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Of the Helmholtz Club, South-Californian seedbed for visual and cognitive neuroscience, and its patron Francis Crick

Aicardi, C; (2014) Of the Helmholtz Club, South-Californian seedbed for visual and cognitive neuroscience, and its patron Francis Crick. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences , 45 1 - 11. 10.1016/j.shpsc.2013.11.012. Green open access

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Abstract

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.

Type: Article
Title: Of the Helmholtz Club, South-Californian seedbed for visual and cognitive neuroscience, and its patron Francis Crick
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.shpsc.2013.11.012
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.shpsc.2013.11.012
Language: English
Additional information: This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Science and Technology Studies
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1468943
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