Skip navigation

History of Science

Scientific Authority and the Creation of Practical Electricity Before Edison

In 1882, Thomas Edison and his Edison Electric Light Company unveiled the first large-scale electrical system in the world to light a stretch of offices in a city. This was a monumental achievement, but it was not the beginning of the electrical age. The first electric generators were built in the 1830s, the earliest commercial lighting systems before 1860, and the first commercial application of generator-powered lights (in lighthouses) in the early 1860s.

The Genesis of Modern Meteorology

For much of the first half of the twentieth century, meteorology was more art than science, dependent on an individual forecaster's lifetime of local experience. In Weather by the Numbers, Kristine Harper tells the story of the transformation of meteorology from a "guessing science" into a sophisticated scientific discipline based on physics and mathematics.

Why Columbus Sailed South to the Indies

Everyone knows that in 1492 Christopher Columbus sailed west across the Atlantic, seeking a new route to the East. Few note, however, that Columbus's intention was also to sail south, to the tropics. In The Tropics of Empire, Nicolás Wey Gómez rewrites the geographical history of the discovery of the Americas, casting it as part of Europe's reawakening to the natural and human resources of the South.

A Life in Sound, Science, and Industry

Leo Beranek, an Iowa farm boy who became a Renaissance man—scientist, inventor, entrepreneur, musician, television executive, philanthropist, and author—has lived life in constant motion. His seventy-year career, through the most tumultuous and transformative years of the last century, has always been propelled by the sheer exhilaration of trying something new. In Riding the Waves, Leo Beranek tells his story.

Science and Technology Studies is a flourishing interdisciplinary field that examines the creation, development, and consequences of science and technology in their cultural, historical, and social contexts. The New Handbook of Science and Technology Studies provides a comprehensive and authoritative overview of the field, reviewing current research and major theoretical and methodological approaches and analyzing emergent issues in a form that is accessible to new and established scholars from a range of disciplines.

Engineering and Dictatorship in East Germany, 1945-1990

In Cold War-era East Germany, the German tradition of science-based technology merged with a socialist system that made technological progress central to its ideology. Technology became an important part of East German socialist identity—crucial to how Communists saw their system and how citizens saw their state. In Red Prometheus, Dolores Augustine examines the relationship between a dictatorial system and the scientific and engineering communities in East Germany from the end of the Second World War through the 1980s.

An Evolving Polarity

Genetically modified food, art in the form of a phosphorescent rabbit implanted with jellyfish DNA, and robots that simulate human emotion would seem to be evidence for the blurring boundary between the natural and the artificial. Yet because the deeply rooted concept of nature functions as a cultural value, a social norm, and a moral authority, we cannot simply dismiss the distinction between art and nature as a nostalgic relic.

Objectivity has a history, and it is full of surprises. In Objectivity, Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison chart the emergence of objectivity in the mid-nineteenth-century sciences—and show how the concept differs from its alternatives, truth-to-nature and trained judgment. This is a story of lofty epistemic ideals fused with workaday practices in the making of scientific images.

This book by distinguished philosopher Nicholas Rescher seeks to clarify the idea of what a conditional says by elucidating the information that is normally transmitted by its utterance. The result is a unified treatment of conditionals based on epistemological principles rather than the semantical principles in vogue over recent decades. This approach, argues Rescher, makes it easier to understand how conditionals actually function in our thought and discourse.

A History of Developmental Evolution

Although we now know that ontogeny (individual development) does not actually recapitulate phylogeny (evolutionary transformation), contrary to Ernst Haeckel's famous dictum, the relationship between embryological development and evolution remains the subject of intense scientific interest. In the 1990s a new field, evolutionary developmental biology (or Evo-Devo), was hailed as the synthesis of developmental and evolutionary biology.