About me

Portrait of Chaokang

I am a historian of science working as lecturer in academic skills and philosophy of science for the bachelor Physics and Astronomy at the University of Amsterdam. My main interest as a historical researcher is on the development of astronomy during the late nineteenth and twentieth century, where I focuses on how astronomical knowledge was produced by astronomers, how they developed and used photographic techniques, and how they reflected on what it meant to be a scientist during this period.

My current project, “Producing Astrophotographic Knowledge: On the Application of Glass Plate Photography at Dutch Observatories, 1900 – 1950”, investigates the material history of astrophotography at the Leiden Observatory, the Kapteyn Laboratory in Groningen, and the Astronomical Institute in Amsterdam. This research was initiated when I started as postdoctoral researcher at the University of Regensburg in the DFG project `Astronomy’s Glass Archive: Photographic Practices at the Observatory, 1850-1950’. In this research, I trace the entire astrophotographic process – including how photographic plates were taken, stored, transported, measured, and reduced – and highlight the labour involved in these steps. Moveover, since the majority of the plates measured and reduced in the Netherlands were taken abroad, I also explore how the Dutch observatories attempted and sometimes failed to set up collaborations with colonial observatories in the Global South.

My PhD research was conducted at the University of Amsterdam, for which I investigated the scientific research of the influential Marxist and astronomer Anton Pannekoek. During this research, I focused on Pannekoek’s implementation of astrophotography, the epistemic virtues he pursued in his research, and the relation between his scientific methodology and his political philosophy. I have also taught various classes, including the graduate course Philosophy of Science and the undergraduate course History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Amsterdam, and the undergraduate course History of Modern Physics at Utrecht University.

Recent publications include Anton Pannekoek: Photography, Epistemic Virtues, and Political Philosophy in Early-Twentieth Century Astronomy (PhD dissertation, University of Amsterdam, 2021; Anton Pannekoek: Ways of Viewing Science and Society (Amsterdam University Press, 2019), edited with Bart van der Steen and Jeroen van Dongen; and “Left Radicalism and the Milky Way: Connecting the Scientific and Socialist Virtues of Anton Pannekoek” in Historical Studies of the Natural Sciences 47 (2017): 200-254.