Putting Science in Its Place: Geographies of Scientific Knowledge

University of Chicago Press
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We are accustomed to thinking of science and its findings as universal. After all, one atom of carbon plus two of oxygen yields carbon dioxide in Amazonia as well as in Alaska; a scientist in Bombay can use the same materials and techniques to challenge the work of a scientist in New York; and of course the laws of gravity apply worldwide. Why, then, should the spaces where science is done matter at all? David N. Livingstone here puts that question to the test with his fascinating study of how science bears the marks of its place of production.

Putting Science in Its Place establishes the fundamental importance of geography in both the generation and the consumption of scientific knowledge, using historical examples of the many places where science has been practiced. Livingstone first turns his attention to some of the specific sites where science has been made—the laboratory, museum, and botanical garden, to name some of the more conventional locales, but also places like the coffeehouse and cathedral, ship's deck and asylum, even the human body itself. In each case, he reveals just how the space of inquiry has conditioned the investigations carried out there. He then describes how, on a regional scale, provincial cultures have shaped scientific endeavor and how, in turn, scientific practices have been instrumental in forming local identities. Widening his inquiry, Livingstone points gently to the fundamental instability of scientific meaning, based on case studies of how scientific theories have been received in different locales. Putting Science in Its Place powerfully concludes by examining the remarkable mobility of science and the seemingly effortless way it moves around the globe.

From the reception of Darwin in the land of the Maori to the giraffe that walked from Marseilles to Paris, Livingstone shows that place does matter, even in the world of science.
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About the author

David N. Livingstone is a professor of geography and intellectual history at Queen’s University, Belfast. A Fellow of the British Academy and a member of both the Academia Europaea and the Royal Irish Academy, he is the author of numerous books, including The Geographical Tradition: Episodes in the History of a Contested Enterprise and Adam’s Ancestors: Race, Religion and the Politics of Human Origins.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Apr 15, 2010
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Pages
244
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ISBN
9780226487243
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Language
English
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Genres
Science / General
Science / History
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Technology, perhaps the most salient feature of our time, affects everything from jobs to international law yet ranks among the most unpredictable facets of human life. Here Robert McC. Adams, renowned anthropologist and Secretary Emeritus of the Smithsonian Institution, builds a new approach to understanding the circumstances that drive technological change, stressing its episodic, irregular nature. The result is nothing less than a sweeping history of technological transformation from ancient times until now. Rare in antiquity, the bursts of innovations that mark the advance of technology have gradually accelerated and now have become an almost continuous feature of our culture. Repeatedly shifting in direction, this path has been shaped by a host of interacting social, cultural, and scientific forces rather than any deterministic logic. Thus future technological developments, Adams maintains, are predictable only over the very short term.

Adams's account highlights Britain and the United States from early modern times onward. Locating the roots of the Industrial Revolution in British economic and social institutions, he goes on to consider the new forms of enterprise in which it was embodied and its loss of momentum in the later nineteenth century. He then turns to the early United States, whose path toward industrialization initially involved considerable "technology transfer" from Britain. Propelled by the advent of mass production, world industrial leadership passed to the United States around the end of the nineteenth century. Government-supported research and development, guided partly by military interests, helped secure this leadership.

Today, as Adams shows, we find ourselves in a profoundly changed era. The United States has led the way to a strikingly new multinational pattern of opportunity and risk, where technological primacy can no longer be credited to any single nation. This recent trend places even more responsibility on the state to establish policies that will keep markets open for its companies and make its industries more competitive. Adams concludes with an argument for active government support of science and technology research that should be read by anyone interested in America's ability to compete globally.

When it was first published in 1992, The Beginnings of Western Science was lauded as the first successful attempt ever to present a unified account of both ancient and medieval science in a single volume. Chronicling the development of scientific ideas, practices, and institutions from pre-Socratic Greek philosophy to late-Medieval scholasticism, David C. Lindberg surveyed all the most important themes in the history of science, including developments in cosmology, astronomy, mechanics, optics, alchemy, natural history, and medicine. In addition, he offered an illuminating account of the transmission of Greek science to medieval Islam and subsequently to medieval Europe. The Beginnings of Western Science was, and remains, a landmark in the history of science, shaping the way students and scholars understand these critically formative periods of scientific development. It reemerges here in a second edition that includes revisions on nearly every page, as well as several sections that have been completely rewritten. For example, the section on Islamic science has been thoroughly retooled to reveal the magnitude and sophistication of medieval Muslim scientific achievement. And the book now reflects a sharper awareness of the importance of Mesopotamian science for the development of Greek astronomy. In all, the second edition of The Beginnings of Western Science captures the current state of our understanding of more than two millennia of science and promises to continue to inspire both students and general readers.
The development of science, according to respected scholars Peter J. Bowler and Iwan Rhys Morus, expands our knowledge and control of the world in ways that affect-but are also affected by-society and culture. In Making Modern Science, a text designed for introductory college courses in the history of science and as a single-volume introduction for the general reader, Bowler and Morus explore both the history of science itself and its influence on modern thought.

Opening with an introduction that explains developments in the history of science over the last three decades and the controversies these initiatives have engendered, the book then proceeds in two parts. The first section considers key episodes in the development of modern science, including the Scientific Revolution and individual accomplishments in geology, physics, and biology. The second section is an analysis of the most important themes stemming from the social relations of science-the discoveries that force society to rethink its religious, moral, or philosophical values. Making Modern Science thus chronicles all major developments in scientific thinking, from the revolutionary ideas of the seventeenth century to the contemporary issues of evolutionism, genetics, nuclear physics, and modern cosmology.

Written by seasoned historians, this book will encourage students to see the history of science not as a series of names and dates but as an interconnected and complex web of relationships between science and modern society. The first survey of its kind, Making Modern Science is a much-needed and accessible introduction to the history of science, engagingly written for undergraduates and curious readers alike.
Using place, politics, and rhetoric as analytical tools, historical geographer David N. Livingstone investigates how religious communities sharing a Scots Presbyterian heritage engaged with Darwin and Darwinism at the turn of the twentieth century. His findings, presented as the prestigious Gifford Lectures, transform our understandings of the relationship between science and religion.

The particulars of place—whether in Edinburgh, Belfast, Toronto, Princeton, or Columbia, South Carolina—shaped the response to Darwin’s theories. Were they tolerated, repudiated, or welcomed? Livingstone shows how Darwin was read in different ways, with meaning distilled from Darwin's texts depending on readers' own histories—their literary genealogies and cultural preoccupations. That the theory of evolution fared differently in different places, Livingstone writes, is "exactly what Darwin might have predicted. As the theory diffused, it diverged."

Dealing with Darwin shows the profound extent to which theological debates about evolution were rooted in such matters as anxieties over control of education, the politics of race relations, the nature of local scientific traditions, and challenges to traditional cultural identity. In some settings, conciliation with the new theory, even endorsement, was possible—demonstrating that attending to the specific nature of individual communities subverts an inclination to assume a single relationship between science and religion in general, evolution and Christianity in particular.

Livingstone concludes with contemporary examples to remind us that what scientists can say and what others can hear in different venues differ today just as much as they did in the past.

-- John Hedley Brooke, University of Oxford
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