9(2)

At a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science held in December, 1979, Charles C. Gillispie lashed out against those who accepted the new methodologies in the field. As reported in Science Gillispie complained that « the history of science is losing its grip on science, leaning heavily on social history, and dabbling with shoddy scholarship ». He attracked those who discussed scientific problems but who had little or no scientific training.

Less odious but still troublesome to Gillispie are social historians that ignore science altogether, such as studies that deal with the role of women in a particular scientific institution but omit their actual scientific work... Another trend, he said, is that scholars focus on the personal and anecdotal : Newton on alchemy rather than on motion, Kekule’s snake dance rather than the benzene ring, Darwin’s neurosis rather than his marshaling of evidence. Some so-called scholars focus on scandal ... « These scholars », says Gillispie, « have a lust for just the sort of thing most rigidly ruled out of court in the science we do now - the irrational, the personal » [46].

Of course Gillispie’ s plea for a return to the values of Koyré has been dismissed by the social historians of science who have replied that

The social history of science has by now established itself within the discipline as a legitimate method of approaching the past. Despite recent rearguard action, notably by C.C. Gillispie, most historians accept that the traditional practices of analyzing theoretical developments within the sciences need to be supplemented by the study of the changing social foundations of scientific activity. The ’intemal vs. external’ debates of the late 1960s are, one hopes a thing of the past [47].

At the death of George Sarton the history of science was established as a small field, but one that was recognized by many as having importance. However, because of its historical development it was to be found in the academic world most frequently in the form of programs independent of history or science. Most publishing historians of science twenty-five years ago had been trained as scientists. Sarton recognized this, but believed that in the future the professional historian of science should have at least two masters’ degrees- one in a science and the other in history - before proceeding on to his Ph.D. in the history of science. However, the influence of Koyre and a trend among philosophers away from the history of philosophy toward the philosophy of science emphasized the growth of independent programs in the history and philosophy of science. During the fifties and the sixties there were further discussions of the relationship of the history of science to both history and the sciences.

In 1956 it seemed clear that the history of science required an expertise in the sciences that seemed to set it apart from the training received by all but the most unusual historians. But at this time traditional historians were becoming aware of the tremendous impact of science and technology on our lives and this gave rise to a certain urgency to learn more of this field. Thus, in a lecture on « The History of Science and the Study of History » in 1959 Herbert Butterfield said that,

Although the world had long known that science and technology were important, it is only recently that these things have taken command of our destiny - that destiny which we had learned from our history books to regard as depending so greatly on the wills of statesmen [48].

He argued that historians must take into account the rise of modern science and that when they do this it will « change the whole character of historiography » [49]. And yet Butterfield did not challenge the independence of the history of science. In his still influential The Origins of Modern Science 1300-1800 (1949), he presented the customary positivistic approach to the field that was current in the immediate post-war years [50]. The history of science must be understood by historians, but the field could rightly develop on its own because of the specialized knowledge it required. In fact Butterfield’s call for a greater awareness of science by historians was heeded. As more and more doctorates were awarded in the history of science in the 1960s and 1970s most of these young scholars found themselves hired by departments of history rather than by the older independent programs in the history of science or the history and philosophy of science. This new interest among traditional historians surely accelerated the move toward new areas of research such as those I have already noted, the part played by the pseudo-sciences in the rise of modern science as well as more general topics relating science to society and culture.

The development of the field in recent decades has also reopened the question of the relationship of the history of science to the sciences. In the 1950s few scientists were more influential in arguing reform in scientific education than James B. Conant. The War had shown clearly the need for more advanced scientific training for American youth. As a result, the method of teaching the sciences was rethought - and, at the same time, historical « case-studies » were introduced to give non-science majoring undergraduates the opportunity to see how the sciences have developed. But Conant, in a lecture delivered in 1960, stated that history was just as valuable for the scientist. He believed that scientific education was frequently too narrow and that the use of the case history approach would give students vision that would be broader and more informed [51]. He outlined a new science curriculum that would prepare students first in the history of their own science specialty and then in the history of modern science. These
courses were to be followed by others in the history of science taken in its widest possible sense and - only then - cultural and political history which would be understood in connection with the earlier courses in the history of science. He was far less enthusiastic about those who sought to equate the history of science with the social history of science - or the philosophy of science [52].

[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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