This work contains Steven Shapin's historical exploration into the origins of the modern scientific worldview.
What historians have traditionally called the Scientific Revolution was, in Shapin's view, a diversity of practices and ideas that developed over the course of nearly two centuries.
Rejecting the idea that there is anything like an "essence" of early modern science, the author shows that the Scientific Revolution in reality lacked the jarring abruptness and cataclysmic nature implied by its "revolutionary" name.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 232 pages, 30 halftones
- Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
- Publication Date: 27/03/1998
- Category: History of science
- ISBN: 9780226750217
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Review by JFBallenger
This book is a masterpiece of historical scholarship. Shapin synthesizes two decades of sophisticated historical research by himself and many other scholars that has challenged the canonical account of the scientific revolution rooted in a naive scientific realism. In Shapin's account, the scientific revolution was much less about great scientific discoveries than about significant changes in how we think about the natural world -- what would count as valid evidence, and what practices were developed to gather such evidence. Shapin shows that these changes were driven by more than a simple desire to better understand the natural world. Rather, these new ideas and practices answered powerful social and political needs for those who championed them. Shapin presents these arguments, which have vexed the academic world, in a reasonable, even-handed manner that avoids the sociological reductionism that has sometimes marred this scholarship. Moreover, although the book is not captive to present day concerns, it does suggest that this history matters to us today if we are to understand our own attitudes toward science. What is perhaps most remarkable, Shapin has achieved all this in a concise, highly readable and compelling narrative. If you read one only one book about the scientific revolution in your life, this should be the one.