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The Society for the History of Discoveries Student Prize Essay Contest

The Society for the History of Discoveries announces the 2015 essay contest for the Society for the History of Discoveries Student Prize. Founded in 1960, the purpose of the Society is to stimulate teaching, research, and publishing in the history of geographical exploration. We now call for research papers on voyages, travels, biography, history, cartography, the technologies of travel, the impact of travel and cross-cultural contact, and other aspects of geographic discovery. The primary purpose is to enlighten the reader about some aspect of the exploration of our physical world.

Josephine Benson was selected as the 2014 SHD Essay Contest winner for her essay titled "New Worlds, New Germs: The Role of European Expansion in the Development of Germ Theory."  Josephine is a rising sophomore at Brown University. She intends to concentrate in Science and Society, focusing on both geochemistry and science policy and communications. At Brown, she writes for SciToons, a project that produces short educational animations for high school students and the medical school alumni magazine--Brown Medicine Magazine.  Over the summer 2014, Josephine is working at the National Youth Science Camp as the office manager and for SmarterSchools LLC, a educational non-profit focused on improving STEM and project-based learning in Ohio schools. Her essay, entitled "New World, New Germs: The Role of European Expansion in the Development of Germ Theory," was written for the class "On the Dawn of Modernity," which was taught by Professor Onésimo Almeida. She hopes to continue studying the historical development of the sciences and apply it to current-day policy.  Congratulations to the winner and thanks to all the students who entered the contest.

Who is Eligible:  Students from any part of the globe currently enrolled in a college or university degree program and who will not have received a doctoral degree prior to 15 May 2015.Note:  Graduating high school or college students accepted into a program but who do not begin classes until fall are not eligible.

The Research Paper:  An eligible research paper shall be original and unpublished, writing in English, and of no more than 8,000 words, including footnotes or endnotes.  Papers written for college or university class assignments are encouraged.  A reasonable amount of illustrative and tabular material will be welcome, but is not required. 
      Paper formatting:  The paper should be typed using a standard serif font (Times, Palatino, Century) and double-spaced.  All pages should be numbered in the upper right hand corner.  All papers should include either endnotes or footnotes.  Papers should nothave parenthetical references, that is, citation information in parentheses in the body of the paper.  Do not include your name anywhere but on the cover sheet.
      Cover Sheet:  All papers must have a cover sheet that includes the following information:  full name, postal address, e-mail address, phone number, the name of the college or university you attend, your academic department, and your current student status – for example:  2nd year undergraduate; 1st year MA; PhD candidate; ABD.

SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS: Essays must be postmarked on or before May 15, 2015.

Submission Deadline:  15 May 2015
Electronic submissions only to:
Dr. Marguerite Ragnow, committee chair: 
Subject line:  SHD Student Prize

Questions?  Contact Dr. Ragnow at or 612-624-6895 (US phone #)

Evaluation Criteria:

All papers will be evaluated by a panel of judges from the Society for the History of Discoveries. The panel’s decision will be final and will be announced on the SHD website after June 1, 2015.  The committee reserves the right to award no prize based on the quality of the submissions, and in the event of a tie, the committee may decide to award two prizes.

Specific criteria:
•    Originality
•    Contribution to new knowledge or insights
•    Relevance to the subject
•    Cogency of the argument and appropriateness of the documentation
•    Quality of writing (including grammar and spelling, as well as style)

    Note:  Submissions will be disqualified if a) the author is not eligible per the criteria noted above; b) the paper is not relevant to the history of discoveries as outlined above or to the general history of geographic exploration; c) the ideas and quotations in the paper that are not the authors’ are not adequately cited (footnotes/endnotes).

The awardee will receive a prize of $600.00 (US) and will be invited to make an oral presentation about the paper at the annual meeting of the Society for the History of Discoveries.  The 2015 conference will be held in London, July 8-11.  Information about participation in the conference will be provided to the awardee upon notification of the award.  Acceptance of the prize is not contingent upon your ability to attend the conference.  Additionally, the awardee will be invited to submit the winning paper to the society’s peer-reviewed journal, Terrae Incognitae, for which it will undergo the usual review process prior to formal acceptance for publication.

Recent Prize Awardees & Their Papers:

2014  Josephine Benson (Brown University), “New Worlds, New Germs: The Role of European Expansion in the Development of Germ Theory.”
2013  Joshua Michael Marcotte (University of Minnesota), “Culture, Contact and the Agency of Appropriation in a 1741 Map of Nagasaki.” Published in Terrae Incognitae46.1 (2014).
2012  Justin T. Dellinger (University of Texas, Arlington), “La Balise: A Transimperial Focal Point.”

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