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From New York to Tehran: American Pragmatism, Muslim Engineers, and the Making of Modern Iran

Historians of modern Iran have unanimously agreed on the crucial role of Mehdi Bazargan (1907-1995) in the decades proceeding to the Revolution of 1979. Bazargan is best known as the prime minister of the Iranian post-revolutionary provisional government. After spending seven years in France studying engineering, Bazargan returned home in 1935 not only with a doctorate in thermodynamics, but also with a pragmatic vision that proved influential in shaping his political career as well as his interpretation of Islam.

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Can Such a Thing be Doubted? Nietzsche and Principle of Identity in the History of Science

Linda Hall Library 5109 Cherry Street, Kansas City, MO

It is well known that Friedrich Nietzsche fundamentally changed and influenced the political and intellectual climate of the 20th century. However, it is less well known that Nietzsche’s critiques of the principle of identity predate, by decades, the largest epistemological crises encountered by western thought. The consequences of this crisis began to be felt near the middle of the 20th century in logic, mathematics, and physics. Much of what we hold to be indubitably true and conceptually unassailable, including the principle of identity, are likely only useful illusions.

Research Fellow William Parkhurst, a PhD candidate in philosophy at the University of South Florida, will discuss his research project that uses Nietzsche’s critique of the principle of identity as a focal point of orientation for understanding how, historically, the principle of identity was established and then called into question in the western tradition and western science.

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Differentiating Astronomy and Astrology in Early Modern Europe

Linda Hall Library 5109 Cherry, Kansas City, MO

If today there is a sharp distinction between astronomy, the science of stars, and astrology, using horoscopes to make prediction, that has not always been the case. Before the seventeenth century, the words astronomy and astrology were often used interchangeably, and most astronomers (for example, Ptolemy and Kepler) were also astrologers. In this talk, we will examine how the distinction between astronomy and astrology had been puzzling scholars for centuries, and how a consensus was finally found in the early modern period. Behind this question of terminology lies the problem of distinguishing good and bad knowledge, and judging  the heritage of the past. It is a question about the bases and norms of scientific knowledge. It is a question about building boundaries in the intellectual world.

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Modeling the Sources and the Topics of Pliny’s Natural History


Pliny’s Natural History, published in Venice in 1472, is the oldest scientific book in Library’s collection. The book is a large-scale encyclopedia from the first century CE that provides a snapshot of scientific knowledge in the Roman Empire. Dr. Jeff Rydberg-Cox will discuss the nature of Pliny’s work, how other scholars and editors have tried to make this massive work more manageable, and then talk about the ways that network analysis and other quantitative approaches can help us understand the sources that Pliny used when writing his work.

Questions? Contact Eric Ward at 816.926.8753 for more information about these events.

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