What Is The History of Science? Part I

Six leading historians of science define their discipline.

Roger Cooter

(Research Fellow, University of Manchester)

The history of science is no longer an isolated discipline inhabited by scientists flattering themselves by ennobling their past. Nor any longer is it a pasture for grazing philosophers treating scientists (or natural philosophers) and their ideas as if they existed in a vacuum, apart from the rest of society. But it would be a mistake to suppose, simply because historical studies of scientific ideas and events now conform better to the norms of scholarship elsewhere in history, that the discipline has become fully a part of history proper. Despite the success of the efforts made since the 1960s to incorporate historical studies of scientific activity into the rest of history, the history of science as a discipline remains separate (presumably, therefore, for reasons other than the body of material upon which it focuses). Arguably, it is the very success of the efforts made since the 1960s that, paradoxically, has caused the history of science to remain unincorporated. In any event, the present state and outlook of, and regard for, the history of science cannot be defined without referring to its recent past.

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