Charles Singer

Charles Singer

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Charles Joseph Singer was a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 historian of science, technology, and medicine
History of science
The history of science is the study of the historical development of human understandings of the natural world and the domains of the social sciences....

.

Early years


Singer was born in Camberwell
Camberwell
Camberwell is a district of south London, England, and forms part of the London Borough of Southwark. It is a built-up inner city district located southeast of Charing Cross. To the west it has a boundary with the London Borough of Lambeth.-Toponymy:...

 in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, where his father Simeon Singer
Simeon Singer
Simeon Singer was a Jewish preacher, lecturer and public worker.He was born in London, and after a short stay at a Hungarian school, became a student at Jews' College, of which he was subsequently for a time the principal....

 was a minister and Hebraist. He was educated at City of London School
City of London School
The City of London School is a boys' independent day school on the banks of the River Thames in the City of London, England. It is the brother school of the City of London School for Girls and the co-educational City of London Freemen's School...

, University College London
University College London
University College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and the oldest and largest constituent college of the federal University of London...

, and Magdalen College, Oxford
Magdalen College, Oxford
Magdalen College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. As of 2006 the college had an estimated financial endowment of £153 million. Magdalen is currently top of the Norrington Table after over half of its 2010 finalists received first-class degrees, a record...

 (Zoology
Zoology
Zoology |zoölogy]]), is the branch of biology that relates to the animal kingdom, including the structure, embryology, evolution, classification, habits, and distribution of all animals, both living and extinct...

 1896-99, Honorary Fellow 1953). Trained in zoology and medicine, he qualified for medical practice in 1903. On the day when his medical qualification was announced he was appointed medical officer on an expedition led by Sir John Harrington to the border region between Abyssinia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

 and Sudan
Sudan
Sudan , officially the Republic of the Sudan , is a country in North Africa, sometimes considered part of the Middle East politically. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the...

. He returned to England and took a position at Sussex County Hospital
Royal Sussex County Hospital
The Royal Sussex County Hospital is an acute teaching hospital in Brighton, England. Together with the Princess Royal Hospital , it is administered by the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust...

 in Brighton
Brighton
Brighton is the major part of the city of Brighton and Hove in East Sussex, England on the south coast of Great Britain...

, and in 1907 left for Singapore
Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

. Forced to return to England on his father's death in 1908, he held positions at various hospitals in London until he moved to Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

 in 1914 to work with Sir William Osler (first Baronet)
William Osler
Sir William Osler, 1st Baronet was a physician. He was one of the "Big Four" founding professors at Johns Hopkins Hospital as the first Professor of Medicine and founder of the Medical Service there. Sir William Osler, 1st Baronet (July 12, 1849 – December 29, 1919) was a physician. He was...

, then Regius Professor
Regius Professor
Regius Professorships are "royal" professorships at the ancient universities of the United Kingdom and Ireland - namely Oxford, Cambridge, St Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Dublin. Each of the chairs was created by a monarch, and each appointment, save those at Dublin, is approved by the...

 of Medicine at the university
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

.

Later years


Singer was married in July 1910 to Dorothea Waley Cohen, distinguished in her own right as an historian of the Medieval period. She provided valuable assistance in his publications for the remainder of his life. In the period leading up to World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, Singer published several monographs, for which he was awarded the D.Litt.
Doctor of Letters
Doctor of Letters is a university academic degree, often a higher doctorate which is frequently awarded as an honorary degree in recognition of outstanding scholarship or other merits.-Commonwealth:...

 degree by Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

.

Singer accepted a commission as medical officer in the British Army
Royal Army Medical Corps
The Royal Army Medical Corps is a specialist corps in the British Army which provides medical services to all British Army personnel and their families in war and in peace...

 in 1916, first as a pathologist and then as part of an archeological expedition. At war's end, he returned to Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

 to lecture on the history of biology
History of science
The history of science is the study of the historical development of human understandings of the natural world and the domains of the social sciences....

. In 1920 he was appointed to a lectureship in the history of medicine
History of science
The history of science is the study of the historical development of human understandings of the natural world and the domains of the social sciences....

 at University College
University College London
University College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and the oldest and largest constituent college of the federal University of London...

 of the University of London
University of London
-20th century:Shortly after 6 Burlington Gardens was vacated, the University went through a period of rapid expansion. Bedford College, Royal Holloway and the London School of Economics all joined in 1900, Regent's Park College, which had affiliated in 1841 became an official divinity school of the...

. His reputation extended beyond England, and in 1929 he accepted an invitation to lecture at Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University
The Johns Hopkins University, commonly referred to as Johns Hopkins, JHU, or simply Hopkins, is a private research university based in Baltimore, Maryland, United States...

 to be conducted the following year. Johns Hopkins
Johns Hopkins University
The Johns Hopkins University, commonly referred to as Johns Hopkins, JHU, or simply Hopkins, is a private research university based in Baltimore, Maryland, United States...

 was also interested in offering him a permanent post, but their delay allowed the University of London
University of London
-20th century:Shortly after 6 Burlington Gardens was vacated, the University went through a period of rapid expansion. Bedford College, Royal Holloway and the London School of Economics all joined in 1900, Regent's Park College, which had affiliated in 1841 became an official divinity school of the...

 to award him an honorary chair, which he accepted. By the time Johns Hopkins
Johns Hopkins University
The Johns Hopkins University, commonly referred to as Johns Hopkins, JHU, or simply Hopkins, is a private research university based in Baltimore, Maryland, United States...

 made their formal offer, he was satisfied with his position in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 and declined their offer. The Singers spent time in Berkeley
University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley , is a teaching and research university established in 1868 and located in Berkeley, California, USA...

 where Charles spent three months as a visiting lecturer at the University of California
University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley , is a teaching and research university established in 1868 and located in Berkeley, California, USA...

, after which they returned home to London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

. He was invited again by the University of California at Berkeley
University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley , is a teaching and research university established in 1868 and located in Berkeley, California, USA...

 to lecture in 1932, an occasion that the Singers used to circle the globe going westward, spending about sixteen months away from England. On their return, Singer resumed his post at UCL
University College London
University College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and the oldest and largest constituent college of the federal University of London...

, where he remained until his retirement in 1942. His last great publication before retirement was A Short History of Scientific Ideas to 1900.

Retirement was not idle for the Singers. Charles continued research into various topics and published several noteworthy books, including editing the monumental A History of Technology
History of technology
The history of technology is the history of the invention of tools and techniques, and is similar in many ways to the history of humanity. Background knowledge has enabled people to create new things, and conversely, many scientific endeavors have become possible through technologies which assist...

, which was released in five volumes between 1954 and 1958, Galen
Galen
Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus , better known as Galen of Pergamon , was a prominent Roman physician, surgeon and philosopher...

 on Anatomical Procedures, and A History of Biology. Numerous articles were also published in this period, some of which remain important. He died in Par, Cornwall
Par, Cornwall
Par is a town and fishing port with a harbour on the south coast of Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. The town is situated in the civil parish of Tywardreath and Par and is approximately east of St Austell. Par has a population of around 1,400.....

.

Award and recognitions


Charles Singer's life was complemented by numerous awards, honors, and positions of leadership. Among these were an honorary degree (D.Sc.)
Doctor of Science
Doctor of Science , usually abbreviated Sc.D., D.Sc., S.D. or Dr.Sc., is an academic research degree awarded in a number of countries throughout the world. In some countries Doctor of Science is the name used for the standard doctorate in the sciences, elsewhere the Sc.D...

 from Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

, the Sarton Medal
George Sarton Medal
The George Sarton Medal is the most prestigious award given by the History of Science Society. It has been awarded annually since 1955. It is awarded to an historian of science from the international community who became distinguished for "a lifetime of scholarly achievement" in the field...

 from the History of Science Society
History of Science Society
The History of Science Society is the primary professional society for the academic study of the history of science.It was founded in 1924 by George Sarton and Lawrence Joseph Henderson, primarily to support the publication of Isis, a journal of the history of science Sarton had started in 1912....

, and terms of presidency of several societies, including the British Society of the History of Medicine (1946-1948) and the International Union for the History of Science (1947).

Partial bibliography

  • From Magic to Science: Essays on the Scientific Twilight (1928)
  • A Short History of Science to the Nineteenth Century (1941)
  • As editor, A History of Technology (5 vols, between 1954 and 1958), together with Eric John Holmyard
    Eric John Holmyard
    Eric John Holmyard was an English science teacher at Clifton College, and historian of science and technology.-Scholar:His scholarly work included rectification of accounts of the history of alchemy, particularly in relation with Islamic science. He translated texts from Arabic and Latin, and...

    and A.R. Hall.
  • Galen on Anatomical Procedures (1956)
  • A History of Biology to About the Year 1900 (1959)
  • Greek Biology & Greek Medicine, Chapters in the History of Science, Clarendon Press, 1922.