Position for postdoc researcher 12 months | ERC ALFA project

ALFA is an ERC funded project (2017-2022, 60 month, Consolidator grant 2016 agreement 723085) dedicated to the study of Alfonsine astronomy which flourished in Europe from the second half of the 13th to the mid-16th century. 

Employing approaches from the history of astronomy, history of mathematics, and history of manuscript cultures to study astronomical tables, instruments, theoretical and mathematical texts, ALFA’s main objectives are to: 

● Retrace the development of the corpus of Alfonsine texts from its origin in the second half of the 13th century in Toledo, Spain to the end of the 15th century by following, on the manuscript level, the milieus producing and using these codices; 

● Analyse Alfonsine astronomers’ practices, their relations to mathematics, to the natural world, to proofs and justification, and their intellectual and social contexts and audiences; 

● Build a narrative showing how astronomers in different milieus with diverse practices shaped, also from Arabic and Hebrew materials, an original scientific scene in Europe. 

ALFA works in a deeply collaborative manner. Matthieu Husson (PI, CNRS- Observatoire de Paris), José Chabás (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona) and Richard Kremer (Dartmouth College, USA) constitute its advisory board. Around them a local team of post-docs, PhD students and a digital humanities IT expert, based at the Paris Observatory, will work with a team of international scholars comprised of 10 specialists of the history of late medieval astronomy in Europe. Finally a team of external experts from neighbouring fields will consult with ALFA in order to enrich its methodological and theoretical dimensions and to help design the digital tools. 

ALFA invites application for a 1-year post-doctoral position expected to start at the latest Septembre 1, 2021 or as soon as possible after the result are  published (CNRS-contract, salary according to experience following CNRS policy). This position will be hosted at the Observatoire de Paris in the history of astronomy team (dir. Christophe Schmidt) of the SYRTE Laboratory (UMR 8630). 

The successful candidate will work as part of the local team and will spend most of his/her working time on his/her research project in the context of this collective, international project. He/she is expected to participate in the publications of the project and will be encouraged to take part in the conception of scientific events relevant to his/her research (workshops and seminars). He/she will have also dedicated research funds especially for travel to relevant European libraries. 

In line with ALFA's objectives, the candidate's research will enhance our understanding of the formation and development of Alfonsine astronomy. Different approaches are possible to achieve this aim. They rely on a range of competences and we thus encourage candidates with different skills and training backgrounds to apply. 

In this final phase of the project, we are trying to capture are at least three important dimensions of Alfonsine astronomy: 

1. It shares essential elements with other mathematical astronomy traditions in Arabic, Hebrew or Greek flourishing before, at the same time and after it. 

2. It was fostered in universities and courtly contexts by scholars of different profiles. It was put to use in various ways by astrologers, physicians, civil and religious authorities of different kinds. The growing cultural exposition of Alfonsine Astronomy to an always wider and more diverse audience has a profound impact on its development. 

3. The way innovations and stability are in a subtle balance in this scientific tradition: main features of the models and computed positions remain stable, although not entirely univocal, but practices, tables sets and the ways to think about them are constantly re-elaborated by producing new works, by producing new manuscripts compiling them in multiple ways. 

While preparing their application, candidates are encouraged to contact Matthieu Husson to discuss the shape of their proposal. After the appointment, the ALFA advisory board will work with the successful candidate to further define the research project. 

To qualify for the position, candidates are required to have completed their PhD in either history of sciences, medieval history or scientific disciplines such as astronomy and exact sciences. Acquired competences in Latin philology, codicology, manuscript cataloguing, and paleography, history of astronomy and history of mathematics will be appreciated. The will to work with and contribute to the development of digital humanities tools will be a positive element. A good control of spoken and written English is also important in order to be able to interact fruitfully with the international team of the project. 

Applications should be submited no later than June 30, 2021 to the CNRS Plateform (https://bit.ly/3hI7Rlj). They shall include: a short CV (2 p. max), contact information for two possible externals referees (name, institution, email contact), a motivation letter and written sample of academic work (e.g. thesis and/or a recent paper). 

Review of applications will start on July 1, 2020 and the result will be published on July15, 2020