Sociology Today; Problems and Prospects

By Robert K. Merton; Leonard Broom et al. | Go to book overview

9
The Sociology of Science

BERNARD BARBER

Barnard College, Columbia University

B ecause of its cumulative character, science has a strong tendency to be ahistorical and to disregard its past. Yet, even in science, the past is contained in, and thus helps to determine, the present. A brief survey of the history of the sociology of science is indispensable, therefore, for understanding its present condition and future prospects.

Speaking roughly, the sociology of science has undergone a pattern of development that is typical of many areas of social-science knowledge.1 This is a pattern in which knowledge progresses from the stage of being a mixture of empirical aperçus and broad theoretical points of view to the stage of being organized into multiple "subjects" that are empirically investigated and involve continual generalization

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1
The following historic sketch is based on and amplified in Bernard Barber , "Sociology of Science: A Trend Report and Bibliography," Curr. Sociol., 5:2 ( 1956). See also Bernard Barber, "Present Status and Needs of the Sociology of Science," Proc. Amer. phil. Soc., 99 ( 1955), 338-42. This issue of the Proceedings reports the Conference on the History, Philosophy, and Sociology of Science sponsored by the American Philosophical Society and the National Science Foundation. Finally, for a substantive treatment of the sociology of science, see Bernard Barber, Science and the Social Order, Free Press, 1952.

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