Before Big Science (The Pursuit of Modern Chemistry and Physics 1800-1940)

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9780805795127: Before Big Science (The Pursuit of Modern Chemistry and Physics 1800-1940)

Today's vast multinational scientific monoliths bear little resemblance to the modest laboratories of the early nineteenth century. Yet early in the nineteenth century--when heat and electricity were still counted among the elements--changes were already under way that would revolutionize chemistry and physics into the "big science" of the late twentieth century, expanding tiny, makeshift laboratories into bustling research institutes and replacing the scientific amateurs and generalist savants of the early Victorian era with the professional specialists of contemporary physical science.

Mary Jo Nye traces the social and intellectual history of the physical sciences from the early 1800s to the beginning of the Second World War, examining the sweeping transformation of scientific institutions and professions during the period and the groundbreaking experiments that fueled that change, from the earliest investigations of molecular chemistry and field dynamics to the revolutionary breakthroughs of quantum mechanics, relativity theory, and nuclear science.

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About the Author:

Mary Jo Nye is Thomas Hart and Mary Jones Horning Professor of the Humanities and Professor of History, Oregon State University.

Review:

Anyone who has deplored the fact that, while pursuing their own historiographical interests, historians of sciences have been losing the audience of scientists, will be reassured when they read this volume, the first of a series intended to fill this gap. Here is a concise survey of 140 years of natural science written by a professional historian of science...It is clear that, far from being merely descriptive, this concise volume is a bold and highly skilled interpretation of the recent past of chemistry and physics...This volume provides rich, enjoyable and easy reading. I would recommend it as both an introduction to the history for scientists and a useful tool for those wanting to develop this interest further by using the bibliographical essays in the appendix. (Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent Nature)

Before Big Science undertakes the ambitious task of presenting a history of two closely related scientific disciplines over a substantial time period. It is successful...in selecting the most important developments from that period and organizing them in a manner that is not only internally coherent, but also integrated with important extra-scientific conditions. (Carmen Giunta The Alchemist)

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Nye, Mary Jo
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