February 8, 2018
Featuring Dr. Peter Dear, Professor of History and Science & Technology Studies at Cornell University
The term "the Scientific Revolution" became popular among historians following the Second World War. Although talk of a "revolution" in science in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries had become common in the eighteenth century, many twentieth-century historians took to the new term for a variety of reasons that do not now always seem as persuasive as they once did. In recent decades academic historians of science have come to doubt the coherence of the concept itself, seeing it as something applied only in retrospect to a miscellany of different developments in the making of natural knowledge associated with famous names like Galileo and Newton. But in the last five or so years, several books have been published that attempt to restore the Scientific Revolution to its former place as a crowning achievement of European culture. This talk examines why a controversy exists over the matter, and what might be at stake for people (not just historians) in calling an entire period by such a name.
This event is the featured lecture of the Institute's weeklong lecture series commemorating "Science and the Scientific Revolution."