This collection explores how technologies become forms of power, how people embed their authority in technological systems, and how the machines and the knowledge that make up technical systems strengthen or reshape social, political, and cultural power. The authors suggest ways in which a more nuanced investigation of technology's complex history can enrich our understanding of the changing meanings of modernity.
In Meaning in Technology, Arnold Pacey explores how an individual's sense of purpose and meaning in life can affect the shape and use of technology. He argues against reductionism in interpreting technology in a human context, and for acknowledgment of the role of the human experience of purpose when it helps to express meaning in technology.
The industrial synthesis of ammonia from nitrogen and hydrogen has been of greater fundamental importance to the modern world than the invention of the airplane, nuclear energy, space flight, or television. The expansion of the world's population from 1.6 billion people in 1900 to today's six billion would not have been possible without the synthesis of ammonia.
In 1869, Adolphe Wurtz (1817-1884) called chemistry "a French science." In fact, however, Wurtz was the most internationalist of French chemists. Born in Strasbourg and educated partly in the laboratory of the great Justus Liebig, he spent his career in Paris, where he devoted himself to introducing German ideas into French scientific circles. His life therefore provides an excellent vehicle for considering the divergent trajectories of French and German chemistry—and, by extension, French and German science—during this crucial period.
Newton studies have undergone radical changes in the last half-century as more of his work has been uncovered and more details of his life and intellectual context have come to light. This volume singles out two strands in recent Newton studies: the intellectual background to Newton's scientific thought and both specific and general aspects of his technical science. The essays make new claims concerning Newton's mathematical methods, experimental investigations, and motivations, as well as the effect that his long presence had on science in England.
This book presents an organizational and social history of one of the foundational projects of the computer era: the development of the SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment) air defense system, from its first test at Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1951, to the installation of the first unit of the New York Air Defense Sector of the SAGE system, in 1958. The idea for SAGE grew out of Project Whirlwind, a wartime computer development effort, when the U.S. Department of Defense realized that the Whirlwind computer might anchor a continent-wide advance warning system.
In the nineteenth century, scientific practice underwent a dramatic transformation from personal endeavor to business enterprise. In Spectrum of Belief, Myles Jackson explores this transformation through a sociocultural history of the rise of precision optics in Germany. He uses the career of the optician Joseph von Fraunhofer (1787-1826) to probe the relationship between science and society, and between artisans and experimental natural philosophers, during this important transition.
From the days of the alchemists through the creation of the modern laboratory, chemistry has been defined by its instruments and experimental techniques. Historians, however, have tended to focus on the course of chemical theory rather than on the tools and experiments that drove the theory. This volume moves chemical instruments and experiments into the foreground of historical concern, in line with the emphasis on practice that characterizes current work on other fields of science and engineering.
After World War II, a systems approach to solving complex problems and managing complex systems came into vogue among engineers, scientists, and managers, fostered in part by the diffusion of digital computing power. Enthusiasm for the approach peaked during the Johnson administration, when it was applied to everything from military command and control systems to poverty in American cities.
Women Becoming Mathematicians looks at the lives and careers of thirty-six of the approximately two hundred women who earned Ph.D.s in mathematics from American institutions from 1940 to 1959. During this period, American mathematical research enjoyed an unprecedented expansion, fueled by the technological successes of World War II and the postwar boom in federal funding for education in the basic sciences. Yet women's share of doctorates earned in mathematics in the United States reached an all-time low.