Everything New Is Old Again: What Place Should Applied Science Have in the History of Science?
Science studies scholars of the twenty-first century have been arguing for a reconceptualization of science based on the emergence of new values and practices. Allegedly, these new norms have come from science in the context of application. However, the argument here is that science in the context of application is a phenomenon with as long and rich a history as so-called pure or basic science. Science in the context of application only appears to be new since so little light has been shined on applied science by historians and philosophers of science. This article explores the consequences of reaching back into remote history seeking science in the context of application and finds that doing so helps scholars understand present day developments, as well. Three examples of historical applied science are explored: ancient Roman engineering, Enlightenment-era navigation and surveying, and American early Republic engineering. In addition, the work of I. Bernard Cohen is examined for historiographical evidence of a narrowing account of what counts as science in the post-WWII period.
KeywordsTwentieth Century Eighteenth Century Scientific Activity Necker Cube Pure Science
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