Synopses & Reviews
"There was no such thing as the Scientific Revolution, and this is a book about it." With this provocative and apparently paradoxical claim, Steven Shapin begins his bold vibrant exploration of the origins of the modern scientific worldview.
"Shapin's account is informed, nuanced, and articulated with clarity. . . . This is not to attack or devalue science but to reveal its richness as the human endeavor that it most surely is. . . .Shapin's book is an impressive achievement."and#8212;David C. Lindberg, Science
"Shapin has used the crucial 17th century as a platform for presenting the power of science-studies approaches. At the same time, he has presented the period in fresh perspective."and#8212;Chronicle of Higher Education
"Timely and highly readable . . . A book which every scientist curious about our predecessors should read."and#8212;Trevor Pinch, New Scientist
"It's hard to believe that there could be a more accessible, informed or concise account of how it [the scientific revolution], and we have come to this. The Scientific Revolution should be a set text in all the disciplines. And in all the indisciplines, too."and#8212;Adam Phillips, London Review of Books
"Shapin's treatise on the currents that engendered modern science is a combination of history and philosophy of science for the interested and educated layperson."and#8212;Publishers Weekly
"Superlative, accessible, and engaging. . . . Absolute must-reading."and#8212;Robert S. Frey, Bridges
"This vibrant historical exploration of the origins of modern science argues that in the 1600s science emerged from a variety of beliefs, practices, and influences. . . . This history reminds us that diversity is part of any intellectual endeavor."and#8212;Choice
"Most readers will conclude that there was indeed something dramatic enough to be called the Scientific Revolution going on, and that this is an excellent book about it."and#8212;Anthony Gottlieb, The New York Times Book Review
Shapin rejects the idea that there is anything like an "essence" of early modern science and shows that the Scientific Revolution in reality lacked the jarring abruptness and cataclysmic nature implied by its "revolutionary" name. Ultimately, however, changes witnessed by the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries led to fundamental transformations of both natural knowledge and the means by which that knowledge was achieved.
List of IllustrationsPhoto CreditsAcknowledgmentsIntroduction1. What Was Known?2. How Was It Known?3. What Was the Knowledge For?Bibliographic EssayIndex
Rejecting the notion that there is anything like an "essence" of early modern science, Shapin emphasizes the social practices by which scientific knowledge was produced and the social purposes for which it was intended. He shows how the conduct of science emerged from a wide array of early modern philosophical agendas, political commitments, and religious beliefs. And he treats science not as a set of disembodied ideas, but as historically situated ways of knowing and doing. Shapin argues against traditional views that represent the Scientific Revolution as a coherent, cataclysmic, and once-and-for-all event. Every tendency that has customarily been identified as its modernizing essence was contested by sixteenth- and seventeenth-century practitioners with equal claims to modernity. Experimentalism was both advocated and rejected; mathematical methods were both celebrated and treated with skepticism; mechanical conceptions of nature were seen both as defining proper science and as limited in their intelligibility and application; and the role of experience in making scientific knowledge was treated in radically different ways. Yet Shapin points to the many ways that contested legacy is nevertheless rightly understood as the origin of modern science, its problems as well as its acknowledged achievements.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
1. What Was Known?
2. How Was It Known?
3. What Was the Knowledge For?