Everything New Is Old Again: What Place Should Applied Science Have in the History of Science?

  • Ann Johnson
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 274)


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.


Twentieth Century Eighteenth Century Scientific Activity Necker Cube Pure Science 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Biagioli, M. 1993. Galileo, Courtier: The Practice of Science in the Culture of Absolutism. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  2. Brown, J. 2000. Privatizing the university – The new tragedy of the commons. Science 290:1701–1702.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Carty, J.J. 1917. The Relation of Pure Science to Industrial Research. Annual Report, Smithsonian Institution 1916. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution.Google Scholar
  4. Clark, W., J. Golinski, and S. Shaffer.. 1999. Introduction. In The Sciences in Enlightened Europe. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  5. Crocker, L.1991. Introduction. In The Blackwell Companion to the Enlightenment, ed. J. Yolton, Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  6. Dauben, J., M.L. Gleason, and G.E. Smith 2009. Seven decades of history of science: I. Bernard Cohen (1914–2003), Second Editor of Isis. Isis 100:4–35.Google Scholar
  7. Cohen, I.B. 1948. Science, Servant of Man: A Layman’s Primer for the Age of Science. Boston, MA: Little Brown and Co.Google Scholar
  8. Cohen, I.B. 1976. Science and the growth of the American republic. The Review of Politics 38:359–398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Connor, C.D. 2005. The People’s History of Science: Miners, Midwives and Low Mechanicks. New York, NY: Nation Books.Google Scholar
  10. Dear, P. 2006. The Intelligibility of Nature: How Science Makes Sense of the World. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  11. Dennis, M.A. 1987. Accounting for research: New histories of corporate laboratories and the social history of American science. Social Studies of Science 17:479–518.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Etzkowitz, H. 2008. The Triple Helix: University Industry-Government Innovation in Action. New York, NY: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Forman, P. 2007. The primacy of science in modernity, of technology in postmodernity, and of ideology in the history of technology. History and Technology 23:1–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gooday, G. 2007. Patently inapplicable: Revisiting the strange debate over technology as applied science. Paper presented at the Society for the History of Technology, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  15. Huxley, T.H. 1880. Science and culture. Accessed 31 January 2010.
  16. Hounshell, D.A. 1980. Edison and the pure science ideal in 19th century America. Science 207:612–617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jacobs, M.C., and L. Stewart. 2004. Practical Matter: Newton’s Science in the Service of Industry and Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Johnson, A. 2009. Hitting the Brakes: Engineering Design and the Production of Knowledge. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Kohler, R. 1991. Partners in Science: Foundations and Natural Scientists, 1900–1945. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  20. Latour, B. 1987. Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers Through Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Linklater, A. 2002. Measuring America: How an Untamed Wilderness Shaped the United States and Fulfilled the Promise of Democracy. New York, NY: Walker Publishing.Google Scholar
  22. Mark, R. 1994. Light, Wind and Structure: The Mystery of the Master Builders. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  23. McClellan, J.E., and H. Dorn.. 2006. Science and Technology in World History. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Nowotny, H., P. Scott, and M. Gibbons.. 2001. Re-thinking Science: Knowledge and the Public in an Age of Uncertainty. Oxford: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  25. Reich, L. 1985. The Making of American Industrial Research: Science and Business at Bell and GE, 1876–1926. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Rowland, H. 1883. A plea for pure science. Science 2:242–250.Google Scholar
  27. Staudenmaier, J. 1989. Technology’s Storytellers: Reweaving the Human Fabric. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  28. Ziman, J. 2000. Real Science: What It Is and What Is Means. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistoryUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA

Personalised recommendations