Communicating Science: The Scientific Article from the 17th Century to the Present

Communicating Science: The Scientific Article from the 17th Century to the Present

Communicating Science: The Scientific Article from the 17th Century to the Present

Communicating Science: The Scientific Article from the 17th Century to the Present

Synopsis

This book describes the development of the scientific article from its modest beginnings to the global phenomenon that it has become today. The authors focus on changes in the style, organization, and argumentative structure of scientific communication over time. This outstanding resource is the definitive study on the rhetoric of science.

Excerpt

In January 1665, Denis de Sallo published the first issue of the French Journal des Sçavans (Journal of the Learned), one of whose stated purposes was “to make known experiments that might serve to explain natural phenomena.” Two months later in England, Henry Oldenburg decided to expand his role as unofficial letter box for scientific correspondence in England and Europe and inaugurated the monthly publication of technical letters in Philosophical Transactions—“Giving some accompt of the…ingenious in many considerable parts of the world.” Thus the scientific journal article was born. This birth was key in the then-fledgling enterprise of science. It permitted the relatively rapid and accurate transmittal of new discoveries and ideas from one researcher to a community of researchers—who could then propagate, refute, accept, ignore, or extend the original claims. Emerging from letters and essays and competing with books, this new medium developed a style and format that, eventually, would make it the preferred mode of presentation and debate for new claims of scientific knowledge.

Despite the obvious importance of the scientific article, there exists as yet no comprehensive survey of its development as a representation of science and as a medium for its communication. There are many studies of rhetorical and linguistic elements of the scientific article based on small samples selected from a single journal covering a limited historical period, as well as samples selected for the reputation of their authors as scientists rather than their typicality as examples of scientific prose. In addition, while numerous European countries actively participated in the origin and development of modern science, most studies are of English science exclusively or of existing translations. Few trustworthy generalizations can be drawn from these limited studies. And to neglect telling the rhetorical history of the scientific article is to leave an important gap in our understanding of the history of science. This book is meant to fill that gap.

By examining the scientific article from its debut in the 17th century to the present, we will track the progress of an evolving genre of discourse continuously engaged in three acts: the creation of arguments for and against knowledge claims about the natural world, the artful deployment of these arguments in a text, and their representation in the syntax and semantics of natural languages. Not coincidentally, these three acts parallel the central categories of classical rhetoric: the invention of arguments, their presentation, and the style in which they are embodied. (We have . . .

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