Technology and Gender

Technology and Gender: Fabrics of Power in Late Imperial China, Francesca Bray

            Making use of a broad definition of technology — “an action performed on some form of inanimate or animate matter, designed to produce an object with human meaning … [as] exercised in its social context”[1] — author Francesca Bay analyzes the ways in which Chinese “gynotechnics” created the world in which women lived and also influenced the way they interacted with and within it in late Imperial China. Bray does this in three domains: in the creation of hierarchical, gendered, and ritualistic spaces within the practices of homebuilding, in the transition in textile, particularly silk, production from the female to the male sphere and its affect on gender roles, and in the technologies of women’s health and their part in creating and reinforcing class and gender distinctions. With the intention of conducting an investigation into technology’s role in social reproduction, the author outlines how these three “technologies” created and perpetuated the social and cultural frameworks in which Chinese women operated.

Bray’s approach to talking about spaces — the way that they were built for certain purposes, and what those purposes can tell us about the society that found them important — is reminiscent of other constructivist approaches to historical spaces. The quarters in which the Royal Society worked and socialized in, as described by Schaefer and Shapin, served to promote an orderliness based off of gentlemanly etiquette; the homes constructed in Imperial China similarly functioned as a way to promote social order in the form of strict hierarchies founded on ancestral respect and the home as a governmental microcosm. The rooms of the Royal Society were often seated with very little attention paid to rank — everyone was encouraged, even required, to participate in the scientific discussion. Homes in China were centered around their ancestors’ shrine, the way that Chinese lives were meant to revolve around the expectations their ancestors, and through extension society as a whole, expected. Heights of roofs were dictated by social rank. The Royal Society’s strategy of spatial arrangement exemplified their attempt (within the strict boundaries of class) to promote observed, and therefore legitimate, scientific knowledge. The structure of the Chinese home promoted the generation of a different kind of product — one highly gendered, hierarchical, and controlled.

 

“Categories of Difference, Categories of Power: Bringing Gender and Race to the History of Technology,” Nina E. Lerman

            Nina Lerman questions the prevailing definition of a “technology” in SHOT literature, arguing that it is exclusive and teleological. She highlights the scholarly focus on technologies as “markers of progress,”[2] judged in their relation to modern science, instead of the broader definition of a technology as “ways of making and doing things.”[3] By focusing on technologies that historians have viewed as particularly productive or progressive in light of modern science, the SHOT industry has sidelined many important technological developments and missed many contemporary cultural emphases on certain kinds technologies — and what these emphases say about gender and racial relations. Lerman presents an example in analyzing the records of an organization in Philadelphia devoted to providing technical training to problematic youths. White males were given tasks more in line with valuable technical knowledge (notably different from what a modern organization of the same kind would find most appropriate), while young women and people of color were trained in less valuable and sometimes less technical subjects. By adopting an approach where the modern “keyword” of technology is stripped of its modern exclusivity, Lerman is able to comment on gender and race relations through the unique lens of non-exclusive technology.

I read Technology and Gender before Lerman’s article (primarily) concerning an expanded definition of technology, and that was probably a mistake. I spent a lot of energy trying to wrap my mind around the idea of technology as a social construction and as a means of social reproduction. Lerman enlightened me, describing the way that modern historians have restricted the definition of technology to things that we, in our current time, view as progressive: telescopes and microscopes, computers and phones, etc. Grappling with the broader definition after having read both works, however, still left me slightly dissatisfied; if technology is constructed in contemporary contexts, and it also reinforces and perpetuates the ideas, traditions, or theories that created it, what makes it so important? It comes from a culture and produces things within the frameworks of that culture. What does technology do in the grand scheme of things? It certainly, by the definition Bray offers, cannot contribute to change; does this definition of technology, then, have a place in any study not focused on stability (like Technology and Gender)? I think not.

[1] Francesca Bray, Technology and Gender: Fabrics of Power in Late Imperial China, 15-16.

[2] Nina E. Lerman, “Categories of Difference, Categories of Power: Bringing Gender and Race to the History of Technology,” 895.

[3] Ibid.

Commercial Visions

Commercial Visions: Science, Trade, and Visual Culture in the Dutch Golden Age, Dániel Margócsy

In Commercial Visions, author Dániel Margócsy discusses how the production and dissemination of tools of visualization (specimens, prints, atlases, etc.) aided in, and also were brought about by, the impregnation of the sciences — especially the more visual ones such as natural history and anatomy — with commercial interests, specifically in the early modern Netherlands. The author analyzes the scientific environment in the Netherlands, arguing that the Republic of Letters was far more complex and economically motivated than previously suggested. The capitalistic trading atmosphere engendered competition between scientists attempting to create knowledge-sharing tools (i.e., anatomical preparations, reference books, and printing technologies), and this manifested itself in often heated debates over “the epistemological status of visual facts.”[1] By treating knowledge as a commodity, the scientists Margócsy discusses secured their financial interests and employed complex advertising and legitimizing strategies that affected the fields in which they worked in a major way.

          Commercial Visions reminded me a lot of Collectors of Lost Souls; bodies were commodified in both as objects of scientific study or knowledge. In the Netherlands during the early modern period and in colonial Papua New Guinea in the twentieth century, scientists were taking the bodies of the dead and turning them into scientific goods. Like Anderson, Margóscy also discusses scientific commodities in terms of their being Latourian “immutable mobiles.” To make their scientific knowledge mobile, the scientists discussed in Commercial Visions went to all sorts of lengths — and the more mobile their knowledge was, the more successful they were, monetarily and professionally. Margóscy argues, however, that these objects were often not “immutable.” Atlases and reference books were taken on and changed by those who “edited” them, and even the names of the scientists who wrote the books were far from unchanging. As the case of Seba’s Thesaurus shows, even after a scientist’s death, his name could be garnering new meaning. Color printing, a technology discussed in chapter 6, was in a constant state of improvement and flux. The products the Dutch scientists discussed in Commercial Visions thus created an interesting variation on Latour’s cosmology, one in which the commodities were very mobile, but certainly not immutable.

Something I found missing from Margóscy’s book was attention to where the bodies that the anatomists used for preparations came from. This is not only something I am curious about; I think it would have elucidated something quite important about what these men considered representative of the human body. If most of these bodies were those of the patients these doctors and apothecaries treated, the specimens they would have been working with would have been diseased. Unless killed, a dead human body is usually a diseased one, and therefore not a normal one by most standards. In chapter 5, Margóscy discusses Bidloo’s attempted attack on Ruysch’s preparation techniques, and it centers on anatomical specimens’ inability to represent the movements and variability of the human body. What he did not criticize were the actual bodies Ruysch used. What sorts of bodies, then, were representative enough of the population to scientists, and which were not? Would diseased bodies have been considered “normal” enough for students and other buyers to trust their visual example as indicative of what an average human body looked like? I think this would have been a valuable and important issue for Margóscy to have discussed, because it seems to be a relevant and potentially contentious component of anatomical visual epistemologies.

[1] Dániel Margócsy, Commercial Visions, 17.

The Collectors of Lost Souls

The Collectors of Lost Souls, Warwick Anderson

            Warwick Anderson uses the events surrounding the discovery of and subsequent medico-scientific investigation into kuru to highlight not only the complex frameworks of giving and receiving that were characteristic of mid-20th century science, but those coloring the interactions between the Fore and the medical scientists and anthropologists who descended upon them starting in the 1950s. Scientists and the Fore alike exchanged parts of bodies, expecting something in return, and establishing an identity and place in the social hierarchy of their colleagues and conquerors through these transactions. The diseased Fore body thus became commoditized in the scientific marketplace, a tool used by scientists like D. Carleton Gajdusek to establish themselves as “big men” in science. As the scientific dynamics changed in the 1980s into the “biotechnology industry” characteristic of today’s exchange of scientific information and specimens, where contracts delineate interchanges between scientists, the Fore and some older members of the scientific community like Gajdusek found themselves struggling to establish or reinforce their place in the global socio-scientific structure.

The author’s approach certainly shares Bruno Latour’s emphasis on the history of scientific objects, or non-human entities, as actors in social exchanges, and the importance of scientific networks in the creation and proliferation of certain methods and the kinds of knowledge produced. I think Collectors of Lost Souls also provids a nice example of Thomas Kuhn’s “paradigm shift” in the transition from the slow virus hypotheses to the acceptance of the prion theory. Scientists ascribing to the idea that kuru was a slow virus were quite reluctant to acknowledge Stanley Prusiner’s hypothesis of a protein as the disease-causing agent as a viable alternative. They held fast to their beliefs about how antigens operated; there could be no protein with the capability of self-replication, a requirement for infectious agents. It was not until Prusiner isolated the protein in question, described how the protein replicated (through turning host protein rogue), and proved through enzymatic testing that it was the cause that the scientific community, often reluctantly, admitted the hypothesis as a possibility. This resistance to anomaly elucidation via an alternative theory fits quite well into Kuhn’s structure for “scientific revolutions.” A conversation could be had, however, concerning the lack of mutual exclusivity in regards to the old paradigm and the new; most infectious agents do operate under the more traditional mechanism, and prions are a special case found only in a few diseases.

I came away from the book with a profound feeling of discontent with the scientific process, specifically the way that it tends to foster a tendency to be remarkably skeptical of novel matters of fact that disrupt the implications older matters of fact purportedly suggested. Biologists discovered the incredibly important mechanism of RNA translation from DNA, and the subsequent transcription from RNA of proteins, the “doers” of minute biological processes — this mechanism explained many aspects of cellular biology and genetics that had previously proven quite problematic. These discoveries, however, did not necessitate the assumption that DNA to RNA to protein was the exclusive pathway all organisms took to gene expression (and by extension infection in the case of viruses). Anderson described the scientific community’s reaction to Stanley Prusiner’s suggestion of infectious proteins as “farfetched, if not heretical.”[1] Why do scientists take a matter of fact and extrapolate upon so that it colors further research in a way that the matter of fact itself is silent about? Why can scientists not allow for ambiguity, or the potentiality of their “discoveries” being incomplete, or at the very least not all encompassing?

[1] Warwick Anderson, The Collectors of Lost Souls, 196.

The Jewel House

The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution, Deborah E. Harkness

            In her quest to elucidate the complex foundations of the Scientific Revolution (a concept the author ironically does not entirely agree with), Deborah Harkness adopts an ethnographical approach to “science” being done in sixteenth century London. By telling the stories of several different hubs — individuals and communities — of technological, theoretical, and practical innovation or conversation, Harkness paints a picture of a society that was already doing the sort of scientific work that Francis Bacon suggests is imperative to advancement in New Atlantis. Elizabethan London provided an intellectual atmosphere of diversity, communication, and “urban sensibility” that led to a sort of utilitarian version of science not restricted to elite classes and based on and directed towards a practical understanding of the natural universe. This, Harkness argues, is where the basis of the Scientific Revolution is found — not in the critical works of Bacon, whose ideas only served to restrict the plurality of participation sixteenth century English science enjoyed.

The approach was microhistorical, similar to Londa Schiebinger’s Nature’s Body. Both books focused on a few particular, seemingly unrelated episodes and traced underlying similarities and trends that linked them. Focusing on interactions between and among groups of people, both authors paid special attention to how cultural beliefs fostered particular brands of scientific endeavor. The two books differ in their focus on distinct parts of the scientific method; while Schiebinger looks at how gender and race became important in the formation of theories of difference, Harkness hones in on how culture, economics, and environment inform methods of doing science. Harkness is also unique in her focus on vernacular science, something I have read very little of in the past, probably because of the scant source base.

I was quite taken by the author’s approach, especially when I read her explanation of and purpose for it in the coda. Because historians tend to focus on people whose names and careers are easily analyzed due to their contemporary fame, we miss a vast majority of the populations’ experiences. I think that, especially in turbulent times of rapid change, it is important to get the full picture, even if this requires what sounds like quite a rigorous and organized method that embraces sources not normally given much thought. As Harkness has proven, these can provide a wealth of information about those people who, while quite impactful, simply did not make it into the print and other source mediums traditional historians have deemed the most significant.

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

In his heavily influential work The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, author Thomas S. Kuhn challenges the then traditional view of scientific progress by outlining his own schematic for the way in which science is practiced and moves forward. The concept of science as a progression from lesser theories toward the ultimate goal of understanding the natural world, Kuhn argues, is a construction primarily articulated and perpetuated through the way in which science is taught — through textbooks that focus on the prevailing “paradigm” and glorify those scientists who led to its formation and acceptance. The reality of the way that science is carried out, however, is far different.

Science is practiced haphazardly and independently until, united under an agreed upon framework composed of theory, methodology, and instrumentation (what Kuhn calls a paradigm) leads to the pursuance of problem-solving in the realm of “normal science.” Following the unspoken rules implied by the paradigm, scientists attempt to articulate it and solve problems they know to be within its power to solve. When enough anomalies, or inconsistencies, accumulate, a crisis results in which extraordinary research is conducted in an attempt to either “fix” the existing paradigm so that it will include or explain the anomalous data or construct a new paradigm. When shifts in paradigm occur, a scientific revolution has occurred.

Kuhn’s book was at least mentioned in almost all of the reading this week. It clearly had a very important impact on the field; it was the inspiration for the sociology of scientific knowledge movement, which had huge implications for the direction the field went in redefining what science is. By pointing out that science is far from a linear process, getting more “right” as time passes, Kuhn called into question the very basis on which the history of science situated itself.

Reading this book helped me understand the huge implications of the constructivist movement in the practice of the history of science. Kuhn addresses in several statements the prevailing view of science as an accumulation of data and theory that has ultimately led to the superior practice of it today. As someone who grew up reading history that acknowledges the flawed, disjointed, and far from objective characteristics of science, it has been difficult for me to imagine a time in which these adjectives were not used to describe scientific progress (or even science itself). The clear schematic presented as an elucidation of scientific development leaves out many factors that today we know are quite important — institutional authority, cultural predispositions, economic motivations, etc. — but tearing down the goal-oriented idea of scientific endeavor was, I now understand, an important and monumental step in understanding how science is actually carried out.

Spaces

“Laboratory Design and the Aim of Science: Andreas Libavius versus Tycho Brahe,” Owen Hannaway

            After stressing the significance of the development of the laboratory, author Owen Hannaway structures his article around the disparate plans for two scientists’ places of work: those of Andreas Libavius, a chemist, and Tycho Brahe, the famed astronomer. The two men had very different ideas of what their duties as scientists were, and the layout of their labs suggested this. Brahe, who preferred to work in isolation, not sharing his ideas with many others, housed his laboratory in the basement of the structure he had built to observe the heavens. Libavius, on the other hand, believed that scientists also had humanistic civic and paternal duties, and he placed his lab on the main floor of his design, directly attached to and accessible from the more public areas of the home. Both laboratory designs give the historian unique insight into “the intellectual and ideological roots of a new mode of scientific life.”[1]

“The House of Experiment in Seventeenth Century England,” Steven Shapin

            The space in which scientific queries take place, coupled with who is allowed in that space and how knowledge from that space is disseminated to society as a whole, have major implications for the way in which historians analyze scientific knowledge. This idea is the impetus for Steven Shapin’s microhistorical account of the development of such spaces in seventeenth century England. He discusses how the culture of the period shaped the evolution of scientific space; the obligation of “gentlemen” to open their private residences to men of equal position provided the basis for how early experimental science was performed and discussed. Gentlemen were free to come and investigate one another’s labs and bear witness to the kinds of work being done. Once these experiments were refined, they were welcomed into a space where the implications of the phenomena illuminated could be discussed between men of social standing (and thus worth trusting, since being a gentleman bound men to a certain standard of behavior). Thus, the culture and society these early men of science were a part of had a major impact on how they conducted science.

“Pavlov’s Physiology Factor,” Daniel P. Todes

            In his article on Pavlov’s laboratory between 1891 and 1904, Daniel Todes elucidates the particular kind (and volume) of knowledge, product, and technologies the Russian physiologist was able to produce due to the structure and methods employed in his lab. Pavlov’s authority in conjunction with the freedom his assistants had in conducting and recording the results of their own experiments created a unique dynamic in which individual observations, under the direction of Pavlov’s own methods, were discussed and analyzed by the entire lab — and the entire lab was responsible for the creation of overarching theories and ideas. His methods granted Pavlov authority on many levels: his many coworkers could offer testimonies, theories were constructed based on the experimental and to some extent intellectual contributions of many scientists, and new technologies gave credence to the data gathered. The products of the lab — gastric juices, publications, and alumni — extended Pavlov’s influence and importance. Due to its singular characteristics, which included a plethora of incoming and outgoing fledgling lab technicians with different skill sets, the relationships between coworkers and those between coworkers and master, and the cohesiveness of the lab as a whole, Pavlov’s laboratory was able to sustain a mechanism that generated unique and important products.

“Industrial Versailles: Eero Saarinen’s Corporate Campuses for GM, IBM, and AT&T,” Scott G. Knowles and Stuart W. Leslie

            In “Industrial Versailles,” authors Scott Knowles and Stuart Leslie tell the story of the post-war “corporate campuses” built by GM, IBM and AT&T by the renowned architect Eero Saarinen. Saarinen’s work created spaces in which “basic science” could be performed, and yet these spaces were designed not with the scientists’ vision in mind, but their corporate patrons. As such they were very much focused on a fabricated image of scientific modernity; instead of promoting collaboration between different departments, they tended to isolate scientists in peaceful and serene offices. Research facilities that promoted collaboration, on the other hand, produced some of the most important advances of the period. As the 50s transitioned into the much more competitive 80s, these spaces designed for “basic science” increasingly became liabilities to companies that were not focusing more of their money on the practical applications of basic scientific discoveries. These “corporate campuses” thus fell short of their intended purposes, representing more of a corporate ideal of scientific discovery.

Image and Logic: A Material Culture of Microphysics, Peter Galison

            Peter Galison attempts to tell a history of physics through an alternative method that he claims traces the changing meanings of “experiment” through time; he recounts the history of machines, or technology, that physicists (and the copious other individuals involved in the experimental process) have used to garner scientific knowledge. Machines have changed the nature of experimentation fundamentally, a phenomenon Galison argues was not unique to any period in history, but continues to take place today. What does and does not count as valid experimental knowledge is in a constant state of debate, and these arguments are more fundamentally about what constitutes an “experiment.” Who and what are involved, and what sorts of constraints affect the type and function of the results? How do members of vastly different “subcultures” communicate, and how does this affect the experimental methods they use? Galison attempts to explore these questions through a history of the machines of the laboratory.

Authors with an obvious constructivist outlook, as elucidated in Jan Golinski’s Making Natural Knowledge, wrote the readings for this week. They emphasize the importance of places and materials involved in the research process, and they place scientists in the social and cultural context in which they were working. Galison’s piece on the machine in the modern physics lab was certainly of the same methodological approach as Bruno Latour’s chapter on “Visualization and Cognition.” Both ascribed importance to the inanimate participators in scientific investigation. Pavlov’s laboratory, and the products it was able to generate, were clearly possible in no small part due to the many Russian doctors who wanted to obtain an easy PhD; the recognition of these social factors as important pieces in the puzzle of what influences scientific research is a clear indicator that Todes shared the beliefs of the Strong Program. This week, I have seen how the revolution in the history of science initiated by Thomas Kuhn has manifested itself in the works written by more recent historians.

Something interesting (and something I will probably bring up in class) that I noticed is that, when constructivist historians look at the different locales, instruments, and cultural influences involved in the production of scientific knowledge, their conversations typically concern how these factors have affected the way in which scientists communicate. Galison talks about how different machines changed the way that scientists talked to one another and other classes of individuals involved in the research process; Knowles and Leslie discuss how different layouts for corporate laboratories either promoted or stifled communication between scientists; Shapin is concerned in his article about how the concept of the unspoken gentlemen’s code promoted scientific exchange. It appears that what lies at the heart of all of these moving pieces involved in the experimental process is how effectively machines, social conventions, economic motivations, etc., promote or depress scientists’ ability to collaborate with one another. Could it be that this is what the constructivists are getting at?

[1] Owen Hannaway, “Laboratory Design and the Aim of Science: Andreas Libavius versus Tycho Brahe,” The History of Science Society 77, no. 4 (1986): 587.

Constructivism

 

Both Prefaces & Introduction to Making Natural Knowledge, Jan Golinski

            In her prefaces and introductory chapter, author Jan Golinski states her goals in writing Making Natural Knowledge and gives an outline of the development of the “constructivist” outlook and its implications for the practice of the history of science. She defines constructivism as an approach that emphasizes the importance of the role humans play in the creation and distribution of scientific knowledge, and she tells the story of how these views came to be important and influential in history through the works of Thomas Kuhn through Bruno Latour (including many members of the field of sociology). Constructivism has encouraged a departure from the traditional view of science as a goal-oriented progressive process, instead pointing the study of the history of science in directions that address the roles of language, motivation, instruments, networks, laboratories, and other social factors in the construction of scientific knowledge.

 

“Visualization and Cognition: Thinking with Eyes and Hands,” Bruno Latour

            Bruno Latour suggests a new method for investigating the history of science in his article on visualization and cognition. He posits that the increasing power of science is due not to the modern age’s development of “more rational” scientists, or even to the institutional and social influences emphasized by the sociologists of science, but to the tools, particularly inscribed or visual ones, at their disposal. Articulating knowledge in a way that conforms to what Latour terms “optical consistency” allows it to be mobile without risking alteration; anyone (or institution) can then superimpose or reanalyze the flattened data to form cascades of knowledge, each more influential than the last. In this way, theories garner empirical and human support and become increasingly difficult to contest and as a result become more powerful (in both predictability and practicality).

 

“De-Centring the ‘Big Picture’: “The Origins of Modern Science” and the Modern Origins of Science,” Andrew Cunningham and Perry Williams

            Authors Andrew Cunningham and Perry Williams make a convincing case for restructuring the “big picture” of the history of science in a very big way. They first argue that it is worth doing; grand narratives have pedagogic value that outweighs their problematic implications. The authors find certain aspects that constitute the traditional narrative of the history of science, namely the idea of the “scientific revolution,” out of date and misleading, part of a past narrative whose constructors’ motivations are no longer those of the field. Their proposed novel narrative would, instead of telling the story of the development of something in the present, inform students of the history of many things, placed in context. In order that future students of the history of science be made aware of the contingent place our culture holds in the grand scheme of things, the authors suggest three forms of a process they call “de-centring” – recognizing egocentrisms and biases and opening up minds to the reality that many things are peculiar to a nation, ethnicity, class, culture, etc.

 

“Continental Philosophy and the History of Science,” Garry Gutting

            Garry Gutting begins his outline of Continental developments in the history and philosophy of science by juxtaposing them against the Anglo-American positivist approach; that is, he claims, assuming that scientific knowledge is the only true source of knowledge. He outlines three fields’ contributions, beginning with those of the Phenomenologists and the Existentialists. They emphasize that science is derivative of the “life-world,” and assert that the tendency of scientists is to lost sight of this and view the knowledge they garner from their abstractions as absolute; this, they claim, leads to crises (moral and scientific) when scientific theories cease to explain the world. The second philosophical tradition outlined, the Marxists, identify themselves as directly opposed to positivists. They allege that the problem with the traditional construction of scientific theory is that it is objective, and instead propose critical theory, which gives human interests (rooted in what is essential for human survival, namely communication) the decisive role in what problems science will attempt to solve. Lastly, Gutting summarizes the French network of philosophers; they looked to history to discover the nature of reason, and their analyses lead to their acknowledgement of scientific progress but not continuity.

 

“Cosmologies Materialized: History of Science and History of Ideas,” John Tresch

            “Cosmologies Materialized” begins with a recapitulation of the historical relationship between the history of science and intellectual history. They shared similar ideas when the history of science concerned itself primarily with establishing the “big picture” narrative that categorized science as a single idea, but with the launch of the sociology of scientific knowledge, historians of science rejected the history of ideas as an impediment to analyses that were newly based on political, institutional, technological, and social factors, to name a few. Author John Tresch then gives an account of the state of the history of science today — quite fragmented and without a narrative at all — and suggests that it return to its earlier place in line with the history of ideas. He proposes that the history of science once again embrace the idea of a “cosmological” view of science as an idea, and he insists that this can be done while still thinking about all of the gaps and inconsistencies within the concept of “science.” Tresch believes that this reorientation of the field will enable it to answer modern pressing questions more ably.

The reading this week has primarily stimulated thought on grand narratives, their reason for being, and the changes that have rendered them scarce in recent scholarship. I understand on a deeper level now why McClellan and Dorn’s Science and Technology in World History, with all of its problems, is still in common use in introductory courses to the history of science; there simply are not many options available due to the destabilization of the field. The reaction, a reaction almost every reading attributes (at least as an instigator) to Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, to the grand narrative that was perpetuated for so long, was (and is) extremely severe. That being said, there are historians who are attempting to pick up the pieces and resume the field’s duty of establishing a general narrative — Bowler and Morus’s Making Modern Science, if it can be judged on its introduction, seems to be a good example of a valid attempt — and they are trying to be as inclusive as possible.

My biggest question after this week’s reading is this — what does deconstructing science to the point that it is unrecognizable do, realistically, to improve the methodology employed by historians of science? The reaction against the admittedly unjust portrayal of science as a linear progression has been extremely severe, but it has produced little in regards to constructing a narrative that represents science as it is — a framework for understanding the world that, like all others, is human, flawed, unobjective, and not deterministic. While historians and philosophers squabble over the minutia of what constitutes and creates “science” and “scientific knowledge,” the public is left with the goal-oriented “big picture” that everyone was so discontent and horrified with half a century ago.