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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.

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.

A Genealogy of the Chemical Revolution

In the eighteenth century, chemistry was transformed from an art to a public science. Chemical affinity played an important role in this process as a metaphor, a theory domain, and a subject of investigation. Goethe's Elective Affinities, which was based on the current understanding of chemical affinities, attests to chemistry's presence in the public imagination. In Affinity, That Elusive Dream, Mi Gyung Kim restores chemical affinity to its proper place in historiography and in Enlightenment public culture.

Founded in 1540, the Society of Jesus was viewed for centuries as an impediment to the development of modern science. The Jesuit educational system was deemed conservative and antithetical to creative thought, while the Order and its members were blamed by Galileo, Descartes, and their disciples for virtually every proceeding against the new science. No wonder a consensus emerged that little reason existed for historians to take Jesuit science seriously.

From Marconi’s Black-Box to the Audion

By 1897 Guglielmo Marconi had transformed James Clerk Maxwell's theory of electromagnetic waves into a workable wireless telegraphy system, and by 1907 Lee de Forest had invented the audion, a feedback amplifier and oscillator that opened the way to practical radio transmission. Fifteen years after Marconi's invention, wireless had become an essential means of communication, as well as a hobby for many.

Adolphe Wurtz and the Battle for French Chemistry

In 1869, Adolphe Wurtz (1817-1884) called chemistry "a French science." In fact, however, Wurtz was the most internationalist of French chemists. Born in Strasbourg and educated partly in the laboratory of the great Justus Liebig, he spent his career in Paris, where he devoted himself to introducing German ideas into French scientific circles. His life therefore provides an excellent vehicle for considering the divergent trajectories of French and German chemistry—and, by extension, French and German science—during this crucial period.

Joseph von Fraunhofer and the Craft of Precision Optics

In the nineteenth century, scientific practice underwent a dramatic transformation from personal endeavor to business enterprise. In Spectrum of Belief, Myles Jackson explores this transformation through a sociocultural history of the rise of precision optics in Germany. He uses the career of the optician Joseph von Fraunhofer (1787-1826) to probe the relationship between science and society, and between artisans and experimental natural philosophers, during this important transition.

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