History of Science and of Technology

Most historians of science and technology tend to stay within their reductionist disciplinary tunnels. There are however a few more broad-based historians. such as Olby(6), Inkster(9), Crawford(14), ben David(16) and others who attempt to relate discoveries and inventions to their environments, and to address the question why this invention or discovery, in this place, at this time, and how did it affect people.

In the present enquiry it is useful to look at the work of Olby from the angle of his awareness of the national roots of the scientists he mentions, and similarly that of Inkster with regard to the environment for the uptake of innovations in different national cultures.

It is also useful to look at the 'core-fringe' concept, as developed in the work of Crawford and ben David.

We may perhaps label this the 'Science, Technology and Society' (STS) trend; among the pioneers was Bernal (7), though most contemporary members of this trend tend to not to admit this, because he was uncompromisingly Marxist, and fell foul of the Cold War epoch. This 'STS' aspect of the history of science tends to be neglected by the mainstream scientific historians, who normally tend towards a reductionist analysis of the evolution of science within fissiparous disciplines, without regard for the specific significance of scientists in their socio-economic environments.

The STS historians however themselves tend to be constrained by the fact that most inventions and discoveries of global significance have taken place in a core-group of early-developing industrial countries: very crudely Britain in the 17thC, then France in the 18thC, Germany in the 19thC, followed by the US in the present century. Little or no attention appears to have been paid to the fringe countries; they are lucky if they get a passing mention.

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