The exhibition in the Huygens Building highlights the non-Western roots of science

The exhibition in the Huygens Building highlights the non-Western roots of science

Students Manon Lamboie and Tegan Wilkinson return with a new exhibition in the Huygens Building Library. Through their exhibition “Global Knowledge Traditions,” they highlight the rich and diverse contributions of non-Western traditions to science.

In the corner of the Science Library, the library in the Higgins Building, are two display cabinets containing about fifty books and objects. They show how Islamic astronomers and African agricultural scientists, among others, helped shape the world of science. Nestled among the pieces are maps of the ancient world, a Chinese compass and an abacus, which together illustrate the rich exchange between cultures and have contributed to scientific achievements.

Photo: Didi van der Vleuten

With this show called global knowledge traditions, Students Manon Lamboie (History and Philosophy) and Tegan Wilkinson (Biology) want to emphasize why it is important to acknowledge and appreciate the non-Western roots of science. “Western science offers one approach to knowledge, but it is not the only approach. Sometimes it is pretended that Western science is the only truth, while scientific discoveries also appear in places you do not expect.

A few books

While selecting books, Manon discovered that there were many knowledge gaps at the university. “For example, the library has a few books on African science. And that actually says enough. She believes that this lack of sources reflects a broader historical neglect of non-Western contributions to science.”

The exhibition follows a previous exhibition on female scientists, which Tegan said clearly overlaps with the current theme. “Both women and indigenous cultures are often considered irrelevant to science, even though both have done essential work.”

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Manon gives an example of this: “Some of the tools used in the West in the fifteenth century had been developed much earlier in other parts of the world. Yet the West often acknowledges this. Students see progress: “More and more people are realizing how important it is to tell these stories.”

Photo: Didi van der Vleuten

The students did not have an easy task in putting together their exhibit. “Non-Western ways of thinking are too diverse to be summed up under one heading. The distinction between ‘Western’ and ‘non-Western’ is of people’s own making. We often forget that ‘non-Western’ actually includes the rest of the world,” the students assert. He stressed the importance of recognizing the value of scientific traditions around the world. “By doing so, we can learn more not only about science itself, but also about how we approach and evaluate science.”

Impotence

However, the lack of exposure to non-Western traditions is due more to inability than unwillingness, students believe. After all, it takes a lot of time, money and resources to look beyond Western science. Sometimes, there are no ways to explore other perspectives.

Manon and Tegan hope to contribute to this through their exhibition. They hope visitors will come to the exhibition with an open mind, but also with questions and a curious mind. “It’s important to broaden your perspective and learn from other traditions outside of your own,” Tegan says.

The Manon and Tijanes exhibition can be viewed at the Science Library until November 1st.

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