Article ID: CBB001320549

Of the Helmholtz Club, South-Californian Seedbed for Visual and Cognitive Neuroscience, and Its Patron Francis Crick (2014)


Taking up the view that semi-institutional gatherings such as clubs, societies, research schools, have been instrumental in creating sheltered spaces from which many a 20th-century project-driven interdisciplinary research programme could develop and become established within the institutions of science, the paper explores the history of one such gathering from its inception in the early 1980s into the 2000s, the Helmholtz Club, which brought together scientists from such various research fields as neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, psychophysics, computer science and engineering, who all had an interest in the study of the visual system and of higher cognitive functions relying on visual perception such as visual consciousness. It argues that British molecular biologist turned South Californian neuroscientist Francis Crick had an early and lasting influence over the Helmholtz Club of which he was a founding pillar, and that from its inception, the club served as a constitutive element in his long-term plans for a neuroscience of vision and of cognition. Further, it argues that in this role, the Helmholtz Club served many purposes, the primary of which was to be a social forum for interdisciplinary discussion, where `discussion' was not mere talk but was imbued with an epistemic value and as such, carefully cultivated. Finally, it questions what counts as `doing science' and in turn, definitions of success and failure---and provides some material evidence towards re-appraising the successfulness of Crick's contribution to the neurosciences.

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Authors & Contributors
Malabou, Catherine
Constable, Marianne
Davis, Whitney
Wintroub, Michael
Thompson, Charis
Globus, Gordon G.
Journal of the History of the Neurosciences
History of the Human Sciences
VIET: Voprosy Istorii Estestvoznaniia i Tekhniki
The Chemical Educator
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
John Benjamins Pub. Co.
MIT Press
Cambridge University Press
Wallstein Verlag
University of Chicago Press
Chronicle Books
Societies; institutions; academies
Crick, Francis
Heidegger, Martin
Schwann, Theodor
Watson, James Dewey
Hodgkin, Alan Lloyd
Rush, Benjamin
Time Periods
20th century, late
21st century
19th century
20th century
17th century
18th century
California (U.S.)
United States
Great Britain
Silicon Valley (California)
Esalen Institute
California Academy of Sciences

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