9(2)

This revolution was not to be explained by changes in society, a move from contemplation to active research, or even « the replacement of the teleological and organismic pattern of thinking and explanation by the mechanical and causal pattern » [16]. In many ways the Scientific Revolution was for Koyré the triumph of Plato over Aristotle. And yet, if Sarton would have disagreed with Koyré over the importance of Plato for the rise of modern science, both would have agreed that the subject of the history of science was science and that this was the story of progress.

As students at Harvard we were also introduced to the encyclopedic works that characterized this « heroic age » of the history of science : Lynn Thorndike’s eight volume History of Magic and Experimental Science [17]. Pierre Duhem’s ten volume Le Système du Monde, and the first two (and what proved to be the only) volumes of Henry Sigerist’s planned multi-volume history of medicine [18]. It seemed that vast areas of the field were just then being opened to our view. The multi-authored History of Technology published in five volumes by Oxford gave us insight into a subject that had been ignored by most historians of science [19]. And in 1961 both the first volume of Joseph Needham’s Science and Civilisation in China [20]and the first volume of James Riddick Partington’s A History of Chemistry (actually volume two) were published [21]. These works represented lifetimes of study by scholars who believed that they could cover entire fields over long chronological periods. The history of science was still a young field that had not yet reached the age of the specialized monograph.

However, it was also evident that there were gaps in our learning. For those interested in Islamic science there was not very much to turn to. I had a special interest in the science of the Iberian peninsula, but other than accounts of the great voyages of discovery there seemed little to be found. A dedicated group of young scholars had already gathered around Otto Neugebauer and as
a group they were rediscovering the mathematics and the astronomy of the ancient Near East. But this group believed in specialization and they made little effort to integrate their research into the main stream of the history of science [22].

Above all, the nineteenth century seemed to be a wasteland. Writing in 1954 I. Bernard Cohen noted that « once we pass the boundary between the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries, we encounter no general surveys written in a way that will serve the historian of ideas ... Only the future can tell whether the history of science in the nineteenth century can be presented in a meaningful way for the general historian » [23]. Three years later Marshall Clagett gathered an international group of scholars at the University of Wisconsin to discuss current problems in the history of science. The resultant conference barely touched on the nineteenth century. Clagett apologized for this omission, but he explained that « so few historians are doing serious and professional historical work in the history of science of the last few decades, that the presentation of a critical discussion of such problems would be most difficult » [24]. In fact, in the years since that meeting in Madison, historical research in nineteenth century science has far outstripped that in the period of the Scientific Revolution. However, this research has been somewhat uneven in that the biological research has centered on the history of evolutionary thought while very little has been done to synthesize the research on the history of the physical sciences.

Fully as important ast the study of nineteenth century science has been the realization that the development of science may be influenced by factors we would not consider to be science at all. George Sarton had dismissed alchemy, astrology and natural magic as « pseudo-science », but his decision to do this could rightly be questioned if historians of science ever chose a different approach to the field. Walter Pagel was one of the first historians of science and medicine to do this. But although his first book on van Helmont appeared in 1931, his widespread methodological influence has been more recent, dating from the publication of his Paracelsus (1958) and his William Harvey’s Biological Ideas (1967) [25]. Recognizing the fallacy of Sarton’s « history of the gradual revelation of truth », Pagel countered that such an approach « based on the selection of material from the modern point of view, may endanger the presentation of historical truth » [26]. Indeed, histories in which « discoveries and theories of the past are taken from their original context to be judged alongside modern scientific and medical entities » are likely to be dangerously misleading [27].

[1En 1913, Georges Bigourdan édite un intéressant traité L’astronomie, l’évolution des idées et des méthodes, dans la table alphabétique duquel le mot comète n’est pas repris (non plus que météores, bolides, aérolithes ou étoiles filantes). Halley est cité huit fois sans l’ombre d’une allusion à la comète qui le rendit célèbre. Ceci est d’autant plus plaisant que l’auteur, astronome, rédigeait son travail (copyright en 1911) au moment du retour de 1910, qu’il l’a édité chez Flammarion éditeur et frère de Camille et, qu’en 1927, il compilera une liste de comètes historiques qui fait autorité (Ann. Bur. des Long.). Il existe heureusement une Histoire de l’astronomie de Doublet publiée en 1922 qui consacre plus de place à Halley et rappelle que Voltaire (Epître à Madame du Châtelet), Victor Hugo (La Légende des siècles) et Sully Prudhomme (Epreuves), qui était polytechnicien, célèbrent sa gloire.

[2 Hoefer (Histoire de l’Astronomie, 1873, pp. 461-462) attribue cet évènement à la comète de 1681-1682 en rapportant qu’Halley l’observa « pendant un voyage en France ». Par contre Doublet (op. cit. pp. 334-335) fixe ce voyage en 1680 et écrit : « il se trouvait à mi-route entre Calais et Paris quand il remarqua la fameuse comète de 1680... ». Dans son Histoire de la Science (1965), Pierre Rousseau emprunte aux deux auteurs des fragments difficilement conciliables : « ... 1679... l’année suivante ... une superbe comète apparut... L’astre chevelu passa, puis se perdit dans le rayonnement solaire. Sur ces entrefaites, Halley partit en France en 1682. Il était à mi-route entre Calais et Paris quand il aperçut une autre comète, exactement pareille à la première, mais passée de l’autre côté du Soleil et orientée juste à l’opposite. Si c’était la même ? se demanda-t-il ». Ce ne pouvait être la même. Admirons en passant l’ingénuité du « exactement pareille » tout aussi impossible.

[3 Hortense Lepaute, dont Le Gentil de la Galissière (1725-1792) retour des Indes en 1771, après avoir tenté en vain d’observer les passages de Vénus devant le Soleil les 6 juin 1761 et 9 juin 1769, fit la marraine de l’Hortensia.

[4Selon Doublet, il s’agirait du 3 avril (op. cit. p. 433). Mais J. Sauval (Ciel et Terre, vol. 101, 5-6, 1985, p. 210) précise trente deux jours d’écart. On peut penser qu’il s’agit d’une cocquille typographique (oubli de 1 dans 13).

[5On consultera avec profit l’article de H. Dupuis dans Ciel et Terre, vol. 101, pp. 217-220, 1985 : « 1910 : on se suicide, on fait la fête... mais on est surtout déçu ».

[6D’après A. M. Antoniadi « Idées des anciens sur les comètes » (L’astronomie, 52e année 1938, pp. 311-318, et « Les comètes, considérées en général comme des présages sinistres dans l’histoire » (ibidem, pp. 156-168).

[7IIIème Congrès International d’Histoire des Sciences. Tenu au Portugal du 30 septembre au 6 octobre 1934, sous le haut Patronage de S.E., le Président de la République Portugaise. Actes, Conférences et Communications. Lisboa, 1936 : 9-10.

[8G. Sarton, 1927-1948. - Introduction to the History of Science. I- III . 5 parts. Baltimore. I : 3.

[9ibid., 6.

[10Ibid., 19.

[11G. Sarton, 1952. - A History of Science : Ancient Science Through the Golden Age of Greece. Cambridge : xii.

[12Ibid., xi.

[13A. Koyré, 1966. - Etudes Galiléennes (3 parts, 1935-1939 ; reprinted in one volume), Paris : 11 .

[14See especially P. Duhem, 1913-59. - Le Système du Monde. I-X. Paris.

[15A. Koyré, 1958. - From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe. New York : vi.

[16ibid., v.

[17L. Thorndike, 1923-58. - A History of Magic and Experimental Science. I -VIII. New York.

[18H. Sigerist, 1955-61. - A History of Medicine. I-II . New York.

[19C. Singer, E. J. Holmyard & A.R. Hall, eds., 1954-58, A History of Technology. I-V. New York – London.

[20J. Needham, 1961. - Science and Civilisation in China, I : Introductory Orientations. Cambridge.

[21The first volume published was the second covering the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. J.R. Partinglon, 1961. - A History of Chemistry. II London.

[22 « I am exceedingly sceptical of any attempt to reach a ’synthesis’ - whatever this term may mean - and I am convinced that specialization is the only basis of sound knowledge. » O. Neugebauer, 1952 & 62. - The Exact Sciences in Antiquity. New York : v-vi.

[23I.B. Cohen, 1957. - Some Recent Books on the History of Science, in Roots of Scientific Thought : A Cultural Perspective, ed. Ph. P. Wiener & A. Noland. New York : 627 -656. Published originally in the Journal of the History of Ideas.

[24M. Clagett, ed., 1962. - Critical Problems in the History of Science : Proceedings of the Institute for the History of Science at the University of Wisconsin, September 1-11, 1957. Madison : vi.

[25
W. Pazel, 1930. - Jo. Bapt. Van Helmont : Einführung in die philosophische Medizin des Barock. Berlin ; 1958. - Paracelsus : An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Era of the Renaissance. Basel-New York ; 1967. - William Harvey’s Biological Ideas : Selected Aspects and Historical Background. Basel-New York.

[26W. Pagel, Autumn, 1945. - The Vindication of Rubbish, in Middlesex Hospital Journal : 1-4.

[27Ibid.

[28W. Pagel, 1967. - : 82.

[29W. Pagel, 1945. - : 4.

[30 F.A.Yates, 1964. - Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition. Chigago-London-Toronto.

[31F.A. Yates, 1972. - The Rosicrucian Enlightenment. London-Boston.

[32See Ibid., 113, 171-205.

[33R.S. Westfall, 1972. - Newton and the Hermetic Tradition in Science, Medicine and Society in the Renaissance : Essays to honor Walter Pagal .I-II, ed. Allen G. Debus, New York : 183-98.

[34 B.J.T. Dobbs, 1975. - The Foundations of Newton’s Alchemy or « The Hunting of the Greene Lyon », Cambridge- London- New York- Melbourne : 230.

[35P.M. Rattansi, 1973. - Some Evaluations of Reason in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Natural Philosophy, in Changing Perspectives in the History of Science : Essays in Honour of Joseph Needham, ed. M. Teich & R. Young, London : 148-166.

[36M. Hesse, Reasons and Evaluation in the History of Science, Ibid., 127-147.

[37T.S. Kuhn, 1968 ; 1979. - History of Science, in International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, I-XVIII, ed. D.L Sills. New York : XVI, 75-83.

[38Ibid. 79-81.

[39Ibid. 80.

[40Ibid.

[41T.S. Kuhn, 1962. - The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago. This book was alo issued as vol. II, number 2 of the International Encyclopedia of Allfied Science published by the University of Chicago Press.

[42As exemples of this literature see the following : B. Barnes, 1982. - T.S. Kuhn and Social Science, New York ; S. Seiler, 1980. - Wissenschaftstheorie in der Ethnologie : zur Kritik u. Weiterführung d. Theorie von Thomas S. Kuhn anhand etnograph. Berlin ; G. Gutting, ed. c. 1980. - Paradigms and Revolutions : Appraisals and Applications of Thomas Kuhn’s Philosophy of Science. Notre Dame.

[43K. Thomas, 1971 ; 1973. - Religion and the Decline of Magic : Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth - and Seventeenth-Century England. Harmondsworth.

[44C. Hill, 1972 ; 1973. - The World Turned Upside Down : Radical Ideas During the English Revolution. New York : especially 231-246.

[45 M.C. Jacob, 1976. - The Newtonians and the English Revolution 1689-1720. Ithaca : 16- 17.

[46W.J. Broad, History of Science Losing Its Science, in Science 207 January 25, 1980 : 389.

[47P. Wood, September, 1980. – RecentTrends in the History of Science : The dehumanisation of history, in BSHS Newsletter, N° 3 : 19-20.

[48H. Butterfield, 1959, - The History of Science and the Study of History, in Harvard Library Bulletin 13 : 329-347.

[49Ibid. 347.

[50 H. Butterfield, 1952. - The Origins of Modern Science 1300-1800. New York.

[51J.B. Conant, 1960. - History in the Education of Scientists, Harvard Library Bulletin 14 : 315-333.

[52Ibid. 325.

[53This assessment is my own after having taught courses of this genre for four years both at Harvard University and the University of Chicago during the years 1957-1959 and 1961-1963.

[54T.S. Kuhn, 1968 ; 1979 : 81.



















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