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Dibner Institute Studies in the History of Science and Technology

This collection of essays offers new perspectives on the Industrial Revolution as a global phenomenon. The fifteen contributors go beyond the longstanding view of industrialization as a linear process marked by discrete stages. Instead, they examine a lengthy and creative period in the history of industrialization, 1750 to 1914, reassessing the nature of and explanations for England’s industrial primacy, and comparing significant industrial developments in countries ranging from China to Brazil.

The Evolving Cable Network and Its Implications

By the end of the twentieth century, fiber-optic technology had made possible a worldwide communications system of breathtaking speed and capacity. This amazing network is the latest evolution of communications technologies that began with undersea telegraph cables in the 1850s and continued with coaxial telephone cables a hundred years later. Communications under the Seas traces the development of these technologies and assesses their social, economic, and political effects.

An Evolving Polarity

Genetically modified food, art in the form of a phosphorescent rabbit implanted with jellyfish DNA, and robots that simulate human emotion would seem to be evidence for the blurring boundary between the natural and the artificial. Yet because the deeply rooted concept of nature functions as a cultural value, a social norm, and a moral authority, we cannot simply dismiss the distinction between art and nature as a nostalgic relic.

A History of Developmental Evolution

Although we now know that ontogeny (individual development) does not actually recapitulate phylogeny (evolutionary transformation), contrary to Ernst Haeckel's famous dictum, the relationship between embryological development and evolution remains the subject of intense scientific interest. In the 1990s a new field, evolutionary developmental biology (or evo-devo), was hailed as the synthesis of developmental and evolutionary biology.

The contributions of Kantian thought to modern mathematics, mathematical logic, and the foundations of mathematics are now widely acknowledged by scholars. As the essays in this volume show, the general development of modern scientific thought--including the physical sciences, the life sciences, and mathematics--can be viewed as an evolution from Kant through Poincaré to Einstein and the logical positivists and beyond.

Science and the Art of War through the Age of Enlightenment

The integration of scientific knowledge and military power began long before the Manhattan Project. In the third century BC, Archimedes was renowned for his research in mechanics and mathematics as well as for his design and coordination of defensive siegecraft for Syracuse during the Second Punic War.

Representations of the Sciences in Nineteenth-Century Periodicals

Nineteenth-century Britain saw an explosion of periodical literature, with the publication of over 100,000 different magazines and newspapers for a growing market of eager readers. The Victorian periodical press became an important medium for the dissemination of scientific ideas.

The Birth of Microphysics

In the mid to late 1890s, J. J. Thomson and colleagues at Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory conducted experiments on "cathode rays" (a form of radiation produced within evacuated glass vessels subjected to electric fields)—the results of which some historians later viewed as the "discovery" of the electron. This book is both a biography of the electron and a history of the microphysical world that it opened up.

New Perspectives

Between A.D. 800 and 1450, the most important centers for the study of what we now call "the exact sciences"--including the mathematical sciences of arithmetic, geometry, and trigonometry and their applications in such fields as astronomy, astrology, geography, cartography, and optics--were not in Europe but in the vast, multinational Islamic world.Research from the last few decades has profoundly changed our understanding of the Islamic scientific tradition. We now know that it was richer and more profound and had more complex relations to other cultures than wehad previously thought.

Newton studies have undergone radical changes in the last half-century as more of his work has been uncovered and more details of his life and intellectual context have come to light. This volume singles out two strands in recent Newton studies: the intellectual background to Newton's scientific thought and both specific and general aspects of his technical science. The essays make new claims concerning Newton's mathematical methods, experimental investigations, and motivations, as well as the effect that his long presence had on science in England.

From the days of the alchemists through the creation of the modern laboratory, chemistry has been defined by its instruments and experimental techniques. Historians, however, have tended to focus on the course of chemical theory rather than on the tools and experiments that drove the theory. This volume moves chemical instruments and experiments into the foreground of historical concern, in line with the emphasis on practice that characterizes current work on other fields of science and engineering.

The Systems Approach in Management and Engineering, World War II and After

After World War II, a systems approach to solving complex problems and managing complex systems came into vogue among engineers, scientists, and managers, fostered in part by the diffusion of digital computing power. Enthusiasm for the approach peaked during the Johnson administration, when it was applied to everything from military command and control systems to poverty in American cities.

Nature and the Disciplines in Renaissance Europe

This volume examines the transformation in ways of studying nature that took place in Western Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Some of the essays trace particular textual traditions, while others follow the development of scholarly and professional communities. Some concentrate on the internal analysis of primary sources, while others examine the spread of practices to larger groups.

Edited by N. M. Swerdlow


In the ancient world, the collection and study of celestial phenomena and the interpretation of their prophetic significance, especially as applied to kings and nations, were closely related sciences carried out by the same scholars. Both ancient sources and modern research agree that astronomy and celestial divination arose in Babylon. Only in the late nineteenth century, however, did scholars begin to identify and decipher the original Babylonian sources, and the process of understanding those sources has been long and difficult.