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Hjalmar Fors is a historian of science with a particular interest in alchemy, chemistry, mining and pharmacology. He has studied at the Universities of Uppsala and Stockholm and have an MA(1998) and a PhD (2003) from Uppsala University. He has spent an academic year as a PhD-student at the University of Cambridge ( 2000/2001) and has been a a visiting scholar at the UCLA in Los Angeles, USA (2007/2008). During the period 2004-11 he was an assistant professor at the div. for history of science and technology at KTH (Royal Institute of Technology) in Stockholm. During this period he also worked at times at Uppsala university, and at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. He has been at the div. for history of science since Sept. 2011.
His research interests concern mainly the boundaries of scientific knowledge. How is science defined and articulated in relation to rival systems of knowing and doing, such as artisanal knowledge and non-European knowledge traditions? This epistemological question is connected to issues concerning the utility of science, and to the discourse of how science, technology and industry relates to one another. Other areas of interest are the study of how social networks in science function through, for example, patronage and apprenticeships, as well as issues concerning space, spatiality and materiality in science.
In his PhD-thesis, Mutual Favours: The social and scientific practice of eighteenth-century Swedish chemistry (2003) he studied the creation of chemistry as a science in eighteenth-century Sweden. He analyzed a number of relationships between chemists with regards to two central eighteenth-century institutions: the patron-client relationship and the egalitarian ideal of reciprocity articulated in the eighteenth-century Republic of Letters. Articles in part based on this work has also been published in Ambix (2008)and Technology and Culture (2009).
Since 2006 he has worked on a project (financed by the Swedish Science Council) entitled Alchemy and Science at the Swedish Board of Mines, 1680-1770. He studies how mining officials engaged in alchemy/chemistry gradually rejected influences from hermetic and paracelsian alchemy and how the general perceptions of the “supernatural” changed during the period. A monograph on this topic is in the final stages of preparation, but see also the list of publications below for a selection of publications on this project.
At the present he is engaged in a new research project, (also financed by the Swedish Science Council): Chinese medicines in European pharmacies: interpretations, uses and appropriation, c. 1570-1720. This project studies German and Nordic apothecaries and alchemists during the 17th century, in order to find out how they discussed and used Chinese and other east asian substances in their recipes.
SELECT LIST OF PUBLICATIONS
- The knowledge and skill of foreigners: Projectors and experts at the early modern Swedish Board of Mines. Due for publication in Hartmut Schleiff och Peter Konečný (eds.) Staat, Bergbau und Bergakademie im 18. und frühen 19. Jahrhundert. (VSWG: Stuttgart 2012).
- “ ‘Away, Away to Falun!’ J. G. Gahn and the application of enlightenment chemistry to smelting” Technology and Culture, July 2009, 549-568.
- “Stepping through science’s door: C. W. Scheele, from pharmacist’s apprentice to man of science.” Ambix 55:1 March 2008, 29-49.
- “Linneaner mot Newtonianer: Konkurrerande vetenskapliga nätverk kring Torbern Bergman” in, S. Widmalm (ed.) Vetenskapens sociala strukturer: Sju historiska fallstudier om konflikt, samverkan och makt (Lund: Nordic Academic Press, 2008) 25-53.
- ”Kemi, paracelsism och mekanisk filosoi: Bergskollegium och Uppsala cirka 1680-1770” Lychnos 2007, 211-44.
- “Occult Traditions and Enlightened Science: The Swedish Board of Mines as an Intellectual Environment 1680-1760” in, L. Principe (ed.) Chymists and chymistry: Studies in the history of alchemy and early modern chemistry (Sagamore Beach: Science History Publications/USA, 2007) 239-52.
- Editor with Enrico Baraldi and Anders Houltz, Taking Place: The Spatial Contexts of Science, Technology and Business (Sagamore Beach: Science History Publications/USA, 2006). See also my article “J. G. Wallerius and the laboratory of enlightenment” on 3-33.
- Mutual Favours: The Social and Scientific Practice of Eighteenth-Century Swedish Chemistry (Uppsala: Diss., 2003).
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