About

Chaokang TaiI am a historian of science working as a PhD researcher at the University of Amsterdam. My main interest is in late modern science, especially astronomy, and especially what it means and takes to be a scientist during this period. In my research, I explore what scientists believed science was, how they thought it should be conducted,  and what they considered the place of science in wider society.

The subject of my current research is the influential Marxist and astronomer Anton Pannekoek, who was one of the theoretical leaders of the international socialist movement and the founder of the Astronomical Institute in Amsterdam that now carries his name. The goal of my research is twofold. First of all, it is to investigate Pannekoek’s contributions to astronomy and situate his research within the developments of astronomy during the first half of the twentieth century. Secondly, it is to recover the intricate connections that existed between the scientific and socialist research of Pannekoek, connections that he himself outwardly denied. I search for these connections by uncovering Pannekoek’s epistemic virtues through a reconstruction of his scholarly persona in both socialism and astronomy. Both his epistemic virtues and his scientific persona were strongly influenced by the philosophical context of Marxism, to which he contributed, and the practical reality of being an astronomer without an observatory in a time when astrophotography, astrophysics, and international collaboration increasingly became common place.

This project is funded by:
Institute for Theoretical Physics Amsterdam, University of Amsterdam
Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy, University of Amsterdam
Descartes Center for the History and Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities
Stiching Pieter Zeeman Fonds