On Understanding Science: An Historical Approach

By James B. Conant | Go to book overview

ON UNDERSTANDING SCIENCE

CHAPTER I
The Scientific Education of the Layman

HIS book is concerned primarily with a simple yet difficult pedagogic problem. I propose to examine the question of how we can in our colleges give a better understanding of science to those of our graduates who are to be lawyers, writers, teachers, politicians, public servants, and businessmen. To the extent that my answer to this query has novelty, I shall be forced to illustrate by example. Since it is my contention that science can beat be understood by laymen through close study of a few relatively simple case histories, I have no choice but to present some fragments of scientific history. This I shall do in the second and third chapters which are intended to convey certain ideas about the "Tactics and Strategy of Science." But first of all I should like to consider why any but a relatively few experts need to understand science, and then, to explain at some length what the phrase "understanding science" means to me.


Assimilating Science into Our Secular Culture

The three lectures on which this book is based were delivered at Yale University on the Terry Foundation. One of the objects of the Terry Foundation is "the assimilation of what has been or will be hereafter discovered, and its application to human welfare." I like the word "assimila-

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