Monthly Archives: October 2013

Our Pervasive Stories about Science

In an oft quoted sentence, Steven Shapin opens his The Scientific Revolution (1996) with dramatic flourish: “There was no such thing as the Scientific Revolution, and this is a book about it.” He begins his introduction with a brief historical survey, citing the scholarly opinion of generations past. A familiar cast appears. Koyré had judged […]

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The “Scientific Revolution” as a Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-century Humanist Invention

Our discussion thus far has focused on the historiographic category of the scientific revolution as the invention of eighteenth-century thinkers. But some years ago David C. Lindberg had argued, in his “Conceptions of the Scientific Revolution from Bacon to Butterfield: A preliminary sketch,” D. C. Lindberg and R. S. Westman, Reappraisals of the Scientific Revolution […]

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The “Scientific Revolution” as Narratology (Part 2)

In 1948 English historian Herbert Butterfield presented a series of lectures for the History of Science Committee at the University of Cambridge. There he argued that historians have overlooked an episode of profound intellectual transformation—one apparently comparable in magnitude to the rise of Christianity and that was deeply implicated in the very formation of the […]

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The “Scientific Revolution” as Narratology (Part 1)

Roy Porter’s essay, “The scientific revolution: a spoke in the wheel?” in R. Porter and M. Teich (eds.) Revolution in History (1986) led me to I. Bernard Cohen’s “The Eighteenth-Century Origins of the Concept of Scientific Revolution” (1976), and then his expanded Revolution in Science (1985). In the next several posts, I want to address […]

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Historiographies of the History of the Scientific Revolution

At the beginning of my research, I decided to start where I started many years ago, before I even began my time as an undergraduate. I cannot now remember how I came across it, but when I encountered John Henry’s The Scientific Revolution and the Origins of Modern Science (2002) in my early twenties, I […]

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Stephen Gaukroger, H. Floris Cohen, and the Scientific Revolution (Part Two)

Of all the prominent historians responding to Gaukroger’s essay in Historically Speaking (April, 2013), H. Floris Cohen’s is the most interesting. Cohen, a professor of comparative history of science and chairman of the Descartes Centre for the History and Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, adheres to the […]

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Stephen Gaukroger, H. Floris Cohen, and the Scientific Revolution (Part One)

In the recent April 2013 issue of Historically Speaking, there is a fascinating forum about Stephen Gaukroger’s massively ambitious, multivolume historical project on the emergence and consolidation of a “scientific culture” in the West in the modern era. A total of four historians participated in the discussion, but the most important contributions came from Gaukroger […]

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Myths about Science and Religion – That Modern Science has Secularized Western Culture (Final)

My last review of Galileo goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion comes from the pioneering historian of science, John Hedley Brooke, who wrote an entry on the myth that modern science has secularized western culture. Once upon a time, social scientists commonly asserted that scientific progress has been the principal cause […]

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Myths about Science and Religion – That Creationism is a Uniquely American Phenomenon

Continuing the discussion from the previous post, Cohen’s tenacious assumptions about creationism and the Scopes trial undoubtedly arises from the notion that the movement is geographically contained. His examples of Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma, and Texas are no accident, and the underlying political assumptions are plain. But as Ron Numbers has made quite clear in […]

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Climate Change the New Scopes?

Andrew Cohen, a contributing editor at The Atlantic, argues that the forces that initiated the Scopes Trial (1925) are still present today in the dogged renewal of the fight to teach creationism and in the rancor over the truth about the human causes of global warming. In his article, What the Scopes Trial Teaches us […]

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