Re: [OPE-L] (new book) Clifford D. Conner _A People's History of Science_

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Tue Dec 12 2006 - 12:41:50 EST

  A few questions for Clifford Conner:

>             CC: One of the reviewers of my book said that I was replacing
>the *great man* theory with the *great mass* theory.
>Well, I'm not, really. The central focus of my book *
>although I tried to at least give an outline of how the
>knowledge of nature developed throughout the whole scope of
>tens of thousands of years of human history * is on what is
>called the Scientific Revolution. That occurred in Europe in
>the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. What we call modern
>science today had its origins there. Most books in the past
>that have been written about the Scientific Revolution only
>focused on theoretical astronomy and theoretical physics, and
>therefore only paid attention to Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo,
>and Newton, and how their ideas flowed into each other. But
>much more important at that time was the transformation of
>scientific method. For thousands of years, the people who
>claimed to be the arbiters of knowledge of nature were the
>elite scholars in the universities. If you went to them with a
>question, how would they try to answer it? Well, they'd go to
>the books of Aristotle or Avicenna or some other ancient
>authority and try to find the answer in the books, and if they
>couldn't find the answer, they would try to find some general
>principle that, through deductive Aristotelian logic, they
>could deduce the answer from. That was what science was until
>the Scientific Revolution brought about a new method * the
>empirical method, the experimental method. The important thing
>that I try to point out is that this did not come from
>scholars, but from the workshops of artisans. There were a few
>scholars who recognized this, especially Francis Bacon. There
>were others * William Gilbert, Robert Boyle, Galileo * who
>also noticed that things were happening in the workshops of
>the artisans, and they went there to learn. That's the most
>important thing about the Scientific Revolution, the thing
>that changed the way the whole world now looks at nature and
>investigates nature.

1. Is this true in the breakthrough studies in 
biology? I just read a great book by Matthew
Cobb Generation (wrote a short review on american 
amazon website) which relates the 17 and 18th 
century history of the scientific investigation 
of conception, development and reproduction. The 
moving actors are scientists funded by wealthy 
patrons.  Doesn't seem to have been much 
involvement by the masses.

2. That said, there may well have been great 
social influence on the scientific theories of 
heredity. What role did the examples of royalty 
and race play in scientific thought about 

3. Conner's argument seems to echo Grossman's 
critique of Borkenau, no? And I here echoes of an 
essay I once read by Edgar Zilsel.

4. Conner seems to believe that the Chinese 
imperial ban was effective rather than royal 
theater as John Hobson argues it mostly was in 
Eastern Origins of Western Civilization.

Yours Rakesh


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