[OPE-L] People's History of Science

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Sat Nov 05 2005 - 09:33:36 EST

People's History of Science: Miners, Midwives, and "Low Mechanicks"
By Clifford D. Conner
Nation Books / November 2005
ISBN 1-56025-748-2 / 568 pp. / $17.95

"Revisionist history with a strong proletarian bent." -Kirkus Reviews,
October 2005

"Cliff Conner's A People's History of Science is a delightfully refreshing
new look at the history of science. I know of nothing like it, because it
approaches that history free of the usual elitist preconceptions, and
shows, in an inspiring way, the role that ordinary people, working people,
played in the development of science. He presents startling new historical
data which should create some commotion in the halls of orthodoxy." -
Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States

The history of science is more complex and collaborative than the
traditional heroic narratives of Galileo, Newton, Darwin, and Einstein
suggest. Expanding on Howard Zinn's concept of a people's history, author
Clifford D. Conner has written his own populist take on the history of
science. A People's History of Science offers a broad survey of the history
of science "from the bottom up," covering the entire globe and spanning the
Paleolithic to the postmodern eras. His thesis is to demonstrate that
science-the knowledge of nature-did not emerge from the brains of "Great
Geniuses" with "Great Ideas," but from the collective experience of working
people-artisans, miners, sailors, peasant farmers, and others-whose
struggle for survival forced them into close contact with nature on a daily

In A People's History of Science, Conner demystifies science by locating
its origins and development in the productive activities of working people.
He also persuasively argues that the increasing specialization of the
sciences in universities and medical faculties has more often retarded
rather than advanced the growth of knowledge.

Conner also establishes that:

--      Medical science began with knowledge of plants' therapeutic properties
discovered by preliterate ancient people.
--      Chemistry and metallurgy originated with ancient miners, smiths, and
potters; geology and archaeology were also born in the mines.
-- Mathematics owes its existence and a great deal of its development to
surveyors, merchants, clerk-accountants, and mechanics of many millennia.
-- The experimental method that characterized the Scientific Revolution,
as well as the mass of scientific data upon which it built, emerged from
the workshops of European artisans.
-- The emergence of computer science from the garages and attics of
college  dropouts demonstrates that even in recent times the most
important scientific innovations have not always been produced by a
professional scientific elite.
-- The mystique of modern science proclaims it to be a superior form of
knowledge, but in fact its trustworthiness has been thoroughly undermined
by the self-interest of corporations that hire the scientists and
manipulate their research findings.

Clifford D. Conner grew up in Nashville, TN. He received his masters degree
in education from the University of Georgia and his Ph. D in the History of
Science from CUNY. He has published a number of articles on the history of
science in scholarly journals and has participated in international
colloquia on various subjects. Conner worked as a proofreader and taught
history in the CUNY system before becoming a full-time author of books on
historical subjects. He lives in New York City.

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