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Servants of Nature: A History of Scientific Institutions, Enterprises, and Sensibilities (The Norton History of Science)

Pyenson, Lewis, Sheets-Pyenson, Susan

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ISBN 10: 0393317366 / ISBN 13: 9780393317367
Published by W. W. Norton & Company
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Title: Servants of Nature: A History of Scientific ...

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company

Book Condition:Good

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"Servants of Nature explores the interaction between scientific practice and public life from antiquity to the present. Drs. Lewis Pyenson and Susan Sheets-Pyenson show how, in Asia, Europe and the New World, scientific expression has been allied closely with changes in three distinct areas of society: the institutions that sustain science; the moral, religious, political and philosophical sensibilities of scientists themselves; and the goal of the scientific enterprise."

A penetrating account of how science, perhaps above all other human endeavors, has shaped-and been shaped by-society. The Norton History of Science in Society explores the interaction between scientific practice and public life from antiquity to the present, showing how advances in science are allied to changing social institutions and attitudes, and examining how the bodies that shape scientific tradition and innovation have acquired their authority. It also considers how scientific goals have changed and explores the relationship between science, industry, and the military in modern times. This is an indispensable volume in the history of science.


Perhaps the most pernicious myth about science is that of the bright loner, the Einstein who single-handedly revolutionizes how we think about the world. Scientists, just like the rest of us, are social animals, say Lewis Pyenson and Susan Sheets-Pyenson in their eloquent history of learned societies, Servants of Nature. From classical Greece and ancient China to modern technical institutes, they show us the cultural apparatus used to discover (or create) and then transmit knowledge through the generations, usually mirroring local political institutions, though sometimes on the vanguard of social change, as in the student-run colleges of late medieval Europe.

Scholarly yet lively, Servants of Nature is organized in chapters dealing with specific aspects of knowledge: "Teaching," "Measuring," and "Knowing" are a few of the activities whose meanings have changed over the centuries and have been debated and refined by academies, royal societies, and universities to the present day. Though the stories of personalities are, of course, subordinated to those of the institutions to which they contributed, the narratives are still fresh and compelling. In the end, we are reminded that while we perceive individuals as the source of discoveries and knowledge, it is really their connections that channel and perpetuate their learning--after all, it's not what you know, it's who you know. --Rob Lightner

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