The History of Science in the United States: An Encyclopedia

The History of Science in the United States: An Encyclopedia

The History of Science in the United States: An Encyclopedia

The History of Science in the United States: An Encyclopedia

Synopsis

"Science is an essential element of American civilization. The historical study of American science -- the study of the individuals, the institutions, the ideas, and the experiments that together constitute the rich fabric of science in the United States -- is a lively and exciting field of scholarship. However, the knowledge and interpretations generated by this scholarship have not been easily accessible to the high school or college student or to the interested general reader. This volume has been written to furnish that access".

-- Marc Rothenberg

(from the Introduction)

The History of Science in the United States: An Encyclopedia brings together more than 200 scholars, ranging from the leading experts in their fields to young scholars presenting the fruits of their research. It offers a vast body of information hitherto scattered in numerous journals and specialized monographs. The book's coverage includes the roles of institutions and disciplines, the history of medicine and technology, the relationship between science and technology, and the major figures in the history of science in the United States.

Excerpt

Science is an essential element of American civilization. The historical study of American science—the study of the individuals, the institutions, the ideas, and the experiments that together constitute the rich fabric of science in the United States—is a lively and exciting field of scholarship. However, the knowledge and interpretations generated by this scholarship have not been easily accessible to the high school or college student or the interested general public.

This volume has been written to furnish that access. The entries in this encyclopedia provide factual information, identification and analysis of historiographic issues, and guidance to the most significant publications and most important manuscript collections. The primary focus of the volume is the history of science, but the reader will notice that topics in the history of invention, technology, engineering, and medicine are also included where the boundaries among the disciplines overlap.

Whenever possible, entries provide basic historical information, a review of the topic’s significance for the history of science in the United States, and a discussion of historiographic issues, including controversies among historians. Not all entries, however, include the historiographic discussion. In some cases, there simply are not any historiographic issues. Historians are still struggling to ascertain the fundamental information.

The list of topics included in the encyclopedia is not exhaustive. Nonetheless, information on many individuals, institutions, and other topics not included among the list of entries can be found by referring to the index.

There are two major summary essays in the volume, covering science in the colonial era and science from 1789 to 1865. These essays demonstrate how rich the historical literature is for the history of American science until the Civil War. Although there are a wide range of topics, the emphasis has been placed on the history of institutions and scientific disciplines and subdisciplines. The individuals selected to be the subject of biographical entries were those deceased scientists whose primary contributions were in the development of the institutional infrastructure of American science or were key figures in the rise and growth of disciplines, as well the most important scientists as measured by history in terms of scientific discoveries. Patronage was also a very important topic, and an effort was made to include topics that highlighted the patronage system for science in the United States.

The length of entries is significant and does reflect, generally, but not always, the editor’s perception of the significance of a particular topic in the history of science in the United States. Discerning readers will soon be aware that the same institutions, organizations, or individuals will appear in more than one entry, but from different perspectives and in different contexts. For example, Benjamin Silliman, Sr., is important as the editor of the American Journal of Science, a chemist and mineralogist, and a member of the Yale faculty. In some cases, the same author has written a number of entries and coordinated them to provide multiple and complementary contexts for a particular individual or institution. In other cases, different authors will provide somewhat dissimilar per-

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