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Reflections and Reassessments


By Thomas L. Goldstein
Abstract of paper delivered at the
1980 Annual Meeting of the Society for the History of Discoveries
Columbus, Ohio

This paper is an attempt to assess the contribution of the Society to American scholarship in the twenty years since the Society was first conceived, over a bottle of wine in a Lisbon restaurant.

Internally – we have had fun!  We have known professional friendships, shared a specialized interest, have been a critical audience for each other’s work, grown older together and welcomed new and younger colleagues who keep us vital and fresh.  We have been open, both in a membership embracing academics and interested non-professionals - amateurs in the good and literal sense – and open in our reception to the new ideas and possibilities and a willingness to explore untested ideas.

Externally – we can claim to have had an impact on scholarship.  A casual sampling:  we are the only society concerned with the history of discovery and exploration that offers the forum of annual meetings and issues a journal; our members read papers at major international conferences; they give distinguished annual lectures, contribute to scholarly journals, and receive awards for outstanding contributions in their fields.  Through these activities we have worked to overcome the isolation of American scholarship.

And what we, individually, will remember are those inspired, spontaneous moments when a paper provokes illuminating comment, or a luncheon conversation suddenly becomes a sparkling debate.  Such occasions may be the indicators of our true success.

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