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Fyke V Robert Stuart

PhD Student in history of sciences

Contact: bobfyke(at)


Dissertation title: Science, history, fiction: Towards a history of metaphors in the history of the sciences

Dissertation under the direction of Jean-Paul Gaudillière

This dissertation uses the 108 volumes of the History of Science Society's journal Isis as an archive of metaphoric practices used by historians of the sciences to represent their objects. In this sense, metaphors become witnesses to practical choices made by historians in a process of trial and error. The type of research for this dissertation relies upon an experimental methodology that crosses philosophy, aesthetics, and literary criticism in order to deconstruct the practice of the history of the sciences based on its metaphors, and to reconstruct a meta-history based on the practical use of those metaphors. In order to frame such a large philosophical object, and to retell it as a history of the sciences, four specific cases in Isis involving metaphoric use are examined: chronological and stratigraphic metaphors linking the book of Genesis and evolution; conspiratorial metaphors in public health histories; metaphors that tie the eugenics movement to investigations of human intelligence; and cosmological metaphors that tie the environment to the Anthropocene. These four cases are then used to construct an alternative history of the sciences by its practice of metaphorization, the creation of an historical context by the use (or denial) of metaphors. This representation implies a series of questions. How have historians of the sciences participated in the use of metaphor? How are metaphoric results generalizable? How would a metaphorology, a history of metaphors, differ from other methods in the history of the sciences? How does a metaphorology construct a relationship between errors and alternatives? And how does a relationship between science, history, and fiction discover the metaphors they have in common? This study hypothesizes that one answer to these types of questions is a history of metaphoric use.

Gaudillière Jean-Paul

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