The Engines of Our Ingenuity: An Engineer Looks at Technology and Culture

By John H. Lienhard | Go to book overview

5
Science Marries
into the Family

T he old Latin word scientia was not much used to designate ordered knowledge until recent times. Galileo would not have called himself a scientist, nor would Newton or Leibniz. Even two hundred years ago Lavoisier still called himself a natural philosopher. Yet each of those people contributed to the radical change that turned natural philosophers into today's scientists.

The change was complex. Roughly speaking, it could be called the evolution of the scientific method. It began during the 1480s, when the new printed books first included accurate illustrations of an observed world. Until then, first Christians and then Moslems had adhered to the Platonist idea that truth is to be reached by deduction far more than by observation.

Throughout the sixteenth century the new observational sciences of botany, anatomy, descriptive geometry, geography, and ethnography all took form. In a series of bold steps the new media of print and illustration wrenched a world still shaped around Platonist thinking. Then, in the early sixteen hundreds, Galileo Galilei and Francis Bacon in particular codified the changes that had been afoot. Galileo did more than anyone to establish the methods of the new science, and Francis Bacon framed its philosophical stance.

In 1620 Bacon wrote down the new view of nature in unmistakable terms in his Novum Organum. He directly contradicted the Platonists' belief that truth is to be found in the human mind when he said, “That which nature may produce or bear should be discovered, not imagined or invented.” For over a century, a new breed of scientists had been

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The Engines of Our Ingenuity: An Engineer Looks at Technology and Culture
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Preface vii
  • The Engines of Our Ingenuity *
  • 1 - Mirrored by Our Machines 3
  • 2 - God, the Master Craftsman 20
  • 3 - Looking Inside the Inventive Mind 35
  • 4 - The Common Place 55
  • 5 - Science Marries into the Family 70
  • 6 - Industrial Revolution 86
  • 7 - Inventing America 96
  • 8 - Taking Flight 115
  • 9 - Attitudes and Technological Change 126
  • 10 - War and Other Ways to Kill People 139
  • 11 - Major Landmarks 153
  • 12 - Systems, Design, and Production 167
  • 13 - Heroic Materialism 179
  • 14 - Who Got There First? 193
  • 15 - Ever-Present Dangers 209
  • 16 - Technology and Literature 219
  • 17 - Being There 229
  • Correlation of the Text with the Radio Program 241
  • Notes 243
  • Index 255
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