Tuesday, January 17, 2012

History of Science (Without the Science)

The Second Chapter of Helge Kragh's The Historiography of Science begins by questioning how much of the history of science really involves the understanding of science at all. There seems to be a debate over whether or not the history of science should focus more on the historical factors and influences that affected scientific discoveries or the scientific discoveries themselves, or as Kragh puts it the History of Science vs. the History of Science. I'm sure such a debate could be made in other fields such as the History of Math or History of Art.

What's most interesting is that before I read this chapter, I held the conviction that the science should be the focus, but now I think that the history is more important, if only to understand the context of the scientific discoveries. I think that the actual scientific findings in history are meant to be taught in a straight-up science class, since the definition of that class seems to be taking the scientific discoveries made throughout history and teaching them to a new generation. The history of science is, therefore, left to tackle the historical aspect of these discoveries.

Perhaps think of it this way the next time you're in class: while in class, even if it's not explicitly a history class, you are still being taught a culmination of ideas, developments and discoveries throughout history, but only history as a specific field delves into the origins of what you're taught in every other class. In a way, you could say that every class is a history class, even if some are more so than others.

-Christopher Hoef

1 comment:

  1. I had the same thought that history of science should be primarily focused on science, yet after I read and digested the points which Kragh made, I now view the historical aspect of such a study to hold precedence over the factual, scientific aspect. In realizing this, I decided to look up a few interesting facts about a very renowned scientist, Isaac Newton. Maybe you guys have heard of him? (I'm a little heavy on the sarcasm here, I'm sorry.) One thing I learned upon looking up these facts is that Newton was very religious, yet held a slightly different view of religion from the Christians of his time (i.e. he did not believe in the Holy Trinity). This got me thinking: if Newton was so deeply religious, wouldn't his view of religion and how it diverged from those of his time have some implication on how he performed his experiments, or on why he chose to question the phenomena which he did? It's almost mind-baffling to think that science can be influenced by so much more than just a curiosity about nature. For those who wish to read more about Newton, and potentially learn some very interesting facts about this man, visit the link at the bottom of my comment. I hope you all enjoy it!