The Lone Star History of Science Group

The Lone Star History of Science Group is pretty much what it sounds like—a loose-knit and very informal organization of historians of science, technology, and medicine from around the state of Texas. It was founded in Austin in March 1988 and every year since then, around bluebonnet time in March or April, the group has gathered in one or another Texas city (usually Austin, Houston, or College Station) to hear a talk, enjoy dinner together, and get to know each other a little better. The longevity of the Lone Star Group probably owes a lot to its simplicity: on its founding, its members agreed that the "organization" would have no by-laws, officers, or dues, and it still gets along very well without them.

Our most recent meeting (our 32nd) was held on 5 April 2019 at the University of Texas in Austin. The speaker was Bruce Hunt of UT, one of the founding members of the Lone Star group. In his talk, “To Rule the Waves: Britain’s Cable Empire and the Making of ‘Maxwell’s Equations,’” Professor Hunt examined how and why the iconic set of vector equations of the electromagnetic field now known as “Maxwell’s equations” came to be formulated in Britain in the second half of the 19th century, and why the equations were in fact cast into their most familiar form not by James Clerk Maxwell, but by Oliver Heaviside. Hunt argued that to understand these developments, we must look to the demands and opportunities presented by the global network of submarine telegraph cables that came to form the “nervous system” of the British Empire in the late Victorian era. He concluded by using the case of cables, Heaviside, and Maxwell's equations to make some broader points about the reciprocal relationship between science and technology.

After some lively and engaged discussion, the group headed off to a delicious dinner and more conversation at the nearby Clay Pit Indian restaurant.

Regrettably, the coronavirus outbreak forced us to cancel our planned 2020 meeting, which was to be held in College Station in April. This is the first cancellation in the more than thirty years since the Lone Star group was founded. We hope and trust we will be back up and running in the spring of 2021. Next year in College Station!

For a list of past meetings, with the date, city, site, speaker, topic, and where we went to dinner, click on the "Past Meetings" tab above. Most of the dates also include a link to the account of the meeting published in the History of Science Society Newsletter, often with a photo of the assembled group. We're also gradually adding other photos, which you can find by clicking the "Photographs" tab above. 

Anyone wishing to be added to the e-mail list for the Lone Star Group (and that's all it takes to become a member in good standing) should contact Bruce Hunt at the University of Texas: