APS Executive Officer Mary Patterson McPherson and APS President Baruch Blumberg with Dr. Daniel Hobbins (center)
The American Philosophical Society awarded the Jacques Barzun Prize for the best book in cultural history published in 2009 to Professor Daniel Hobbins in recognition of his book Authorship and Publicity Before Print: Jean Gerson and the Transformation of Late Medieval Learning. The award was presented by Mary Patterson McPherson, Executive Officer of the Society.
Daniel Hobbins earned his Ph.D. in 2002 from the University on Notre Dame. He researches and teaches the history of medieval Europe from 500-1500 at the Ohio State University, where he is an associate professor. His specific interests include the cultural and intellectual history of northwestern Europe in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, with special emphasis on universities, written culture, the Hundred Years' War, Joan of Arc, and, as evidenced by this latest work, Jean Gerson.
Dr. Hobbins' book takes a look at one of the most powerful theologians of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries: Jean Gerson. Gerson, who lived from 1363 to 1429, was an impressive player in Western Europe during a time of war, plague, and schism. His life and work, as seen through a theological lens, have not harmonized with the modern understanding of this era, leaving a puzzle for historians. Dr. Hobbins attempts to fill this gap in knowledge by arguing for a new understanding of Gerson as a scholar taking advantage of this period of rapid expansion in written culture. More broadly, Dr. Hobbins casts Gerson as a mirror of the complex cultural and intellectual shifts of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Gerson contrasts with earlier theologians due to his more humanist approach to reading and authorship; indeed, his attempts to reach a broader public with publications in both Latin and French garnered him an international audience. However, the book avoids painting a triumphalist picture of this transitional period, not dissimilar to our own. Instead, Dr. Hobbins portrays Gerson as the embodiment of a period of creative and dynamic growth which necessitated and eventually produced new technologies of the written word.
The Jacques Barzun Prize in Cultural History is awarded annually to the author whose book exhibits distinguished work in American or European cultural history. Established by a former student, the prize honors historian and cultural critic Jacques Barzun, a member of the American Philosophical Society since 1984. The selection committee consisted of Donald R. Kelley (chair), James Westfall Thompson Professor of History Emeritus, Rutgers University; Glen W. Bowersock, Professor Emeritus of Ancient History, Institute for Advanced Study; and Michael Wood, Charles Barnwell Straut Professor of English, Princeton University.
A. Mark Smith
Committee Chair Glen W. Bowersock and APS President Baruch Blumberg present the 2010 Lewis Award to Dr. A. Mark Smith (center)
The American Philosophical Society awarded the 2010 John Frederick Lewis Award to A. Mark Smith for his book Alhacen on Refraction: A Critical Edition, with English Translation and Commentary, of Book 7 of Alhacen's De Aspectibus, the Medieval Latin Version of Ibn al-Haytham's Kitab al-Manazir. The award was presented by Glen Bowersock, chair of the Lewis Award Committee and Professor Emeritus of Ancient History, Institute for Advanced Study.
Professor Smith teaches a variety of courses in medieval history as well as the history of science from antiquity to the late Enlightenment. Broadly speaking, his interests lie in the field of intellectual history from the pre-Socratics to the Enlightenment, his scholarly focus being on the evolution of pre-Newtonian theories of visual perception. He received his Ph.D. in 1976 from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he now holds a professorship. He has published a number of other works with the American Philosophical Society, including Descartes's Theory of Light and Refraction (1987), Ptolemy's Theory of Visual Perception (1996), Ptolemy and the Foundations of Ancient Mathematical Optics (1999), and, naturally, the three texts which contain the first six books of De Aspectibus.
A. Mark Smith has worked with the American Philosophical Society on Alhacen's De Aspectibus for 10 years. Alhacen's Theory of Visual Perception, which contained the first three books, was printed in 2001, Alhacen on the Principles of Reflection, which contained books four and five, was printed in 2006, and Alhacen on Image-Formation and Distortion in Mirrors, which contained book six, was printed in 2008. In this final publication, Alhacen on Refraction, which translates the seventh and final book of the De Aspectibus, Alhacen undertakes a comprehensive analysis of refraction, starting with the basic phenomenon and its underlying principles, and ending with an explanation of the apparent displacement and size-distortion of celestial bodies caused by atmospheric refraction. Certainly the most intriguing portion of the De Aspectibus, book seven is also the most problematic in terms of questionable theoretical suppositions and the logical inconsistencies that flow from them.
Mark Smith’s publication of the Latin version of Ibn al-Haytham's Optics is one of the great contributions to the history of science of our time. The edition is based upon an exhaustive examination of the manuscripts, the translation of the difficult, and at times obscure, text a model of clarity, and the introduction and commentary are exemplary in placing the work within the history of optics and explaining its technicalities and difficulties. This is a work of scholarship that will endure and be consulted for ages.
In 1935 the Society established the John Frederick Lewis Award with funds donated by his widow. The award recognizes the best book or monograph published by the Society in a given year. The selection committee consisted of Glen W. Bowersock (chair), Professor Emeritus of Ancient History, Institute for Advanced Study; Helen F. North, Centennial Professor Classics Emerita, Swarthmore College; and Noel M. Swerdlow, Professor Emeritus of Astronomy and Astrophysics and of History, University of Chicago.