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Transformations: Studies in the History of Science and Technology

This series seeks to capture the traditional history of science and technology, and emphasizes explanations of the hard science practices that it seeks to historicize.

The Cold War period saw a dramatic expansion of state-funded science and technology research. Government and military patronage shaped Cold War technoscientific practices, imposing methods that were project oriented, team based, and subject to national-security restrictions. These changes affected not just the arms race and the space race but also research in agriculture, biomedicine, computer science, ecology, meteorology, and other fields.

In this book, Lino Camprubí argues that science and technology were at the very center of the building of Franco’s Spain. Previous histories of early Francoist science and technology have described scientists and engineers as working “under” Francoism, subject to censorship and bound by politically mandated research agendas. Camprubí offers a different perspective, considering instead scientists’ and engineers’ active roles in producing those political mandates. Many scientists and engineers had been exiled, imprisoned, or executed by the regime.

Neuroscience, Self, and Society in Nineteenth-Century Germany

Emil du Bois-Reymond is the most important forgotten intellectual of the nineteenth century. In his own time (1818–1896) du Bois-Reymond grew famous in his native Germany and beyond for his groundbreaking research in neuroscience and his provocative addresses on politics and culture. This biography by Gabriel Finkelstein draws on personal papers, published writings, and contemporary responses to tell the story of a major scientific figure.

Musical Experiments, Experimental Sounds, 1840-1910

In the middle of the nineteenth century, German and Austrian concertgoers began to hear new rhythms and harmonies as non-Western musical ensembles began to make their way to European cities and classical music introduced new compositional trends. At the same time, leading physicists, physiologists, and psychologists were preoccupied with understanding the sensory perception of sound from a psychophysical perspective, seeking a direct and measurable relationship between physical stimulation and physical sensation.

The Origins of the Gaslight Industry, 1780-1820

In Progressive Enlightenment, Leslie Tomory examines the origins of the gaslight industry, from invention to consolidation as a large integrated urban network. Tomory argues that gas was the first integrated large-scale technological network, a designation usually given to the railways. He shows how the first gas network was constructed and stabilized through the introduction of new management structures, the use of technical controls, and the application of means to constrain the behavior of the users of gas lighting.

A History of Quantum Chemistry

Quantum chemistry--a discipline that is not quite physics, not quite chemistry, and not quite applied mathematics--emerged as a field of study in the 1920s. It was referred to by such terms as mathematical chemistry, subatomic theoretical chemistry, molecular quantum mechanics, and chemical physics until the community agreed on the designation of quantum chemistry.

Zhores Alferov's Life in Communist Science

In 2000, Russian scientist Zhores Alferov shared the Nobel Prize for Physics for his discovery of the heterojunction, a semiconductor device the practical applications of which include LEDs, rapid transistors, and the microchip. The Prize was the culmination of a career in Soviet science that spanned the eras of Stalin, Khrushchev, and Gorbachev--and continues today in the postcommunist Russia of Putin and Medvedev.

Arnold Sommerfeld and the Practice of Theory, 1890-1926

Arnold Sommerfeld (1868–1951) was among the most significant contributors to the birth of modern theoretical physics. At the University of Munich, beginning in 1906, he trained two generations of theoretical physicists. Eight of his students (among them Werner Heisenberg, Wolfgang Pauli, and Hans Bethe) went on to win the Nobel Prize. In Crafting the Quantum, Suman Seth offers the first English-language book-length study of Sommerfeld’s work, presenting an intellectual and cultural history of theoretical physics in Germany viewed through the lens of Sommerfeld’s research and pedagogy.

Historians of mathematics have devoted considerable attention to Isaac Newton’s work on algebra, series, fluxions, quadratures, and geometry. In Isaac Newton on Mathematical Certainty and Method, Niccolò Guicciardini examines a critical aspect of Newton’s work that has not been tightly connected to Newton’s actual practice: his philosophy of mathematics.

Science and Politics in the 1980s

The nuclear winter phenomenon burst upon the public’s consciousness in 1983. Added to the horror of a nuclear war’s immediate effects was the fear that the smoke from fires ignited by the explosions would block the sun, creating an extended “winter” that might kill more people worldwide than the initial nuclear strikes. In A Nuclear Winter’s Tale, Lawrence Badash maps the rise and fall of the science of nuclear winter, examining research activity, the popularization of the concept, and the Reagan-era politics that combined to influence policy and public opinion.

The Genesis of Modern Meteorology

For much of the first half of the twentieth century, meteorology was more art than science, dependent on an individual forecaster’s lifetime of local experience. In Weather by the Numbers, Kristine Harper tells the story of the transformation of meteorology from a “guessing science” into a sophisticated scientific discipline based on physics and mathematics.

A Study in Translation and Transformation

The German translation of Darwin's The Origin of Species appeared in 1860, just months after the original, thanks to Heinrich Georg Bronn, a distinguished German paleontologist whose work in some ways paralleled Darwin's. Bronn's version of the book (with his own notes and commentary appended) did much to determine how Darwin's theory was understood and applied by German biologists, for the translation process involved more than the mere substitution of German words for English.

Why Columbus Sailed South to the Indies

Everyone knows that in 1492 Christopher Columbus sailed west across the Atlantic, seeking a new route to the East. Few note, however, that Columbus's intention was also to sail south, to the tropics. In The Tropics of Empire, Nicolás Wey Gómez rewrites the geographical history of the discovery of the Americas, casting it as part of Europe's reawakening to the natural and human resources of the South.

Engineering and Dictatorship in East Germany, 1945-1990

In Cold War-era East Germany, the German tradition of science-based technology merged with a socialist system that made technological progress central to its ideology. Technology became an important part of East German socialist identity--crucial to how Communists saw their system and how citizens saw their state. In Red Prometheus, Dolores Augustine examines the relationship between a dictatorial system and the scientific and engineering communities in East Germany from the end of the Second World War through the 1980s.

At the Crossroads of Biology, Politics, and Culture, 1500-1870

Until the middle of the eighteenth century, the biological makeup of an organism was ascribed to an individual instance of "generation"--involving conception, pregnancy, embryonic development, parturition, lactation, and even astral influences and maternal mood--rather than the biological transmission of traits and characteristics. Discussions of heredity and inheritance took place largely in the legal and political sphere.

The Islamic scientific tradition has been described many times in accounts of Islamic civilization and general histories of science, with most authors tracing its beginnings to the appropriation of ideas from other ancient civilizations--the Greeks in particular. In this thought-provoking and original book, George Saliba argues that, contrary to the generally accepted view, the foundations of Islamic scientific thought were laid well before Greek sources were formally translated into Arabic in the ninth century.

Physicists, Musicians, and Instrument Makers in Nineteenth-Century Germany

Historically, music was long classified as both art and science. Aspects of music--from the mathematics of tuning to the music of the celestial spheres--were primarily studied as science until the seventeenth century. In the nineteenth century, although scientists were less interested in the music of the spheres than the natural philosophers of earlier centuries, they remained committed to understanding the world of performing musicians and their instruments.

A Historical Ontology

In the eighteenth century, chemistry was the science of materials. Chemists treated mundane raw materials and chemical substances as multidimensional objects of inquiry that could be investigated in both practical and theoretical contexts--as useful commodities, perceptible objects of nature, and entities with hidden and imperceptible features.

The Birth of Naval Architecture in the Scientific Revolution, 1600-1800

"Naval architecture was born in the mountains of Peru, in the mind of a French astronomer named Pierre Bouguer who never built a ship in his life." So writes Larrie Ferreiro at the beginning of this pioneering work on the science of naval architecture. Bouguer's monumental book Traité du navire (Treatise of the Ship) founded a discipline that defined not the rules for building a ship but the theories and tools to predict a ship's characteristics and performance before it was built.

In 1945, the United States was not only the strongest economic and military power in the world; it was also the world's leader in science and technology. In American Hegemony and the Postwar Reconstruction of Science in Europe, John Krige describes the efforts of influential figures in the United States to model postwar scientific practices and institutions in Western Europe on those in America.

French Industrialization in the Age of Revolution, 1750-1830

In The Path Not Taken, Jeff Horn argues that--contrary to standard, Anglocentric accounts--French industrialization was not a failed imitation of the laissez-faire British model but the product of a distinctive industrial policy that led, over the long term, to prosperity comparable to Britain's. Despite the upheavals of the Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, France developed and maintained its own industrial strengths.

Astrology and Alchemy in Early Modern Europe

In recent years scholars have begun to acknowledge that the occult sciences were not marginal enterprises but an integral part of the worldview of many of our ancestors. Astrology was one of the many intellectual tools—along with what we consider to be the superior tools of social and political analysis—that Renaissance thinkers used to attack practical and intellectual problems. It was a coherent body of practices, strongly supported by social institutions.

Empiricism and Erudition in Early Modern Europe

The early modern genre of historia connected the study of nature and the study of culture from the early Renaissance to the eighteenth century. The ubiquity of historia as a descriptive method across a variety of disciplines -- including natural history, medicine, antiquarianism, and philology -- indicates how closely intertwined these scholarly pursuits were in the early modern period.

Technical drawings by the architects and engineers of the Renaissance made use of a range of new methods of graphic representation. These drawings—among them Leonardo da Vinci's famous drawings of mechanical devices—have long been studied for their aesthetic qualities and technological ingenuity, but their significance for the architects and engineers themselves is seldom considered. The essays in Picturing Machines 1400-1700 take this alternate perspective and look at how drawing shaped the practice of early modern engineering.

French Military Engineering from Vauban to the Revolution

The origins of the modern science of engineering can be traced to France's Royal Corps of Engineering in the eighteenth century. In Conserving the Enlightenment, Janis Langins gives us a history of this prototypical technical bureaucracy, using as his point of entry a pivotal dispute on the respective merits of two methods of engineering military fortifications.

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