Dr Noah Moxham

Postdoctoral Research Associate

About

Dr Noah Moxham's PhD investigated the administrative cultures of the early Royal Society, and the various strategies of publication it experimented with in establishing and maintaining an institutional identity. 

Research interests

Since gaining his PhD, Noah has worked on the Leverhulme Networks project 'News Networks in Early Modern Europe'. More generally, Noah is interested in the histories of early modern science, of the book (especially periodical and ephemeral literature), news and correspondence networks, and the practices of scholarly communication. 

Noah was a Research Fellow on the AHRC project 'Publishing the Philosophical Transactions, 1665-2015: the social, cultural and economic history of a learned journal' and is currently a postdoctoral researcher on the Leverhulme-funded project 'Metropolitan Science: Places, Objects and Cultures of Practice and Knowledge in London, 1600-1800' (in partnership with the Science Museum). 

He is also developing a comparative history of natural-historical publishing projects in early modern Britain and France.

Publications

Article

  • Moxham, N. (2019). Natural Knowledge, Inc.: The Royal Society as a Metropolitan Corporation. Britiah Journal for the History of Science [Online] 52. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007087419000190.
    This article attempts to think through the logic and distinctiveness of the early Royal Society's position as a metropolitan knowledge community and chartered corporation, and the links between these aspects of its being. Among the knowledge communities of Restoration London it is one of the best known and most studied, but also one of the least typical and in many respects one of the least coherent. It was also quite unlike the chartered corporations of the City of London, exercising almost none of their ordinary functions and being granted very limited power and few responsibilities. I explore the society's imaginative and material engagements with longer-established corporate bodies, institutions and knowledge communities, and show how those encounters repeatedly reshaped the early society's internal organization, outward conduct and self-understanding. Building on fundamental work by Michael Hunter, Adrian Johns, Lisa Jardine and Jim Bennett, and new archival evidence, I examine the importance of the city to the society's foundational rhetoric and the shifting orientation of its search for patronage, the development of its charter, and how it learned to interpret the limits and possibilities of its privileges through its encounters with other chartered bodies, emphasizing the contingent nature of its early development.
  • Moxham, N. and Fyfe, A. (2018). The Royal Society and the prehistory of peer review 1665-1965. The Historical Journal [Online] 61:863-889. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0018246X17000334.
    Despite being coined only in the early 1970s, ‘peer review’ has become a powerful rhetorical concept in modern academic discourse, tasked with ensuring the reliability and reputation of scholarly research. Its origins have commonly been dated to the foundation of the Philosophical Transactions in 1665, or to early learned societies more generally, with little consideration of the intervening historical development. It is clear from our analysis of the Royal Society's editorial practices from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries that the function of refereeing, and the social and intellectual meaning associated with scholarly publication, has historically been quite different from the function and meaning now associated with peer review. Refereeing emerged as part of the social practices associated with arranging the meetings and publications of gentlemanly learned societies in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Such societies had particular needs for processes that, at various times, could create collective editorial responsibility, protect institutional finances, and guard the award of prestige. The mismatch between that context and the world of modern, professional, international science, helps to explain some of the accusations now being levelled against peer review as not being ‘fit for purpose’.
  • Fyfe, A. and Moxham, N. (2016). Making public ahead of print: Meetings and publications at the Royal Society, 1752–1892. Notes and Records: the Royal Society journal of the history of science [Online] 70:361-379. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1098/rsnr.2016.0030.
    This essay examines the interplay between the meetings and publications of learned scientific societies during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when journals were an established but not yet dominant form of scholarly communication. The ‘making public’ of research at meetings, long before actual ‘publication’ in society periodicals, enabled a complex of more or less formal sites of communication and discussion ahead of print. Using two case studies from the Royal Society of London—Jan Ingen-Housz in 1782 and John Tyndall in 1857 to 1858—we reveal how different individuals navigated and exploited the power structures, social activities and seasonal rhythms of learned societies, all necessary precursors to gaining admission to the editorial processes of society journals, and trace the shifting significance of meetings in the increasingly competitive and diverse realm of Victorian scientific publishing. We conclude by reflecting on the implications of these historical perspectives for current discussions of the ‘ends’ of the scientific journal.
  • Moxham, N. (2016). An experimental ’Life’ for an experimental life: Richard Waller’s biography of Robert Hooke (1705). British Journal for the History of Science [Online] 49:27-51. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0007087416000029.
    Richard Waller's 'Life of Dr Robert Hooke', prefixed to his edition of Hooke's Posthumous Works (1705), is an important source for the life of one of the most eminent members of the early Royal Society. It also has the distinction of being one of the earliest biographies of a man of science to be published in English. I argue that it is in fact the first biography to embrace the subject's natural-philosophical work as the centre of his life, and I investigate Waller's reasons for adopting this strategy and his struggle with the problem of how to represent an early experimental philosopher in print. I suggest that Waller eschews the 'Christian philosopher' tradition of contemporary biography - partly because of the unusually diverse and fragmentary nature of Hooke's intellectual output - and draws instead upon the structure of the Royal Society's archive as a means of organizing and understanding Hooke's life. The most quoted phrase from Waller's biography is that Hooke became 'to a crime close and reserved' in later life; this essay argues that Waller's biographical sketch was fashioned in order to undo the effects of that reserve. In modelling his approach very closely on the structure of the society's records he was principally concerned with making Hooke's work and biography accessible, intelligible and useful to the fellowship in a context familiar to them, a context which had provided the institutional framework for most of Hooke's adult life. I argue that Waller's 'Life' was also intended to make the largest claims for Hooke's intellectual standing that the author dared in the context of the enmity between Hooke and Isaac Newton once the latter became president of the Royal Society. However, I also adduce fresh manuscript evidence that Waller actually compiled, but did not publish, a defence of Hooke's claim to have discovered the inverse square law of gravity, allowing us to glimpse a much more assertive biography of Hooke than the published version.
  • Moxham, N. (2015). Fit for print: developing an institutional model of scientific periodical publishing in England, 1665–ca. 1714. Notes and Records: the Royal Society journal of the history of science [Online] 69:241-260. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1098/rsnr.2015.0035.
    This paper explores the contested afterlife of Philosophical Transactions following the death of its founder, Henry Oldenburg. It investigates the complex interrelation between the institution and the periodical at a time when the latter was supposedly independent, and outlines the competing proposals for institutional publishing in science contemplated in the Royal Society, linking some publications that were actually attempted to those proposals and to the Society's attempts to revitalize its experimental programme between 1677 and 1687. It argues that the Society was concerned to produce experimental natural knowledge over which it could claim ownership, and intended this work for publication in other venues than Transactions, whereas the periodical was seen as a more suitable site for work reported to the Society than for research that the institution had primarily produced. It was only from the early 1690s, after the collapse of the Society's experimental programme, that Transactions gradually became a more straightforward reflection of the mainstream of Royal Society activity, paving the way for its formal reinvention as the official publication of the Society in 1752.
  • Fyfe, A., McDougall-Waters, J. and Moxham, N. (2015). 350 years of scientific periodicals. Notes and Records: the Royal Society journal of the history of science [Online] 69:227-239. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1098/rsnr.2015.0036.
  • Moxham, N. (2012). Edward Tyson’s Phocaena: a case study in the institutional context of scientific publishing. Notes and Records of the Royal Society [Online] 66:235-252. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1098/rsnr.2012.0014.
    This article argues that the prefatory essay to Edward Tyson's 1680 pamphlet Phocaena deliberately sets in opposition English and French institutional models of scientific investigation and publication. Tyson took account of Mémoires pour Servir à l'Histoire Naturelle des Animaux, produced by the Académie Royale des Sciences in Paris, which was implicitly contrasted with Tyson's own investigations and his plans to extend them. Tyson used the contrast both to frame the Royal Society in terms of an ideal of open collaboration and as a means of demonstrating his independence of action. I suggest that Phocaena may be used to illuminate contemporary anxieties about the merits of ephemeral formats for research in natural philosophy, the desirability and the burden of royal patronage, and the fluidity of the Royal Society's experimental and publishing procedures in the wake of Henry Oldenburg's death. Finally, I examine how superficially similar courses of collaborative investigation could be shaped to very different ends and outcomes by their institutional contexts.

Book section

  • Moxham, N. (2016). Authors, Editors and Newsmongers: Form and Genre in the Philosophical Transactions under Henry Oldenburg. In: Raymond, J. and Moxham, N. eds. News Networks in Early Modern Europe. Brill, pp. 465-492. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004277199_021.
  • Schobesberger, N., Arblaster, P., Infelise, M., Belo, A., Moxham, N., Espejo, C. and Raymond, J. (2016). European Postal Networks. In: Raymond, J. and Moxham, N. eds. News Networks in Early Modern Europe. Brill, pp. 17-63. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004277199_003.
  • Raymond, J. and Moxham, N. (2016). News Networks in Early Modern Europe. In: Raymond, J. and Moxham, N. eds. News Networks in Early Modern Europe. Brill, pp. 1-16. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004277199_002.
  • Arblaster, P., Belo, A., Espejo, C., Haffemayer, S., Infelise, M., Moxham, N., Raymond, J. and Schobesberger, N. (2016). The Lexicons of Early Modern News. In: Raymond, J. and Moxham, N. eds. News Networks in Early Modern Europe. Brill, pp. 64-101. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004277199_004.

Edited book

  • Moxham, N. (2016). News Networks in Early Modern Europe. [Online]. Vol. 47. Raymond, J. and Moxham, N. eds. Brill. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/9789004277199.
    News Networks in Early Modern Europe attempts to redraw the history of European news communication in the 16th and 17th centuries. News is defined partly by movement and circulation, yet histories of news have been written overwhelmingly within national contexts. This volume of essays explores the notion that early modern European news, in all its manifestations – manuscript, print, and oral – is fundamentally transnational.
    These 37 essays investigate the language, infrastructure, and circulation of news across Europe. They range from the 15th to the 18th centuries, and from the Ottoman Empire to the Americas, focussing on the mechanisms of transmission, the organisation of networks, the spread of forms and modes of news communication, and the effects of their translation into new locales and languages.

Monograph

  • Fyfe, A., Coate, K., Curry, S., Lawson, S., Moxham, N. and Mork Rostvik, C. (2017). Untangling Academic Publishing: A History of the Relationship Between Commercial Interests, Academic Prestige and the Circulation of Research. Zenodo. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.546100.

Review

  • Moxham, N. (2018). Where to start and where to end up: Early modern knowledge-making from wish-list to notebook to archive. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences [Online] 68-69:83-87. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.shpsc.2018.04.006.
  • Moxham, N. (2016). Michael Hunter, Boyle Studies: Aspects of the Life and Thought of Robert Boyle (1627–91). Farnham: Ashgate, 2015. Pp. 266. ISBN 978-1-4724-2810-3. £63.00 (hardcover). The British Journal for the History of Science [Online] 49:481-482. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1017/s0007087416000741.
  • Moxham, N. (2015). Publishing Business in Eighteenth-Century England. By James Raven. Woodbridge, U.K.: Boydell & Brewer, 2014. xiv + 334 pp. Bibliography, notes, index. Paper, $29.95. ISBN: 978-1-84383-910-1. Business History Review [Online] 89:374-376. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1017/s0007680515000525.
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