International on-line workshop Observing, sensing, detecting

Observing, sensing, detecting

Toward a multi-layered picture of the Universe

from historical and epistemological perspectives 

International on-line workshop
4-5 February 2021

Organized by the Italian Society for the History of Physics and Astronomy (SISFA),

with the endorsement of Commission C3 History of Astronomy of IAU and of History of Physics Group of the European Physical Society

During the twentieth century, the opening of new observational windows has unveiled a broad range of astrophysical sources, environments and phenomena, also probing the earliest moments of our Universe and its dark side. The brand-new field of gravitational-wave astronomy – together with electromagnetic telescopes, and neutrino and cosmic-ray detectors – are now offering the opportunity to explore the Universe through multiple kinds of messengers, allowing to address a number of fundamental questions and to peer further in its origin, evolution and future.

The ushering of this new era brings to the fore the need for a wide-ranging historical and epistemological analysis on the birth and development of multi-wavelength astronomy, up to the inauguration of multi-messenger observation of the cosmos. The processes that have shaped the new astronomies have seen the emergence of new fields of research and new forms of scientific collaboration, often at the interface of different disciplines and skills. Although several historians of science and scientists have provided historical analyses and reviews concerning various aspects of these processes, a coordinated study is now desirable that puts the global evolution of new astronomies in a general and long-term perspective.

Thanks to the participation of numerous scholars engaged on these fronts of historical-scientific research, the workshop will address such a goal by bringing together a broad range of topics. In particular: the entanglement between the emergence of ever more precise questions and the development of cutting-edge technologies, the contamination between different scientific fields and communities, the transition to Big Science, the evolving nature of international collaborations and their changing geopolitical scenarios.

The final round table, at 18:45 CET on 5 February, will be a very special opportunity for discussion with some of the leading experts in their respective fields: Barry Barish (University of California, Riverside), Reinhard Genzel (Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching), Malcolm Longair (Cambridge University), Christian Spiering (DESY), Alan Watson (University of Leeds).

The entire program is available at . The link to access the workshop will be freely available at the same link starting from January 25.

Further information can be requested by writing to:, and

Organizing Committee: Luisa Bonolis, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Roberto Lalli, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Adele La Rana, University of California Riverside; University of Verona