Science in Latin America: A History

Science in Latin America: A History

Science in Latin America: A History

Science in Latin America: A History

Synopsis

Science in Latin America has roots that reach back to the information gathering and recording practices of the Maya, Aztec, and Inca civilizations. Spanish and Portuguese conquerors and colonists introduced European scientific practices to the continent, where they hybridized with local traditions to form the beginnings of a truly Latin American science. As countries achieved their independence in the nineteenth century, they turned to science as a vehicle for modernizing education and forwarding "progress." In the twentieth century, science and technology became as omnipresent in Latin America as in the United States and Europe. Yet despite a history that stretches across five centuries, science in Latin America has traditionally been viewed as derivative of and peripheral to Euro-American science.

To correct that mistaken view, this book provides the first comprehensive overview of the history of science in Latin America from the sixteenth century to the present. Eleven leading Latin American historians assess the part that science played in Latin American society during the colonial, independence, national, and modern eras, investigating science's role in such areas as natural history, medicine and public health, the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, politics and nation-building, educational reform, and contemporary academic research. The comparative approach of the essays creates a continent-spanning picture of Latin American science that clearly establishes its autonomous history and its right to be studied within a Latin American context.

Excerpt

Juan José Saldaña

This volume collects for the first time a history of science as a whole in the geographical and cultural region known as Latin America. the authors are historians of science and discuss, among other issues, what, at different moments and under different circumstances, has been understood as science in Latin America, the forms scientific activity has taken, the settings responsible for the autochthonous peculiarities of science in the region, and the adoption of European science and its evolution in Latin America. This is a local history of how geographical accidents, individuals and groups of individuals, institutions, ideologies, concepts, and scientific theories affect one another in a specific social and cultural context.

This social history of science by no means scorns the intellectual aspects of science. On the contrary, it helps us understand the nature and behavior of social groups (the scientists) that created, developed, or incorporated concepts and theories in a particular social context and always as a consequence of it. Equal attention is paid to the general aspects of society and regional geography (the social order, culture, natural resources, geographical location, etc.) that are responsible for attitudes toward science and that have imposed a particular style on it. the authors in this volume use new analytical perspectives (forms of approaching the history of science) and offer a novel image of the Latin American scientific past.

Why has no such history been written before? Have we not had, for centuries, the most varied testimony that original experiments in science and technique were developed on this section of the planet? in addition, in practically the whole of Latin America, there have been significant efforts to record the history of moments, people, institutions, achievements, and other aspects of the scientific activity that has taken place there. There have even been histories that present science as formulating an entire national . . .

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