Case study: Cosmin Koszor Codrea

I am a doctoral student in the School of History, Philosophy and Culture at Oxford Brookes University. My thesis focus on the reception and popularization of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in Romania between 1860 and 1918. It also engages with the intertwined relationship between the history of science popularization journals and the public debates of Darwinism with a special focus on the social, political and scientific outcomes.

A plate reproducing the sketch made by Gregoriu Ștefănescu (1836-1911) after some locals discovered fossils of a Proboscidian Mastodon in Romania in 1889. The mammal was eventually renamed by Ștefănescu as Dinontherium Gigantissimum Stef. Anuarul Museului de Geologie și Paleontologie, 1895-1896. [Yearbook of Geology and Paleontology Museum].

Project Summary “The Word of Science: The Popularization of Darwinism in Romania, c. 1860-1918”

My Royal Society project explored the relationship between the practice of knowledge exchange and strategies of science popularization carried by Romanian naturalists and various intellectuals. In doing so I have traced the printing politics of various journals such as Isis or Nature (1856), The Scientific Review (1870), and The Contemporary (1880). 

After numerous trips to various archives, I discovered the ‘presubscriptions lists’ of the first popularization journal that introduced Darwinism in Romania during the 1860s. In my opinion, these lists are crucial for understanding both a journal lifespan and the editor’s strategies of periodical circulation throughout the public domain. On the other hand, scientific correspondence was extremely important in establishing new networks and popularizing ideas. Hence, spending research within the Romanian Academy Library from Bucharest, I have come across a letter Charles Darwin (1809-1882) sent to Romanian evolutionist philosopher Vasile Conta (1845-1882), which showed how international exchanges of letters facilitated feedback between intellectuals and established scientists. Equally important for popularizing Darwinism in Romania were the appearance of anarchist’s networks, which placed science at the core of their cultural propaganda. Within these debates, their role was important in many ways, as part of their journals not only reached a tremendous numbers of readers, but also influenced the appearance of a new tradition of Romanian evolutionist scientists. Finally, my research also revealed the emergence of a critical public sphere. While official scientists such as Gregoriu Ștefănescu (1836-1911) were involved in the geological mapping of the Romanian Principalities and communicated paleontological discoveries to International Congresses, the appearance of critical articles were no longer passive to his practice of plagiarism and monopolizing scientific disciplines and geological research.

Research activity

The grant funding enabled me to travel for several months and conduct research in Romania at the National Archives in Craiova and Bucharest, as well as the most important Central University Libraries from Bucharest, Iași, Cluj-Napoca and the Craiova County Library Alexandru și Aristia Aman. Hence I would like to thank all the librarians and archivists for their precious guidance. 

Research outputs

Undertaking this research permitted me to participate with communications to various conferences and eventually to publish two articles focusing on the history of science popularization and scientific racism in Romania. Taking this opportunity to investigate the history of Romanian engagement with Darwinism, I have managed to understand how scientific enterprise worked at the margins of the European periphery. This kind of approach revealed not only the interconnectedness between the political and scientific construction of knowledge, but it gave me a glimpse of the cultural hegemony of certain scientists on public opinions.

Currently I am collaborating with a team of historians, sociologists, librarians, geologists, and botanists. We aim to create the first digital archive of Romanian History of Science, an online project that will bring together for the first time the most important scientific and popularization periodical journals that were published in Romania between 1830 and 1918.