Although many of the practical and intellectual traditions that make up modern science date back centuries, the category of “science” itself is a relative novelty. In the early eighteenth century, the modern German word that would later mean “science,” naturwissenschaft, was not even included in dictionaries. By 1850, however, the term was in use everywhere. Acolytes of Nature follows the emergence of this important new category within German-speaking Europe, tracing its rise from an insignificant eighteenth-century neologism to a defining rallying cry of modern German culture.
Today’s notion of a unified natural science has been deemed an invention of the mid-nineteenth century. Yet what Denise Phillips reveals here is that the idea of naturwissenschaft acquired a prominent place in German public life several decades earlier. Phillips uncovers the evolving outlines of the category of natural science and examines why Germans of varied social station and intellectual commitments came to find this label useful. An expanding education system, an increasingly vibrant consumer culture and urban social life, the early stages of industrialization, and the emergence of a liberal political movement all fundamentally altered the world in which educated Germans lived, and also reshaped the way they classified knowledge.
Alexander Dallas Bache (1806–1867) was one of the leaders of American science in the nineteenth century. Driven by a vision of science as a key component of an integrated U.S. nation-state, he guided the nascent American Association for the Advancement of Science and also led what was at that point the nation’s largest scientific enterprise, the U.S. Coast Survey. In this analytical biography, Axel Jansen explains and explores Bache’s efforts to build and shape public institutions as aids to his goal of creating a national foundation for a shared culture—efforts that culminated in his work during the Civil War as one of the founders of the National Academy of Sciences, which he saw as a key symbol of the continued viability of a unified American nation.
Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) is one of the most celebrated figures of late-modern science, famous for his work in physical geography, botanical geography, and climatology, and his role as one of the first great popularizers of the sciences. His momentous accomplishments have intrigued German biographers from the Prussian era to the fall of the Berlin wall, all of whom configured and reconfigured Humboldt’s life according to the sensibilities of the day.
This volume, the first metabiography of the great scientist, traces Humboldt’s biographical identities through Germany’s collective past to shed light on the historical instability of our scientific heroes.
“Rupke’s study . . . will doubtless become a standard reference for the Humboldt industry and for writers of scientific metabiographies to come.”—Isis
“Engaging. . . . Rupke’s meticulous analysis is fascinating on many scores.”—Times Higher Education Supplement (UK)
“A study borne of considerable scholarship and one with important methodological implications for historians of geography.”—Charles W. J. Withers, Progress in Human Geography
Am I Making Myself Clear?
Cornelia Dean Harvard University Press, 2009 Library of Congress Q223.D43 2009 | Dewey Decimal 501.4
Am I Making Myself Clear? shows scientists how to speak to the public, handle the media, and describe their work to a lay audience on paper, online, and over the airwaves. It is a book that will improve the tone and content of debate over critical issues and will serve the interests of science and society.
The Annotated Frankenstein
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Harvard University Press, 2012 Library of Congress PR5397.F7 2012c | Dewey Decimal 823.7
Published in 1818, Frankenstein has spellbound readers for generations and has inspired numerous retellings and sequels in every medium, making the myth familiar even to those who have never read a word of Mary Shelley’s novel. This freshly annotated, illustrated edition illuminates the novel and its electrifying afterlife.
The debate over scientists' social responsibility is a topic of great controversy today. Peter J. Kuznick here traces the origin of that debate to the 1930s and places it in a context that forces a reevaluation of the relationship between science and politics in twentieth-century America. Kuznick reveals how an influential segment of the American scientific community during the Depression era underwent a profound transformation in its social values and political beliefs, replacing a once-pervasive conservatism and antipathy to political involvement with a new ethic of social reform.
This is the untold story of the remarkable scientist who established the carbon dioxide theory of climate change. Guy Stewart Callendar discovered that global warming could be brought about by increases in the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide due to human activities, primarily through burning fossil fuels. He did this in 1938! Using never-before-published original scientific correspondence, notebooks, family letters, and photographs, science historian James Rodger Fleming introduces us to one of Britain’s leading engineers and explains his life and work through two World Wars to his continuing legacy as the scientist who established The Callendar Effect.
In the late 1800s, “Arctic Fever” swept across the nation as dozens of American expeditions sailed north to the Arctic to find a sea route to Asia and, ultimately, to stand at the North Pole. Few of these missions were successful, and many men lost their lives en route. Yet failure did little to dampen the enthusiasm of new explorers or the crowds at home that cheered them on. Arctic exploration, Michael F. Robinson argues, was an activity that unfolded in America as much as it did in the wintry hinterland. Paying particular attention to the perils facing explorers at home, The Coldest Crucible examines their struggles to build support for the expeditions before departure, defend their claims upon their return, and cast themselves as men worthy of the nation’s full attention. In so doing, this book paints a new portrait of polar voyagers, one that removes them from the icy backdrop of the Arctic and sets them within the tempests of American cultural life.
With chronological chapters featuring emblematic Arctic explorers—including Elisha Kent Kane, Charles Hall, and Robert Peary—The Coldest Crucible reveals why the North Pole, a region so geographically removed from Americans, became an iconic destination for discovery.
Entrepreneurial science is not new; business interests have strongly influenced science since the Scientific Revolution. In Commercial Visions, Dániel Margócsy illustrates that product marketing, patent litigation, and even ghostwriting pervaded natural history and medicine—the “big sciences” of the early modern era—and argues that the growth of global trade during the Dutch Golden Age gave rise to an entrepreneurial network of transnational science.
Margócsy introduces a number of natural historians, physicians, and curiosi in Amsterdam, London, St. Petersburg, and Paris who, in their efforts to boost their trade, developed modern taxonomy, invented color printing and anatomical preparation techniques, and contributed to philosophical debates on topics ranging from human anatomy to Newtonian optics. These scientific practitioners, including Frederik Ruysch and Albertus Seba, were out to do business: they produced and sold exotic curiosities, anatomical prints, preserved specimens, and atlases of natural history to customers all around the world. Margócsy reveals how their entrepreneurial rivalries transformed the scholarly world of the Republic of Letters into a competitive marketplace.
Margócsy’s highly readable and engaging book will be warmly welcomed by anyone interested in early modern science, global trade, art, and culture.
Containing more than 1,200 new entries on both major and minor figures of British science, this four-volume dictionary examines how the theories and practices of scientists were shaped by Victorian beliefs about religion, gender, imperialism, and politics, presenting a rich panorama of the development of science in the nineteenth century.
While the Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century British Scientists covers those working in traditional scientific areas such as physics, astronomy, chemistry, mathematics, and biology, it also acknowledges those working in the human sciences such as anthropology, sociology, psychology, and medicine. In addition, areas often overlooked by historians of science—such as phrenology, mesmerism, spiritualism, scientific illustration, scientific journalism and publishing, instrument making, and government policy—are included here, as are the important roles of neglected "amateurs," such as women and members of the working class. By including those who worked in nontraditional areas and by considering the social and cultural context in which they lived, the dictionary reflects a richer picture of nineteenth-century science than has ever been seen before.
In a provocative reassessment of one of the quintessential figures of early modern science, Rose-Mary Sargent explores Robert Boyle's philosophy of experiment, a central aspect of his life and work that became a model for mid- to late seventeenth-century natural philosophers and for many who followed them.
Sargent examines the philosophical, legal, experimental, and religious traditions—among them English common law, alchemy, medicine, and Christianity—that played a part in shaping Boyle's experimental thought and practice. The roots of his philosophy in his early life and education, in his religious ideals, and in the work of his predecessors—particularly Bacon, Descartes, and Galileo—are fully explored, as are the possible influences of his social and intellectual circle. Drawing on the full range of Boyle's published works, as well as on his unpublished notebooks and manuscripts, Sargent shows how these diverse influences were transformed and incorporated into Boyle's views on and practice of experiment.
What are the conditions that foster true novelty and allow visionaries to set their eyes on unknown horizons? What have been the challenges that have spawned new innovations, and how have they shaped modern biology? In Dreamers, Visionaries, and Revolutionaries in the Life Sciences, editors Oren Harman and Michael R. Dietrich explore these questions through the lives of eighteen exemplary biologists who had grand and often radical ideas that went far beyond the run-of-the-mill science of their peers.
From the Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, who coined the word “biology” in the early nineteenth century, to the American James Lovelock, for whom the Earth is a living, breathing organism, these dreamers innovated in ways that forced their contemporaries to reexamine comfortable truths. With this collection readers will follow Jane Goodall into the hidden world of apes in African jungles and Francis Crick as he attacks the problem of consciousness. Join Mary Lasker on her campaign to conquer cancer and follow geneticist George Church as he dreams of bringing back woolly mammoths and Neanderthals. In these lives and the many others featured in these pages, we discover visions that were sometimes fantastical, quixotic, and even threatening and destabilizing, but always a challenge to the status quo.
This classic biography of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772), first published in 1948, gives us a sharp, witty, personal insight into the life of the Swedish scientist and theologian.
Though not a Swedenborgian herself, and somewhat skeptical of Swedenborg’s claims to divine revelation, Toksvig praises Swedenborg’s genius as both a thinker and a man of faith: “Swedenborg in his later phase has as great treasure to bestow as many of those millionaires of the spirit we call mystics, even if one reads him strictly from an ethical point of view. And, apart from an interest in distinctions between good and evil—not an unnecessary interest at the present time, one would think—Swedenborg in his life and works can, if one takes a little trouble to understand him, open travel horizons for us far exceeding all others for beauty and strangeness.”
An introduction by the Reverend Brian Kingslake, added to a 1983 edition, provides a Swedenborgian perspective and retrospective on a work that remains a fascinating, informative look at Swedenborg’s world.
Most scientists and researchers aren’t prepared to talk to the press or to policymakers—or to deal with backlash. Many researchers have the horror stories to prove it. What’s clear, according to Nancy Baron, is that scientists, journalists and public policymakers come from different cultures. They follow different sets of rules, pursue different goals, and speak their own language. To effectively reach journalists and public officials, scientists need to learn new skills and rules of engagement. No matter what your specialty, the keys to success are clear thinking, knowing what you want to say, understanding your audience, and using everyday language to get your main points across.
In this practical and entertaining guide to communicating science, Baron explains how to engage your audience and explain why a particular finding matters. She explores how to ace your interview, promote a paper, enter the political fray, and use new media to connect with your audience. The book includes advice from journalists, decision makers, new media experts, bloggers and some of the thousands of scientists who have participated in her communication workshops. Many of the researchers she has worked with have gone on to become well-known spokespeople for science-related issues. Baron and her protégées describe the risks and rewards of “speaking up,” how to deal with criticism, and the link between communications and leadership. The final chapter, ‘Leading the Way’ offers guidance to scientists who want to become agents of change and make your science matter. Whether you are an absolute beginner or a seasoned veteran looking to hone your skills, Escape From the Ivory Tower can help make your science understood, appreciated and perhaps acted upon.
What did it mean to be a scientist before the profession itself existed? Jan Golinski finds an answer in the remarkable career of Humphry Davy, the foremost chemist of his day and one of the most distinguished British men of science of the nineteenth century. Originally a country boy from a modest background, Davy was propelled by his scientific accomplishments to a knighthood and the presidency of the Royal Society. An enigmatic figure to his contemporaries, Davy has continued to elude the efforts of biographers to classify him: poet, friend to Coleridge and Wordsworth, author of travel narratives and a book on fishing, chemist and inventor of the miners’ safety lamp. What are we to make of such a man?
In The Experimental Self, Golinski argues that Davy’s life is best understood as a prolonged process of self-experimentation. He follows Davy from his youthful enthusiasm for physiological experiment through his self-fashioning as a man of science in a period when the path to a scientific career was not as well-trodden as it is today. What emerges is a portrait of Davy as a creative fashioner of his own identity through a lifelong series of experiments in selfhood.
Ned Rozell University of Alaska Press, 2011 Library of Congress Q143.Y56R69 2011 | Dewey Decimal 551.384
Finding Mars is an interwoven tale of science, travel, and adventure, as science writer Ned Rozell accompanies permafrost researcher—and inveterate wanderer—Kenji Yoshikawa on a 750-mile trek by snowmobile through the Alaska wilderness. Along the way, Rozell learns about Yoshikawa’s fascinating life, from his boyhood in Tokyo to the youthful wanderlust that led him to push a wheeled cart across the Sahara, ski to the South Pole, and take a sailboat into the frozen reaches of the Arctic Ocean, spending a winter frozen in the ice near Barrow. It’s an always on-the-move account of a man driven not just by the desire to fill in the blank spots on a map, but also to learn everything he can about them—and a ringing testament to the power of science, enthusiasm, and individual inspiration.
In The Forgotten Tribe: Scientists as Writers, Lisa Emerson offers an important corrective to the view that scientists are "poor writers, unnecessarily opaque, not interested in writing, and in need of remediation." She argues that scientists are among "the most sophisticated and flexible writers in the academy, often writing for a wider range of audiences (their immediate disciplinary peers, peers in adjacent fields, a broad scientific audience, industry, and a range of public audiences including social media) than most other faculty." Moreover, she notes, the often collaborative and multidisciplinary nature of their work results in writing practices that "may be more socially complex, and require more articulation, mediation, and interpersonal communication, and more use of advanced media and technology than those of faculty in other disciplines."
Drawing on extensive interviews with scientists, Emerson argues that writing scholars have "engaged in a form of cultural appropriation" that has worked against a deeper understanding of the contexts in which scientists work and the considerations they bring to their writing. Emerson grounds her analysis in the voices of scientists in a way that allows us to understand not only how they approach writing but also how we might usefully teach writing in the sciences. The Forgotten Tribe offers a valuable contribution to our understanding of scientific writing, allowing us to hear voices that are seldom included in our discussions of this critical area.
The philosopher Patrick Suppes has developed a unique and influential approach to studying the foundations of science—he combines an understanding of the main principles of scientific theories in axiomatic terms and formal models with a hands-on approach. While moving the study of the philosophy of science out of the parlor and into the lab, he often comes up with original results from the psychology of learning to the theory of measurement and quantum mechanics. This book searches for a common thread in Suppes’s multifaceted work through a series of conversations with the man himself and illuminates many of the more challenging aspects of his philosophy.
"James Rieger's Frankenstein is relatively special among editions: it is the definitive scholarly text, and it is also the most readable copy for the classroom and the general reader. . . .The Rieger Frankenstein is very simply the best edition of this tremendously important and popular novel."—William Veeder, University of Chicago
In his time Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) was the most famous American in the world. Even those personally unacquainted with the man knew him as the author of Poor Richard’s Almanack, as a pioneer in the study of electricity and a major figure in the American Enlightenment, as the creator of such life-changing innovations as the lightning rod and America’s first circulating library, and as a leader of the American Revolution. His friends also knew him as a brilliant conversationalist, a great wit, an intellectual filled with curiosity, and most of all a master anecdotist whose vast store of knowledge complemented his conversational skills. In Franklin in His Own Time, by reprinting the original documents in which those anecdotes occur, Kevin Hayes and Isabelle Bour restore those oft-told stories to their cultural contexts to create a comprehensive narrative of his life and work.
The thirty-five recollections gathered in Franklin in His Own Time form an animated, collaborative biography designed to provide a multitude of perspectives on the “First American.” Opening with an account by botanist Peter Kalm showing that Franklin was doing all he could to encourage the development of science in North America, it includes on-the-spot impressions from Daniel Fisher’s diary, the earliest surviving interview with Franklin, recollections from James Madison and Abigail Adams, Manasseh Cutler’s detailed description of the library at Franklin Court, and extracts from Alexander Hamilton’s unvarnished Minutes of the Tuesday Club. Franklin’s political missions to Great Britain and France, where he took full advantage of rich social and intellectual opportunities, are a source of many reminiscences, some published here in new translations. Genuine memories from such old friends as Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, as opposed to memories influenced by the Autobiography, clarify Franklin’s reputation. Robert Carr may have been the last remaining person who knew Franklin personally, and thus his recollections are particularly significant.
Each entry is introduced by a headnote that places the selection in its historical and cultural contexts; explanatory notes provide information about people and places; and the editors’ comprehensive introduction and chronology detail Franklin’s eventful life. Dozens of lively primary sources published incrementally over more than a hundred years illustrate the complexity of the man, his mind, and his mannerisms in a way that no single biographer could.
From time to time, the diligent science student huddled over dense volumes of research findings and highly technical data will stumble upon a truly rare treasure: the author’s answer to the question of, “Why?” Why did the authors of these volumes commit themselves so ardently to life in the laboratory? What was it that motivated them to keep their eye to microscope for years on end? Why did the world’s greatest scientists devote their lives to research—an endeavor where failure is the exponentially more likely outcome than success?
In their new anthology, From Galileo to Gell-Mann, Marco Bersanelli and Mario Gargantini have gathered the answers to these fascinating questions from over one hundred of the brightest scientific minds from our past and our present. It is a goldmine of insight that previously could only to be found hidden deep within thousands of scattershot pages of footnotes from out-of-print journals, rare books, and unpublished papers. Throughout the work, Bersanelli and Gargantini also offer insightful commentary and discussion on the readings.
Among the most remarkable similarities that emerge when one considers together these writings from the likes of Albert Einstein, Gregor Mendel, Marie Curie, and others, is the sense of wonder and outright awe at what the study of the natural world can reveal. From Galileo to Gell-Mann makes it clear that science and all parallel attempts to understand our human existence—including fields like philosophy to theology—are viewed as nothing less than grand adventures to those that are probing the limits of what we know.
Ronald Numbers has recruited the leading scholars in this new history of science to puncture the myths, from Galileo's incarceration to Darwin's deathbed conversion to Einstein's belief in a personal God who "didn't play dice with the universe." Each chapter in Galileo Goes to Jail shows how much we have to gain by seeing beyond the myths.
Global warming is the number one environmental issue of our time, yet some prominent politicians have refused to accept scientific evidence of human responsibility and have opposed any legislation or international agreement that would limit greenhouse gas emissions. A few have gone even further and have tried to destroy the reputations of scientists researching climate change by deliberately undermining the credibility of their research. These politicians have sought to sow seeds of doubt in the minds of the public and to weaken public and political support for the control of fossil fuel use.
In this powerful book, highly respected climate scientist Raymond Bradley provides the inside story from the front lines of the debate. In clear and direct language, he describes the tactics those in power have used to intimidate him and his colleagues part of a larger pattern of governmental suppression of scientific information, politics at the expense of empirically based discourse.
Speaking from his experience, Bradley exposes the fault lines in the global warming debate, while providing a concise primer on climate change. The result is a cautionary tale of how politics and science can become fatally intertwined.
For hundreds of years, the New England cod fishery was one of the most productive in the world, with higher average annual landings than any comparable ocean area. But in the late 1980s, fish catches dropped precipitously, as the cod, flounder, and other species that had long dominated the region seemed to lose their ability to recover from the massive annual harvests. Even today, with fishing sharply restricted, populations have not recovered.
Largely overlooked in this disaster is the intriguing human and scientific puzzle that lies at its heart: an anguished, seemingly inexplicable conflict between government scientists and fishermen over how fish populations are assessed, which has led to bitter disputes and has crippled efforts to agree on catch restrictions. In The Great Gulf, author David Dobbs offers a fascinating and compelling look at both sides of the conflict.
With great immediacy, he describes the history of the fisheries science in this most studied of oceans, and takes the reader on a series of forays over the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank on both fishing boats and research vessels. He introduces us to the challenges facing John Galbraith, Linda Despres, and Jay Burnett, passionate and dedicated scientists with the National Marine Fisheries Service who spend countless hours working to determine how many fish there really are, and to the dilemma of Dave Goethel, a whipsmart, conscientious fisherman with 20 years's experience who struggles to understand the complex world he works in while maintaining his livelihood in an age of increasing regulation.
Dobbs paints the New England fishery problem in its full human and natural complexity, vividly portraying the vitality of an uncontrollable, ultimately unknowable sea and its strange, frightening, and beautiful creatures on the one hand, and on the other, the smart, irrepressible, unpredictable people who work there with great joy and humor, refusing to surrender to the many reasons for despair or cynicism. For anyone who read Cod or The Perfect Storm, this book offers the next chapter of the story -- how today's fishers and fisheries scientists are grappling with the collapse of this fishery and trying to chart, amid uncertain waters, a course towards its restoration.
Hermann von Helmholtz was a towering figure of nineteenth-century scientific and intellectual life. Best known for his achievements in physiology and physics, he also contributed to other disciplines such as ophthalmology, psychology, mathematics, chemical thermodynamics, and meteorology. With Helmholtz: A Life in Science, David Cahan has written a definitive biography, one that brings to light the dynamic relationship between Helmholtz’s private life, his professional pursuits, and the larger world in which he lived.
Utilizing all of Helmholtz’s scientific and philosophical writings, as well as previously unknown letters, this book reveals the forces that drove his life—a passion to unite the sciences, vigilant attention to the sources and methods of knowledge, and a deep appreciation of the ways in which the arts and sciences could benefit each other. By placing the overall structure and development of his scientific work and philosophy within the greater context of nineteenth-century Germany, Helmholtz also serves as cultural biography of the construction of the scientific community: its laboratories, institutes, journals, disciplinary organizations, and national and international meetings. Helmholtz’s life is a shining example of what can happen when the sciences and the humanities become interwoven in the life of one highly motivated, energetic, and gifted person.
While the authors identify areas of concern regarding scientists’ low earnings, competition from Asia, and the declining number of academic positions, they conclude that science in the United States is not in decline. American culture is highly conducive to science, and educated workers with a range of skills will still be in demand in the future.
“John Wesley Powell: explorer, writer, geologist, anthropologist, land planner, bureaucrat. Which one do we focus on?” This is the question author James M. Aton poses at the beginning of his biography of Powell, though he soon decides that it is impossible to ignore any facet of Powell’s life. Powell was a polymath, one whose “divergent interests resemble one of those braided streambeds in his beloved canyon country, branching out in many directions, but ultimately beginning and ending in the same stream."
Aton beautifully tells the multidimensional stories of Powell’s childhood, his military and teaching careers, his famous and exciting explorations of the Colorado River, and the battles he waged from his influential positions within the Smithsonian’s Bureau of Ethnology and the United States Geological Survey. This new edition of John Wesley Powell: His Life and Legacy, first printed as an issue of the Boise State University Western Writers Series, includes the original biography, but also features Aton’s new interpretations of Powell’s writings on exploration, land-planning, anthropology, and irrigation, and incorporates the author’s distinguished faculty lecture on Powell and cash-register dams in the Colorado River Basin.
Anne E. Preston Russell Sage Foundation, 2004 Library of Congress Q149.U5P74 2004 | Dewey Decimal 331.126150973
The past thirty years have witnessed a dramatic decline in the number of U.S. students pursuing advanced degrees in science and an equally dramatic increase in the number of professionals leaving scientific careers. Leaving Science provides the first significant examination of this worrisome new trend. Economist Anne E. Preston examines a wide range of important questions: Why do professionals who have invested extensive time and money on a rigorous scientific education leave the field? Where do these scientists go and what do they do? What policies might aid in retaining and improving the quality of life for science personnel? Based on data from a large national survey of nearly 1,700 people who received university degrees in the natural sciences or engineering between 1965 and 1990 and a subsequent in-depth follow-up survey, Leaving Science provides a comprehensive portrait of the career trajectories of men and women who have earned science degrees. Alarmingly, by the end of the follow-up survey, only 51 percent of the original respondents were still working in science. During this time, federal funding for scientific research decreased dramatically relative to private funding. Consequently, the direction of scientific research has increasingly been dictated by market forces, and many scientists have left academic research for income and opportunity in business and industry. Preston identifies the main reasons for people leaving scientific careers as dissatisfaction with compensation and career advancement, difficulties balancing family and career responsibilities, and changing professional interests. Highlighting the difference between male and female exit patterns, Preston shows that most men left because they found scientific salaries low relative to perceived alternatives in other fields, while most women left scientific careers in response to feelings of alienation due to lack of career guidance, difficulty relating to their work, and insufficient time for their family obligations. Leaving Science contains a unique blend of rigorous statistical analysis with voices of individual scientists, ensuring a rich and detailed understanding of an issue with profound consequences for the nation's future. A better understanding of why professionals leave science can help lead to changes in scientific education and occupations and make the scientific workplace more attractive and hospitable to career men and women.
The common fruit fly, Drosophila, has long been one of the most productive of all laboratory animals. From 1910 to 1940, the center of Drosophila culture in America was the school of Thomas Hunt Morgan and his students Alfred Sturtevant and Calvin Bridges. They first created "standard" flies through inbreeding and by organizing a network for exchanging stocks of flies that spread their practices around the world.
In Lords of the Fly, Robert E. Kohler argues that fly laboratories are a special kind of ecological niche in which the wild fruit fly is transformed into an artificial animal with a distinctive natural history. He shows that the fly was essentially a laboratory tool whose startling productivity opened many new lines of genetic research. Kohler also explores the moral economy of the "Drosophilists": the rules for regulating access to research tools, allocating credit for achievements, and transferring authority from one generation of scientists to the next.
By closely examining the Drosophilists' culture and customs, Kohler reveals essential features of how experimental scientists do their work.
Self-styled adventurer, literary wit, philosopher, and statesman of science, Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis (1698-1759) stood at the center of Enlightenment science and culture. Offering an elegant and accessible portrait of this remarkable man, Mary Terrall uses the story of Maupertuis's life, self-fashioning, and scientific works to explore what it meant to do science and to be a man of science in eighteenth-century Europe.
Beginning his scientific career as a mathematician in Paris, Maupertuis entered the public eye with a much-discussed expedition to Lapland, which confirmed Newton's calculation that the earth was flattened at the poles. He also made significant, and often intentionally controversial, contributions to physics, life science, navigation, astronomy, and metaphysics. Called to Berlin by Frederick the Great, Maupertuis moved to Prussia to preside over the Academy of Sciences there. Equally at home in salons, cafés, scientific academies, and royal courts, Maupertuis used his social connections and his printed works to enhance a carefully constructed reputation as both a man of letters and a man of science. His social and institutional affiliations, in turn, affected how Maupertuis formulated his ideas, how he presented them to his contemporaries, and the reactions they provoked.
Terrall not only illuminates the life and work of a colorful and important Enlightenment figure, but also uses his story to delve into many wider issues, including the development of scientific institutions, the impact of print culture on science, and the interactions of science and government. Smart and highly readable, Maupertuis will appeal to anyone interested in eighteenth-century science and culture.
“Terrall’s work is scholarship in the best sense. Her explanations of arcane 18th-century French physics, mathematics, astronomy, and biology are among the most lucid available in any language.”—Virginia Dawson, American Historical Review
Winner of the 2003 Pfizer Award from the History of Science Society
Spurned by his first love, Homi Seervai, the Parsi genius from Bombay, creates a machine that lets him scan his brain for memories of the time he spent with her. The machine malfunctions, propelling him instead into his collective unconscious where he encounters ancestors and relatives, both dead and alive. In this wildly inventive book—available for the first time in the United States—Homi, blessed with the memory of elephants, discovers the splendor of his heritage as well as hope for the future.
In Notebooks, English Virtuosi, and Early Modern Science, Richard Yeo interprets a relatively unexplored set of primary archival sources: the notes and notebooks of some of the leading figures of the Scientific Revolution. Notebooks were important to several key members of the Royal Society of London, including Robert Boyle, John Evelyn, Robert Hooke, John Locke, and others, who drew on Renaissance humanist techniques of excerpting from texts to build storehouses of proverbs, maxims, quotations, and other material in personal notebooks, or commonplace books. Yeo shows that these men appreciated the value of their own notes both as powerful tools for personal recollection, and, following Francis Bacon, as a system of precise record keeping from which they could retrieve large quantities of detailed information for collaboration.
The virtuosi of the seventeenth century were also able to reach beyond Bacon and the humanists, drawing inspiration from the ancient Hippocratic medical tradition and its emphasis on the gradual accumulation of information over time. By reflecting on the interaction of memory, notebooks, and other records, Yeo argues, the English virtuosi shaped an ethos of long-term empirical scientific inquiry.
In 1974 India joined the elite roster of nuclear world powers when it exploded its first nuclear bomb. But the technological progress that facilitated that feat was set in motion many decades before, as India sought both independence from the British and respect from the larger world. Over the course of the twentieth century, India metamorphosed from a marginal place to a serious hub of technological and scientific innovation. It is this tale of transformation that Robert S. Anderson recounts in Nucleus and Nation.
Tracing the long institutional and individual preparations for India’s first nuclear test and its consequences, Anderson begins with the careers of India’s renowned scientists—Meghnad Saha, Shanti Bhatnagar, Homi Bhabha, and their patron Jawaharlal Nehru—in the first half of the twentieth century before focusing on the evolution of the large and complex scientific community—especially Vikram Sarabhi—in the later part of the era. By contextualizing Indian debates over nuclear power within the larger conversation about modernization and industrialization, Anderson hones in on the thorny issue of the integration of science into the framework and self-reliant ideals of Indian nationalism. In this way, Nucleus and Nation is more than a history of nuclear science and engineering and the Indian Atomic Energy Commission; it is a unique perspective on the history of Indian nationhood and the politics of its scientific community.
“The frontier of science” is a metaphor that has become ubiquitous in American rhetoric, from its first appearance in the public address of early twentieth-century American intellectuals and politicians who aligned a mythic national identity with scientific research, to its more recent use in scientists’ arguments in favor of increased research funding. Here, Leah Ceccarelli explores what is selected and what is deflected when this metaphor is deployed, its effects on those who use it, and what rhetorical moves are made by those who try to counter its appeal. In her research, Ceccarelli discovers that “the frontier of science” evokes a scientist who is typically male, a risk taker, an adventurous loner—someone separated from a public that both envies and distrusts him, with a manifest destiny to penetrate the unknown. It conjures a competitive desire to claim the riches of a new territory before others can do the same. Closely reading the public address of scientists and politicians and the reception of their audiences, this book shows how the frontier of science metaphor constrains American speakers, helping to guide the ends of scientific research in particular ways and sometimes blocking scientists from attaining the very goals they set out to achieve.
At a time when the Manhattan Project was synonymous with large-scale science, physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904–67) represented the new sociocultural power of the American intellectual. Catapulted to fame as director of the Los Alamos atomic weapons laboratory, Oppenheimer occupied a key position in the compact between science and the state that developed out of World War II. By tracing the making—and unmaking—of Oppenheimer’s wartime and postwar scientific identity, Charles Thorpe illustrates the struggles over the role of the scientist in relation to nuclear weapons, the state, and culture.
A stylish intellectual biography, Oppenheimer maps out changes in the roles of scientists and intellectuals in twentieth-century America, ultimately revealing transformations in Oppenheimer’s persona that coincided with changing attitudes toward science in society.
“This is an outstandingly well-researched book, a pleasure to read and distinguished by the high quality of its observations and judgments. It will be of special interest to scholars of modern history, but non-specialist readers will enjoy the clarity that Thorpe brings to common misunderstandings about his subject.”—Graham Farmelo, Times Higher Education Supplement
“A fascinating new perspective. . . . Thorpe’s book provides the best perspective yet for understanding Oppenheimer’s Los Alamos years, which were critical, after all, not only to his life but, for better or worse, the history of mankind.”—Catherine Westfall, Nature
Robert Kohler shows exactly how entrepreneurial academic scientists became intimate "partners in science" with the officers of the large foundations created by John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, and in so doing tells a fascinating story of how the modern system of grant-getting and grant-giving evolved, and how this funding process has changed the way laboratory scientists make their careers and do their work.
"This book is a rich historical tapestry of people, institutions and scientific ideas. It will stand for a long time as a source of precise and detailed information about an important aspect of the scientific enterprise. . .It also contains many valuable lessons for the coming years."—John Ziman, Times Higher Education Supplement
William Hyde Wollaston made an astonishing number of discoveries in an astonishingly varied number of fields: platinum metallurgy, the existence of ultraviolet radiation, the chemical elements palladium and rhodium, the amino acid cystine, and the physiology of binocular vision, among others. Along with his colleagues Humphry Davy and Thomas Young, he was widely recognized during his life as one of Britain’s leading scientific practitioners in the first part of the nineteenth century, and the deaths of all three within a six-month span, between 1828 and 1829, were seen by many as the end of a glorious period of British scientific supremacy. Unlike Davy and Young, however, Wollaston was not the subject of a contemporary biography, and his many impressive achievements have fallen into obscurity as a result.
Pure Intelligence is the first book-length study of Wollaston, his science, and the environment in which he thrived. Drawing on previously-unstudied laboratory records as well as historical reconstructions of chemical experiments and discoveries, and written in a highly accessible style, Pure Intelligence will help to reinstate Wollaston in the history of science, and the pantheon of its great innovators.
The Cold War forced scientists to reconcile their values of internationalism and objectivity with the increasingly militaristic uses of scientific knowledge. For decades, antinuclear scientists pursued nuclear disarmament in a variety of ways, from grassroots activism to transnational diplomacy and government science advising. The U.S. government ultimately withstood these efforts, redefining science as a strictly technical endeavor that enhanced national security and deeming science that challenged nuclear weapons on moral grounds "emotional" and patently unscientific. In response, many activist scientists restricted themselves to purely technical arguments for arms control. When antinuclear protest erupted in the 1980s, grassroots activists had moved beyond scientific and technical arguments for disarmament. Grounding their stance in the idea that nuclear weapons were immoral, they used the "emotional" arguments that most scientists had abandoned.
Redefining Science shows that the government achieved its Cold War "consensus" only by active opposition to powerful dissenters and helps explain the current and uneasy relationship between scientists, the public, and government in debates over issues such as security, energy, and climate change.
To celebrate the intellectual achievement of the University of Chicago on the occasion of its centennial year, Edward Shils invited a group of notable scholars and scientists to reflect upon some of their own teachers and colleagues at the University.
The Responsible Scientist
John Forge University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008 Library of Congress Q147.F667 2008 | Dewey Decimal 174.95
When Fat Boy, the first atomic bomb was detonated at Los Alamos, New Mexico in 1945, moral responsibility in science was forever thrust into the forefront of philosophical debate. The culmination of the famed Manhattan Project, which employed many of the world's best scientific minds, was a singular event that signaled a new age of science for power and profit and the monumental responsibility that these actions entailed.
Today, the drive for technological advances in areas such as pharmaceuticals, biosciences, communications, and the defense industry channels the vast majority of scientific endeavor into applied research. In The Responsible Scientist, John Forge examines the challenges of social, moral, and legal responsibility faced by today's scientists. Focusing on moral responsibility, Forge argues that scientists have a responsibility not to do work that has harmful outcomes and that they are encouraged to do work that prevents harm. Scientists also have a backward-looking responsibility, whereby they must prevent wrongful outcomes and omissions that they are in a position to foresee.
Forge presents a broad overview of many areas of scientific endeavor, citing the responsibility of corporations, employees, and groups of scientists as judged by the values of science and society's appraisals of actions and outcomes. He maintains that ultimate responsibility lies in the hands of the individual-the responsible scientist-who must exhibit the diligence and foresight to anticipate the use and abuse of his or her work.
Beginning in the early 2000s, there was an upsurge of national concern over the state of the science and engineering job market that sparked a plethora of studies, commission reports, and a presidential initiative, all stressing the importance of maintaining American competitiveness in these fields. Science and Engineering Careers in the United States is the first major academic study to probe the issues that underlie these concerns.
This volume provides new information on the economics of the postgraduate science and engineering job market, addressing such topics as the factors that determine the supply of PhDs, the career paths they follow after graduation, and the creation and use of knowledge as it is reflected by the amount of papers and patents produced. A distinguished team of contributors also explores the tensions between industry and academe in recruiting graduates, the influx of foreign-born doctorates, and the success of female doctorates. Science and Engineering Careers in the United States will raise new questions about stimulating innovation and growth in the American economy.
The role of science in policymaking has gained unprecedented stature in the United States, raising questions about the place of science and scientific expertise in the democratic process. Some scientists have been given considerable epistemic authority in shaping policy on issues of great moral and cultural significance, and the politicizing of these issues has become highly contentious.
Since World War II, most philosophers of science have purported the concept that science should be “value-free.” In Science, Policy and the Value-Free Ideal, Heather E. Douglas argues that such an ideal is neither adequate nor desirable for science. She contends that the moral responsibilities of scientists require the consideration of values even at the heart of science. She lobbies for a new ideal in which values serve an essential function throughout scientific inquiry, but where the role values play is constrained at key points, thus protecting the integrity and objectivity of science. In this vein, Douglas outlines a system for the application of values to guide scientists through points of uncertainty fraught with moral valence.
Following a philosophical analysis of the historical background of science advising and the value-free ideal, Douglas defines how values should-and should not-function in science. She discusses the distinctive direct and indirect roles for values in reasoning, and outlines seven senses of objectivity, showing how each can be employed to determine the reliability of scientific claims. Douglas then uses these philosophical insights to clarify the distinction between junk science and sound science to be used in policymaking. In conclusion, she calls for greater openness on the values utilized in policymaking, and more public participation in the policymaking process, by suggesting various models for effective use of both the public and experts in key risk assessments.
Scientific Characters chronicles the contests over character, knowledge, trust, and truth in a politically charged scientific controversy that erupted after a 1994 Chicago Tribune headline: “Fraud in Breast Cancer Research: Doctor Lied on Data for Decade.” In the aftermath of this dramatic news, Dr. Bernard Fisher, the eminent oncologist and celebrated pioneer of breast cancer research, came under intense scrutiny following allegations that one of his investigators falsified data in landmark breast cancer research. Although he was eventually cleared of all wrongdoing, the controversy called into question the treatment decisions of tens of thousands of women, because Fisher’s research had demonstrated that lumpectomy and radiation were as effective as breast removal for early stage cancers—a finding that was hailed as revolutionary in women’s health care.
Moving back and forth between news coverage, medical journals, letters to the editor, and oncology pamphlets, Lisa Keränen draws insights from rhetoric, literary studies, sociology, and science studies to analyze the roles of character in shaping the outcomes of the “Datagate” controversy. Throughout the scandal, debates about the character of Fisher and other key players endured, showing how scientific knowledge is shaped by perceptions of the personal temperament, trustworthiness, integrity, and transparency of those who produce it. As administrators, politicians, scientists, patients, journalists, and citizens attempted to make sense of what had happened, and to assess the integrity of the research, they raised questions, assigned blame, attributed responsibility, and reshaped the norms of scientific practice. Scientific Characters thusaddresses what happens when scientists, patients, and advocates are called to defend themselves in public concerning complex technical matters with direct implications for human life. In assessing the rhetoric that animated Datagate, Scientific Characters sheds light on the challenges faced by scientists and citizens as science becomes more bureaucratized, dispersed, and accountable to varied publics.
Who are scientists? What kind of people are they? What capacities and virtues are thought to stand behind their considerable authority? They are experts—indeed, highly respected experts—authorized to describe and interpret the natural world and widely trusted to help transform knowledge into power and profit. But are they morally different from other people? The Scientific Life is historian Steven Shapin’s story about who scientists are, who we think they are, and why our sensibilities about such things matter.
Conventional wisdom has long held that scientists are neither better nor worse than anyone else, that personal virtue does not necessarily accompany technical expertise, and that scientific practice is profoundly impersonal. Shapin, however, here shows how the uncertainties attending scientific research make the virtues of individual researchers intrinsic to scientific work. From the early twentieth-century origins of corporate research laboratories to the high-flying scientific entrepreneurship of the present, Shapin argues that the radical uncertainties of much contemporary science have made personal virtues more central to its practice than ever before, and he also reveals how radically novel aspects of late modern science have unexpectedly deep historical roots. His elegantly conceived history of the scientific career and character ultimately encourages us to reconsider the very nature of the technical and moral worlds in which we now live.
Building on the insights of Shapin’s last three influential books, featuring an utterly fascinating cast of characters, and brimming with bold and original claims, The Scientific Life is essential reading for anyone wanting to reflect on late modern American culture and how it has been shaped.
Based on sixty interviews with physicists at universities across the United States, The Stars are Not Enough offers a detailed and intimate account of the worlds in which scientists work. Joseph C. Hermanowicz looks at a range of scientists from young graduate students to older professionals well into their careers. The result is a colorful portrait of a profession and its diverse cast of characters.
These deeply personal narratives reveal dreams of fame and glory, in which scientists confess their ambitions of becoming the next Newton or Einstein. However, these scientists also discuss the meaning of success and failure. We hear their stories of aspiration and anxiety, disappointment and tragedy, hope and achievement; we are privy to their doubts and to what they consider to be their limitations and weaknesses. As the scientists age in their professions, the specter of failure often visits them, and they have to accept something less than scientific immortality or even the Nobel Prize.
Ultimately these stories give us more than an inside look at the details of careers in science, they also examine ambition by uncovering the forces that drive people in their professions and by describing how these forces persist or fade over time. Ambition for greatness often ignites a career and often sustains it. Yet, as Hermanowicz's study reveals, greatness eludes nearly all people in their heroic quests for extraordinary achievement. The Stars Are Not Enough offers a fascinating account that will appeal to anyone interested in how people's dreams blossom and evolve.
In 2009, Rolling Stone named Joe Romm to its list of "100 People Who Are Changing America." Romm is a climate expert, physicist, energy consultant, and former official in the Department of Energy. But it’s his influential blog, one of the "Top Fifteen Green Websites" according to Time magazine, that’s caught national attention. Climate change is far more urgent than people understand, Romm says, and traditional media, scientists, and politicians are missing the story.
Straight Up draws on Romm’s most important posts to explain the dangers of and solutions to climate change that you won’t find in newspapers, in journals, or on T.V. Compared to coverage of Jay-Z or the latest philandering politician, climate change makes up a pathetically small share of news reports. And when journalists do try to tackle this complex issue, they often lack the background to tell the full story. Despite the dearth of reporting, polls show that two in five Americans think the press is actually exaggerating the threat of climate change. That gives Big Oil, and others with a vested interest in the status quo, a huge opportunity to mislead the public.
Romm cuts through the misinformation and presents the truth about humanity’s most dire threat. His analysis is based on sophisticated knowledge of renewable technologies, climate impacts, and government policy, written in a style everyone can understand. Romm shows how a 20 percent reduction in global emissions over the next quarter century could improve the economy; how we can replace most coal and with what technologies; why Sarah Palin wears a polar bear pin; and why controversial, emerging technologies like biochar have to be part of the solution.
The ultimate solution, Romm argues, is bigger than any individual technology: it’s citizen action. Without public pressure, Washington and industry don’t budge. With it, our grandkids might just have a habitable place to live.
“The Web’s most influential climate-change blogger” and “Hero of the Environment 2009”
“I trust Joe Romm on climate.”
—Paul Krugman, New York Times
“America’s fiercest climate-change activist-blogger” and one of “The 100 People Who Are Changing America”
— Rolling Stone
“One of the most influential energy and environmental policy makers in the Obama era”
— U.S. News & World Report
“The indispensable blog”
—Thomas Friedman, New York Times
“One of the most influential energy and environmental policy makers in the Obama era”
— U.S. News & World Report
“The indispensable blog”
—Thomas Friedman, New York Times
Philosophers of science traditionally have ignored the details of scientific research, and the result has often been theories that lack relevance either to science or to philosophy in general. In this volume, leading philosophers of biology discuss the limitations of this tradition and the advantages of the "naturalistic turn"—the idea that the study of science is itself a scientific enterprise and should be conducted accordingly.
This innovative book presents candid, informal debates among scholars who examine the benefits and problems of studying science in the same way that scientists study the natural world. Callebaut achieves the effect of face-to-face engagement through separate interviews with participants.
Contributors include William Bechtel, Robert Brandon, Richard M. Burian, Donald T. Campbell, Patricia Churchland, Jon Elster, Ronald N. Giere, David L. Hull, Philip Kitcher, Karin Knorr Cetina, Bruno Latour, Richard Levins, Richard C. Lewontin, Elisabeth Lloyd, Helen Longino, Thomas Nickles, Henry C. Plotkin, Robert J. Richards, Alexander Rosenberg, Michael Ruse, Dudley Shapere, Elliott Sober, Ryan Tweney, and William Wimsatt.
"Why can't we have both theoretical ecology and natural histories, lovingly done?"—Philip Kitcher
"Don't underestimate the arrogance of philosophers!"—Elisabeth Lloyd
What is it like to be a scientist at the end of the twentieth century? How have shifts in power and in assumptions about knowledge affected scientific practice? Who are the people behind the new technologies, and how do they address the difficult moral and professional issues during a time of global change? Techno-Scientific Imaginaries explores these and other important questions at the approach of the new millennium.
In these penetrating essays, twenty-four distinguished contributors from a broad range of fields present the voices of the scientists themselves—through interviews, conversations, and memoirs. We hear from Lithuanian physicists who discuss science after Communism and their own fantasies about what Western science is; a Japanese-American woman struggling with her ambivalence over designing nuclear weapons; political activists in India who examine relations among science, environmental politics, and government ideology in the aftermath of the Bhopal disaster; and many others, including biologists, physicians, corporate researchers, and scientists working with virtual reality and other cutting-edge technologies.
The contributors to this volume are Mario Biagioli, Maria E. Carson, Gary Lee Downey, Joseph Dumit, Michael M. J. Fischer, Mary-Jo DelVecchio Good, Hugh Gusterson, Diana L. L. Hill, James Holston, Herbert C. Hoover, Jr., Gudrun Klein, Leszek Koczanowicz, Irene Kuter, Kim Laughlin, Rita Linggood, George E. Marcus, Kathryn Milun, Livia Polanyi, Christopher Pound, Simon Powell, Paul Rabinow, Kathleen Stewart, Allucquere Rosanne Stone, and Sharon Traweek.
We Have All Gone Away
Curtis Harnack University of Iowa Press, 1973 Library of Congress E302.6.F8F844 2011 | Dewey Decimal 973.3092
In We Have All Gone Away, his emotionally moving memoir, Curtis Harnack tells of growing up during the Great Depression on an Iowa farm among six siblings and an extended family of relatives. With a directness and a beauty that recall Thoreau, Harnack balances a child’s impressions with the knowledge of an adult looking back to produce what Publishers Weekly called “a country plum of a book, written with genuine affection and vivid recall.”
In a community related by blood and harvest, rural life could be bountiful even when hard economic times threatened. The adults urged children to become educated and to keep an eye on tomorrow. “We were all taught to lean enthusiastically into the future,” Harnack recalls, which would likely be elsewhere, in distant cities. At the same time, the children were cultivating a resiliency that would serve them well in the unknown world of the second half of the twentieth century.
Inevitably, the Midwest’s small, diversified family farm gave way to large-scale agriculture, which soon changed the former intimate way of life. “Our generation, using the mulched dead matter of agrarian life like projectile fuel for our thrust into the future, became part of that enormous vitality springing out of rural America,” notes Harnack. Both funny and elegiac, We Have All Gone Away is a masterful memoir of the joys and sorrows of Iowa farm life at mid-century, a world now gone “by way of learning, wars, and marriage” but still a lasting part of America’s heritage.
William H. Emory: Soldier-Scientist
L. David Norris, James C. Milligan, and Odie B. Faulk University of Arizona Press, 1998 Library of Congress CT275.E496N67 1998 | Dewey Decimal 973.5092
Soldier and explorer William H. Emory traveled the length and breadth of the United States and participated in some of the most significant events of the nineteenth century. This first complete biography of Emory offers new insights into an often-overlooked military figure and provides an important view of an expanding America.
Born in Maryland in 1811, Emory was a West Point graduate who resigned his commission to become a civil engineer and join the newly formed Corps of Topographical Engineers. After working along the Canadian boundary, he was selected to accompany Stephen Watts Kearny and the Army of the West in their trek to California in 1846, and his map from that expedition helped guide Forty-Niners bound for the goldfields.
Emory worked for nine years on the new border between the United States and Mexico after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Gadsden Purchase and was responsible for the survey and marking of the boundary. When the Civil War broke out, Emory refused a commission in the Confederate Army, instead commanding a regiment defending Washington, D.C. Later he saw action at Manassas, in the Red River campaign, and in the Shenandoah Valley, where he served under Phil Sheridan.
This biography draws on Emory’s personal papers to reveal other significant episodes of his life. While commanding a cavalry unit in Indian Territory, he was the only officer to bring an entire command out of insurrectionary territory. In hostile action of a different kind, he was a major witness in the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson and offered testimony that helped save the president.
William H. Emory: Soldier-Scientist is an important resource for scholars of western expansion and the Civil War. More than that, it is a rousing story of an unsung but distinguished hero of his time.
In Wizards and Scientists Stephan Palmié offers a corrective to the existing historiography on the Caribbean. Focusing on developments in Afro-Cuban religious culture, he demonstrates that traditional Caribbean cultural practices are part and parcel of the same history that produced modernity and that both represent complexly interrelated hybrid formations. Palmié argues that the standard narrative trajectory from tradition to modernity, and from passion to reason, is a violation of the synergistic processes through which historically specific, moral communities develop the cultural forms that integrate them. Highlighting the ways that Afro-Cuban discourses serve as a means of moral analysis of social action, Palmié suggests that the supposedly irrational premises of Afro-Cuban religious traditions not only rival Western rationality in analytical acumen but are integrally linked to rationality itself. Afro-Cuban religion is as “modern” as nuclear thermodynamics, he claims, just as the Caribbean might be regarded as one of the world’s first truly “modern” locales: based on the appropriation and destruction of human bodies for profit, its plantation export economy anticipated the industrial revolution in the metropolis by more than a century. Working to prove that modernity is not just an aspect of the West, Palmié focuses on those whose physical abuse and intellectual denigration were the price paid for modernity’s achievement. All cultures influenced by the transcontinental Atlantic economy share a legacy of slave commerce. Nevertheless, local forms of moral imagination have developed distinctive yet interrelated responses to this violent past and the contradiction-ridden postcolonial present that can be analyzed as forms of historical and social analysis in their own right.
Late Editions 8 is the final volume in the annual series devoted to documenting the diverse social and cultural transitions of the fin-de-siècle just past into the twenty-first century. Through the innovative use of conversations and interviews, this series has ranged over many topics in many places, including corporations, media, science and technology, government, political culture, journalism, and social movements, always offering access to the points of view and experiences of people engaged in crucial processes of change.
The book begins with a fascinating, at times poignant, look back at the inception and progress of the series, in which the contributors reflect on how the shifting contexts for the production and reception of the series has been a reliable barometer of the profound ways in which traditional forms of knowledge about society are changing. Then, appropriate to the end of the century and of the series, the focus turns to pieces that deal with social phenomena that evoke the value of zero. They explore the idea of a zero state as it relates to artificial intelligence, euthanasia, cryonics, money, and the disappearing idea of society itself in the discourse of contemporary politics.
Far from being the loss of meaning, the consideration of zero entails the proliferation of meaning in the face of voids, absences, and ultimately, of puzzles like the contemplation of death in life. In this way, so many of the fin-de-siècle conditions that have been documented in this series have exemplified precisely this quest for meaning at or near zero points of change, of ends and beginnings, in social life.