Ursula Klein

Ursula Klein is Permanent Senior Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin and coauthor of Materials in Eighteenth-Century Science: A Historical Ontology (MIT Press).

  • Technoscience in History

    Prussia, 1750–1850

    Ursula Klein

    The relationship of the current technosciences and the older engineering sciences, examined through the history of the “useful” sciences in Prussia.

    Do today's technoscientific disciplines—including materials science, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and robotics—signal a radical departure from traditional science? In Technoscience in History, Ursula Klein argues that these novel disciplines and projects repesenr not an “epochal break,” but part of a history that can be traced back to German “useful” sciences and beyond. Klein's account traces a deeper history of technoscience, mapping the relationship between today's cutting-edge disciplines and the development of the useful and technological sciences in Prussia from 1750 to 1850.

    Klein shows that institutions that coupled natural-scientific and technological inquiry existed well before the twentieth century. Focusing on the science of mining, technical chemistry, the science of forestry, and the science of building (later known as civil engineering), she examines the emergence of practitioners who were recognized as men of science as well as inventive technologists—key figures that she calls “scientific-technological experts.”

    Klein describes the Prussian state's recruitment of experts for technical projects and manufacturing, including land surveys, the apothecary trade, and porcelain production; state-directed mining, mining science, and mining academies; the history and epistemology of useful science; and the founding of Prussian scientific institutions in the nineteenth century, including the University of Berlin, the Academy of Building, the Technical Deputation, and the Industrial Institute.

    • Paperback $40.00 £32.00
  • Materials in Eighteenth-Century Science

    Materials in Eighteenth-Century Science

    A Historical Ontology

    Ursula Klein and Wolfgang Lefèvre

    A history of raw materials and chemical substances from the late seventeenth to the early nineteenth centuries that scrutinizes the modes of identification and classification used by chemists and learned practitioners of the period, examining the ways in which their practices and understanding of the material objects changed.

    In the eighteenth century, chemistry was the science of materials. Chemists treated mundane raw materials and chemical substances as multidimensional objects of inquiry that could be investigated in both practical and theoretical contexts—as useful commodities, perceptible objects of nature, and entities with hidden and imperceptible features. In this history of materials, Ursula Klein and Wolfgang Lefèvre link chemical science with chemical technology, challenging our current understandings of objects in the history of science and the distinction between scientific and technological objects. They further show that chemists' experimental production and understanding of materials changed over time, first in the decades around 1700 and then around 1830, when mundane materials became clearly distinguished from true chemical substances. The authors approach their subject by scrutinizing the modes of identification and classification used by chemists and learned practitioners of the period. They find that chemists' classificatory practices especially were strikingly diverse. In scientific investigations, materials were classified either according to chemical composition or according to provenance and perceptible qualities. The authors further argue that chemists did not live in different worlds of materials before and after the Lavoisierian chemical revolution of the late eighteenth century. Their two main studies first explore the long tradition that informed Lavoisier's new nomenclature and method of classifying pure chemical substances and then describe the continuing classification of plant materials according to a pre-Lavoisierian scheme of provenance and perceptible qualities even after the chemical revolution, until a new mode of classification was accepted in the 1830s.

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    • Paperback $45.00 £38.00