Yankee Science in the Making

Yankee Science in the Making

Yankee Science in the Making

Yankee Science in the Making

Excerpt

Scientists, scholars, engineers are citizens, not only in the sense that they can vote, but in the wider sense that their work contributes materially to the welfare and the ideas of society. Each of them, in his own professional way, expresses tendencies, desires and ideals which exist among his fellow men. Understanding the science, the learning and the technology of an age means not only a knowledge of the content of the individual professions and techniques, but also an insight into the ways in which they are related to the social structure, the cultural aspirations and the traditions of this age. And so we begin to understand that the history of an epoch includes the history of its science and technology. We must also understand that this history must combine a study of their social relations with a study of theories and techniques. History of science, if taken in the fullest meaning of the term, must include its sociology.

Sociology of science has been rarely attempted, spadework has hardly started. A promising field for a preliminary attack is the investigation of science and technology in a relatively stable community, where a certain homogeneity of the population with established traditions offers a background for a gradual unfolding of culture. Such a community was pre-Civil War New England, and this explains why the study of its literature -- as shown for instance by Van Wyck Brooks's remarkable books -- has been so successful. In this book we have concentrated on the republican period of this pre-Civil War New England, which is more interesting from the point of view of the historian of science.

It was a period of considerable growth in science and engineering. In 1780, when the American Academy was founded, there existed in New England only a few persons interested in science, and this interest was almost exclusively, in astronomy, medicine and agronomy. Modern industry and engineering were absent. By 1860 the situation had entirely changed. There were flowering scientific institutions with outstanding men of research; large and modern industries attracted the attention of the world. We can divide this period roughly into two parts. In the first, which we have called the Federalist period, we still find relatively . . .

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