I am an associate professor in the University of Oklahoma’s Department of History of Science and editor of the Isis Bibliography of the History of Science. My book The Scientific Spirit of American Humanism will be published in October of 2020 by Johns Hopkins Press. You can find it at Johns Hopkins University Press (with a 30% discount using discount code HTWN), Barnes and Noble, or Amazon.
My primary historical interests lie in the ways that science and society have intersected in the modern era, especially with regard to religion and irreligion. My extensive study of the history of American humanism (sometimes called religious humanism, scientific humanism, or secular humanism) has forced me to think about what it means to be religious in the modern world and to what extent being scientific is also a religious-like endeavor for some people.
I have studied both Western and non-Western religious forms, and I have paid close attention to the intersection between Western science and the religious and philosophical thought of the East. Recently, I have also begun a more detailed study of religion and the environment from different religious perspectives. My classes on religion and science explore especially resonant moments at that intersection, points at which scientists, philosophers, and religious thinkers all come together in an effort to understand the human condition.
Bibliographical and digital humanities work
In addition to my historical research, as editor of the Isis Current Bibliography, I collect and manage the discipline’s oldest and largest bibliographical database. The IsisCB as it is commonly known, was begun by the distinguished historian of science, George Sarton in 1913. Over the years, Sarton and subsequent editors cited and classified more than two hundred thousand items, and now the entire set of bibliographical data can be found in a few different places online.
In 2015, I opened up an open access search service for all of the data going back to the early 1970s: IsisCB Explore. In addition, I have mounted the complete set of digitized volumes of the Isis Cumulative Bibliography of the History of Science covering the period 1913 to 1975 as a series of large searchable HTML pages. This can be found at Isis CB Cumulative.
My years at OU have introduced me to a number of exciting interdisciplinary collaborations. In 2007, I chaired a faculty planning group to organize campus-wide lectures and exhibits during the 2009 commemorative year celebrating the birth of Charles Darwin and his influence, past and present. Recently, I have participated in a study group composed of faculty from across the university in a discussion about human habitation and the Anthropocene Era.
I also study the transformation of scholarship in what is being called the digital humanities. My work on the Isis Bibliography has helped me to discovery, as a practitioner, how new technologies are transforming scholarship, enabled by the ease of worldwide communication, massive data retrieval tools, and unprecedented computing power.
In 2014, I and two co-PIs, received an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grant to transform the Isis Bibliography into a cutting-edge research and discovery tool. As part of this effort, I am learning how to build and use new data analysis tools in order to conceptualize new sorts of scholarship that will utilize this data.
One of the things that has inspired me is the transformational nature of the internet. We all know Wikipedia, one of the most amazing open resources for knowledge in the 21st century. Before the internet and Wikipedia there was the Mundaneum, an early 20th century effort to create a Universal Bibliographical System, based on the ideas of a telephone bank and a physical card catalog. This vision has been around for a long time.
I live in Norman, Oklahoma. In addition to my academic work, I also manage a website (philipwprugh.com) that features the work of my grandfather, an illustrator and painter, who lived in Xenia, Ohio.