PASSIMer of the month (Gustav)

PASSIMer of the month is Gustav Källstrand. Gustav has been a part of PASSIM since the very beginning and that first trip to Mundaneum in Mons. 

My main research interest is the cultural history of science, that is, how we ascribe meaning to scientific ideas and legitimacy to scientific institutions (and to the institution of science itself). Early on in my career I started looking at the Nobel Prize, since it is perhaps the most visible and prestigious cultural symbol of science, and have been so almost since its creation 120 years ago.

I work at the Nobel Prize Museum in Stockholm, an institution devoted to both conduct public outreach activities (exhibitions, lectures et c) about the prize, the laureates, and their work and to investigating the history of the prize. Earlier this year, I published a comprehensive study of the prize’s history during its first three decades, a period I consider to be formative both for the internal organization of the institution and for its relationship with the press. The book is in Swedish, but I have also published papers based on the underlying research – for example about the Nobel laureates as scientific celebrities.

In PASSIM, I work on a project looking at how the early Nobel committees in physics and chemistry valued practical usefulness when evaluating candidates for the prize. The founding document for the prize, the will of inventor Alfred Nobel, states that it should be awarded to those who had conferred the ”greatest benefit to humankind”. What I have been doing in the PASSIM project is to look at how this “benefit” was defined, especially with regards to the possible use of patents as documents to support candidates.

Working with the PASSIM-team is a great experience. Coming from a background in history of science, the perspective of patents and intellectual property more broadly has certainly made me think in new (for me) ways about how scientific ideas evolve and how legitimacy and recognition is bestowed on people. We always have great discussions, largely due to Eva’s social genius – she places us in great settings, both physically and intellectually, and makes it easy to think, discuss and raise questions. It also creates a sense of community, trust and working together towards a common goal.