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The relationship between technology and science: Some historical and philosophical reflections. Part I


This essay offers a detailed review of the literature on the relationship between technology and science. It is in two parts. Part I begins by describing ‘science’ and ‘technology’, and the differences between them. It then discusses the commonly-held technology-as-applied-science (TAS) view; the origins of this view, the support for it, and the strong historical and philosophical challenges to it, beginning more than half a century ago, are explored. The development of the steam engine is then offered as a brief case study to illustrate that science-technology relations are more complex than implied by the TAS view. Part I concludes with a consideration of ontological arguments supporting the reverse view, namely that technology is often a necessary precursor to science.

Part II, to be published in a following issue, explores some of the consequences of the TAS view. One consequence is that it has generated a story-line in which scientific ideas are emphasised and other factors necessary for technological innovation have been down-played. Another consequence is that, even in cases where technology does apply scientific knowledge, the process of application is often considered obvious; the difficulties of translating ideas into artefacts may not be appreciated. The essay argues for the telling of a more complex story of science-technology relations, one which recognises their historical independence in the past, and their mutual, two-way interaction in many modern fields of endeavour. It concludes with a consideration of some economic and educational implications.

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Gardner, P.L. The relationship between technology and science: Some historical and philosophical reflections. Part I. Int J Technol Des Educ 4, 123–153 (1994).

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  • History and philosophy of science and technology
  • science and technology education