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Benjamin Franklin’s Guide to Arithmetic and Abortifacients

March 10, 2020 @
4:30 p.m.
- 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time
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Molly FarrellIn 1748, Benjamin Franklin reprinted an introductory arithmetic book from England with his own significant reworking and additions. One of the supplements to The American Instructor, which Franklin described as “better adapted to these American Colonies,” was a medical handbook that included a recipe for abortion. Today, we may not see the combination of abortifacients and arithmetic as basic knowledge every student should have, and yet the odd pairing in this widely-circulating book posits that they are. In this talk, Professor Molly Farrell (The Ohio State University) will ask what it means to use numbers in a distinctly “American” way. What, exactly, are we learning when we learn our numbers? What can the colonial period tell us about the audiences and purposes for what we now call “STEM” education? How might numeracy, like literacy, be culturally specific—making us who we are, and determining what stories we can tell?

Clark University’s Jie Park (Education) will provide commentary.

This event continues the Roots of Everything, a lecture series sponsored by Early Modernists Unite (EMU)—a faculty collaborative bringing together scholars of medieval and early modern Europe and America—in conjunction with the Higgins School of Humanities. The series highlights various aspects of modern existence originating in the early modern world by connecting past and present knowledge.

Admission is free and open to the public.

Co-sponsored by Early Modernists Unite; the Higgins School of Humanities; the Department of English, the Department of History; the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science; and the Hiatt Center for Urban Education



March 10, 2020
4:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.


Clark University, Higgins Lounge, Dana Commons – 2nd Floor
36 Maywood Street
Worcester, MA 01610 United States
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