Thomas F. Glick

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Thomas F. Glick (born January 28, 1939) is an American academic who taught in the departments of history and gastronomy at Boston University from 1972 to 2012. He served as the history department's chairperson from 1984 to 1989, and again from 1994 to 1995. He has also been the director of the Institute for Medieval History at Boston University since 1998. Dr. Glick's course offerings for the history department covered the topics of medieval Spain, medieval science and medieval technology, and the history of modern science. For the gastronomy department he taught a number of classes, including Readings in Food History, Readings in Wine History and has designed a class on using cookbooks as primary resources. He is currently the director of the Shtetl Economic History Project and is a corresponding member of Reial Acadèmia de Bones Lletres de Barcelona, an honorary member of Sociedad Mexicana de Historia de la Ciencia, and holds membership in the History of Science Society, the Society for the History of Technology, Sociedad Española de Historia de la Ciencia, Societat Catalana d'Història de la Ciència, and the Society for the Preservation of Old Mills. He has also authored numerous works pertaining to Spain, medieval history, Darwinism and other subjects.[1]


Glick attained his B.A. in history and science from Harvard University in 1960. In 1960-61, he studied Arabic and Hebrew at the University of Barcelona, with Josep Millas i Vallicrosa and Joan Vernet. He then earned an M.A. in Arabic from Columbia University in 1963. He completed his Ph.D. in history at Harvard University in 1968.[2]

Teaching history[edit]

Prior to teaching at Boston University, Dr. Glick was an assistant professor of history at the University of Texas from 1968 to 1971, and then was promoted to associate professor from 1971 to 1972. He moved on to Boston University in 1972, ateaching history and geography. In 1979 he was promoted to professor, which he still holds. In 2005, he was appointed Professor of Gastronomy in the Gastronomy Program at Metropolitan College, Boston University, where he teaches food history. In addition to teaching at Boston University, Glick has been visiting Professor of the History of Science at the University of Valencia and visiting Professor of the History of Technology at the Polytechnic University of Valencia in the spring of 1980. During April–May 1988 and April–May 1990, he was a Fulbright Senior Lecturer at the University of the Republic, Montevideo in Uruguay.[3]


Glick's work falls within two broad areas. As a medievalist, he is best seen as a historian of technology but has also written interesting syntheses of medieval science, from a comparative perspective. As a historian of modern science he has concentrated on the reception of strong paradigms—Darwinism, psychoanalysis, and relativity—in the Iberian world. In both areas, he is a comparativist and has commented from time to time on methodological and historiographical approaches.

Medieval science and technology[edit]

Glick's work on medieval technology stems from his doctoral thesis on irrigation in medieval Valencia, viewed comparatively in the wider context of hydraulic technology and institutions in the Islamic world. Hydraulic technology has been a central thread of his scholarly career, with many of his articles and studies collected in a Variorum volume. At first, he saw both hydraulic techniques and institutions as discrete entities or traits within a broader matrix of Muslim approaches to water use, the techniques diffusing from India and Persia, the institutions arising within the near east and North Africa, diffusing to Spain and then the New World, following the general lines set forth by Joseph Needham in volume 1 of Science and Civilisation in China. More recently, under the influence of recent medieval archeological studies, he began to integrate these techniques more tightly within a geographical context, that of diffusion and acculturation, as defined by the founders of American cultural anthropology, in particular A. L. Kroeber.


He has argued that institutions and customs of water allocation had to be viewed as techniques in themselves and interpreted always as a representation of the values of the particular community of irrigators considered. A sub-set of Glick's hydraulic work, and the focus of his recent interest, has been the history of water mills, primarily in Valencia. He was the first author writing about medieval Spanish water mills to insist on the crucial distinction (elsewhere universally recognized) between horizontal and vertical mill designs. This simple distinction set off an avalanche of mill research in Spain. At the same time (in the 1990s), because of his involvement in the struggle to save Valencia's molinological patrimony from destruction, he became an activist in historical preservation and subsequently became president of the Northeast Chapter of the Society for the Preservation of Old Mills and, at the same time, a founder of the Valencian Association of the Friends of Mills. He had for years collected information on the technical knowledge of Moriscos and Marranos, the Muslim and Jewish minorities of early modern Spain and explored the parallelism in their experience as agents of technological diffusion in a 1995 article.

Glick's interest in medieval science has been to use it as an avenue for the exploration of culture contact and cultural diffusion, as a parallel to the technological phenomena he also studied. His chapter on science in Islamic and Christian Spain in the Early Middle Ages was the first synthesis in English of the research of the "School of Barcelona", historians of medieval Arabic and Jewish science at the University of Barcelona with whom Glick had studied in 1960–61. Subsequent articles dealt with the Jewish contribution to medieval Iberian science, with 12th century science in Castile, with science as represented in Catalan monastic scriptoria of the eleventh century, on scholarly relations between medieval Jews and Christians, and on practical science as developed by medieval Arabs and Jews. He was one of three co-editors of the Routledge Encyclopedia of Medieval Science, Technology and Medicine (2005), in which his articles on "Translation Movements" and "Technological Diffusion" summarized his perspectives in those areas. It was his work as a medievalist that won him election as a corresponding member of the Reial Acadèmia de Bones Lletres of Barcelona.

Finally Glick has written on the historiography of science, in particular a series of articles and one book based on the papers of George Sarton. He has also written on J. M. López Piñero, both in an autobiographical vein and in an analytical one, drawing on the differing approaches of Piñero and Robert K. Merton to sixteenth century science. Glick's own historiographical underpinnings are revealed in his biographical articles on Américo Castro, Merton, Sarton, and Lynn White, Jr., and on figures in American cultural anthropology (Herskovits, Kroeber, Linton) from whom Glick drew his views on cultural diffusion and acculturation that inform all of his work.

Modern science[edit]

Glick's initial focus on Spanish science had been the Enlightenment. His Harvard undergraduate thesis had examined on skepticism and anti-theoreticism in Spanish medicine of the eighteenth century.[4] His interest in Enlightenment science in the Spanish empire continued in articles on Félix de Azara,[5] on José Celestino Mutis[6] and the Botanical Expeditions, on the Navy's role in the provision of scientific instruments,[7] on the political symbolism of science in the Latin American Independence movements of the nineteenth century,[8] and most recently, a book (with J. M. López Piñero) on Jefferson's interaction with the Spaniards involved in the preparation and description of the Megatherium.

Glick has worked on various aspects of the impact of Darwin throughout his career. He organized a pioneer conference on the Comparative Reception of Darwinism at the University of Texas in 1971, his contribution to which was a study of Spain, which was the first article written on the subject and practically the first study of Spanish biology of the period covered, Spanish research having heretofore concentrated almost exclusively on medicine. A brief comparative survey written around the same time revealed the scant attention paid to either comparative reception studies generally, and of Darwinism in particular. A whole series of studies followed on Darwin's impact in Spain and Spanish America: on the secondary diffusion of Darwinism in Spain, on Darwinism in Venezuela considered in comparative perspective, on the Cuban reception, on the startlingly prescient writings of Spanish pathologist Roberto Novoa Santos on the origins of life and of sex, on the reflection of evolutionary theory in Spanish philology, on G. G. Simpson’s impact on Spanish vertebrate paleontology and quantitative biology, on the debate over selection among Latin American cattlemen, and a major case study of Uruguay. From Uruguay he turned to evolutionary biology in 20th century Brazil, focusing on Theodosius Dobzhansky’s role in the establishment of population genetics in that country. In the same period he wrote on the historiography of Darwinism, and with David Kohn produced the first anthology of Darwinian texts designed to let reader follow the development of scientific ideas. The key markers in his career as a Darwinian are the Texas conference of 1971, his 1989 Fulbright lectures in Uruguay, a 1996 meeting in Cancun, Mexico, that produced a global reevaluation of Darwinism in the Iberian world, and a volume on Darwinism in Brazil to appear in June 2001. In his Texas period he organized an exhibit and edited a catalogue on Darwinism and Fundamentalism in Texas and later wrote an essay on the impact of the Scopes Trial in Europe.

From Darwin, he turned to Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein, first in Spain, then in Latin America, following the same pattern of expanding horizons. Glick was the first scholar to write on Einstein's impact in Spain. and his book on the subject presented the first broad synthesis of development of the exact sciences in Spain from around 1880 to 1920. As he had done with Darwin, he organized a volume on the comparative reception of relativity which appeared in 1987. Although he has alluded to relativity in Argentina, a more complete treatment is his study of Einstein's 1925 trip to Brazil.

With respect to Freud, his 1982 article on psychoanalysis in Spain was the first on the subject.[9] A comparative study on Freud's early impact in Latin America followed.[10]

On the basis of these three different programs, Glick has on a number of occasions attempted to theorise comparative receptions. The first was model of reception of scientific ideas in peripheral countries along an active/passive axis. A passive reception is limited to local comments on the ideas, while in the active mode members of national disciplinary groups change their research programmes and attempt in some way to participate in the new paradigm. The second model (written with Mark Henderson) looks at the cognitive structure of ideas as they are received, envisioning four modes of receptions (thetic, antithetic, corrective, and extensional). All of the examples are drawn from the three sets of ideas. The second model was an outgrowth of his classic course, “Darwin, Freud, and Einstein,” which he has taught yearly at Harvard Summer school since 1993. An address to the Catalan History of Science Society in 1992 addressed approaches to the comparative history of science in small countries, and the Normal MacColl Lecture at Cambridge University in 2000, which was a synthesis of the receptions of Darwin, Einstein and Freud in Spain, viewed in comparative perspective.

Because physiology (including endocrinology) had been an unusually strong discipline in early 20th-century Spanish science, Glick used it to illustrate certain structural features of the institutionalization of science in small countries: Gregorio Marañón and the difficulties of founding a new specialty from nothing, Walter Cannon's tutelary relationship with the Catalan school of physiology, and a biography of the key figure of 20th century Catalan physiology, Agust Pi Sunyer. Related to this work, was a biography (with Antoni Roca) of Francesc Duran Reynals, a member of the Catalan school who became a prominent virologist at Yale and devised a controversial viral theory of cancer in the 1940s. The book won Glick and Roca the Serra d’Or prize for the best book on Catalonia by a foreigner in 1987.

Glick has also written a series of articles on institutional features of 20th-century Spanish science and on its political relations. One of the effects of Einstein's trip to Spain in 1923 was to mobilize support for modernization of physics, whose centerpiece was the Rockefeller Foundation’s grant to the National Institute of Physics and Chemistry, negotiations for which took place at the highest level of Spanish government, the dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera; in effect the Foundation was able to dictate to the dictator. While assessing the state of physics laboratories in the country, the RF’s field representatives consistently misapprehended what they were seeing, because they failed to detect the “culture of scarcity” that informed research programs in the field.

Medical doctors played an outsized role in politics in Spain from the early 19th century through the Spanish Civil War. Glick looked at this phenomenon in a study of medical deputies to the parliaments of the first and second Republics and, focusing on a subset of medical deputies of the 1930s who were spokesmen for sexual reform and divorce, and who acted under the aegis of Freudian psychology.

Glick's views on the politicization of science in Spain came together in an article on the generalized absence of “civil discourse” and the tendency to enlist all ideas in the ongoing ideological warfare between left and right. Glick's notion of civil discourse has been picked up far afield—in Spanish business history and in the history of science in 20th century China, for example. His interest in civil discourse led him to Emilio Herrera, a politically conservative general who remained loyal to the Second Republic, and was, at the same time, the pioneer of modern aeronautics in Spain. Glick edited his memoirs and contributed a study of Herrera's role in aeronautical engineering.

Glick's initial focus on Spanish science had been the Enlightenment. His Harvard undergraduate thesis had examined on skepticism and anti-theoreticism in Spanish medicine of the eighteenth century. His interest in Enlightenment science in the Spanish empire continued in articles on Félix de Azara, on José Celestino Mutis and the Botanical Expeditions, on the Navy's role in the provision of scientific instruments, on the political symbolism of science in the Latin American Independence movements of the nineteenth century, and most recently, a book (with J. M. López Piñero) on Jefferson's interaction with the Spaniards involved in the preparation and description of the Megatherium.

Glick's interest in Latin America led to his 100-page synthesis and survey of 20th century science for the Cambridge History of Latin America.

In the late 1970s Glick and J. M. López Piñero conceived the idea of a biographical dictionary of Spanish scientists modeled loosely on the Dictionary of Scientific Biography(DSB). This seems to have been the first “knock-off” of the DSB formula at the national level, as far as we can discern. Glick was both a co-editor and author of 125 articles, including most of the important figures of the 18th century, the Darwinians, the Freudians, and the geographers.

Glick was professor of geography (as well as of history) at Boston University and wrote a series of influential articles in 1984-90 on “History and Philosophy of Geography” in Progress in Human Geography (also published in Spanish).[11] A related article was that on the crisis of geography at Harvard brought about by the new, quantitative geography.[12]

Because of his diffusionist outlook, Glick's work is viewed in Spain as geographical and he was awarded the Premio Internacional Geocritíca in 2004, for lifetime achievement in geography

Selected publications[edit]

  • Irrigation and Society in Medieval Valencia. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1970. Spanish version: Regadío y sociedad en la Valencia medieval. Valencia, Del Cenia al Segura, 1988.
  • The Old World Background of the Irrigation System of San Antonio, Texas. El Paso, Texas Western Press, 1972. Spanish version, in Los cuadernos de Cauce 2000, No.15 (Madrid, 1988); also in Instituto de la Ingeniería de España, Obras hidráulicas prehispánicas y coloniales en América, I (Madrid, 1992), pp. 225–264.
  • Darwinism in Texas. Austin, Humanities Research Center, 1972.
  • The Comparative Reception of Darwinism. Austin, University of Texas Press, 1974. 2nd ed., Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1988.
  • Islamic and Christian Spain in the Early Middle Ages: Comparative Perspectives on Social and Cultural Formation. Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1979. Spanish version, (Madrid, Alianza, 1991) reissued as no. 67 in the collection "Grandes Obras de Historia" Madrid, (Altaya, 1997); chapters 7-10: Tecnología, ciencia y cultura en la España medieval (Madrid, Alianza, 1992).
  • Darwin en España. Barcelona, Ediciones Península, 1982.
  • Diccionario Histórico de la Ciencia Moderna en España. 2 Vols. Barcelona, Península, 1983 (with J. M. López Piñero).
  • La España posible de la Segunda República: La oferta a Einstein de una cátedra extraordinaria en la Universidad Central (Madrid 1933). Madrid, Editorial de la Universidad Complutense, 1983 (with J. M. Sánchez Ron)
  • Emilio Herrera, Flying: The Memoirs of a Spanish Aeronaut. Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 1984. Spanish version: Memorias. Madrid, Ediciones de la Universidad Autónoma, 1988.
  • Francesc Duran i Reynals (1899-1958). Barcelona, Ajuntament, 1986 (with A. Roca).
  • Einstein y los españoles: Ciencia y sociedad en la España de entreguerras. Madrid, Alianza, 1986.
  • The Comparative Reception of Relativity. Dordrecht, D. Reidel, 1987.
  • Einstein in Spain: Relativity and the Recovery of Science. Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1988.
  • Darwin y el darwinismo en el Uruguay y América Latina. Montevideo, Universidad de la República, 1989.
  • George Sarton i la història de la ciència a Espanya. Barcelona, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1990.
  • Convivencia: Jews, Muslims, and Christians in Medieval Spain. New York, George Braziller, 1992 (with Vivian Mann and Jerrilyn Dodds).
  • La Ley de Aduanas de 1888. Montevideo: Universidad de la República, 1992 (with J. P. Barrán and A. Cheroni).
  • El Megaterio de Bru y el Presidente Jefferson. Valencia, Universitat de Valencia, 1993 (with J. M. López Piñero).
  • From Muslim Fortress to Christian Castle: Social and Cultural Change in Medieval Spain. Manchester, University Press, 1995.
  • Irrigation and Hydraulic Technology: Medieval Spain and its Legacy. Aldershot, Variorum,1996.
  • (ed.) Charles Darwin, On Evolution. Indianapolis, Hackett, 1996 (with David Kohn).
  • El darwinismo en España e Iberoamérica. Madrid, Doce Calles, 1999 (with Rosaura Ruiz and Miguel Angel Puig-Samper).
  • Els molins hidràulics valencians: Tecnología, història i context social. Valencia, Instituciò Alfonso el Magnànim, 2000 (with Enric Guinot and Luis P. Martínez).
  • The Reception of Darwinism in the Iberian World. Dordrecht, Kluwer, 2001 (with M. A.Puig-Samper and Rosaura Ruiz).
  • The Literary and Cultural Reception of Charles Darwin in Europe. Bloomsbury Academic, 2014 (with Elinor Shaffer).


  1. ^ Boston University, Professor Thomas F. Glick.
  2. ^ Texas Archival Resources Online.
  3. ^ Boston University, Professor Thomas F. Glick
  4. ^ “El escepticismo en la ideología científica del Dr. Martín Martínez y del P. Feijóo,” Asclepio (Madrid), 17 (1965), 255-261.
  5. ^ ”Felix de Azara:  The Myth of the Isolated Genius in Spanish Science,” Journal of the History of Biology, 8 (1975), 67-83 (with David M. Quinlan).
  6. ^ "José Celestino Mutis (1732-1808)," Fundación Juan March. Boletín Informativo, #169 (April 1987), 3-12.
  7. ^ "Imperio y dependencia científica en el XVIII español e inglés: La provisión de los instrumentos científicos," in J. L. Peset, ed., Ciencia, vida y espacio en Iberoamerica, 3 vols. (Madrid, 1989), III, 49-63.
  8. ^ "Imperio y dependencia científica en el XVIII español e inglés: La provisión de los instrumentos científicos," in J. L. Peset, ed., Ciencia, vida y espacio en Iberoamerica, 3 vols. (Madrid, 1989), III, 49-63.
  9. ^ "The Naked Science: Psychoanalysis in Spain, 1914-1948,” Comparative Studies in Society and History, 24 (1982), 533-571.
  10. ^ “Precursores del psicoanálisis en la América Latina,” Episteme: Filosofia e História das Ciências em Revista (Porto Alegre), no. 8 (Jan.-Jun. 1999), 139-150
  11. ^ “History and Philosophy of Geography,” Progress in Human Geography, 8 (1984), 275-283; 9 (1985), 424-431; 10 (1986), 267- 277; 11 (1987), 405-416; 12 (1988), 441-450; 14 (1990), 120-128. Spanish translation in La geografía hoy: Textos, historia y documentación (Barcelona, Anthropos, 1994), pp. 19-41, 79-87.
  12. ^ “Before the Revolution: Edward Ullman and the Crisis of Geography at Harvard, 1949-1950,” in John E. Harmon and Timothy J. Rickard, eds., Geography in New England (New England Geographical Society, 1988), pp. 49-62; Spanish version in Geo-Crítica, #55 (Barcelona, 1985).


External links[edit]

  • The Society for the Preservation of Old Mills [1]
  • Shtetl Economic History Project [2]