Albert Einstein once said that nature is astonishing because it is comprehensible—“Das ewig Unbegreifliche an der Welt ist ihre Begreiflichkeit”—and his insight applies, I think, just as much to human history. It is astonishing that we can comprehend the depths of humanity as well as we can.
I am a member of the University of Oklahoma’s Department of History of Science faculty and edit the Isis Bibliography of the History of Science, a 100-year-old reference resource. Since 1915 this project is available as an open access search service containing citations going back to the early 1970s: IsisCB Explore. In addition, the digitized volumes of the Isis Cumulative Bibliography of the History of Science covering the period 1913 to 1975 can be found at Isis CB Cumulative.
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. My manuscript, The Scientific Spirit of American Humanism, is under contract with Johns Hopkins Press.
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.
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.
The header image of my site is from Wikipedia, the most amazing open resource for knowledge that has arisen in the 21st century. The card catalog drawers shown here are the bibliographic index card drawers that were used in the Mundaneum, an early 20th century effort to create a Universal Bibliographical System, the physical parts of which are at Mundaneum in Mons, Belgium.
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.