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 basis. 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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