About

Irregularly updated diary. Mainly records my attempts to be a publicly useful historian. May contain long passages of highly involved argument, if I feel it’s going to be quicker to write the point up properly once than to badger ten permutations of colleagues about it in ten different pubs.

My main site is here. All assertions are my own and don’t necessarily represent the views of my employers, as will quickly become obvious.

I also have an account at the Whewell’s Ghost history and philosophy of science blog. Anything I write for a general HPS audience is likely to be posted there; this site is for material which is either not specific to the field, or very specific to me personally.

A blind thermometer is a device for restricting the supply of information, used by brewers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It features a moveable index marker and a detachable scale, so that the master brewer can delegate the task of bringing the liquor to a particular temperature without the assistant learning what the temperature is (useful knowledge which could be passed on to the brewer’s competitors). Many more recent events in the history of information technology can be understood as attempts to reinvent the blind thermometer, often with less than spectacular success.

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