermath still active today. 

This will be live on Zoom on Thursday 23 September 2021 beginning at 5.00pm BST (6.00pm CEST, 12 noon EST, 9.00am PST). The format will be a talk of 20-30 minutes, followed by a moderated discussion of half an hour. Anyone, member of SHAC or not, may register to attend the seminar by e-mailing; a Zoom link to the seminar will be sent the day before. (If having registered you do not receive a link please check your junk folder). Alternatively, the seminar can also be accessed live on the SHAC You Tube channel.

Materials and Time: an Anthology

The purpose of this research blog is to engage humanities and social sciences scholars in a dialogue with material scientists in order to better characterize the hybrid life of materials as natural entities and social or economic agents. We aim to build a collaborative interdisciplinary research network focused on humans’ interactions and interdependencies with materials today and in the long-duration history. We seek to create an anthology that gathers the contributions of scholars from a wide spectrum of research fields who are exploring the temporalities of material, each from their own perpective. The project will explore topics such as :
o lifetimes, lifecycles, use, trajectories, persistence, endurance, ageing
o depletion, peaks, criticality, erosion, alteration, degradation, conservation
o re-use, remaining, recycling, returns, inheritances, rivalries, substitutions
o birthdays and anniversaries, death, decline, rebirth
o genealogies, time travel
o ephemerality, regimes of temporality, mimetism
o ages, epochs
o chronomarkers, signatures, records and measurements

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