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V. SCIENTISTSWarren O. Hagstrom


VI. SCIENTIFIC COMMUNICATIONNorman Kaplan and Norman W. Storer



As an independent professional discipline, the history of science is a new field still emerging from a long and varied prehistory. Only since 1950, and initially only in the United States, has the majority of even its youngest practitioners been trained for, or committed to, a full-time scholarly career in the field. From their predecessors, most of whom were historians only by avocation and thus derived their goals and values principally from some other field, this younger generation inherits a constellation of sometimes irreconcilable objectives. The resulting tensions, though they have relaxed with increasing maturation of the profession, are still perceptible, particularly in the varied primary audiences to which the literature of the history of science continues to be addressed. Under the circumstances any brief report on development and current state is inevitably more personal and prognostic than for a longer-established profession.

Development of the field . Until very recently most of those who wrote the history of science were practicing scientists, sometimes eminent ones. Usually history was for them a by-product of pedagogy. They saw in it, besides intrinsic appeal, a means to elucidate the concepts of their specialty, to establish its tradition, and to attract students. The historical section with which so many technical treatises and monographs still open is contemporary illustration of what was for many centuries the primary form and exclusive source for the history of science. That traditional genre appeared in classical antiquity both in historical sections of technical treatises and in a few independent histories of the most developed ancient sciences, astronomy and mathematics. Similar works—together with a growing body of heroic biography—had a continuous history from the Renaissance through the eighteenth century, when their production was much stimulated by the Enlightenment’s vision of science as at once the source and the exemplar of progress. From the last fifty years of that period come the earliest historical studies that are sometimes still used as such, among them the historical narratives embedded in the technical works of Lagrange (mathematics) as well as the imposing separate treatises by Montucla (mathematics and physical science), Priestley (electricity and optics), and Delambre (astronomy). In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, though alternative approaches had begun to develop, scientists continued to produce both occasional biographies and magistral histories of their own specialties, for example, Kopp (chemistry), Poggendorff (physics), Sachs (botany), Zittel and Geikie (geology), and Klein (mathematics).

A second main historiographic tradition, occasionally indistinguishable from the first, was more explicitly philosophical in its objectives. Early in the seventeenth century Francis Bacon proclaimed the utility of histories of learning to those who would discover the nature and proper use of human reason. Condorcet and Comte are only the most famous of the philosophically inclined writers who, following Bacon’s lead, attempted to base normative descriptions of true rationality on historical surveys of Western scientific thought. Before the nineteenth century this tradition remained predominantly programmatic, producing little significant historical research. But then, particularly in the writings of Whewell, Mach, and Duhem, philosophical concerns became a primary motive for creative activity in the history of science, and they have remained important since.

Both of these historiographic traditions, particularly when controlled by the textual-critical techniques of nineteenth-century German political history, produced occasional monuments of scholarship, which the contemporary historian ignores at his peril. But they simultaneously reinforced a concept of the field that has today been largely rejected by the nascent profession. The objective of these older histories of science was to clarify and deepen an understanding of contemporary scientific methods or concepts by displaying their evolution. Committed to such goals, the historian characteristically chose a single established science or branch of science—one whose status as sound knowledge could scarcely be doubted—and described when, where, and how the elements that in his day constituted its subject matter and presumptive method had come into being. Observations, laws, or theories which contemporary science had set aside as error or irrelevancy were seldom considered unless they pointed a methodological moral or explained a prolonged period of apparent sterility. Similar selective principles governed discussion of factors external to science. Religion, seen as a hindrance, and technology, seen as an occasional prerequisite to advance in instrumentation, were almost the only such factors which received attention. The outcome of this approach has recently been brilliantly parodied by the philosopher Joseph Agassi.

Until the early nineteenth century, of course, characteristics very much like these typified most historical writing. The romantics’ passion for distant times and places had to combine with the scholarly standards of Biblical criticism before even general historians could be brought to recognize the interest and integrity of value systems other than their own. (The nineteenth century is, for example, the period when the Middle Ages were first observed to have a history.) That transformation of sensibility which most contemporary historians would suppose essential to their field was not, however, at once reflected in the history of science. Though they agreed about nothing else, both the romantic and the scientist-historian continued to view the development of science as a quasi-mechanical march of the intellect, the successive surrender of nature’s secrets to sound methods skillfully deployed. Only in this century have historians of science gradually learned to see their subject matter as something different from a chronology of accumulating positive achievement in a technical specialty defined by hindsight. A number of factors contributed to this change.

Probably the most important was the influence, beginning in the late nineteenth century, of the history of philosophy. In that field only the most partisan could feel confident of his ability to distinguish positive knowledge from error and superstition. Dealing with ideas that had since lost their appeal, the historian could scarcely escape the force of an injunction which Bertrand Russell later phrased succinctly: “In studying a philosopher, the right attitude is neither reverence nor contempt, but first a kind of hypothetical sympathy, until it is possible to know what it feels like to believe in his theories.” That attitude toward past thinkers came to the history of science from philosophy. Partly it was learned from men like Lange and Cassirer who dealt historically with people or ideas that were also important for scientific development. (Burtt’s Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science and Lovejoy’s Great Chain of Being were, in this respect, especially influential.) And partly it was learned from a small group of Neo-Kantian epistemologists, particularly Brunschvicg and Meyerson, whose search for quasi-absolute categories of thought in older scientific ideas produced brilliant genetic analyses of concepts which the main tradition in the history of science had misunderstood or dismissed.

These lessons were reinforced by another decisive event in the emergence of the contemporary profession. Almost a century after the Middle Ages had become important to the general historian, Pierre Duhem’s search for the sources of modern science disclosed a tradition of medieval physical thought which, in contrast to Aristotle’s physics, could not be denied an essential role in the transformation of physical theory that occurred in the seventeenth century. Too many of the elements of Galileo’s physics and method were to be found there. But it was not possible, either, to assimilate it quite to Galileo’s physics and to that of Newton, leaving the structure of the so-called Scientific Revolution unchanged but extending it greatly in time. The essential novelties of seventeenth-century science would be understood only if medieval science were explored first on its own terms and then as the base from which the “New Science” sprang. More than any other, that challenge has shaped the modern historiography of science. The writings which it has evoked since 1920, particularly those of E. J. Dijksterhuis, Anneliese Maier, and especially Alexandre Koyré, are the models which many contemporaries aim to emulate. In addition, the discovery of medieval science and its Renaissance role has disclosed an area in which the history of science can and must be integrated with more traditional types of history. That task has barely begun, but the pioneering synthesis by Butterfield and the special studies by Panofsky and Frances Yates mark a path which will surely be broadened and followed.

A third factor in the formation of the modern historiography of science has been a repeated insistence that the student of scientific development concern himself with positive knowledge as a whole and that general histories of science replace histories of special sciences. Traceable as a program to Bacon, and more particularly to Comte, that demand scarcely influenced scholarly performance before the beginning of this century, when it was forcefully reiterated by the universally venerated Paul Tannery and then put to practice in the monumental researches of George Sarton. Subsequent experience has suggested that the sciences are not, in fact, all of a piece and that even the superhuman erudition required for a general history of science could scarcely tailor their joint evolution to a coherent narrative. But the attempt has been crucial, for it has highlighted the impossibility of attributing to the past the divisions of knowledge embodied in contemporary science curricula. Today, as historians increasingly turn back to the detailed investigation of individual branches of science, they study fields which actually existed in the periods that concern them, and they do so with an awareness of the state of other sciences at the time.

Still more recently, one other set of influences has begun to shape contemporary work in the history of science. Its result is an increased concern, deriving partly from general history and partly from German sociology and Marxist historiography, with the role of nonintellectual, particularly institutional and socioeconomic, factors in scientific development. Unlike the ones discussed above, however, these influences and the works responsive to them have to date scarcely been assimilated by the emerging profession. For all its novelties, the new historiography is still directed predominantly to the evolution of scientific ideas and of the tools (mathematical, observational, and experimental) through which these interact with each other and with nature. Its best practitioners have, like Koyré, usually minimized the importance of nonintellectual aspects of culture to the historical developments they consider. A few have acted as though the obtrusion of economic or institutional considerations into the history of science would be a denial of the integrity of science itself. As a result, there seem at times to be two distinct sorts of history of science, occasionally appearing between the same covers but rarely making firm or fruitful contact. The still dominant form, often called the “internal approach,” is concerned with the substance of science as knowledge. Its newer rival, often called the “external approach,” is concerned with the activity of scientists as a social group within a larger culture. Putting the two together is perhaps the greatest challenge now faced by the profession, and there are increasing signs of a response. Nevertheless, any survey of the field’s present state must unfortunately still treat the two as virtually separate enterprises.

Internal history. What are the maxims of the new internal historiography? Insofar as possible (it is never entirely so, nor could history be written if it were), the historian should set aside the science that he knows. His science should be learned from the textbooks and journals of the period he studies, and he should master these and the indigenous traditions they display before grappling with innovators whose discoveries or inventions changed the direction of scientific advance. Dealing with innovators, the historian should try to think as they did. Recognizing that scientists are often famous for results they did not intend, he should ask what problems his subject worked at and how these became problems for him. Recognizing that a historic discovery is rarely quite the one attributed to its author in later textbooks (pedagogic goals inevitably transform a narrative), the historian should ask what his subject thought he had discovered and what he took the basis of that discovery to be. And in this process of reconstruction the historian should pay particular attention to his subject’s apparent errors, not for their own sake but because they reveal far more of the mind at work than do the passages in which a scientist seems to record a result or an argument that modern science still retains.

For at least thirty years the attitudes which these maxims are designed to display have increasingly guided the best interpretive scholarship in the history of science, and it is with scholarship of that sort that this article is predominantly concerned. (There are other types, of course, though the distinction is not sharp, and much of the most worthwhile effort of historians of science is devoted to them. But this is not the place to consider work like that of, say, Needham, Neugebauer, and Thorndike, whose indispensable contribution has been to establish and make accessible texts and traditions previously known only through myth.) Nevertheless, the subject matter is immense; there have been few professional historians of science (in 1950 scarcely more than half a dozen in the United States); and their choice of topic has been far from random. There remain vast areas for which not even the basic developmental lines are clear.

Probably because of their special prestige, physics, chemistry, and astronomy dominate the historical literature of science. But even in these fields effort has been unevenly distributed, particularly in this century. Because they sought contemporary knowledge in the past, the nineteenth-century scientist—historians compiled surveys which often ranged from antiquity to their own day or close to it. In the twentieth century a few scientists, like Dugas, Jammer, Partington, Truesdell, and Whit-taker, have written from a similar viewpoint, and some of their surveys carry the history of special fields close to the present. But few practitioners of the most developed sciences still write histories, and the members of the emerging profession have up to this time been far more systematically and narrowly selective, with a number of unfortunate consequences. The deep and sympathetic immersion in the sources which their work demands virtually prohibits wide-ranging surveys, at least until more of the field has been examined in depth. Starting with a clean slate, as they at least feel they are, this group naturally tries first to establish the early phases of a science’s development, and few get beyond that point. Besides, until the last few years almost no member of the new group has had sufficient command of the science (particularly mathematics, usually the decisive hurdle) to become a vicarious participant in the more recent research of the technically most developed disciplines.

As a result, though the situation is now changing rapidly with the entry both of more and of better-prepared people into the field, the recent literature of the history of science tends to end at the point where the technical source materials cease to be accessible to a man with elementary college scientific training. There are fine studies of mathematics to Leibniz (Boyer, Michel); of astronomy and mechanics to Newton (Clagett, Costabel, Dijksterhuis, Koyré, and Maier), of electricity to Coulomb (Cohen), and of chemistry to Dalton (Boas, Crosland, Daumas, Guerlac, Metzger). But almost no work within the new tradition has as yet been published on the mathematical physical science of the eighteenth century or on any physical science in the nineteenth.

For the biological and earth sciences, the literature is even less well developed, partly because only those subspecialties which, like physiology, relate closely to medicine had achieved professional status before the late nineteenth century. There are few of the older surveys by scientists, and the members of the new profession are only now beginning in any number to explore these fields. In biology at least there is prospect of rapid change, but up to this point the only areas much studied are nineteenth-century Darwinism and the anatomy and physiology of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. On the second of these topics, however, the best of the book-length studies (e.g., O’Malley and Singer) deal usually with special problems and persons and thus scarcely display an evolving scientific tradition. The literature on evolution, in the absence of adequate histories of the technical specialties which provided Darwin with both data and problems, is written at a level of philosophical generality which makes it hard to see how his Origin of Species could have been a major achievement, much less an achievement in the sciences. Dupree’s model study of the botanist Asa Gray is among the few noteworthy exceptions.

As yet the new historiography has not touched the social sciences. In these fields the historical literature, where it exists, has been produced entirely by practitioners of the science concerned, Boring’s History of Experimental Psychology being perhaps the outstanding example. Like the older histories of the physical sciences, this literature is often indispensable, but as history it shares their limitations. (The situation is typical for relatively new sciences: practitioners in these fields are ordinarily expected to know about the development of their specialties, which thus regularly acquire a quasi-official history; thereafter something very like Gresham’s law applies.) This area therefore offers particular opportunities both to the historian of science and, even more, to the general intellectual or social historian, whose background is often especially appropriate to the demands of these fields. The preliminary publications of Stocking on the history of American anthropology provide a particularly fruitful example of the perspective which the general historian can apply to a scientific field whose concepts and vocabulary have only very recently become esoteric.

External history . Attempts to set science in a cultural context which might enhance understanding both of its development and of its effects have taken three characteristic forms, of which the oldest is the study of scientific institutions. Bishop Sprat prepared his pioneering history of the Royal Society of London almost before that organization had received its first charter, and there have since been innumerable in-house histories of individual scientific societies. These books are, however, useful principally as source materials for the historian, and only in this century have students of scientific development started to make use of them. Simultaneously they have begun seriously to examine the other types of institutions, particularly educational, which may promote or inhibit scientific advance. As elsewhere in the history of science, most of the literature on institutions deals with the seventeenth century. The best of it is scattered through periodicals (the once standard book-length accounts are regrettably out-of-date) from which it can be retrieved, together with much else concerning the history of science, through the annual “Critical BIBLIOGRAPHY” of the journal Isis and through the quarterly Bulletin signaletique of the Centre National de la Recherche Scienti-fique, Paris. Guerlac’s classic study on the professionalization of French chemistry, Schofield’s history of the Lunar Society, and a recent collaborative volume (Taton) on scientific education in France are among the very few works on eighteenth-century scientific institutions. For the nineteenth, only Cardwell’s study of England, Dupree’s of the United States, and Vucinich’s of Russia begin to replace the fragmentary but immensely suggestive remarks scattered, often in footnotes, through the first volume of Merz’s History of European Thought in the Nineteenth Century.

Intellectual historians have frequently considered the impact of science on various aspects of Western thought, particularly during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. For the period since 1700, however, these studies are peculiarly unsatisfying insofar as they aim to demonstrate the influence, and not merely the prestige, of science. The name of a Bacon, a Newton, or a Darwin is a potent symbol: there are many reasons to invoke it besides recording a substantive debt. And the recognition of isolated conceptual parallels, e.g., between the forces that keep a planet in its orbit and the system of checks and balances in the U.S. constitution, more often demonstrates interpretive ingenuity than the influence of science on other areas of life. No doubt scientific concepts, particularly those of broad scope, do help to change extrascientific ideas. But the analysis of their role in producing this kind of change demands immersion in the literature of science. The older historiography of science does not, by its nature, supply what is needed, and the new historiography is too recent and its products too fragmentary to have had much effect. Though the gap seems small, there is no chasm that more needs bridging than that between the historian of ideas and the historian of science. Fortunately there are a few works to point the way. Among the more recent are Nicolson’s pioneering studies of science in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century literature, West-fall’s discussion of natural religion, Gillispie’s chapter on science in the Enlightenment, and Roger’s monumental survey of the role of the life sciences in eighteenth-century French thought.

The concern with institutions and that with ideas merge naturally in a third approach to scientific development. This is the study of science in a geographical area too small to permit concentration on the evolution of any particular technical specialty but sufficiently homogeneous to enhance an understanding of science’s social role and setting. Of all the types of external history, this is the newest and most revealing, for it calls forth the widest range of historical and sociological experience and skill. The small but rapidly growing literature on science in America (Dupree, Hindle, Shryock) is a prominent example of this approach, and there is promise that current studies of science in the French Revolution may yield similar illumination. Merz, Lilley, and Ben-David point to aspects of the nineteenth century on which much similar effort must be expended. The topic which has, however, evoked the greatest activity and attention is the development of science in seventeenth-century England. Because it has become the center of vociferous debate both about the origin of modern science and about the nature of the history of science, this literature is an appropriate focus for separate discussion. Here it stands for a type of research: the problems it presents will provide perspective on the relations between the internal and external approaches to the history of science.

The Merton thesis . The most visible issue in the debate about seventeenth-century science has been the so-called Merton thesis, really two overlapping theses with distinguishable sources. Both aim ultimately to account for the special productiveness of seventeenth-century science by correlating its novel goals and values—summarized in the program of Bacon and his followers—with other aspects of contemporary society. The first, which owes something to Marxist historiography, emphasizes the extent to which the Baconians hoped to learn from the practical arts and in turn to make science useful. Repeatedly they studied the techniques of contemporary craftsmen—glassmakers, metallurgists, mariners, and the like—and many also devoted at least a portion of their attention to pressing practical problems of the day, e.g., those of navigation, land drainage, and deforestation. The new problems, data, and methods fostered by these novel concerns are, Merton supposes, a principal reason for the substantive transformation experienced by a number of sciences during the seventeenth century. The second thesis points to the same novelties of the period but looks to Puritanism as their primary stimulant. (There need be no conflict. Max Weber, whose pioneering suggestion Merton was investigating, had argued that Puritanism helped to legitimize a concern with technology and the useful arts.) The values of settled Puritan communities—for example, an emphasis upon justification through works and on direct communion with God through nature—are said to have fostered both the concern with science and the empirical, instrumental, and utilitarian tone which characterized it during the seventeenth century.

Both of these theses have since been extended and also attacked with vehemence, but no consensus has emerged. (An important confrontation, centering on papers by Hall and de Santillana, appears in the symposium of the Institute for the History of Science edited by Clagett; Zilsel’s pioneering paper on William Gilbert can be found in the collection of relevant articles from the Journal of the History of Ideas edited by Wiener and Noland. Most of the rest of the literature, which is voluminous, can be traced through the footnotes in a recently published controversy over the work of Christopher Hill.) In this literature the most persistent criticisms are those directed to Merton’s definition and application of the label “Puritan,” and it now seems clear that no term so narrowly doctrinal in its implications will serve. Difficulties of this sort can surely be eliminated, however, for the Baconian ideology was neither restricted to scientists nor uniformly spread through all classes and areas of Europe. Merton’s label may be inadequate, but there is no doubt that the phenomenon he describes did exist. The more significant arguments against his position are the residual ones which derive from the recent transformation in the history of science. Merton’s image of the Scientific Revolution, though long-standing, was rapidly being discredited as he wrote, particularly in the role it attributed to the Baconian movement.

Participants in the older historiographic tradition did sometimes declare that science as they conceived it owed nothing to economic values or religious doctrine. Nevertheless, Merton’s emphases on the importance of manual work, experimentation, and the direct confrontation with nature were familiar and congenial to them. The new generation of historians, in contrast, claims to have shown that the radical sixteenth-and seventeenth-century revisions of astronomy, mathematics, mechanics, and even optics owed very little to new instruments, experiments, or observations. Galileo’s primary method, they argue, was the traditional thought experiment of scholastic science brought to a new perfection. Bacon’s naive and ambitious program was an impotent delusion from the start. The attempts to be useful failed consistently; the mountains of data provided by new instruments were of little assistance in the transformation of existing scientific theory. If cultural novelties are required to explain why men like Galileo, Descartes, and Newton were suddenly able to see well-known phenomena in a new way, those novelties are predominantly intellectual and include Renaissance Neoplatonism, the revival of ancient atomism, and the rediscovery of Archimedes. Such intellectual currents were, however, at least as prevalent and productive in Roman Catholic Italy and France as in Puritan circles in Britain or Holland. And nowhere in Europe, where these currents were stronger among courtiers than among craftsmen, do they display a significant debt to technology. If Merton were right, the new image of the Scientific Revolution would apparently be wrong.

In their more detailed and careful versions, which include essential qualification, these arguments are entirely convincing, up to a point. The men who transformed scientific theory during the seventeenth century sometimes talked like Baconians, but it has yet to be shown that the ideology which a number of them embraced had a major effect, substantive or methodological, on their central contributions to science. Those contributions are best understood as the result of the internal evolution of a cluster of fields which, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, were pursued with renewed vigor and in a new intellectual milieu. That point, however, can be relevant only to the revision of the Merton thesis, not to its rejection. One aspect of the ferment which historians have regularly labeled “the Scientific Revolution” was a radical programmatic movement centering in England and the Low Countries, though it was also visible for a time in Italy and France. That movement, which even the present form of Merton’s argument does make more comprehensible, drastically altered the appeal, the locus, and the nature of much scientific research during the seventeenth century, and the changes have been permanent. Very likely, as contemporary historians argue, none of these novel features played a large role in transforming scientific concepts during the seventeenth century, but historians must learn to deal with them nonetheless. Perhaps the following suggestions, whose more general import will be considered in the next section, may prove helpful.

Omitting the biological sciences, for which close ties to medical crafts and institutions dictate a more complex developmental pattern, the main branches of science transformed during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were astronomy, mathematics, mechanics, and optics. It is their development which makes the Scientific Revolution seem a revolution in concepts. Significantly, however, this cluster of fields consists exclusively of classical sciences. Highly developed in antiquity, they found a place in the medieval university curriculum where several of them were significantly further developed. Their seventeenth-century metamorphosis, in which university-based men continued to play a significant role, can reasonably be portrayed as primarily an extension of an ancient and medieval tradition developing in a new conceptual environment. Only occasionally need one have recourse to the Baconian programmatic movement when explaining the transformation of these fields.

By the seventeenth century, however, these were not the only areas of intense scientific activity, and the others—among them the study of electricity and magnetism, of chemistry, and of thermal phenomena—display a different pattern. As sciences, as fields to be scrutinized systematically for an increased understanding of nature, they were all novelties during the Scientific Revolution. Their main roots were not in the learned university tradition but often in the established crafts, and they were all critically dependent both on the new program of experimentation and on the new instrumentation which craftsmen often helped to introduce. Except occasionally in medical schools, they rarely found a place in universities before the nineteenth century, and they were meanwhile pursued by amateurs loosely clustered around the new scientific societies that were the institutional manifestation of the Scientific Revolution. Obviously these are the fields, together with the new mode of practice they represent, which a revised Merton thesis may help us understand. Unlike that in the classical sciences, research in these fields added little to man’s understanding of nature during the seventeenth century, a fact which has made them easy to ignore when evaluating Merton’s viewpoint. But the achievements of the late eighteenth and of the nineteenth centuries will not be comprehensible until they are taken fully into account. The Baconian program, if initially barren of conceptual fruits, nevertheless inaugurated a number of the major modern sciences.

Internal and external history . Because they underscore distinctions between the earlier and later stages of a science’s evolution, these remarks about the Merton thesis illustrate aspects of scientific development recently discussed in a more general way by Kuhn. Early in the development of a new field, he suggests, social needs and values are a major determinant of the problems on which its practitioners concentrate. Also during this period, the concepts they deploy in solving problems are extensively conditioned by contemporary common sense, by a prevailing philosophical tradition, or by the most prestigious contemporary sciences. The new fields which emerged in the seventeenth century and a number of the modern social sciences provide examples. Kuhn argues, however, that the later evolution of a technical specialty is significantly different in ways at least foreshadowed by the development of the classical sciences during the Scientific Revolution. The practitioners of a mature science are men trained in a sophisticated body of traditional theory and of instrumental, mathematical, and verbal technique. As a result, they constitute a special subculture, one whose members are the exclusive audience for, and judges of, each other’s work. The problems on which such specialists work are no longer presented by the external society but by an internal challenge to increase the scope and precision of the fit between existing theory and nature. And the concepts used to resolve these problems are normally close relatives of those supplied by prior training for the specialty. In short, compared with other professional and creative pursuits, the practitioners of a mature science are effectively insulated from the cultural milieu in which they live their extra-professional lives.

That quite special, though still incomplete, insulation is the presumptive reason why the internal approach to the history of science, conceived as autonomous and self-contained, has seemed so nearly successful. To an extent unparalleled in other fields, the development of an individual technical specialty can be understood without going beyond the literature of that specialty and a few of its near neighbors. Only occasionally need the historian take note of a particular concept, problem, or technique which entered the field from outside. Nevertheless, the apparent autonomy of the internal approach is misleading in essentials, and the passion sometimes expended in its defense has obscured important problems. The insulation of a mature scientific community suggested by Kuhn’s analysis is an insulation primarily with respect to concepts and secondarily with respect to problem structure. There are, however, other aspects of scientific advance, such as its timing. These do depend critically on the factors emphasized by the external approach to scientific development. Particularly when the sciences are viewed as an interacting group rather than as a collection of specialties, the cumulative effects of external factors can be decisive.

Both the attraction of science as a career and the differential appeal of different fields are, for example, significantly conditioned by factors external to science. Furthermore, since progress in one field is sometimes dependent on the prior development of another, differential growth rates may affect an entire evolutionary pattern. Similar considerations, as noted above, play a major role in the inauguration and initial form of new sciences. In addition, a new technology or some other change in the conditions of society may selectively alter the felt importance of a specialty’s problems or even create new ones for it. By doing so they may sometimes accelerate the discovery of areas in which an established theory ought to work but does not, thereby hastening its rejection and replacement by a new one. Occasionally, they may even shape the substance of that new theory by ensuring that the crisis to which it responds occurs in one problem area rather than another. Or again, through the crucial intermediary of institutional reform, external conditions may create new channels of communication between previously disparate specialties, thus fostering crossfertilization which would otherwise have been absent or long delayed.

There are numerous other ways, including direct subsidy, in which the larger culture impinges on scientific development, but the preceding sketch should sufficiently display a direction in which the history of science must now develop. Though the internal and external approaches to the history of science have a sort of natural autonomy, they are, in fact, complementary concerns. Until they are practiced as such, each drawing from the other, important aspects of scientific development are unlikely to be understood. That mode of practice has hardly yet begun, as the response to the Merton thesis indicates, but perhaps the analytic categories it demands are becoming clear.

The relevance of the history of science . Turning in conclusion to the question about which judgments must be the most personal of all, one may ask about the potential harvest to be reaped from the work of this new profession. First and foremost will be more and better histories of science. Like any other scholarly discipline, the field’s primary responsibility must be to itself. Increasing signs of its selective impact on other enterprises may, however, justify brief analysis.

Among the areas to which the history of science relates, the one least likely to be significantly affected is scientific research itself. Advocates of the history of science have occasionally described their field as a rich repository of forgotten ideas and methods, a few of which might well dissolve contemporary scientific dilemmas. When a new concept or theory is successfully deployed in a science, some previously ignored precedent is usually discovered in the earlier literature of the field. It is natural to wonder whether attention to history might not have accelerated the innovation. Almost certainly, however, the answer is no. The quantity of material to be searched, the absence of appropriate indexing categories, and the subtle but usually vast differences between the anticipation and the effective innovation, all combine to suggest that reinvention rather than rediscovery will remain the most efficient source of scientific novelty.

The more likely effects of the history of science on the fields it chronicles are indirect, providing increased understanding of the scientific enterprise itself. Though a clearer grasp of the nature of scientific development is unlikely to resolve particular puzzles of research, it may well stimulate reconsideration of such matters as science education, administration, and policy. Probably, however, the implicit insights which historical study can produce will first need to be made explicit by the intervention of other disciplines, of which three now seem particularly likely to be effective.

Though the intrusion still evokes more heat than light, the philosophy of science is today the field in which the impact of the history of science is most apparent. Feyerabend, Hanson, Hesse, and Kuhn have all recently insisted on the inappropriateness of the traditional philosopher’s ideal image of science, and in search of an alternative they have all drawn heavily from history. Following directions pointed by the classic statements of Norman Campbell and Karl Popper (and sometimes also significantly influenced by Ludwig Wittgenstein), they have at least raised problems that the philosophy of science is no longer likely to ignore. The resolution of those problems is for the future, perhaps for the indefinitely distant future. There is as yet no developed and matured “new philosophy” of science. But already the questioning of older stereotypes, mostly positivistic, is proving a stimulus and release to some practitioners of those newer sciences which have most depended upon explicit canons of scientific method in their search for professional identity.

A second field in which the history of science is likely to have increasing effect is the sociology of science. Ultimately neither the concerns nor the techniques of that field need be historical. But in the present underdeveloped state of their specialty, sociologists of science can well learn from history something about the shape of the enterprise they investigate. The recent writings of Ben-David, Hagstrom, Merton, and others give evidence that they are doing so. Very likely it will be through sociology that the history of science has its primary impact on science policy and administration.

Closely related to the sociology of science (perhaps equivalent to it if the two are properly construed) is a field that, though it scarcely yet exists, is widely described as “the science of science.” Its goal, in the words of its leading exponent, Derek Price, is nothing less than “the theoretic analysis of the structure and behavior of science itself,” and its techniques are an eclectic combination of the historian’s, the sociologist’s, and the econometrician’s. No one can yet guess to what extent that goal is attainable, but any progress toward it will inevitably and immediately enhance the significance both to social scientists and to society of continuing scholarship in the history of science.

Thomas S. Kuhn

[Other relevant material may be found in the biographies ofKoyreandSarton.]


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The general topic of the philosophy of science can be divided into subareas by subject matter: the philosophy of physics, the philosophy of biology, the philosophy of the social sciences, and so on. But it may also be divided into discussion of structural problems in science, on the one hand, and substantive problems within specified sciences, on the other. Structural problems are those traditionally associated with such topics as scientific inference, classification, explanation, prediction, measurement, probability, and determinism. Substantive problems arise when a question is asked such as “How can learning theory be axiomatized?” or “How should anxiety be defined?” Substantive problems, as a class, merge gradually into abstract scientific problems, which are properly handled by scientists themselves.

The substantive philosophy of science usually requires some professional training in the relevant field, whereas the structural philosophy of science may require only a general scientific education. Both require professional training in philosophy or, to be more specific, in logic, broadly conceived (that is, not only in classical or in symbolic logic). The history of science is also of very great importance to the philosopher of science, for it provides him with more numerous and more diverse examples of conceptual schemes and theories than he could ever find in contemporary science, and such schemes and theories are his raw data.

It will be seen, then, that a large part of the philosophy of science stands to scientific theorizing, classifying, and so on, as experimental design stands to scientific experimenting. For the philosophy of science is simply the discussion of general criteria for theories, classifications, and the rest, and is necessary as long as the intuitions or assertions of scientists about what constitutes good procedure are in conflict or might be improved by analysis. Curiously enough, however, many scientists reject the philosophy of science as irrelevant to their own activities, although they constantly talk it and teach it and illustrate its relevance in their work, sometimes under the title “methodology” and sometimes just as advice without a title. It is only the hyperspecialized, rock-ribbed empiricist who can entirely avoid discussing the subject in his scientific work and teaching, and even he usually contradicts himself by espousing operationism as the epitome of empiricism—a rather elementary mistake which would have grave consequences for the validity and utility of his results if he acted on it. Often the antagonism of science to philosophy seems due to a low tolerance of ambiguity, and particularly to insecurity about involvement with the more debatable and less decidable issues of philosophy. This is surely an immature reaction, unless it can be shown that these issues need not be raised in the teaching and practice of science.

This article will provide (a) a brief discussion of those aspects of the structural philosophy of science which have special relevance for the social sciences and (b) some reference to substantive issues in the philosophy of particular social sciences. In general, these aspects will be intertwined, in order to illustrate the immediate relevance of the structural topics to substantive isues.

Main concerns of the philosophy of science . Science has been said to be concerned with observation, description, definition, classification, measurement, experimentation, generalization, explanation, prediction, evaluation, and control of the world. This list is of course much too comprehensive; to be at all useful it has to be narrowed down in the course of examining individual scientific activities (for instance, instead of analyzing description in general, we might ask what kind of describing is scientific, as opposed to poetic). In any case, there are as many (though probably no more) points of view about main topics in the philosophy of science as about main topics in any of the sciences. If the area of dispute sometimes appears greater than it is, this is because when a subtopic in philosophy is settled, it is given a new name and called a science. Philosophy is the mother of sciences and has spawned physics, astronomy, symbolic logic, economics, and psychology, among other subjects. The domain of fundamental and still unresolved conceptual disputes at any time is called philosophy and, of course, bears the cross of conflict. But, perhaps for that very reason, it is a residue that eternally regenerates, is perpetually fertile. The social sciences began with a similar handicap; what was well known about human behavior was called common sense, and only the muddy residue was left for psychology and the other social sciences to clarify. It is no wonder that a subject is difficult and debatable when it is defined to exclude the easy and certain.

Because “science” is a term for an activity as well as for a body of knowledge, we ought not to be surprised if it is continuous with the prescientific activities directed to the same ends, and if these, in turn, are an extension of prelinguistic adaptive behavior. This synoptic view of man’s cognitive development and current equipment should—and, I believe, does—provide some criteria for good scientific practice. We can begin by applying it to the various procedures connected with scientific concept formation: observation, description, definition, and classification, with measurement and generalization as closely related activities.

Concept clarification . It is now widely accepted in the philosophy of science that we must qualify or reject the traditional idea that the basic data from which the scientist forms his hypotheses and classifications are provided by a faculty of observation which is somehow independent of science. Not only has the attempt by sense-data theorists and phenomenologists to identify these basic data been a total failure, but the failure begins to appear explicable. We have come to see the “observation language“—the nonscientific language in which such basic data were supposed to be reported—as really just a “theory language,” with somewhat higher interjudge reliability than more abstract language, yet still subject to perceptual errors in its application and even to pervasive errors caused by infiltration by unnoticed theory. When errors of the latter kind are recognized, we may redescribe our observations or we may retain the old language and simply reinterpret it, perhaps metaphysically. Thus Feyerabend has pointed out (in conversation with the author) that the expression “The sun is rising,” although it originally incorporated a false astronomical theory, has been retained as a statement of pure observation. So there is no absolutely basic observation level on which all theory rests and, even more clearly, no sharp distinction between observation and theories. We must think instead of a constant interaction and exchange between observation, which seems immune from correction, and speculative theory. Indeed, the development of new instruments may simply render observable the hitherto unobservable (as when the electron microscope was developed) or the observed mistaken (as when it became possible to measure the curvature of the seemingly flat earth). Does this relativization of the distinction between observation and theory destroy the distinction’s utility? Not at all. Indeed, it strengthens our understanding of the hierarchical structure of science as a whole when we realize that observables of the nth level (for instance, in neurophysiology) may include some hypothetical constructs from the (n + l)th level (in this case, individual psychology).

What leads us, then, to introduce concepts at a given level? Not just the pressure of their existence on our blank brain. Rather, the preconscious selective effect of certain environmental and internal pressures began the process of concept formation in our ancestors, as in other organisms—a sequence of events that can be summarized as “discrimination under drive conditions.” The preverbal organism comes to react to certain stimulus configurations that represent ingestibles or predators, and it is simply an extension of this process when an interpersonal vocabulary is introduced to refer to these configurations. The psychologist refers to both the preverbal and the verbal stages of this process as concept formation, and although many philosophers prefer to restrict the term to the verbal stage, there is no doubt that the verbal stage develops from the preverbal one, whether or not it becomes qualitatively different in the course of development. [See CONCEPT FORMATION.]

Definition . Given the pragmatic view of concept formation outlined above, it is very natural to abandon classical definition theory (in which a definition is a set of logically necessary and sufficient conditions for the use of a term) and to adopt instead an approach based on the notions of indicator and of indicator clusters. The rationale for such an approach may be stated as follows. Within a formal system, such as mathematics or an invented language, we can find examples of classical definitions, but seldom, if ever, can we find them within a natural language or the language of a developing science. The reason for this is simply that natural phenomena are extremely untidy, and a language for referring to them must be flexible enough to accommodate this untidiness if it is to be scientifically useful. For instance, the concepts “subject,” “length,” “response,” “group,” “aggression,” and “temperature” cannot be given classical definitions (other than trivially circular ones). But we have no serious difficulty in learning or teaching these concepts, which we do by giving paradigm examples, contrasts, and explicitly approximate or conditional definitions. Any paradigm provides us, if it can be successfully analyzed, with a set of sufficient conditions for the application of the term, but it is not possible to insist that paradigms, let alone analysis of them, can never turn out to be erroneous. So the sense in which these conditions are sufficient is still not that of logical sufficiency. It is still more obvious that we often cannot specify any properties that are logically necessary for the application of the concept. We therefore adopt the notion of “weighted indicators,” or criteria—that is, properties which are relevant to the application of the term, but in varying degrees. Some of the properties may, in some cases, be virtually necessary; some small groups of them may be sufficient; but these are special cases. The clustering of these properties in property space indicates an entity for which it is useful to have a name, but there is typically considerable scatter and no sharp boundary to the cluster (the so-called open texture of concepts). The charm of a concise translation (that is, of a classical definition) is not often provided by the cluster approach, but it does preserve that most valuable feature of classical theory—a reliable verbal response that can be successfully taught. Contrasting and approximating, which are the other procedures involved in specification of meaning, depend on the psychological superiority of discrimination skills over absolute recognition skills and involve no new logical points.

At this point, it should be stressed that there are two elements in the theory of definition: the pragmatic and the literal. We have been talking about the limitations of the literal theory of definition as a kind of translation. But there is the independent question of how one can best—that is, most usefully—select the terms that one will mention in the definition, whether it is a translation or a cluster of indicators. A famous answer to this has often been taken as both literal and pragmatic, which makes it nonsensical instead of good pragmatic advice of a limited range of applicability. I refer to operationism (for which see especially Bridgman 1927). There are, of course, some areas where it is to be taken very seriously as advice, and psychology is one of them. (In theoretical physics, contrary to the common impression, it is extremely rare to seek or find operational definitions.) But if operationism is taken as requiring that definitions actually contain nothing but operations, then it is absurd, a category error—and, in addition, it is self-refuting, since the concept of an operation cannot be defined operationally. Definitions should therefore be of such a kind that we can apply some independently determinable criteria to decide when the defined term should be used (we can, if we wish, call the process of determining whether these criteria apply “operations"). But we cannot require that the only content of definitions should be operations, or we find ourselves caught in the dilemma of deciding when we have only one operation and, hence, only one concept. . . and so on.

Classification . The traditional requirements for classification also need to be relaxed. Instead of the Aristotelian requirement of exclusive and exhaustive subcategories, we must settle for minimized overlap and maximized coverage, balancing these desiderata against considerations of simplicity and applicability. The development of a scientific classification scheme is essentially a remapping of property space, using a new system of coordinates or a new projection. Hence, assessment of the scheme’s value very much depends, as in the map analogy, on the purposes for which it is intended (which may be as diverse as fast labeling, representation of a new theoretical insight, and easy recall) and very little on the idealized and context-free notion of “cutting Nature at the joints,” which was the goal of earlier taxonomists (and which still admirably expresses the feeling inspired by a successful classification scheme).

Measurement . The urge to measure is a kind of conditioned reflex among empirically trained scientists, and with some reason. Measurement requires—or, when developed, provides—an inter-subjectively reliable procedure for applying the potentially infinite descriptive vocabulary of number. For describing any continuous variable we need such a vocabulary, and for describing many discrete variables it is exceedingly useful because it creates the possibility of applying some mathematical apparatus. But the social scientist all too often assumes that scaling and measuring will make it likely that we can discover useful laws. In fact, many scales disguise the existence of regularities, and many others fail to reveal them. The descriptive utility of a scale must be considered independently of its theoretical fertility, for the two considerations may lead in different directions. The proliferation of scales, like the proliferation of statistical analyses, often merely clogs the channels of communication. There is no magic about numbers per se, and only hard thinking and good fortune, in combination, achieve a worthwhile new scale. The same is true of classification. The cluster concept is peculiarly suited to the needs of statistical scaling and to those of statistical inference in general. [See CLUSTERING; SCALING.]

Evaluation . The notion of measurement phases quite gradually into that of evaluation. “Pecking order," “peer-group ranking,” and “intelligence quotient” can all, in certain contexts, appear as value-impregnated scales. This is often disputed by those who think “value” is a dirty word. Social scientists are peculiarly susceptible to the charms of the Weberian myth of a value-free social science, which rests on a one-sided interpretation of the distinction between facts and values. In its more defensible form this distinction amounts to the assertion that (a) evaluation depends on establishing certain facts; and (b) evaluation goes beyond the facts on which it depends. To this it can be objected that evaluation may well result in facts, albeit facts different from those with which it begins.

Thus Consumer Reports can often substantiate evaluations such as “Brand X is the best dishwasher on the market today” on the basis of performance data plus data about the consumers’ wants. And that evaluation, when suitably supported, simply states a fact about Brand X. It is one thing to be cautious about importing dubious value premises into an argument; it is another to suppose that all value premises or conclusions are dubious, “mere matters of opinion.” It is not at all dubious that dishwashers should get the dishes clean, that clocks should keep good time, and so on. It may simply be a fact that Brand X of dishwasher excels at its task. Since the evaluation is nothing more than a combination of these facts, it is itself a fact, although it is also an evaluation.

Precisely this analysis applies to myriad issues in the social sciences—evaluation of the relative merits of protective tariff barriers and direct subsidies or of different forms of treatment for dysfunctional neurosis, to name only two examples. Of course, there are many other issues where only a relativized answer is possible, since legitimate differences of taste exist (that is, differences where no argument can establish the superiority of any particular taste). But this in no way distinguishes evaluation from theoretical interpretation. It will not do to say that “in principle” these differences can be resolved in the theoretical area when more facts are available, but not in the evaluation area. Not only are there very fundamental disagreements about the function of theory that make this improbable, but additional facts often reduce value disagreement. In any case, relativized answers, which are still value judgments, admit of no disagreement, and therefore do not involve subjectivity. It is simply naive to suppose that fields must, if they are to be regarded as objective, always contain answers to questions of the form “Which is the best X?” Neither mathematics nor engineering has this property, or any corresponding property with respect to “Which is the true solution to X?,” where the conditions of X are incompletely specified.

As to the final defense of the distinction between fact and value—that a particular choice of ultimate values, or ends, cannot be proved true—three answers apply: (1) No such choice has to be proved true, only relevant. (2) No one has yet produced a demonstrably ultimate value, and it seems clear that the hierarchical model is as inappropriate here as it is in epistemology. (There are no ultimate, or basic, facts, only some that are more reliable than others; and all can—under pressure—be given support by appeal to others.) (3) In the case of moral values, where some need for a single answer can be demonstrated, there is a perfectly good way of handling any moral disputes that are likely to arise in the social sciences. This is by appealing to the equality of prima-facie rights—the fundamental axiom of democracy. Justification of this is itself one of the most important tasks of the social sciences and requires contributions from game theory, political science, economics, sociology, and psychology, as well as from the obvious candidate, anthropology. It is the problem of deciding on the best system of sublegal mores—insofar, of course, as any answer is possible. But this type of problem is already familiar: it is an efficiency problem.

Indeed, the social sciences have for too long been reticent about pointing out the extent to which it is possible both to give answers to moral problems and to refute some of the current answers to them. For some reason, the sound point that there are many areas of morality where there cannot yet be any proof of the superiority of a particular answer is taken to imply that acting as if any answer were correct is defensible. But of course the only defensible position in such a situation is a compromise or, if possible, a suspension of action. In my opinion, the axiom of equal primafacie rights can be shown to be superior to any alternative, and also to be capable of generating a complete moral system. It achieves both of these ends by being the only such axiom that can be satisfactorily supported, and of course it roughly coincides with the Golden Rule and other basic maxims (details of this line of argument will be found in Scriven 1966). At any rate, it is time that the possibility of this kind of “strategic ethics” was examined by all the strategists who have sprung up to look at other kinds of social interaction in terms of the language of games.

In summary, the scientific approach to evaluation necessarily involves both applied science (finding the best solution to a practical problem) and pure science (finding the best estimate, hypothesis, or experimental design). Moreover, the element of evaluation enters into much “straight” measurement—that of intelligence, creativity, and social acceptability, for instance. The reason for this is as simple as the reason for introducing new classifications: we have to order our knowledge if we are to use it efficiently. It follows that the most appropriate kind of order is determined by the use to which that knowledge is to be put. One might put the point paradoxically and say that all science is applied science. The application may be to efficient explanation, accurate prediction, or improvement of the world, but it is still—in one important sense—an application. Nor can we assess (that is, evaluate) theories or instruments unless we have some analysis of their proposed use.

Data analysis . There are obviously limitations on the memory storage capacity of the human brain that would make it impotent in the face of even a modest amount of data about the path of a projectile or a planet, if these data were presented in discrete form. But if we can find some simple pattern that the data follow, especially if it is a pattern that we are familiar with from some other, preferably visual, experience, then we can handle it quite easily. (The preference for visual models is due to the vastly greater channel capacity of the visual modality; the notion of “handling” involves more than simple recovery, and even that involves more than storage capacity, since it includes look-up and read-out time.) This simple point can be taken as the start for a complete data-processing approach to the aspects of structural philosophy of science that remain to be discussed. It also pervades the parts already discussed, for the introduction of concepts is itself a device to cope with the “buzzing, blooming confusion” of sense experience.

Generalizations and laws . The simplest examples of the cognitive condensation described in the preceding section are laws and generalizations. They are so necessary that we are prepared to forgive them a very high degree of inaccuracy if only they will simplify the range of possibilities for us. Contrary to Karl Popper’s view, which stresses the equivalence of a law to the denial of counter-instances, the present view suggests that we are rightly very unimpressed by counterinstances in this irregular world, and extremely thankful if we can find a regularity that provides a reasonable approximation over a good range of instances. This is as true in the physical sciences as in the social, for the laws of gases, the laws of motion, gravitation, radiation, and so on, are all merely approximations at best. There are occasional exceptions (for example, the third law of thermodynamics), but the important feature of a law is that it introduces a pattern where none was before. In this sense its truth is its utility, not its lack of error. A great deal has been made in the literature of the fact that a law will support counterfactual inferences while an accidental generalization will not (Nagel 1961, pp. 68–73; compare Strawson 1952, pp. 85, 197, 200). On the present view, all this means is that we think natural laws are true of continuing or pervasive phenomena, i.e., of the nature of things. All other attempts to give logical analyses of the concept of law—for instance, the view that laws cannot contain reference to particular entities, or must support predictions—seem to me simply arbitrary.

Explanation . The task of explanation is the integration of “new” phenomena (whether subjectively or objectively new makes no difference) into the structure of knowledge. Typically, this consists in fitting these phenomena into a pattern with which we are already familiar. But explanation is not simply reduction to the familiar. Indeed, it may involve reducing the familiar to the unfamiliar, as Popper (1963, p. 63) has pointed out. But it must involve reducing the uncompre-hended phenomenon to phenomena that are comprehended, and it is hardly surprising if this sometimes increases the sense of familiarity.

It has long been argued that the way in which explanation is performed in science always involves subsuming the phenomenon to be explained under a known law [see SCIENTIFIC EXPLANATION]. In view of the known deficiencies in our scientific laws, explanation, if this theory were acceptable, would in any case be a rather imprecise affair. But the restriction to laws is too confining, unless one treats the term “law” so loosely that it covers almost any statement except a pure particular. The real danger in this model of explanation—the “deductive” model, as it is usually called—is that it seems to support the view that explanations are closely related to predictions. In contrast, the “pattern” model of explanation, which I prefer, allows for retrospectively applicable patterns as well as for those which can be grasped in advance of their completion. It happens that this is very important in the behavioral sciences, since there is, and always will be, a real shortage of “two-way” laws (that is, laws that both predict and explain). This has typically been treated by social scientists as a sign of the immaturity of their subject; but in fact it is simply a sign of its nature and is very like the situation in the “messier” areas of the physical sciences, especially engineering. When a bridge fails, or a mob riots, or a patient commits suicide, there are often a number of possible explanations, of which only one “fits the facts.” We thus have no difficulty in saying that this one is the explanation, although the facts available before the event were not enough to permit us to tell what would happen. Indeed, it may be that the chances in advance were very strongly against the actual outcome, and that we would therefore have been entitled to make a well-founded scientific prediction of the event’s nonoccurrence. It is not helpful to suggest in such cases that we are explaining by deduction from a law. What sort of law? That some factors can cause others? That only certain factors cause a certain effect? These are indeed general propositions, but they do not look much like laws of the usual kind, and they do not support any predictions at all. It is not in the least important whether or not we call them laws, but it is important to understand that we often support explanations by appealing to general claims that will not support predictions.

Prediction . On the other hand, it is often possible to predict on the basis of laws that do not explain. Any reliable correlation, however little we understand it, will give us a basis for predicting (that is, of course, provided there is temporal separation between the two correlated factors). To be able to predict, we need only to be able to infer that an event must occur at some conveniently remote time in the future. To explain, on the other hand, we have only to show why something occurred, not necessarily that it had to occur.

For a long time it was thought that the only way we could be sure to avoid ad hoc explanations was to require that (a) the grounds for the explanation be known to be true and (b) these same grounds imply only one possible outcome, the event or phenomenon to be explained. But there are many ways in which we can show that a particular explanation is correct in a particular case without having to show that the factors mentioned in the explanation would enable one to infer the explained event.

For example, we may demonstrate the presence and operation of a particular cause by exhibiting some clues that uniquely identify its modus op-erandi. Of course, we may still have reason to believe that there are certain other factors present which, in conjunction with the factors we have identified, would enable us to make a formal inference that the event we have explained was bound to occur. But in many cases we do not know what those other factors are, and we do not know the laws that would make the inference possible. In fact, our belief that we may still be able to make this inference merely indicates that we believe in determinism. It certainly does not prove that a good scientific explanation demonstrates the necessity of what it explains.

No doubt it is tempting to remark that a complete explanation would have this property, but even this approach is wrong. In the first place, there are many so-called complete scientific explanations that do not have it. Second, this approach recommends a use of the term “complete explanation” that has the unpromising property of identifying mere subsumption under a generalization as complete explanation. But the genius of Freud, for instance, was not manifested by proving that the “explanation” of obsessive behavior in a particular neurotic was that this behavior was common in neurotics. Rather, he claimed to show a causal connection between certain other factors and obsessive behavior; and a causal connection is neither as strong nor as weak as a high correlation, it is simply quite different.

Causes . We are often able to identify causes in the social sciences without being able to give the laws and other factors in conjunction with which they operate to bring about their effects. The basic control group study is a case in point. It may give us excellent grounds for supposing, let us say, that a particular drug accelerates the subjects’ rate of response, but it does not tell us what other factors are necessary conditions for this effect. Of course, we know that it is some set of the factors which are present, but we do not know which set. In more complex cases, even though a particular factor does not reliably lead to this effect, we may establish it as the cause simply by elimination of the alternative possible causes, either through their absence or through the presence of clues showing that, although present, they could not have been active this time. Of course, causal explanations are incomplete in the sense that there are always further interesting questions about the phenomenon that we would like answered. But this is also true even when we can subsume the explanation under a law: for instance, we can ask why the law is true. But causal explanations are often complete in the sense that they tell us exactly what we need to know, for our interest in a phenomenon is often very specific. Thus explanation is a context-dependent notion; explanations are devices for filling in our understanding, and the notion of the explanation makes sense only when there is a standard background of knowledge and understanding, as in the normal pedagogical development of an academic subject.

Understanding . The key notion behind that of explanation, and hence that of cause, is understanding. It must not be thought of purely as a subjective feeling; the feeling is only something associated with it. The condition of understanding itself is an objectively testable one; in fact, it regularly is tested by examinations, which are supposed to stress the detection of “real understanding,” not just rote knowledge. Understanding is integrated, related knowledge; more generally—so that the definition will apply to the understanding possessed by machines, animals, and children—it is the capacity to produce the appropriate response to novel stimuli within a certain range or field. It is a characteristic of tests for understanding that they present the student with new problems, and the possession of understanding is valuable just because it does embody this capacity to handle novelty.

Approaching it in this way, we see immediately that the question of how the brain can provide this capacity is of interest not only from a neurophysiological point of view but possibly also as a way of obtaining better insight into the nature of understanding itself. In fact, a remarkable overlap emerges between the requirements of efficient storage and understanding, as it is commonly conceived. Efficient storage, both to economize on storage capacity and to facilitate fast recovery and input, must use mapping, modeling, and simplifying procedures. But these are exactly what we use in the process of trying to understand phenomena, even in the more pragmatic process of trying to improve our classifications, descriptions, and predictions. Thus, to mention one example of how fruitful this conception is, the idea of simplicity, which has often been recognized as a criterion for satisfactory scientific theories, can be seen as equivalent to the familiar notion of economy, not as some mysterious aesthetic requirement. Nor is the whole aim of understanding to be seen as a concession to human weakness; for the most sophisticated and capacious computers we shall ever design will be hard pressed to store even part of the brain’s data and will therefore have to employ procedures that economize on storage space. Putting the matter more strongly, a simple map stores an infinity of facts with very little complication in the read-out procedures, in comparison with list storage, and an enormous improvement in speed of readout (that is, of recall); it also handles a quantity of information that would be beyond the capacity of ordinary list storage. (The difference between the use of models and the use of mnemonics is that the model stores an indefinite number of facts, which the mnemonic does not, and the model stores them in a way that is more directly related to truth.) Models, from analogies to axiomatizations, are the key to understanding. [See VERSTEHEN.]

Experimentation . The use of applied science for the purpose of controlling reality has its counterpart within the methodology of science itself in the area of experimentation. Thus applied science is to pure science as experimentation is to pure observation. In each case the armory of relevant methods is importantly different: the “purer” subjects are more concerned with understanding and description; the more applied ones, with causation and manipulation. Indeed, it does not appear possible to give an analysis of “cause” without some reference to manipulation, though a great deal can be said before coming to the irreducible element of intervention or action. [See CAUSATION.]

A number of topics have not been discussed here, although they are closely related. For example, the problem of the reduction of one science or theory to another is a combination of a problem about explanation with one about definition. I have also said very little, even implicitly, about the issue of free will versus determinism, and wish only to state that it now seems possible to reconcile the two positions, provided we first make a distinction between predictive and explanatory determinism. In conclusion, I should stress my conviction that there is very little in the social sciences that does not have a parallel in the physical sciences, but it has not been to these parallels that social scientists have turned for paradigms. They have turned instead to the absurdly over-simple paradigms of Newtonian mechanics and astronomy. Even there, the significant fact is that the problem of predicting the motion of pure point-masses, moving under the sole influence of the very simple force of gravity, passes from the realm where solutions and predictions are possible to the realm where solutions give way to (at best) explications as soon as the number of bodies is increased from two to three. It is surely absurd to imagine that the forces acting on human beings are simpler than those involved in the “three-body problem.” And if this is so, then we need a new “methodology of the complex domain,” perhaps along the lines indicated above.

Michael Scriven

[Directly related are the entriesCausation; Experimental Design; Models, Mathematical; Multivariate Analysis; Positivism; Prediction; Probability; Science, article onThe History OF Science;Scientific Explanation; Statistics, article OnThe Field; Systems Analysis, article onGeneral Systems Theory; Values; Verstehen; and in the biographies ofCohen; Galton; Hume; Koyre; Pearson; Peirce; Schlick; Weber, Max; Yule.]


Contemporary philosophers of science can be roughly classified as either post-positivists (who form the majority) or linguistic analysts. For examples of work by leading post-positivists, see Popper 1934; 1957; Carnap 1950; Reich-enbach 1951; Hempel 1952; 1965; Braithwaite 1953; Nagel 1961; Feyerabend 1962; Kemeny&Snell 1962; Suppes&Zinnes 1963. There are many important topics on whichthese authors disagree, but it seems fair to say that among the predecessors they would be prepared to acknowledge are such founders of modern positivism as Karl Pearson, Moritz Schlick, and Ernst Mach. Other outstanding earlier writers who, although somewhat untypical of the field, have contributed to the philosophy of science in general, not just the post-positivist branch of it, include C. S. Peirce, Max Weber, N. R. Campbell, P. W. Bridgman, and Harold Jeffreys. Works by philosophers of science who use at least some of the methods of the linguistic analysts, even if they would not all classify themselves as such, include, in the study of the physical sciences, Toulmin 1953; Polanyi 1958; in the study of the social sciences, Dray 1957; Winch 1958; Kaplan 1964; Scriven 1966; and, in the field of measurement and probability, Ellis 1966; Hacking 1965. Certain trends in the history of science, particularly in the emphasis, developed in Butterfield 1950 and Kuhn 1962, and by Alexandre Koyrt, on autonomous conceptual schemes as units of progress, have influenced the philosophy of science. These trends have in turn been influenced by philosophical works such as Feyerabend 1962; Hesse 1963. Among the extremely valuable contributions to the philosophy of science made by practicing social scientists, special note should be taken of Simon 1947–1956; Skinner 1953; Meehl 1954; Stevens 1958; Chomsky 1966. Of the general treatises available in 1966, only McEwen 1963 and Kaplan 1964 are concerned principally with the social sciences, although Nagel 1961 and Hempel 1965 deal with them to some extent. Lazarsfeld 1954; Natanson 1963; Braybrooke 1966 are interesting collections that focus exclusively on the social sciences. As an introduction to the philosophical problems of the social sciences, Kaplan 1964 is to be recommended to layman and expert alike, although the work takes an approach somewhat different from that presented in this article.

Braithwaite, R. B. 1953 Scientific Explanation: A Study of the Function of Theory, Probability and Law in Science. Cambridge Univ. Press. → A paperback edition was published in 1960 by Harper.

Braybrooke, David (editor) 1966 Philosophical Problems of the Social Sciences. New York: Macmillan.

Bridgman, P. W. (1927) 1946 The Logic of Modern Physics. New York: Macmillan.

Butterfield, Herbert (1950) 1957 The Origins of Modern Science, 1300–1800. 2d ed., rev. New York: Macmillan. → A paperback edition was published in 1962 by Collier.

Campbell, Norman R. (1920) 1957 Foundations of Science: The Philosophy of Theory and Experiment. New York: Dover. → First published as Physics: The Elements.

Carnap, Rudolf (1950) 1962 The Logical Foundations of Probability. 2d ed. Univ. of Chicago Press.

Chomsky, Noam 1966 Cartesian Linguistics: A Chapter in the History of Rationalist Thought. New York: Harper.

Dray, William (1957) 1964 Laws and Explanation in History. Oxford Univ. Press.

Ellis, Brian 1966 Basic Concepts of Measurement. Cambridge Univ. Press.

Feigl, Herbert; and Scriven, Michael (editors) 1956 The Foundations of Science and the Concepts of Psychology and Psychoanalysis. Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 1. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press.

Feyerabend, P. K. 1962 Explanation, Reduction and Empiricism. Pages 28–97 in Herbert Feigl and Grover Maxwell (editors), Scientific Explanation, Space, and Time. Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 3. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press. Hacking, Ian 1965 Logic of Statistical Inference. Cambridge Univ. Press.

Hempel, Carl G. 1952 Fundamentals of Concept Formation in Empirical Science. Volume 2, number 7, in International Encyclopedia of Unified Science. Univ. of Chicago Press.

Hempel, Carl G. 1965 Aspects of Scientific Explanation, and Other Essays in the Philosophy of Science. New York: Free Press.

Hesse, Mary B. 1963 Models and Analogies in Science. London: Sheed…Ward.

Jeffreys, Harold (1931) 1957 Scientific Inference. 2d ed. Cambridge Univ. Press.

Kaplan, Abraham 1964 The Conduct of Inquiry: Methodology for Behavioral Science. San Francisco: Chandler.

Kemeny, John G.; and Snell, J. Laurie 1962 Mathematical Models in the Social Sciences. Boston: Ginn.

Kuhn, Thomas S. 1962 The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Univ. of Chicago Press. → A paperback edition was published in 1964.

Lazarsfeld, Paul F. (editor) (1954) 1955 Mathematical Thinking in the Social Sciences. 2d ed., rev. Glencoe, 111.: Free Press.

McEwEN, William P. 1963 The Problem of Socialscientific Knowledge. Totowa, N.J.: Bedminster.

Meehl, Paul E. (1954) 1956 Clinical Versus Statistical Prediction: A Theoretical Analysis and a Review of the Evidence. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press.

Nagel, Ernest 1961 The Structure of Science: Problems in the Logic of Scientific Explanation. New York: Harcourt.

Natanson, Maurice (editor) 1963 Philosophy of the Social Sciences: A Reader. New York: Random House.

Polanyi, Michael 1958 Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-critical Philosophy. Univ. of Chicago Press.

Popper, Karl R. (1934) 1959 The Logic of Scientific Discovery. New York: Basic Books. → First published as Logik der Forschung.

Popper, Karl R. 1957 The Poverty of Historicism. Boston: Beacon.

Popper, Karl R. 1963 Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge. New York: Basic Books; London: Routledge.

Reichenbach, Hans (1951) 1959 Probability Methods in Social Science. Pages 121–128 in Daniel Lerner and Harold D. Lasswell (editors), The Policy Sciences: Recent Developments in Scope and Method. Stanford Univ. Press.

Scriven, Michael 1956 A Possible Distinction Between Traditional Scientific Disciplines and the Study of Human Behavior. Pages 88–130 in Herbert Feigl and Michael Scriven (editors), The Foundations of Science and the Concepts of Psychology and Psychoanalysis. Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 1. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press.

Schiven, Michael 1959 Truisms as the Grounds for Historical Explanations. Pages 443–475 in Patrick L. Gardiner (editor), Theories of History. Glencoe, III.: Free Press.

Scriven, Michael 1962 Explanations, Predictions and Laws. Pages 170–230 in Herbert Feigl and Grover Maxwell (editors), Scientific Explanation, Space, and Time. Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 3. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press.

Scriven, Michael 1965 An Essential Unpredictability in Human Behavior. Pages 411–425 in Benjamin B. Wolman and Ernest Nagel (editors), Scientific Psychology: Principles and Approaches. New York: Basic Books.

Schiven, Michael 1966 Primary Philosophy. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Simon, Herbert A. (1947–1956) 1957 Models of Man; Social and Rational: Mathematical Essays on Rational Human Behavior in a Social Setting. New York: Wiley.

Skinner, B. F. (1953) 1964 Science and Human Behavior. New York: Macmillan.

Stevens, S. S. 1958 Problems and Methods of Psychophysics. Psychological Bulletin 55:177–196.

Strawson, P. F. 1952 Introduction to Logical Theory. London: Methuen; New York: Wiley.

Suppes, Patrick; and Zinnes, Joseph L. 1963 Basic Measurement Theory. Volume 1, pages 1—76 in R. Duncan Luce, Robert R. Bush, and Eugene Galanter (editors), Handbook of Mathematical Psychology. New York: Wiley.

Toulmin, Stephen 1953 The Philosophy of Science: An Introduction. London: Hutchinson’s University Library. → A paperback edition was published in 1960 by Harper.

Winch, Peter (1958) 1963 The Idea of a Social Science and Its Relation to Philosophy. London: Routledge; New York: Humanities.


If the sociology of knowledge is defined as the part of sociology that studies the nature of and relations between different types of idea systems, on the one side, and the relations between these idea systems and a variety of institutional (or social-structural) and personality factors, on the other, then the sociology of science is one part of the sociology of knowledge. It is the part that specializes in defining the nature of scientific ideas and in describing their relations both to other kinds of ideas (e.g., ideological, philosophical, aesthetic, religious) and to various institutional and personality factors. Parsons (1951, especially chapter 8) has given us what is still the best analytic definition of idea systems in general and their several specialized subtypes, although further analysis and operational specification of his classification are necessary.

The sociology of science, as is the case with all sociology, general or special, is primarily interested in the construction of a set of highly generalized, systematic, and relatively exhaustive concepts and propositions of relationship. In this enterprise it uses data from all historical periods and all cultures, since its main concern is not with history as such, but with establishing sociological concepts and propositions. The history of science, although it always should use such explicit sociological concepts and propositions, often does not, preferring its traditional, less examined, and frequently common-sense ways of treating its materials. In either case, the history of science, both advertently and inadvertently, may be productive of materials or even of new concepts and propositions for the sociology of science, but this is not its essential task. Thus, the sociology of science and the history of science overlap but do not coincide.

The sociology of science, finally, is interested both in fundamental scientific ideas themselves and in the application of these fundamental ideas, or of more empirical ideas, to technology. In its study of technology, again, the sociology of science uses both historical and contemporary data, drawn from a variety of cultures, regardless of the original purpose for which these data were collected, so long as they serve its primary goal of constructing a system of analytic concepts and propositions.

The social nature of science . One of the basic working assumptions of structural-functional theory in sociology is that man’s behavior in society is a response to certain functional problems that he confronts in his nonsocial and social environments. On this assumption, sociology sees man’s scientific behavior as his response to the functional problem created by his need to have adequate adjustive knowledge of the physical, biological, and social aspects of the empirical world. Such knowledge is indispensable for some form of adjustment to that world in its three essential and different aspects. Everywhere, as archeology, ethnology, history, and sociology have severally demonstrated, man in society has a certain amount of this scientific knowledge. The amount, of course, varies a great deal among societies. In other words, science, as Malinowski recognized (1916–1941), is a matter of degree, with some societies having only a relatively small amount and others having a great deal more. This, indeed, sets some of the essential problems for the sociology of science. For it is not only the universal occurrence of at least a small amount of scientific knowledge, but also the patterns of variation in the degree of development of such knowledge in different societies, and variations at different stages in the evolution of a single society, that the sociology of science has undertaken to explain.

In order to explain the degree of development of science considered as a complex whole, it is necessary to distinguish its component cultural, social, and psychological parts, for each of these can develop at somewhat different rates in different social situations. It is useful to define at least four general components of science as a whole, each of which has a measure of autonomy: substantive scientific ideas; scientific methodology, including both ideas and instruments; scientific roles; and motivational and reward systems for scientific roles. Let us consider, again because this sets important problems that the sociology of science has been trying to explain, how each of the components varies along certain dimensions.

Substantive scientific ideas vary along three dimensions: of generality, or abstractness, as it is also often called; of systematization; and of exhaustiveness for the relevant aspects of the phenomena. We may say that the more abstract, the more systematic, and the more nearly exhaustive a set of substantive scientific ideas is, the greater the degree of its scientific development. Among the interesting problems that the sociology of science tries to explain is the question of why the physical sciences on the whole have developed more rapidly in all three respects than have the biological sciences and why these, in turn, have developed more rapidly than the social sciences. Within each of these broad sectors of science, moreover, further variation in the degree of development of specialized subsciences poses similar problems for explanation. For example, the more rapid recent development of economics than of political science or sociology can be explained, in part, by the greater accessibility of data on price phenomena than of data on people’s political and social norms and actual behavior. This greater accessibility is due, in turn, and again in part, to the more pressing felt needs that governments and business firms have for price data.

Knowledge about the ideas and instruments (or technology) that make up scientific methodology also varies in its degree of development. It is clear that modern science has made great advances over earlier science in the sophistication of its knowledge about such essential methodological matters as the character of concepts and classifications, the logic of comparison and inference, and the functions of contrived and natural experimentation. Modern science is also at a great advantage over earlier science in the degree of its access to ordering and measuring facilities. Mathematics is, of course, the most important of such facilities, and its development has been of very great moment in the closely related development of all the sciences, although, again, to varying degrees among the several sciences, for interesting sociological reasons. In addition to mathematics, such instruments as thermometers, high-speed electronic computers, and a thousand others have contributed significantly to the advances of the sciences. Both the development of these measuring facilities and their adoption by the several sciences are important focuses for research in the sociology of science. Since they may develop sometimes as a direct result of changes in scientific ideas, but also sometimes independently, methodological ideas and instruments have various types of relationships with substantive scientific ideas. When they develop to some extent independently, as in the cases of the telescope or the computer, for example, methodological ideas and instruments may at certain times play the leading part in the development of a whole sector or subsector of science. Or again, it is an important sociological fact about the prospects of the social sciences that their ability to borrow a great deal of the methodological sophistication developed in the other sectors of science is a key asset for their own development.

There is also considerable variation among societies in the degree of differentiation and specialization of social roles for engaging in the many types of scientific behavior, in the proportion of members of the society engaged in these roles, in the kinds and amounts of support given to these roles, and in the degree of institutionalization of scientific roles. The sociology of science has been much concerned with these essential problems of the social organization or role component of science, so much so that we shall take them up below, in a separate and detailed discussion.

Finally, motivational and reward systems for scientific roles also vary among and within societies. They differ in the type of rewards, in the strength of motivation, and in the degree of diffusion of adequate incentives throughout the population as a whole. Again, we shall consider this matter more fully below.

The development of science

Viewed in the long perspective, science shows a history of continuity and cumulation from the earliest prehistory of man to the present. However, this history has been marked by quite different rates of development in different times and places. It is this unevenness in its progress, viewed in terms of shorter perspectives, that calls for explanation by the sociology of science. As the sociology of science has itself made progress, a few basic principles of explanation have come to appear sound. One is the principle that no single cultural, social, or psychological factor, such as religion or economic forces, can account for the growth of science as a whole or any of its several components or subsciences. Another such principle is that not even any single combination of factors, such as the religious and the economic, or the political and the educational, is sufficient for the tasks of the sociology of science. This is not to say that there are not some combinations of factors more favorable than others for certain kinds of specific development in science, as our discussion of the Protestant ethic will illustrate. There definitely are such favorable combinations, and the sociology of science has improved its ability to discover them by accepting the principle that certain types and rates of development may come from one set of factors (or one set of values of these factors taken as variables) and that other types and rates may come from a different set of factors (or a different set of variables-values).

The following discussion will consider some of the major factors that affect the development of science. They exert their influence on science always in combination, and the relative weight of the influence of each may vary in different specific instances.

Structural and cultural differentiation . The greater the degree of structural differentiation in a society, that is, of the specialization of roles between the major institutional sectors and within them as well, the more favorable the situation for the development of science. Greater structural differentiation provides the necesary situation not only for a variety of highly specialized scientific roles but also for their highly specialized ancillary and supporting roles in other institutional sectors.

Besides role differentiation, differentiation within culture, that is, in the various systems of ideas in society, is also favorable to the development of science. For example, as Charles Gillispie (1960) has shown, the development of what he calls “the edge of objectivity” of scientific ideas has increased as these ideas have progressively been differentiated from moral ideas about man’s place in the universe. The more that values, ideologies, aesthetic ideas, and philosophical ideas are distinguished both from one another and from substantive scientific ideas, the easier it is to see the special problems of each and to develop each and all of them.

Value systems . Certain values which the modern world tends to take for granted, but which have not existed in many past societies, certainly in nothing like the same degree, are much more favorable to the development of science than are their opposites. The high value the modern world puts on rationality as against traditionalism, on this-worldly activities as against other-worldly activities, on libertarianism as against authoritarianism, on active striving as against passive adaptation to the world, and on equality as against inequality—all these values support the development of the several components of science. Sometimes the support is direct, as in the case of the values of rationality and this-worldly interest, values which are especially powerful in combination, as they are in the modern world. Libertarianism is essential for academic freedom, which is one kind of important foundation for scientific progress. Sometimes the support from values is indirect, as when the value of equality increases the amount of social mobility and thus helps to select better talent for scientific roles.

Instrumental needs . Scientific knowledge is power, that is, power to adjust more or less satisfactorily to the nonsocial environment and to the internal and external social environment. Some scientific discovery and technological innovation, then, is a response to immediate instrumental needs for adjustment to what are defined as dangerous and harsh environments. Certainly this must have been an especially large influence on the development of science in the early stages of human society, when every bit of scientific knowledge was of great instrumental importance in a threatening and severe physical and social environment. But even powerful modern industrial societies respond strongly to their instrumental needs for science. Whatever their values in regard to science, they feel an urgent need to use it to strengthen their national defense, promote industrial and agricultural growth, and improve the health of their populations. Some scientists deplore this “exploitation” of science, that is, this encouragement of science “not for science’s own sake.” But the instrumental needs of even already powerful societies are defined by their citizens as more important under some circumstances than the value considerations that are preferred by scientists and by those who share the values that support science directly. Finally, the nonindustrial or underdeveloped societies of the present also push the acquisition of science for urgent instrumental needs, to cope with “the revolution of rising expectations” in their populations.

Economic factors . A variety of economic structures, needs, and resources, often combined with one or more other social factors, have had very large direct and indirect influences on the development of science. There is no blinking this fact, no matter how much some scientists may think it stains the “purity” of science and regardless of whether one thinks some Marxist sociologists of science have exaggerated it. Only a few of the myriad effects of economic activities on science can be given in illustration here. As Merton has shown (1936; 1939), in the case of seventeenth-century England, for example, the growing maritime interests, both commercial and naval shipping, were in need of more reliable techniques of navigation. The existing techniques included neither good chronometers nor any sure way of determining longitude at sea. These economic and military-political needs were a direct stimulus, through prizes offered for discoveries and inventions, to basic discoveries in astronomy and on the nature of the spring. Or again, earlier, in sixteenth-century Europe, economic needs for more powerful methods of pumping water out of mines than were provided by the existing Archimedean screw pumps led to work by Evangelista Torricelli and Vincenzo Viviani on the relations between atmospheric pressure and water level. On the basis of this work, successful suction pumps for industrial use were constructed. But this scientific work also led to the invention of the barometer by Torricelli, to the creation of a vacuum by Otto von Guericke, and to a whole host of scientific experiments and results with the so-called “air pump” by Robert Boyle and his colleagues in the newly founded Royal Society. This example shows how economic needs, science, and technology affect each other in complex and often mutually beneficial ways.

In the modern world, both industrial organizations and governments in all societies have provided many kinds of support for science in order to pursue economic interests and needs. Direct support exists in the form of governmental and industrial research laboratories; indirect support is given through tax provisions and other subsidies to both the universities and industry. One of the largest areas of governmental response to economic needs has been agricultural research, which is largely biological research but also includes the physical and social sciences. It should be noted that both “capitalist” and “socialist” societies and both “planning” and “nonplanning” societies have supported science through their responsiveness to the economic interests of special groups in the society and of society as a whole. The desirability of using science to meet economic needs and increase economic resources is no longer anywhere in question among the societies of the modern world.

Political structures and needs . Political and economic factors have often tended to be closely combined in their effects on science. Of course, the political factor has also had a great influence on science separately, for example, because of the military needs that governments have had. After the recent history of the part that governments have played in the development of atomic science for politico-military needs, this point hardly needs further illustration. But this connection between politico—military needs and science is far from new. Governments have always sought to increase military firepower through the development of science. Research on the nature of metals, on the causes of chemical reactions and explosions, and on the mathematics of the curves of ballistic missiles has been spurred by military needs.

Religion . Values and religion are closely connected in every society. A religion that supports modern values, which in turn favor science, is, of course, a strong support for the development of science. This specific connection is what Merton has sought to demonstrate in his analysis of the relations between the complex of values and religious beliefs that constitute the Protestant ethic, on the one hand, and the great development of seventeenth-century English science (1936; 1939). The values and beliefs of the Protestant ethic have now been secularized and diffused to many social milieus other than the ones in which they originally arose. In their secular form they are even more powerful supports for the development of science. The relations between a religion and science are always, it should be carefully noted, complex and at partial cross purposes. Thus, although the general beliefs and values of the liberal forms of Protestant Christianity have been favorable to the development of science, even these liberal elements have sometimes protested against specific scientific discoveries that have apparently contradicted basic doctrines of their own. Thus, as Gillispie (1951) has shown, some liberal Protestants who still held to the Biblical conceptions of miraculous floods and other catastrophes were opposed to the notion of geological uniformitarianism when this new scientific idea was first developed in the early nineteenth century. And, a little later, as Dupree (1959) and Lurie (1960) have suggested, there was the same kind of resistance for a while to Darwin’s discovery of uniformities in the development of man and the other animal species. In analyzing the relations between religion and science, the sociology of science treats them both as complex phenomena and looks for specific connections between their specific components.

The educational system . The maintenance and development of science is facilitated by an educational system that is sufficiently specialized for, and sympathetic to, the growing science of its time. For example, as we may learn from Ben-David (1960), new educational institutions developed for that purpose played an essential role in the development of French science during the early nineteenth century and in Germany a little later. All the modernizing countries of recent times, from Russia to the small and weak African countries, have greatly strengthened their educational systems at all levels because of their desire to improve their science. Before modern times, the universities were not the home of scientific development, which they have since become. As late as “the Great Instauration” of science in seventeenth-century England, the universities were still indifferent or hostile to science, but a variety of other extremely favorable social conditions helped science to flourish. This hostility continued for some time. Now, of course, a university that is hostile or indifferent to science can exist only in a society, or in one of its parts, that is content to remain a scientific backwater.

Social stratification system . A system of social stratification that emphasizes the value of equality and that, in fact, realizes a high degree of social mobility for the members of a society seems to be more favorable for the development of science than is the opposite, or closed, type of system. By providing a greater degree of equality for talent, wherever in the society it originates, the open type of system can provide greater resources of talent for manning scientific posts. Of course, if scientific roles are not highly valued, rising talent will go elsewhere, but the two factors in combination—a high value on science and the openness of the channels of social mobility—are very favorable to the development of science. In the modern world, both of these conditions have been realized in ever greater measure in the older industrial societies. And the newly modernizing societies, as Dedijer (1961) has described them, are making great efforts to bring them into being almost overnight.

Differentiation of the scientific role

In relatively undifferendated societies, past or contemporary, there are few roles for full-time “intellectuals,” as we may roughly characterize all those whose special function is to deal in some kind of idea system. However, as societies become less simple and more structurally differentiated, the role of intellectual enlarges and is occupied by at least a few individuals on a full-time basis and with support from a variety of sources: a religious organization, the political magnates, or inherited wealth. Certainly in Greece by the fifth century B.C., the role of intellectual had emerged and was occupied with great distinction by men who have influenced all subsequent thought—men like Plato and Aristotle. It should be noted, however, that the ideas with which such intellectuals dealt were relatively much less differentiated than ideas are in the modern world. On the whole, the intellectual still deals alike with religious, scientific, ethical, political, and philosophical ideas; indeed, the term “philosophy” covers all knowledge, all types of ideas. But it is not until the beginnings of the modern world that this further process of differentiation occurs, that is, differentiation between types of ideas, and makes way for the specialized roles dealing wholly or primarily with scientific ideas. This differentiation of the scientific role from other intellectual roles was slow in occurring, even in the modern world. In seventeenth-century England, the new science was still called “the new philosophy.” And the oldest scientific society in the United States, founded in 1743 by Benjamin Franklin, among others, was called the American Philosophical Society. So little differentiated was the specialized role of scientist and so few were those who occupied this role, by whatever name and with whatever means of support, that it was not until the nineteenth century that the very term “scientist” was coined (by the Rev. William Whewell, in England in the 1840s).

The process of differentiation of the role of scientist went slowly until the middle of the nineteenth century because of the difficulty of finding sources of support for it in the securely established social organizations and arrangements. Beginning in the sixteenth century, newly founded scientific societies provided various necessary facilities and supports for scientists, but only a handful of full-time jobs. Governments did something more, but still there were very few full-time positions in government museums or research organizations. Some distinguished scientists, men like Franklin and Boyle, supported themselves on inherited or earned wealth. Others worked at nonscientific jobs as well, or alternated between scientific and other activities; such a scientist was Antoine Lavoisier. Very little was done by the universities and colleges of the time; not until the nineteenth century, and in most places only in the latter half of that century, did they open their doors wide to scientists.

Full institutionalization was achieved, then, when universities, various governmental organizations, and many industrial firms recognized their great need for science, and established regular and permanent roles and careers for scientists. In addition, a variety of special research institutes, endowed by foundations, trade associations, and other special interest groups, or sometimes operated by private individuals for profit, provided further and ever more specialized jobs for scientists. The necessity and the legitimacy of the scientific role were increasingly acknowledged.

One rough measure of the establishment of the scientific role in the modern world is the quantitative increase in the numbers of those who occupy the role. As Derek Price (1963) has shown, during the last 300 to 400 years there has been an exponential growth rate in the number of scientists in the modern world. Starting from very small numbers, to be sure, the rate of growth is such that there has been a doubling of the number of scientists in something like every 10 to 15 years. Because of the nature of exponential growth rates, the recent increase in the number of scientists has been especially large. Price estimates that about 90 per cent of all the scientists who have ever lived are still alive today. Given this growth rate, as well as other reasons, it is small wonder that the place of science in the modern world is not yet as settled as many would like.

There is, unfortunately, no room here to treat some other aspects of the social organization of science. Such matters as patterns of authority, of collaboration, and of careers in scientific work have recently been well studied by Glaser (1964), Hagstrom (1965), and Zuckerman (1965), among others.

Motivations and rewards for scientists

The mere existence of social roles is not enough for their full institutionalization. Adequate and legitimate motivations in those who occupy the roles, and adequate and legitimate rewards from those who support the roles, must also exist. On the whole, in the modern world, and especially in the societies that modernized early, these motivations and rewards exist in sufficient measure.

What little evidence we have on the motives of working scientists indicates that, as in all other social roles, a variety of motives in different combinations is at work. For example, because the role of scientist now provides considerable stability, security, and prestige, many scientists are motivated in some measure to achieve these goals. Also, because specialization in basic scientific research provides considerable autonomy to the working scientist, many are motivated to achieve the independence and self-control that the role makes possible. In future social-psychological research on motivation for the scientific role, it will be desirable to keep in mind both the multiplicity of motives that can engage the competent scientist and the way in which the nature of his role structures certain typical combinations of motives. It would be interesting to establish the precise role of much-vaunted “curiosity” in the motivation of scientists. And it would also be desirable to use a typology of different scientific roles, along the lines suggested by Znaniecki (1940), such as theorist, experimenter, synthesizer, and similar functional types, to see if various typical combinations of motives exist in these different scientific specialties.

As for rewards, the scientific role is now given satisfactory measures of such rewards as security, prestige, and money income to attract its fair share of the talented members of modern societies. As compared with those in business occupations, scíentists tend to be rewarded with relatively more prestige for professional standing and relatively less money income. Among scientists themselves, and among the lay public to a lesser extent, there has developed a very elaborate set of symbolic rewards for differential prestige bestowed for differential achievement in science. The awarding of titles, prizes, medals, offices, and eponymous distinctions symbolizes the existing hierarchy of differential prestige. A Nobel Prize in any of the four scientific fields in which it is granted is only the best-known of the symbols of scientific achievement.

The reward of prestige in science is given primarily for originality in scientific discovery, but, since it is sometimes difficult to appraise the degree of originality, sheer productivity may carry off the honors. Like other men in other roles, scientists are deeply concerned about the just distribution of rewards for their activities. Despite the norm of humility that prevails among them and that does influence their behavior, they are motivated to achieve credit for being original, just as businessmen are motivated to receive credit for making a profit. As a result of their concern, as Merton (1957) has so well shown, scientists take pride in priority of discovery and often engage in bitter quarrels over claims to priority. In sum, the role of the scientist is subject, as are all social roles, to a structured set of motivations and rewards, some of which are similar to those in other roles and some of which are different. The scientist is in no sense a “selfless” creature above and beyond the influences of his social role.

During the last decade there has occurred the beginning of systematic research on what is called “the image” of the scientist that the public at large and various segments of the whole society, such as youth or the scientists themselves, actually hold. A favorable image of a social role is, of course, an important reward for those who fill it. The evidence accumulated by this research shows, on the whole, that the image of the scientist is a favorable one. But as Mead and Métraux (1957–1958) and Beardslee and O’Dowd (1961) have shown in their research, there are some negative tones in the picture—a fear and dislike for some of the characteristics and consequences of the scientific role. In short, there is some ambivalence toward scientists. In certain quarters, this admixture of negative feelings has been much deplored, despite the fact that such feelings probably exist for every social role. Because all social roles probably work at least some negative consequences for some people in some situations, it is utopian to expect a wholly positive image for scientists or for those who occupy any other social-role category.

Communication among scientists

Since one essential ingredient in the development of science is the combination of already existing ideas, effective communication among scientists is an indispensable part of scientific activities. One of the important social inventions in the early modern period in science was the creation of local, national, and international societies and journals as means for the speedier and more general communication of scientific work within the community of scientists. In order to “keep up” in any branch of science, that is, to learn about the new ideas he can use to discover still further new ideas, the working scientist now has to spend a valuable part of his time with the professional journals, carefully studying a few and scanning many others. In addition to reading the journals, scientists communicate at the meetings of professional associations, both formally and informally. Here, too, as science has developed, there has been a proliferation of specialized groups to match the specialized journals and the specialized activities they report. And, finally, through informal visits, letters, telephone calls, and preprint mimeographed materials, scientists strive to maintain the effective communication without which their activities would be slowed down and even stopped.

In his description of the exponential growth rates for different aspects of science, Price (1963) has also shown that there has been a doubling in the number of scientific journals every 10 to 15 years over the last three or four centuries. Because of this large increase, much of it necessary because of the growth of new scientific specialties, there has been some concern among scientists about the possibility of an excess of information; for some scientists, just “keeping up” has become ever more difficult. In response to this felt difficulty, abstracting services have been created and have multiplied, but still the problem of excessive and inefficient communication is felt to persist. At the present, therefore, various groups of scientists are trying to codify and computerize the processes of what is called “information retrieval” in science. So far they have not had very great success, partly for reasons suggested below. [See INFORMATION STORAGE AND RETRIEVAL.]

The structure and functions of communications processes among scientists present an obvious set of problems for the sociology of science—one on which much remains to be done. One interesting suggestion from general sociological ideas and from the research that has been done by Herbert Menzel (1959) is that scientists themselves sometimes think in terms of too rational a conception of the communication process; that is, they may be expecting too much from the journals and the formal meetings. In addition to these formal, manifest, and planned communication processes in science, there are the informal, latent, and unplanned ones. Scientists cannot always know precisely what they want and merely push a computer button to get it. Often, through “milling around” at meetings, through chance visits, through indirect channels, they get essential information which they can recognize as essential only when they get it. As a journey into emergent novelty, science must use both planned and unplanned patterns of communication. One of the newer and more interesting focuses of research in the sociology of science is the question of the function of each pattern of communication for different scientific needs and the distribution of these patterns among the different social situations in which scientists find themselves. [See DIFFUSION, article on INTERPERSONAL INFLUENCE.]

The processes of scientific discovery

In contrast with an individualistic, “heroic” conception of the processes of scientific discovery that has prevailed in some quarters, though less now than formerly, the sociology of science has sought to redress the balance of our understanding of these processes by demonstrating that they have essential social components. Starting with the fact of the cumulative nature of science, sociologists have pointed out that the established body of scientific ideas and methodologies at any given time itself has the most important influence on setting problems for scientists to solve and on providing leads for their solution. This determining effect of the established ideas and methods is the source of the innumerable examples of the pattern of independent multiple discovery in science. Given the prerequisites of a discovery in the established body of science, it is almost inevitable, as Ogburn (1922) and Merton (1961) have argued and demonstrated from the history of science, that independent multiples will occur. Some discoveries, of course, break somewhat more sharply than others with the fundamental notions of the established science; they have more emergent novelty. These are what Kuhn (1962) has called “scientific revolutions.” However, even these are far from ex nihilo. Although cumulative in important measure, they also set new directions for the relevant fields and specialties in science.

Recent theory and research in the sociology of science have also qualified the older picture of the processes of scientific discovery as based entirely on foresight, planning, rationality, and ready acceptance. These characteristics certainly can be seen in large measure in most discoveries. But, in addition, in many discoveries there is an admixture of the unplanned, the nonrational or irrational, and the obstructive, contributed by the discoverer himself or by others. These characteristics manifest themselves in the pattern of serendipity in discovery and in the pattern of resistance by scientists themselves to certain scientific discoveries. The serendipity pattern occurs, and in actual research it occurs very often, when the researcher comes by happy chance on something he was not looking for, that is, some anomaly that presents him with the unexpected opportunity to change his preconceptions about his research and make a new discovery (Barber 1952, pp. 203–205). The resistance pattern occurs when the scientist refuses to accept his own or someone else’s discovery because of theoretical or methodological preconceptions, the force of superior authority or prestige, or the prejudices of particular schools of thought (Barber … Hirsch 1962, chapter 32).

Of course, there has always been some resistance to scientific discoveries on the part of cultural and social institutions outside science. Religion, political and economic interests—indeed, the whole range of social factors that interact with science—have under some conditions opposed one or another scientific idea or requirement, just as they have also supported others. An important task for the sociology of science is to analyze specific sources of acceptance and resistance for specific types of scientific ideas and needs.

Science as a social problem

Like the relations among any of the parts of society, the relations between science and various other parts of society are often inharmonious, as the participants in these relations see them, or dysfunctional, as the objective observer sees them. Thus, sociology can also study science as what it calls, in general, “a social problem.” There are two aspects of science as a social problem. In one aspect, science is an activity whose participants feel, in some important measure, angry or hostile to society because their values and needs are not being properly met or respected. For example, scientists resent what they define as unnecessary controls on their work: they complain about insufficient financial support for their preferred types of research; they deplore politically imposed secrecy; and they try to throw off all nationalistic and other parochial limitations on their research and communication activities. However much these frustrations may be necessary in the light of other social needs than those of science, to scientists they are social problems calling for protest and reform. A variety of organized and unorganized means of protest now exist among scientists to cope with these problems.

In another aspect, science is a social problem to various social groups who consider some of its consequences harmful to themselves and who therefore want to restrict or even eliminate science. Over both the short run and the long, many of the consequences of science are in fact harmful to various social groups. However unintended in most instances, these harmful consequences raise the issue of the social responsibilities of scientists, who are in part their source. It has come to be seen that responsibility for the harmful social consequences of science belongs not directly with scientists but with the several established social and political processes for handling social problems. It has also come to be seen that scientists can play a variety of useful roles in these social and political processes. If scientists have no absolute responsibility for the troubles they help to bring, neither are they absolved from all concern. A number of social and political arrangements are now being worked out to permit scientists to act as expert advisers on the technical aspects of the social problems they have helped to bring into being or that they can foresee arising out of their activities.

Bernard Barber

[See alsoDiffusion; Innovation; Knowledge, Sociology OF; Medical Care, article onEthnomedicine; Technology; and the biographies ofOgburn; Weber, Max; Znaniecki.]


Barber, Bernard 1952 Science and the Social Order. Glencoe, 111.: Free Press. → A paperback edition was published in 1962 by Collier.

Barbek, Bernard 1956 Sociology of Science: A Trend Report and BIBLIOGRAPHY. Current Sociology 5, no. 2.

Barber, Bernard; and Hirsch, Walter (editors) 1962 The Sociology of Science. New York: Free Press. → Contains 38 selections and a BIBLIOGRAPHY.

Beardslee, David C.; and O’DowD, Donald D. 1961 The College-student Image of the Scientist. Science 133:997–1001.

Ben-David, Joseph 1960 Scientific Productivity and Academic Organization in Nineteenth-century Medicine. American Sociological Review 25:828–843.

Dedijer, Stevan 1961 Why Did Daedalus Leave? Science 133:2047–2052.

Dupree, A. Hunter 1959 Asa Gray: 1810–1888. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press.

Gillispie, Charles C. 1951 Genesis and Geology: A Study in the Relations of Scientific Thought, Natural Theology, and Social Opinion in Great Britain, 1790–1850. Harvard Historical Studies, Vol. 58. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press. → A paperback edition was published in 1959 by Harper.

Gillispie, Charles C. 1960 The Edge of Objectivity: An Essay in the History of Scientific Ideas. Princeton Univ. Press.

Glaser, Barney G. 1964 Organizational Scientists: Their Professional Careers. Indianapolis, Ind.: Bobbs-Merrill.

Hagstrom, Warren O. 1965 The Scientific Community. New York: Basic Books.

Kuhn, Thomas S. 1962 The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Univ. of Chicago Press.

Lurie, Edward 1960 Louis Agassiz: A Life in Science. Univ. of Chicago Press.

Malinowski, Bronislaw (1916–1941) 1948 Magic, Science and Religion, and Other Essays. Glencoe, 111.: Free Press. → A paperback edition was published in 1954 by Doubleday.

Mead, Margaret; and MÉtraux, Rhoda 1957–1958 Image of the Scientist Among High-school Students. Science 126:384–390, 1200; 127:349–351.

Menzel, Herbert (1959) 1962 Planned and Unplanned Scientific Communication. Pages 417–441 in Bernard Barber and Walter Hirsch (editors), The Sociology of Science. New York: Free Press.

Merton, Robert K. (1936) 1962 Puritanism, Pietism and Science. Pages 33–66 in Bernard Barber and Walter Hirsch (editors), The Sociology of Science. New York: Free Press.

Merton, Robert K. (1939) 1957 Science and Economy of 17th Century England. Pages 607–627 in Robert K. Merton, Social Theory and Social Structure. Glencoe, 111.: Free Press.→First published in Volume 3 of Science and Society.

Merton, Robert K. 1957 Priorities in Scientific Discovery: A Chapter in the Sociology of Science. American Sociological Review 22:635–659.

Merton, Robert K. 1961 Singletons and Multiples in Scientific Discovery. American Philosophical Society, Proceedings 105:470–486.

Ogburn, William F. (1922) 1950 Social Change, With Respect to Culture and Original Nature. New edition with supplementary chapter. New York: Viking.

Parsons, Talcott 1951 The Social System. Glencoe, III.: Free Press.

Price, Derek J. DE Solla 1963 Little Science, Big Science. New York: Columbia Univ. Press. ZNANIECKI, FLORIAN 1940 The Social Role of the Man of Knowledge. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

Zuckerman, Harriet A. 1965 Nobel Laureates in the United States: A Sociological Study of Scientific Collaboration. Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia Univ.


The spectacular achievements of scientists during World War II not only made science obviously more important as an instrument of national policy but also gave it a role of greater independence and initiative in the economic and political systems of the world.

At least since the Enlightenment, it had generally been assumed that the advancement of science would contribute to social and political progress, but the specific role of science, and of scientists, in economic affairs had generally been thought of as subordinate to that of the entrepreneur or manager and, in matters of government policy, to that of the politician and bureaucrat. Especially in the English-speaking countries, the way of thinking initiated by Bacon, and re-emphasized by Franklin and Jefferson, assumed that scientific progress would be maintained by the patient accumulation of facts required for the solution of practical problems, and that research should therefore be supported as incidental to particular industrial enterprises or governmental programs or as a by-product of the system of higher education.

Among leading scientists, this assumption had come to seem less obviously true in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, in view of the superior accomplishments in fundamental science of various countries in western Europe. The success of Napoleonic France in creating, under governmental auspices, strong institutions for the support of basic science as well as technology, and the state-encouraged systematic advancement, late in the nineteenth century, of research in the universities and industry of Germany, made British and American scientists begin to doubt that the inductive and applied approach in the laboratory and the complete independence of science from political issues and governmental support were still the best means of advancing science.

These doubts were confirmed by the institutional innovations of World War II, which, particularly in the United States, put science in a quite different relation to government. In its military application, it was no longer merely an instrument for the improvement of weapons at the request of military planners; it was a source of independent initiative in the invention of entirely new systems of weapons, to which war planners were forced to adapt their strategies and diplomats their systems of international relations. Similarly, industrial research or development was no longer to be undertaken only at the initiative of the individual inventor or supported only on the basis of the calculation of the individual corporation; government planners began to look on it as a possible instrument by which government might foster the growth of the national economy and the solution of major social problems, and local communities became eager to foster it as an incentive to the development of their prosperity.

Even more important, political leaders no longer assumed that basic research would be adequately supported as a by-product of the system of industrial enterprise or private education; in the United States, where private universities were most jealous of their independence from political control, the federal government was called on to support, on an unprecedented scale, the basic research carried on in universities and in industrial laboratories. At the same time, scientists and scientific societies began to think of their role in society, not as one of detachment from governmental affairs and not as one of subordination to industrial managers and bureaucrats, but as one of responsibility for the nature of policies and of the institutional system in which science would be fostered and protected.

As a result, the relationship of science to government took on a new degree of significance and interest in the eyes of social scientists.

Since the fostering of science was to be a deliberate policy of government, the sociologists and psychologists were concerned with the identification of the types of personality and the nature of the educational and social environment that would develop creativity and encourage innovation (Research Conference . . . 1963; Roe 1953). In practical terms, they had to deal with the new systems of communication and computation, the management of laboratories, the relationship of scientists to administrators, and the status of professional and scientific groups in the social and political system (Hill 1964).

Since science was considered a potent force for economic growth, economists were led to study the criteria for the allocation of resources for the support of research and development (Nelson 1959). The relation of science and technology to the business cycle, the processes of innovation, and the relationship of business to government in the advancement of technology posed problems quite different from those of either classical or Marxian economics.

Students of politics and administration were similarly required to consider how far the new techniques of operations research and other methods developed by scientists could go in determining political issues, and what effect they would have on the traditional values and on legal and political processes. These theoretical questions had their practical parallels within government: the relationship of scientific to administrative personnel within the civil service, the status of scientists as advisers to political executives or as participants in political action, and the extent to which representative legislative bodies should organize themselves to deal directly with scientists and with issues concerning the support and application of science (Gilpin…Wright 1964; McCamy 1960).

Major areas of concern

Problems like those mentioned above had their greatest impact, of course, in the major nations, notably the United States, the United Kingdom, the nations of western Europe, and the Soviet Union, but during the 1950s they also began to be a concern of those interested in the economic and political development of other countries. Let us note three of the major fields in which these new problems arose and then consider their effect on scientific institutions, on governmental institutions, and on the nature of their relationship.

Science and military strength . The success of scientists in creating weapons that were not merely improvements on existing weapons systems but entirely beyond the imagination of military planners gave scientists quite a different status in government. Military strength could no longer be measured mainly in terms of mass armies and a system of industrial mobilization for the manufacture of munitions. It depended on the rate of scientific advance and the innovating ability of scientific institutions.

Accordingly, a substantial portion of the budgets of major countries came to be devoted to military research and development programs, and scientists and scientific institutions came to have a large share in the control of such programs.

As a result, the expenditures for research and development by government increased sharply, both in actual amounts and in proportion to other sources of support. In the United States, for example, total expenditure on research and development in 1940 (public and private) was well under $1 billion, the government share of the total was certainly less than one-fifth, and the military services provided much less than the Department of Agriculture. In 1964 the federal government provided about $15 billion, roughly two-thirds of the national total, but spent four-fifths of its funds through private corporations and universities. About $14 billion of the government total was contributed by the Department of Defense, the Atomic Energy Commission, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the three agencies whose motive for expenditure was most clearly the strengthening of national power and international prestige (U.S. National Science Foundation, Federal Funds . . .).

The newest and most powerful weapons systems have been developed, not in the traditional military laboratories, but in technological institutions directed by civilians. In the United States during World War II, the Office of Scientific Research and Development, a civilian agency within the Executive Office of the President, set up an extensive network of contractual relations with universities and industrial corporations, and the Manhattan District of the Army Engineers, which finally developed the atomic bomb, followed the same general pattern (Hewlett…Anderson 1962). As a result, the postwar structure of weapons research and development was one involving heavy reliance on private institutions by the military services, the Atomic Energy Commission, and (later) the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. In the planning of these programs, considerable influence was exercised by advisory committees representing the private scientific institutions. Their influence was greater in the decisions relating to the support of basic research, but it carried considerable weight even in the development of weapons systems (Price 1954).

Scientists in wartime proved to be useful not merely in developing particular weapons but also in devising more effective systems and procedures of tactics and strategy. Operations research applied rigorous and quantitative methods to the solution of problems faced by the military commander, the industrial manager, or the political executive. Such work was organized either within the regular framework of the military services or under the sponsorship of independent research corporations. The flexibility of the contracting method in the United States was shown when the government proceeded to sponsor the creation of private corporations, supported by government funds, for the purpose of assisting governmental authorities in making major decisions on government administration or policy (U.S. Bureau of the Budget 1962). Of these new institutions the RAND Corporation, set up to serve the Air Force, was perhaps the best known, and the techniques that it developed, drawing on the skills of social as well as physical scientists, became important tools for the civilian executives in the Defense Department who sought, in the 1960s, to exercise more effective control over military affairs. [See MILITARY POLICY.]

Science and economic growth . Soon after World War II, even those countries committed to the preservation of private economic enterprise had also committed themselves to a policy of maintaining a high degree of employment and fostering economic growth and prosperity. To these countries and others, it was obvious that some of the most dynamic economic growth was taking place in branches of industry which had been stimulated by the advance of technology for military purposes—-notably, electronics, aircraft, plastics, and computers.

Economists accordingly took note of the extent to which scientific research and technological development, as well as capital investment, contributed to economic growth. Accordingly, one of the principal motives which led governments to support scientific research was the belief that research and technical education were major factors in the increase in productivity (Denison 1962). Even though economists may not agree on the precise percentage of economic growth which may be attributed to technological advance and the improvement in technological and managerial education, the belief in their efficacy has helped to persuade the United States and most nations of western Europe to increase their research and development expenditures in recent years at a much more rapid rate than their gross national product (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development 1963, p. 22). In the United States the state governments and local business organizations have been persuaded that federal research subsidies have much to do with the location of new industries in their respective areas, and accordingly the expansion of universities and research laboratories has taken on an importance within the American political system much like that of the traditional forms of public works (such as the improvement of harbors or the building of dams).

At the same time, economists have become more skeptical about the extent to which research undertaken for military purposes will have useful byproducts for the civilian economy. In western Europe, where various countries have undertaken to plan the development of the economy, including those sectors carried on by private industry, efforts have been made to develop scientific research as a means of economic growth (Parliamentary and Scientific Conference . . . 1965). The National Economic Development Council of Great Britain and the Commissariat au Plan of France, for example, have set up special relationships with their respective national organizations for the planning of scientific research expenditures.

In the United States, on the other hand, it proved more difficult to build up federal government research and development programs specifically for the purpose of assisting in the development of private industry. The opposition of private business interests restrained the expansion of certain programs of scientific research and technological assistance in the Department of Commerce, for example, even while federal research support was being increased in other fields relating to the private economy, notably in agriculture and natural resources.

The apparent influence of science and technology in advancing economic growth led naturally to the hope that science could play an important role in the advancement of the underdeveloped countries. This hope found expression in the programs of the several specialized agencies of the United Nations, notably UNESCO, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the World Health Organization. It became an important element also in the foreign aid and technical assistance programs of various individual nations—notably the United States, which was able to draw on its century of experience in agricultural education and research. [See ECONOMIC GROWTH.]

The health sciences . Some of the most striking practical accomplishments of the sciences have been in the fields of medicine and public health, and the medical profession and hospitals accordingly have been involved in the research programs supported by government to a rapidly increasing degree.

In the United States the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of the U.S. Public Health Service became during the 1950s the principal supporter of biological and medical sciences, not merely in the United States but throughout the world. American universities were receiving grants for basic research in even larger amounts from the NIH than from the military services or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and NIH grants throughout Europe had begun to add significantly to the research funds available to university scientists and to encourage the development of new patterns of research organization.

The official health programs supported by grants from the U.S. government and from the World Health Organization continued and extended the earlier international programs for the eradication of disease of such charitable organizations as the Rockefeller Foundation and developed them further with the help of techniques developed or advanced by wartime research programs. The success of such efforts in reducing the death rate intensified concern with the problem of a population increasing at a rate which seemed to threaten the food supply and the economic progress of the various underdeveloped regions, especially the newly independent countries of Asia and Africa. [See PUBLIC HEALTH.]

Institutions of basic science

Universities, which in their organization still retain traces of their medieval ecclesiastical origin, are in most countries the principal institutions for the conduct of basic research. In the major countries of continental Europe, they generally came under the patronage of the state, and their programs of scientific and technological research were seen as serving national purposes. Particularly in France and Germany, strong centers of fundamental research were thus developed with government support at a time when the ancient British universities were still dominated by classical studies and were generally uninterested in the advancement of science, and American institutions of higher learning were either denominational colleges or state institutions preoccupied with comparatively low levels of vocational and technical education (Ashby 1958; Cohen 1963).

The twentieth-century progress of science in the United Kingdom came in the basic sciences and mathematics at Cambridge (and later Oxford) and even more notably in some of the newer universities that even in the nineteenth century had been concerned with technological training and the needs of industry. A major share of the cost of these universities was taken over by the national treasury but was channeled through the University Grants Committee in such a way as to insulate the universities from political control.

In the United States, basic research before World War ii was carried on mainly by the major universities, private or state, which received extensive assistance from the philanthropic foundations in the form of grants for special research projects. The leadership of the scientific societies and some of the philanthropic foundations had, by World War ii, been persuaded that the nation should greatly increase its emphasis on fundamental research (U.S. National Science Foundation 1960). The patterns that had been developed by the grant-making programs of the private foundations were influential in determining the system of government support for such research in private and state universities after 1945. That system supplied funds from several executive departments and agencies to universities and private corporations, under a system in which panels and committees of advisers from the private institutions were given great influence in the allocation of grants for specific projects. At the same time, the President’s Science Advisory Committee, its members drawn mainly from private institutions, put great emphasis on a policy of keeping basic research and the teaching of graduate students closely connected within the universities, a policy that in addition to its pedagogical advantages had the merit of strengthening the autonomy of the academic and scientific community (U.S. President’s Science Advisory Committee 1960).

The Soviet Union, on the other hand, chose to divide the functions of higher education from those of advanced research and generally to assign them to separate institutions. Research was directed through a system headed by the Committee on the Coordination of Research and Development, the Academy of Sciences, and corresponding academies for the several constituent republics (DeWitt 1961, pp. 434–435). In theory, the entire program is under the guidance of the principles of dialectical materialism; in practice, this guidance seems to affect the conduct of research least in the physical sciences, more in the biological sciences, and still more in the social sciences and humanities.

Scientists in administration and politics

Basic as well as applied research is conducted not merely in universities but also in government laboratories set up to further the purposes of particular departments or ministries. The way in which their work, as well as the work of scientists in industry and universities, will be related to government policy and government programs depends to a great extent on the status, within the political system and the administrative service, of men trained in the sciences and related professions.

In the Soviet Union, the break with traditional systems of education and the great emphasis on scientific and technological training cleared the way for the advancement of scientists and engineers to positions in the higher ranks of the bureauracy, and their advancement was further encouraged by the absence of separate cadres of private business managers and of institutions for their education. By contrast, the career administrative systems of western Europe and the United Kingdom have been comparatively resistant to the promotion of scientists and engineers to high administrative positions. In Germany, for example, a legal education remains the normal basis for administrative advancement, and in Great Britain the highest class of the civil service is still dominated by permanent officials whose education was in history, the classics, and related fields of knowledge.

The personnel system of the United States, which lacks an elite corps and encourages exchanges between the civil service and private life at all levels in the hierarchy, has made it comparatively easy for scientists and men with technological education to rise to high administrative positions. The continuous interchange between governmental and private careers makes the government service a much less distinct part of society, and the distinction between governmental and private careers is further confused by the recent growth of the practice of contracting with private corporations and universities for the performance of government functions, especially research and development programs. As a result, the leading scientists, based in private institutions, who are called on to serve in a part-time or advisory capacity within the structure of government acquire an unprecedented degree of influence.

In the United States this advisory function takes the institutional form of a hierarchy of advisory committees, some of a continuing nature and some ad hoc, set up in the principal civilian agencies and military services, and in the White House itself. The most difficult administrative problems relating to the use of such committees have to do with their relationship to the main line of administrative authority, including the full-time staff. The first tendency after World War II was to look to the part-time advisers alone for the principal policy and administrative decisions, notably in the major advisory committee attached to the Executive Office of the President and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. But with the abolition of the Research and Development Board of the Department of Defense and the eventual substitution of a much more powerful individual officer, the director of defense research and engineering, and with the transformation of the President’s Science Advisory Committee by the provision of a full-time chairman supported by a full-time staff, a more effective relationship was devised between the part-time adviser and the full-time official, and more sophisticated concepts were worked out with respect to the particular ways in which part-time advisers could most usefully be employed (Gilpin…Wright 1964).

The entire system is under the powerful influence, and often the detailed control, of congressional committees that have been making direct use of independent scientific advisers, especially through the mechanism of the National Academy of Sciences. In countries with parliamentary forms of government the general response to a similar need was the creation of interministerial committees to deal with government-wide scientific problems, often drawing on the advice of committees including private scholars. Thus in the Federal Republic of Germany an interministerial committee exists side by side with an advisory council on science and the humanities and a committee on cultural policy and publicity of the parliament. Similarly, in France an interministerial committee reporting to the premier is advised by a consultative committee of scientists and economists, both committees being served by a single secretariat (the Delegation Gerierale a la Recherche Scientifique et Technique). The Delegation Generate works closely with the national planning agency (Parliamentary and Scientific Conference . . . 1965).

In the United Kingdom the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy was set up to advise the lord president of the council, who was responsible for the general program of civilian science in Great Britain. The lord president’s responsibilities were later transferred to a newly created minister for science, whose functions were divided in 1964 by the newly elected Labour government between a minister for science and education and a minister for technology. Unlike the United States or the major countries of western Europe, the United Kingdom has no standing parliamentary committees dealing with particular scientific and technological programs, but it has the informal Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, including members of both houses of Parliament and representatives of more than one hundred scientific and technical organizations, to further the processes of consultation and the exchange of information between the worlds of politics and science.

The interest of national governments in science policy has been furthered by studies conducted by various international organizations. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have all urged more comprehensive and consistent policies for the support and the coordination of scientific programs, and for more responsible forms of organization to deal with science at high policy levels.

Similar international discussions led to the formation of more effective international associations for the promotion of the several sciences, most of them being grouped under the International Council of Scientific Unions with the support of UNESCO, and to the formation of international organizations for the conduct of scientific programs. Some of these latter organizations were set up for the operation of specific temporary programs, such as the International Geophysical Year, and others provided regional organizations for tasks too expensive or complex for single nations to undertake (for example, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, the European Atomic Energy Community, and the European Space Research Organization).

The conviction that scientists have a moral and political responsibility for the consequences of their research led many of them to abandon their old posture of political indifference or neutrality and to organize to take part in public affairs not merely as subordinate advisers but as active participants. This conviction led to the formation of many organizations for public education and the expression of policy opinions, their status and methods of operation depending greatly on the degree of freedom permitted to voluntary associations by the philosophy and traditions of the various countries. In the United Kingdom and western Europe, the leadership of such organizations tended before World War II toward a socialist or Marxist political philosophy. Since 1946 this tendency has been counterbalanced by theoretical arguments and organizing efforts in support of scientific freedom and against political control of research or economic enterprise. A good example is the program of the Congress for Cultural Freedom. In the United States, the political activity of scientists has been less influenced by ideology and less committed to particular political parties; it has concentrated more on specific policy issues and on the fostering of interest in public affairs within the scientific community (Price 1965).

Don K. Price

[See alsoNational Security; Policy Sciences; Technology, article onTechnology And International Relations.]


Some of the principal sources in the field are government reports and documents. International Science Report deals with the organization of science in various countries (the first two reports dealt with India and Germany.) The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has published a series of Country Reviews on the policies for science and education, and a series of Country Reports on the organization of scientific research of various European countries. The most useful bibliographies are U.S. National Science Foundation, Office of Special Studies 1959 and Current Projects in Economic and Social Implications of Science and Technology, a survey issued annually since 1957 by the foundation. U.S. data on the financing of research appear in the annual series of the U.S. National Science Foundation, Federal Funds for Research, Development, and Other Scientific Activities. In the United States a valuable additional source of data is the hearings and reports of various congressional committees, notably the Appropriations Committee of each house, the House Committee on Science and Astronautics, the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, the committees of the two houses on government operations, and the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. Discussions of continuing problems may be found in the periodicals Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Minerva, and Science.

Ashby, Eric 1958 Technology and the Academics: An Essay on Universities and the Scientific Revolution. London and New York: Macmillan.

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. → Published since 1945.

Cohen, I. Bernard 1963 Science in America: The Nineteenth Century. Pages 167–189 in Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and Morton White (editors), Paths of American Thought. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Denison, Edward F. 1962 The Sources of Economic Growth in the United States and the Alternatives Before Us. New York: Committee for Economic Development.

Dewitt, Nicholas 1961 Education and Professional Employment in the U.S.S.R. Washington: National Science Foundation.

Dupree, A. Hunter 1957 Science in the Federal Government: A History of Policies and Activities to 1940. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap.

Gilpin, Robert; and Wright, Christopher (editors) 1964 Scientists and National Policy-making. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

Great Britain, Committee OF Enquiry Into The Organisation OF Civil Science 1963 [Trend Report]. Papers by Command, Cmnd. 2171. London: H.M. Stationery Office.

Hewlett, Richard G.; and Anderson, Oscar E. JR. 1962 A History of the United States Atomic Energy Commission. Volume 1: The New World: 1939–1946. University Park: Pennsylvania State Univ. Press.

Hill, Karl (editor) 1964 The Management of Scientists. Boston: Beacon.

Hitch, Charles J. 1958 Character of Research and Development in a Competitive Economy. Pages 129—139 in Conference on Research and Development and Its Impact on the Economy, Washington, D.C., 1958, Proceedings. Washington: National Science Foundation.

Hitch, Charles J.; and McKean, R. N. 1960 The Economics of Defense in the Nuclear Age. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press.

Hogg, Quintin M. 1963 Science and Politics. London: Faber. → The author is Viscount Hailsham.

International Science Report. → Published since 1962 by the National Science Foundation, Office of International Science Activities.

Kidd, Charles V. 1959 American Universities and Federal Research. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap.

Kuhn, Thomas S. (1962) 1963 The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Univ. of Chicago Press.

McCamy, James L. 1960 Science and Public Administration. University: Univ. of Alabama Press.

Merton, Robert K. (1936) 1962 Puritanism, Pietism and Science. Pages 33–66 in Bernard Barber and Walter Hirsch (editors), The Sociology of Science. New York: Free Press.

Minerva (London). → Published since 1962.

National Research Council, Committee ON Science And Public Policy 1964 Federal Support of Basic Research in Institutions of Higher Learning. Publication No. 1185. Washington: National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council.

Nelson, Richard R. 1959 The Economics of Invention: A Survey of the Literature. Journal of Business 32: 101–127.

Organization For Economic Cooperation And Development 1963 Science, Economic Growth and Government Policy. Paris: The Organization.

Organization For Economic Cooperation And Development, Advisory Group ON Science Policy 1963 Science and the Policies of Governments: The Implications of Science and Technology for National and International Affairs. Paris: The Organization.

Organization For Economic Cooperation And Development Country Reports on the Organisation of Scientific Research. → Published since 1963.

Organization For Economic Cooperation And Development Country Reviews.

Parliamentary And Scientific Conference, Second, Vienna, 1964 1965 Science and Parliament. Paris: Council of Europe and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Peck, Merton J.; and Scherer, Frederick M. 1962 The Weapons Acquisition Process: An Economic Analysis. Boston: Harvard Univ., Graduate School of Business Administration, Division of Research.

Price, Don K. 1954 Government and Science: Their Dynamic Relation in American Democracy. New York Univ. Press. → A paperback edition was published in 1962 by Oxford University Press.

Price, Don K. 1965 The Scientific Estate. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap.

Research Conference ON The Identification OF Creative Scientific Talent 1963 Scientific Creativity: Its Recognition and Development. Edited by Calvin W. Taylor and Frank Barron. New York: Wiley.

Roe, Anne 1953 The Making of a Scientist. New York: Dodd.

Science. → Published since 1883 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Snow, Charles P. 1961 Science and Government. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press.

Universities-National Bureau Committee For Economic Research 1962 The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity: Economic and Social Factors. National Bureau of Economic Research, Special Conference Series, No. 13. Princeton Univ. Press.

U.S. Bureau OF The Budget 1962 Report to the President on Government Contracting for Research and Development. Washington: Government Printing Office.

U.S. National Science Foundation 1960 A Study of Scientific and Technical Manpower; A Program of Collection, Tabulation, and Analysis of Data of the National Science Foundation: A Report .... U.S. House of Representatives, 86th Congress, 2d Session. Washington: Government Printing Office.

U.S. National Science Foundation Federal Funds for Research, Development, and Other Scientific Activities. → Published since 1950/1951. Volumes 1–12 were published as Federal Funds for Science.

U.S. National Science Foundation, Office OF Science Information Service Current Projects in Economic and Social Implications of Science and Technology. → Published since 1957.

U.S. National Science Foundation, Office OF Special Studies 1959 BIBLIOGRAPHY on the Economic and Social Implications of Research and Development. Washington: The Foundation.

U.S. Office OF Scientific Research And Development 1945 Science: The Endless Frontier. Washington: Government Printing Office.

U.S. President’S Science Advisory Committee 1960 Scientific Progress, the Universities and the Federal Government: Statement. Washington: Government Printing Office.


The word “scientist” was introduced into the English language around 1840 to distinguish those who seek empirical regularities in nature from philosophers, scholars, and intellectuals in a more general sense (Ross 1962). Mathematicians and logicians are usually regarded as scientists, although mathematics ceased being regarded as an empirical science by 1890–1910, and today the rubric also covers specialists in the social sciences almost without qualification. Other European languages have no terms strictly equivalent to “scientist.” The French savant, Italian scienziato, German Wissenschaftler, and Russian ucheny also refer to philosophers, historians, and other systematic scholars. The absence of a verbal distinction is sometimes reflected in the organization of science and scholarship; for example, philosophers and historians are included in the Soviet Academy of Sciences.

Persons in a wide variety of statuses and roles are described as scientists or identify themselves as scientists in English-speaking societies today. In a narrow sense, a scientist is a man of scientific knowledge—one who adds to what is known in the sciences by writing articles or books. This is perhaps the only sense in which the word should be used without qualification. However, “scientists” also engage in applied research, attempting to make discoveries which will lead to new industrial, medical, and agricultural products or processes; in industrial development, applying scientific knowledge to specific problems of innovation in production; and in the routine testing and analyzing of commodities and processes. Such persons are called applied scientists and are not easily distinguished from engineers and technicians. Persons called scientists may also engage in teaching science in institutions of higher education, in writing accounts of science for laymen, and in administration. Finally, a scientist may be defined as a person who has received a college degree in a scientific field.

The population of scientists. Estimates of the number of scientists vary according to the definition of the term and are, in any case, difficult to make. In the United States around 1962, there were more than one million persons with scientific or technical degrees, more than 275,000 members of professional scientific societies, more than 118,000 persons listed in American Men of Science, and roughly 100,000 engaged in basic or applied scientific research. The number of persons making substantial contributions to knowledge is, of course, much less than 100,000. The United States leads the world in the number of scientists. Between one-fourth and one-third of all scientists may be Americans, and most of the remainder are in the other industrialized nations. (For example, seven leading industrial nations accounted for more than 80 per cent of the articles abstracted in Chemical Abstracts in 1960. There is naturally an even greater concentration of scientific languages: English, German, Russian, and French accounted for more than 90 per cent of the more than ten thousand articles abstracted in Index Chemicus for 1963.) Many scientists move to the United States from other nations, industrialized as well as under-developed, to obtain better conditions for performing research; this concentration has caused concern among leaders in many nations.

The numbers cited above are changing rapidly. The growth in the number of scientists since the later Middle Ages has been exponential; thus, the scientists living in 1960 probably constituted more than 90 per cent of all those who ever lived (Price 1963). The rate of growth around 1960 would double the number of research scientists in roughly fifteen years. This rate of growth, however, must decline within the next generation in developed nations.

In the United States in 1952, about half of the science doctorates were received in the physical sciences and mathematics, about 22 per cent in the biological sciences, and about 28 per cent in the social sciences, including psychology. The relative proportions in these major subareas of science have not changed much in the last half century. Social scientists constitute a much larger proportion of scientists in the United States than they do in most other nations.

Evolution of scientific roles . The concept of the scientist developed only with the professionalization of science in the first half of the nineteenth century; previously, scientific activities were a subsidiary aspect of other social roles. Florian Znaniecki (1940) has written a concise sociological account of the historical differentiation of scientific roles. In most preindustrial societies, science has been the activity of practical actors. In ancient and medieval Europe, scientists were academic and often religious teachers. Beginning about the time of Galileo’s move in 1611 from the University of Padua to the court of Cosimo de’ Medici in Florence, scientists left the universities, and during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the amateur scientist flourished: either the gentleman scientist, like Robert Boyle, or the middle-class amateur, like Joseph Priestley. Scientists again became established in universities after the French Revolution. The twentieth century has seen the rapid growth of research establishments in business firms and government agencies. Of Americans receiving the doctorate in 1958, 56 per cent of the physical scientists, 31 per cent of the biological scientists, and 19 per cent of the social scientists took employment in industry or government. In the United States, most basic research is conducted in academic settings, but most of it is conducted in nonacademic research institutes in the Soviet Union and in some western European nations.

Scientific careers

Roughly 90 per cent of American physical scientists, and slightly smaller proportions of biological and social scientists, are men. Like other professionals, they are recruited disproportionately from upper-middle-class families; but, unlike others, they are much less likely to be from Roman Catholic families and more likely to be from Protestant or Jewish families than would be expected by chance. During the interwar years, a small number of small liberal arts colleges contributed a disproportionately large share of those who went on to become scientists. Much of this resulted from selective recruitment into these colleges, but some probably resulted from their distinctive scholarly ethos. The growth of scientific education has been accompanied by a growth in the proportion of scientists produced by large public and private undergraduate institutions.

Education . Scientific education was revolutionized in nineteenth-century Germany by the dissertation: the requirement that the student conduct original research before receiving a degree. This innovation was soon copied in other nations. Today scientific education is prolonged and highly specialized, especially in its later stages. The dissertation research is usually conducted in a quasi-apprenticeship relation with a university professor, and students often make significant contributions to the research of their professors. Almost all American graduate students in the sciences receive stipends for this work. The median number of years elapsed between the bachelor’s degree and the doctorate for Americans receiving the doctorate in 1957 was six in the physical sciences, seven in the biological sciences, and eight in the social sciences (see Berelson 1960 on this and other aspects of graduate education).

Although many American universities give advanced training in the sciences (110 gave doctorates in chemistry in 1960), students tend to be concentrated in those institutions best known for basic research; the 15 universities with highest prestige accounted for almost half the doctorates in the sciences in 1957. The best graduate schools tend to recruit students from the best undergraduate schools, and their students are much more likely to be employed in leading universities than are graduates of institutions of lesser renown. Among those receiving advanced degrees, those who do best academically and identify most closely with their professors are most likely to go on to do research and teaching in universities; government and industrial laboratories tend to recruit those who do less well and are less committed to a research career.

Career mobility . There is now considerable mobility between universities and research establishments in government and industry; for example, more than one-third of American chemists have been employed in at least two of the three locales (Strauss … Rainwater 1962, chapter 6). The barriers to mobility of this sort were much greater before World War II and apparently are still great in most of the countries of western Europe. There is much less mobility between the major fields of science because of the specialized education required to enter any one of them.

Scientists in all types of establishments are likely to combine research with other activities; a large majority of scientists combine research with such other activities as teaching, administration, and technical consultation. Vertical mobility takes different forms in different locales. Advancement in universities does not usually involve a qualitative change in the nature of the work; it still involves teaching and research. In government, and especially in industry, vertical mobility often involves advancement to administrative positions and the abandonment of research; many firms recruit managers for line operations from among their research scientists (Kornhauser 1962, chapter 5).

Incentives and occupational personality

Scientists in basic research are strongly motivated to solve intellectual problems that they regard as intrinsically important, but the most important social incentive for them is their desire to obtain recognition from their colleagues for their research accomplishments. This desire leads the scientist to publish his results, and it influences his decisions in the selection of research problems and methods. Scientists compete strenuously to be the first to publish discoveries, and simultaneous discoveries by two or more scientists occur frequently. When there is some question about which scientist made a discovery first, a priority dispute may arise. The frequency of such disputes and the intense bitterness which often accompanies them are telling evidence of the value scientists place upon the esteem of their colleagues (Merton 1957; 1963); however, priority disputes have become less frequent in the twentieth century. Industrial and governmental research establishments which conduct applied or secret research make it more difficult for their scientific employees to be recognized, and such establishments must offer relatively high salaries to scientists in order to induce them to accept this deficiency.

Values and personality . Compared with non-scientists, scientists are more inclined to prize the recognition of their colleagues and their professional autonomy above the rewards of income, organizational power, and community prestige. They are nevertheless among the most prestigious occupational groups. “Scientists” were ranked third in prestige among 90 occupations—just behind U.S. Supreme Court justices and physicians—by a cross section of the U.S. population in 1963; some scientific specialties were, however, ranked a good deal lower. There is some evidence that these distinctive occupational values characterize scientists even as university undergraduates (Rosenberg 1957; Davis 1966).

Many of the distinctive personality characteristics of scientists also appear to be produced more by selection than by university or occupational socialization. Scientists tend to be highly intelligent; possessors of U.S. doctorates in the sciences have a mean IQ of over 130 (from a population with mean 100 and standard deviation 20), which is not much different from the mean IQ of similarly qualified persons in other fields or the mean IQ of medical and law school graduates (Price 1963, chapter 2). Although the evidence is sketchy and incomplete, and although there is much variation among scientists, it also appears that physical and biological scientists tend to be “intensely masculine,” to avoid close interpersonal contacts, and to avoid and be disturbed by emotions of hostility and dependency. These characteristics may help generate the scientist’s desire for recognition for his accomplishments from his colleagues. Physical scientists tend to like music and dislike poetry and art. As might be expected, creative scientists are unusually hardworking, to the extent of appearing almost obsessed with their work (see Research Conference . . . 1963 for summaries of studies on the personality characteristics of scientists). Stereotypes of scientists held by high school and university students are in crude accord with these psychological findings (Mead…Metraux 1957–1958; Beardslee…O’Dowd 1961).

It has been argued that the values of the Puritans—rational mastery of one’s environment, worldly activity for the glorification of God, and individualism—helped to motivate them to pursue science in seventeenth-century England, and have resulted, even today, in a higher valuation of science among Protestants than among Roman Catholics; this is a matter of dispute, however (Merton 1939; Feuer 1963). In any case, scientists today are among the least religious groups in the American population, with respect to both religious beliefs and religious practices. Those in the behavioral and biological sciences, where religion and science are most likely to come into conflict, are least likely to be religious. Scientists also tend to support parties of the left in national politics. With regard to both religion and politics, there is evidence that the more productive scientists are less conservative than the less productive.

Scientific productivity . It is generally difficult to account for variations in scientific productivity in terms of personality or background variables. There is great variation in productivity; the probability that a scientist will produce n or more papers (if he produces at least one) is roughly proportional to 1/n, and 50 per cent of the papers are written by about 6 per cent of the scientists (Price 1963, table 2, p. 45). The best background predictors of scientific productivity are the times required to get the doctorate and college grades, but these account for little of the variation. Contrary to common belief, productivity does not decline with age until advanced ages, 60 or over, are reached.

Social contexts may have greater effects on productivity, but these effects are not readily distinguished from the selectivity of the contexts themselves. Graduates and faculty of leading universities are more productive than others. Scientists who have adequate facilities and research assistance are more productive than those who do not, and those who maintain continuity in their research topics are more productive than those who do not. However, the kinds of contacts with colleagues and the quality of specialization make a difference. Scientists who perform multiple functions combining research with teaching or administration, have been shown to be more productive than those who devote full time to research. Scientists who have frequent contacts with colleagues possessing different research interests are more productive than those with few contacts or contacts only with others of very similar interests. Social isolation especially is associated with low productivity for most scientists; this is a major handicap for scientists working in underdeveloped nations.

The organization of science

Scientists engaged in basic research are necessarily given considerable autonomy. If they are not free to evaluate the truth or falsehood of theories or the adequacy of research findings, science ceases to exist; and scientists also are usually free to select research problems and techniques within broad limits. Such autonomy exists in many universities and in a few governmental and industrial establishments. University departments place some restrictions on this freedom; for example, some research in logic or statistics may be felt to be not “really” mathematics, and scientists in mathematics departments may be discouraged from performing it. This may produce organizational strains, and these strains are sometimes resolved by the differentiation of existing disciplines and departments. The number of recognizably different scientific disciplines probably trebled between 1900 and 1960, and the formation of new disciplines shows no signs of stopping.

The autonomy of basic scientists conflicts with a frequent need to engage in cooperative research. Traditionally this conflict has been resolved by forming temporary teams of freely collaborating scientists or teams of a professor and his students. More recently, in fields like nuclear physics, cooperative research has been formalized; permanent groups of professional scientists are formed in which authority is centralized and a formal division of labor is established. In most fields in universities, however, the traditional forms of teamwork are much more common than such formally organized groups.

Industry and government . The importance that scientists place upon purely scientific goals, their desire to be autonomous, and their sensitivity to the responses of their disciplinary colleagues produce strains when they are employed by industrial and governmental agencies to help achieve practical goals. For example, the desire to select their own research problems leads them to resist accepting directions from organization superiors. Also, scientists tend to prefer working in units with their disciplinary colleagues to working in professionally heterogeneous groups that are organized on the basis of industrial functions; and the desire to inform others of their discoveries conflicts with requirements of industrial and military secrecy. The typical industrial incentives of salary and power are less important for scientists than for other categories of employees, and, if scientists accept these incentives as primary, their commitments to scientific values and their scientific competences may be eroded.

Various ways have evolved for accommodating industrial organization and the typical organization of the scientific community (Kornhauser 1962). Industrial scientists are selected from among those most willing to accept the importance of industrial goals, and occupational socialization furthers this acceptance. In addition, industrial research organizations are often differentiated into fundamental research units and units more directly involved in practical tasks, and scientists are assigned to different units on the basis of interests and skills. Research supervisors are recruited from among superior scientists and tend to use persuasion more than formal direction. “Parallel hierarchies” of advancement may be offered, so that some scientists are promoted to positions giving them greater autonomy in research, while others are promoted to administrative positions. Finally, the patent system and similar procedures make it possible for scientists to publish some research findings while safeguarding the proprietary interests of firms in discoveries. These types of accommodations make possible the incorporation of scientists into industry without the sterilization of science.

Professional societies . In addition to their work establishments, scientists as scientists are organized into a wide variety of societies and associations. Most of the vast number of such groups are devoted to a specialized subject matter, and their major activities involve the communication of discoveries through meetings and journals. The oldest societies and those with highest prestige, like the Royal Society of London and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, are interdisciplinary, and membership in them is by election. Such groups engage in facilitating scientific communication, but they also play important roles in formulating the science policies of national governments. So also do large national groups that are open to almost all scientists, such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Deutscher Verband Technisch-Wissenschaftlicher Vereine.

While there has been a tendency for the scientific “society” to give way to the professional “association,” none of these types of organizations is directly involved with questions of wage rates and working conditions. At most, these groups forward the occupational interests of scientists by protecting job titles through state licensing and certification, by elevating educational standards, and by lobbying for increased governmental support. There are a few trade unions for “scientists,” but engineers and technologists dominate them and they are relatively ineffective.

What is a scientist?

The concept of the scientist was originally formulated primarily to distinguish specialists in the natural sciences from philosophers, historians, and other intellectuals; the distinction began to emerge as clear and significant only around 1800. Today the differences between philosophy and an empirical, generalizing, value-free science are clearly recognized. It is known that the pursuit of science requires the full-time efforts of its workers, and provisions for scientific employment are abundant. Perhaps we have succeeded only too well in distinguishing scientists from other intellectuals. Today our major difficulties involve distinguishing scientists from engineers and technicians. Even when a scientist is clearly a man of knowledge, his knowledge is apt to be highly specialized and communicable to few others, even within his own discipline. Are scientists intellectuals? Or are they a culture (or cultures) apart? C. P. Snow’s 1959 book, The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution, stimulated extensive public discussions of this (the essays in Holton 1965 are a good sample of the result).

Perhaps university professors find it too easy to discover a cleavage between scientists and others. Taking a longer view, one might conclude that scientific knowledge and the scientific approach to the world have been dispersed very widely and deeply in the populations of industrialized nations. Most of us have been deeply influenced by scientists in what we believe and how we believe. The willingness of populations to tolerate and support scientists may be some testimonial to this influence.

Warren O. Hagstrom

[See alsoCreativity, article onSocial Aspects; Engineering; Intellectuals; Knowledge, Sociology OF; and the biography ofZnaniecki.]


Barber, Bernard; and Hirsch, Walter (editors) 1962 The Sociology of Science. New York: Free Press. → The articles by Beardslee…O’Dowd (1961), Mead…Metraux (1957–1958), Merton (1939; 1957) are reprinted in this collection. Includes a BIBLIOGRAPHY.

Beardslee, David C.; and O’Dowo, Donald D. 1961 The College-student Image of the Scientist. Science 133:997–1001.

Berelson, Bernard 1960 Graduate Education in the United States. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Davis, James A. 1966 Undergraduate Career Decisions. Chicago: Aldine.

Feuer, Lewis S. 1963 The Scientific Intellectual: The Psychological and Sociological Origins of Modern Science. New York: Basic Books.

Hagstrom, Warren O. 1965 The Scientific Community. New York: Basic Books.

Harmon, Linsey R. 1965 Profiles of Ph.D’s in the Sciences: Summary Report on Follow-up of Doctorate Cohorts, 1935–1960. Publication 1293. Washington: National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council.

Holton, Gerald (editor) 1965 Science and Culture: A Study of Cohesive and Disjunctive Forces. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. → First published in Volume 94 of Dsedalus.

Kornhauser, William 1962 Scientists in Industry: Conflict and Accommodation. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

Mead, Margaret; and Metraux, Rhoda 1957–1958 Image of the Scientist Among High-school Students. Science 126:384–390, 1200; 127:349–351.

Merton, Robert K. (1939) 1957 Science and Economy of 17th Century England. Pages 607–627 in Robert K. Merton, Social Theory and Social Structure. Glencoe, III.: Free Press. → First published in Volume 3 of Science and Society.

Mehton, Rorert K. 1957 Priorities in Scientific Discovery: A Chapter in the Sociology of Science. American Sociological Review 22:635–659.

Merton, Robert K. 1963 Resistance to the Systematic Study of Multiple Discoveries in Science. Archives europeennes de sociologie 4:237–282.

Price, Derek J. DE Solla 1963 Little Science, Big Science. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

Research Conference ON The Identification OF Creative Scientific Talent 1963 Scientific Creativity: Its Recognition and Development. Edited by Calvin W. Taylor and Frank Barron. New York: Wiley. → Includes a BIBLIOGRAPHY on pages 391–407.

Rosenberg, Morris 1957 Occupations and Values. Glencoe, 111.: Free Press.

Ross, Sydney 1962 “Scientist”: The Story of a Word. Annals of Science 18:65–85.

Snow, C. P. 1959 The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution. Cambridge Univ. Press.

Snow, C. P. 1964 The Two Cultures: And a Second Look. 2d ed. Cambridge Univ. Press. → An expanded version of Snow 1959.

Strauss, Anselm L.; and Rainwater, Lee 1962 The Professional Scientist: A Study of American Chemists. Chicago: Aldine.

U.S. National Science Foundation 1965 Scientific and Technical Manpower Resources: Summary Information on Employment Characteristics, Supply and Training, prepared by Norman Seltzer. Nsf 64–28. Washington: Government Printing Office.

Znaniecki, Florian 1940 The Social Role of the Man of Knowledge. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.


The term “scientific communication” refers to the exchange of information and ideas among scientists in their roles as scientists. Menzel (1958, p. 6) defines it as “the totality of publications, facilities, occasions, institutional arrangements, and customs which affect the direct or indirect transmission of scientific messages among scientists.” It is distinguished from everyday communication about physical reality in that it has reference to a particular body of generalized, codified knowledge. Ideally, each and every communication contributes to the corpus of accepted knowledge identified as science. This is accomplished chiefly by extending the boundaries, by modifying previously held hypotheses, and by introducing additional precision, clarification, or verification of existing knowledge.

Although the preferred means and the practices associated with scientific communication have undergone change in the last few centuries, full and open communication of scientific results has always been a foundation stone of modern science. With the establishment of the academies in the seventeenth century, word-of-mouth exchange of information and informal meetings were very quickly supplemented by informal correspondence and exchange of letters concerning scientific work and, later, by a quasi-institutionalized arrangement embodied in the office of secretary or correspondent; finally, these were followed by formal journals containing the proceedings of meetings and other communications. The scientific enterprise of that era was small enough to permit reasonably adequate communication on the basis of the small number of journals and the occasional publication of books, supplemented by face-to-face interaction and correspondence by letter.

The so-called “communications explosion” in science is new primarily in the sense that it is now widely recognized as a problem. But as Price (1963) has pointed out, the amount of scientific publication has been growing exponentially, doubling every ten to fifteen years over the past three centuries. While there is no universal agreement, one of the more “conservative” estimates is that there are over thirty thousand scientific journals presently in existence and that there are more than a million papers published in them each year (Gottschalk…Desmond 1962; Bourne 1962). The sheer number of papers being produced annually has brought open recognition of a number of serious communication problems. Among the more important ones are the time lag between the completion of a paper for publication and its appearance in a journal; the increasing difficulty of “keeping up with the literature"; and the increasing difficulties in searching the literature and retrieving relevant information. For these as well as a number of other reasons centering on a growing awareness of the importance of science for national welfare, economic growth, and even survival, interest in the communications problems of science has mushroomed since the 1950s.

The communications explosion within science has given rise to concerted efforts to deal with the problem on many fronts, especially with the aid of new technological advances. Through the use of computers and a variety of other technical devices, efforts are being made to facilitate the storage and retrieval of information, and considerable progress is being made along these lines (see Stevens 1965). However, some questions have been raised about this approach in terms of the changing functions of scientific communication. While professional librarians, documentalists, editors, linguists, abstractors, mathematicians, and others now broadly characterized as information experts seek to improve the effectiveness of scientific communication largely by technical means, social scientists have begun to examine the social aspects of the scientific communications process.

The study of scientific communication

Despite the growing interest in and support for studying the scientific communications system, there is still little systematic knowledge about it. A review of what is known must, therefore, be guided by a broad conceptual scheme rather than restricted to the specific questions now thought to be crucial for an understanding of the subject. The scheme has three major components: the functions of scientific communication, for scientists as well as for science generally; the various channels through which communications flow; the intervening variables or situational factors which influence the relationships beween channels and functions.

Functions of communication . Menzel (1958) lists a number of functions performed by scientific communication: (1) providing answers to specific questions; (2) helping the scientist to stay abreast of new developments in his field; (3) helping him to acquire an understanding of a new field; (4) giving him a sense of the major trends in his field and of the relative importance of his own work; (5) verifying the reliability of information by additional testimony; (6) redirecting or broadening his span of interest and attention; and (7) obtaining critical response to his own work. He notes, too, Merton’s seminal discussion (1957) of the importance to scientists of professional recognition—a major reward for scientific achievement which is also carried by the communications system of science.

An understanding of these functions helps to pinpoint specific problems in the communications process and calls attention to the importance of the many different forms of communication behavior in which scientists engage. This is undoubtedly an important first step in going beyond the purely technical aspects of the storage and retrieval of scientific information, and studies concerned with these functions should lead not only to a better understanding of the communications process in science but also, it is hoped, may have practical utility in suggesting ways to improve the process.

One of the most important functions of communications for science as a whole is to provide a cumulative record of the “certified” knowledge which exists at any given point in time. Without such a record it is doubtful that science could continue to develop as a viable system. This record constitutes the point of reference for each scientist, providing him with the foundation from which he may make his own contributions toward extending what is known. This is not to imply that what is already in the record is immutable. Quite the contrary—the record is always subject to change in the light of new evidence, newly available techniques, and new discoveries. But whether a contribution is an extension of previously accepted knowledge or a new interpretation of what is already known, it is always and necessarily a matter of the record.

The current communications crisis raises questions about the nature of this record as well as about a number of widely held assumptions concerning the nature of the scientific communications process. For example, the fact that a paper has been published has usually implied that it has been reviewed by a jury of competent peers. However, there is at least the suspicion that the continued proliferation of journals has inevitably “watered down” the rigor of professional review. It is not even always possible to establish a simple correlation between the quality of any particular scientific paper and the reputation of the particular journal in which it appears. In any case, the quality of papers published is becoming an increasingly important problem. No matter how much retrieval procedures may be improved, the question of what is worth retrieving deserves much more attention.

Another major assumption has been that once a paper is published, not only is it accessible to the scientific community, but also it will actually be read by the scientists concerned. However, the flood of publications has tended to undermine the accessibility of relevant papers, at least within the traditional communications practices. Not only may a single paper be buried in the flood of all papers published, but accessibility is also impeded by the growing trend toward increased specialization of journals, so that relevant papers may appear in sources not normally reviewed. Finally, the flood of publications has made it impossible for any one scientist to read more than a small fraction of what is potentially relevant. Some preliminary studies indicate that perhaps only about 25 scientists may actually read any particular paper which is published.

Further, an increase in the amount of information in the field tends to place greater strain on the integrative capacities of theory in that field, so that relationships among the contributions of different scientists become more difficult to determine. As a body of knowledge becomes “disorganized” in this way, the significance and even the validity of new contributions are more difficult to assess, and effective scientific communication may become a property only of small networks of scientists working on the same specific topics rather than of an entire discipline (Hagstrom 1965).

Channels of communication . The growing awareness of informal or relatively private channels of communication among scientists (U.S. President’s . . . 1963; Schilling 1963–1964; Kaplan 1964) is but one aspect of the general problem of the different channels of communication and the different functions of each. The various channels of scientific communication are usually thought of as ranging from the most formal to the most informal, in terms of the degree to which the information flowing through them is codified and generally available to all scientists. It is perhaps more useful, however, to think of them as ranging from structured or planned channels which are known about in advance (such as journals, books, and even announced meetings) to unstructured channels through which information is accidentally acquired (such as finding useful information in the literature while searching for something else, or a casual conversation which yields unlooked-for information). A further complication must be introduced insofar as we are dealing with a highly fluid situation in which yesterday’s unstructured channels become tomorrow’s structured ones. The ease with which one can talk by telephone to a colleague three thousand miles away may make this a far more effective means of finding particular bits of information than the ordinarily accepted techniques of searching the literature.

While precise knowledge of the proportion of information important to scientists acquired through various channels is still lacking, everything we know indicates that there is a much greater reliance on “accidental” and unstructured channels than has formerly been realized. Menzel (1958, p. 47) emphasizes that “it becomes imperative to consider the information network as a system. . . . What is little better than an accident from the point of view of an individual may well emerge as a predictable occurrence from a larger point of view."

While it is possible to try to match different channels with the different functions performed by scientific communication as discussed above, in practice such an exercise appears to be futile. Each of the functions listed can be, and apparently is, actually served by many different channels. Thus, it is entirely possible that the answer to a specific question can be found in an article in a published journal, in a preprint which arrived in the morning mail, during the course of a telephone conversation with a colleague about some other matter, or in a chance encounter in the corridors outside a scientific congress. A review article might be the best single source for providing a sense of the major trends in a field, but one might also get the same results, and often more quickly, from talking to a number of colleagues closely involved in the field. In the present circumstances, it seems safe to say that merely exploring one channel or source (especially a traditional one) is not necessarily the most effective way of treading through the maze of messages being communicated.

Participation in structured channels . The literature of science, primarily journals, constitutes the most important structured channel of communication within science; roughly two-thirds of the scientists studied by several investigators cited the journals as the most important single channel through which they learned of new developments in their fields of primary interest (Menzel 1958; 1960). To keep up with secondary fields, scientists typically turn first to recent textbooks and then to abstracts and review articles for guidance (Menzel 1958). The degree to which a body of knowledge is theoretically well-organized seems to influence the concentration of important information in specific channels; Menzel found chemists (a relatively well-organized field) reporting that two-thirds of the articles they read would be found in the three journals they listed as “most important,” while zoologists (a relatively unorganized field) reported that only a quarter of their reading would be found in three such journals. He found also that an average of 8.18 journals was needed to account for 75 per cent of the nominations of “three most important journals” by chemists, while the comparable figure for zoologists was 15.76 journals (1960).

Price (1963, table 2, p. 45) suggests that 6 per cent of the men in a field will produce half the published literature in that field and 2 per cent will produce about a quarter of it. Reasoning after Lotka (1926) that the number of scientists producing n papers is proportional to 1/n2 (an inverse-square law of productivity), he calculates that the average scientist should produce about 3.5 papers during his working career. Meltzer (1956), however, found that U.S. physiologists had produced an average of four to five papers (including chapters in books and coauthored papers) within three years, and Schilling (1963–1964) seems to arrive at an even higher figure for the lifetime productivity of bioscientists.

Such figures are not directly related to the use of the literature; Price (1963) finds that the “half life” of a given article is about 15 years; that is, half of the articles cited by papers published in a given year will be less than 15 years old. Various other studies indicate that the half life in use is much shorter than this; more than half of the withdrawals from two technical libraries studied were less than five years old, and more than half of the “reading acts” by scientists in a U.S. government laboratory were devoted to materials less than two months old (Menzel 1960).

The amount of time a scientist devotes to the use of structured channels probably varies greatly with situational factors, although little is known about this at present. On the basis of some 25,000 random-time observations of 1,500 U.S. chemists, Halbert and Ackoff (1958) conclude that nearly 50 per cent of their subjects’ time is spent in some form of communication and a third of it in specifically scientific communication. Roughly 10 per cent of the chemists’ time is spent in general discussion, slightly less than this in receiving information orally, the same amount in reading unpublished materials, and about 5 per cent is spent in reading published materials. Estimates of the proportion of reading done for “specific uses” rather than for “general interest” vary from 20 to 80 per cent, and they are probably influenced heavily by the ways in which the data were gathered as well as by situational factors (Menzel 1960).

A number of studies report that the average amount of time per week spent in reading published materials is about five hours, but situational factors are again highly important. Scientists in basic research seem to devote only half as much time to reading as do scientists in applied research; however, the former are much more concerned with archival literature, while the latter make greater use of unpublished literature (Menzel 1960). Tornudd (1958) suggests that physical isolation from channels of oral communication produces greater dependence among Danish and Finnish scientists upon published literature, and the rate at which a field is developing seems also to be important—the more rapid the advances, the greater the reliance upon relatively unstructured channels (Menzel 1958).

Schilling’s study of bioscientists (1963–1964) found that age is unrelated to dependence on written, as compared with oral, channels; the bioscientists typically rate the latter as only half as important as the former. Moreover, women in the biological sciences seem slightly more dependent on the literature, probably because they have fewer opportunities to engage in unstructured communication : they visit other laboratories less often, hold fewer professional offices, and receive fewer preprints.

As the amount of published literature increases, scientists are turning to other structured channels as well as to unstructured channels. Orr (1964) notes a steady increase in the number of meetings and conferences held in the biomedical sciences each year since 1927, an increase in the attendance at such meetings, and a slight increase since 1947 in the percentage of research funds used for travel. Menzel’s study of 76 scientists (1958) found that they attended an average of 2.5 meetings per year, and Garvey (see American Psychological Association . . . 1964) found that psychologists in an academic setting attended an average of three per year, while those in a government laboratory averaged about two. Yet Menzel notes that relatively few scientists admit obtaining significant information from the formal presentations at meetings and concludes that “the functions of scientific meetings are not those which ostensibly motivate the bulk of their programs, but other forms of communication—symposia, corridor meetings, the presence in one room of those interested in a single area ...” (1960, vol. l,p. 47).

Unstructured communication . Unstructured (sometimes called informal or unplanned) communication among scientists often provides specific information which a scientist knows he needs, but probably its major importance lies in providing him with useful information which he did not know existed. Scientists generally report between 65 and 90 per cent success in locating needed information in the literature (Menzel 1960; Tornudd 1958), but they obviously cannot estimate their success in obtaining information of which they are unaware.

Such unknown information varies from the specific (a new experimental technique) to the general (news that another individual is working on a particular problem), but it is almost always obtained, directly or indirectly, “by accident.” Considering the usual delays in publication and the general difficulties involved in keeping abreast of the literature, it is presumptive evidence of the efficiency of unstructured channels that only about one scientist in five reports ever having received information “too late"—that is, information which would have influenced the course of his research had he received it sooner (Menzel 1960).

Menzel notes four major unstructured channels through which information reaches scientists: a scientist informs a colleague of his current interests and is given an item of pertinent information in return; a colleague conveys information which he knows the scientist will be interested in; a colleague volunteers the information while they are together for a different purpose; and he finds a useful item of information in the literature while searching for something else. In all but the last, the scientist is dependent on his colleagues, who will know of his needs and interests only if he tells them or if they are indicated by his previous publications. The effectiveness with which a scientist uses these channels, then, would seem to be related both to his ability to make his needs known and to the frequency with which he comes into contact with other scientists in his field.

The flow of professional recognition . Unstructured channels can operate effectively only so long as scientists feel the need to assist each other and share the values of “communism” and “disinterestedness” which encourage them to share their findings freely, without regard for personal gain (Merton [1949] 1957, pp. 556–560). Yet personal gain of an honorific nature is involved; Merton has referred to this as professional recognition (1957), and Storer (1966) has suggested that it is “competent response” to a contribution. If information flows in one direction through the various channels of scientific communication, response to it flows in the other. Anything which signifies the value, to one or more scientists, of information received from others—eponymy, prizes, election to professional office, footnotes, even personal thanks—serves to sustain the scientist’s motivation through confirming the goodness of his work and his successful performance as a scientist. Glaser (1964) has documented some of the consequences for the motivation and career plans of scientists when there is a lack of “adequate recognition,” but work on the various channels through which recognition flows has barely begun (Kaplan 1965a).

Improving scientific communication

The extent and success of efforts to speed and to make more effective the dissemination of information in science vary greatly by fields. In physics, the weekly Physical Review Letters has made it possible to bring brief announcements of recent findings to readers, usually within a month of submission, and there is a variety of other newsletters, data-card services, and regular announcements of work in progress which are now being established in different fields. The American Psychological Association’s Project on Scientific Information Exchange in Psychology represents a major effort to develop and then apply new information to the improvement of communication within the field of psychology.

Another technique, facilitated by the use of highspeed computers, is the citation index, which enables one to trace the influence of a given paper forward in time; this will apparently be of value to historians and sociologists of science as well as to those concerned with the substantive content of the materials cited (Institute for Scientific Information 1964). The suggestion that archival publication be partially replaced by central depositories, from which materials may be acquired on request after learning of them through title lists and abstracts, has not yet met with success; the obstacles to its adoption apparently lie more in the desire of scientists to be assured that their contributions will go to a “guaranteed” audience (as when published in a journal) than in the technical problems involved (U.S. President’s . . . 1963).

Suggestions have also been made toward providing greater opportunity for scientists to make use of unstructured channels of communication: encouraging attendance at meetings and visits to other institutions, arranging teaching duties so as to leave some days free for travel, and allowing more time at announced meetings for discussion sessions (Menzel 1958). Such suggestions are basically concerned with increasing the amount of personal contact among scientists, and their success will probably be contingent upon the amount of funds available for such purposes.

It may be predicted that the study of scientific communication will become increasingly important as the difficulty of disseminating information widely and rapidly mounts. The field requires much more work in conceptualizing the nature of the communications network and its relation to the social structure of science, as well as in the collection of more data. While much of the concern expressed today about problems of scientific communication focuses on developing new techniques for the storage and retrieval of information, and while some concern is focused on the social aspects of the communications process, very little attention has been devoted to the underlying problem of what should be communicated and in what form.

Finally, there is little doubt that each scientist will have to bear a greater responsibility for the transfer of information and not leave it largely to the professional documentalist. As a recent analysis of the problems of scientific communication (U.S. President’s . . . 1963, p. 1) notes, “The technical community generally must devote a larger share than heretofore of its time and resources to the discriminating management of the ever increasing technical record. Doing less will lead to fragmented and ineffective science and technology."

Norman Kaplan AND Norman W. Storer

[See also Conferences; Diffusion, article on Inter- Personal Influence; Information Storage And Retrieval.]


American Psychological Association, Project ON Scientific Information Exchange IN Psychology 1964 The Discovery and Dissemination of Scientific Information Among Psychologists in Two Research Environments. American Psychological Association, Project on Scientific Information Exchange in Psychology, Report No. 11.

American Psychologist 21, no. 11. → This issue (November, 1966) contains eight articles on scientific communication, particularly in the field of psychology.

Barber, Bernard; and Hihsch, Walter (editors) 1962 The Sociology of Science. New York: Free Press.

Bourne, Charles P. 1962 The World’s Technical Journal Literature: An Estimate of Volume, Origin, Language, Field, Indexing, and Abstracting. American Documentation 13:159–168.

Glaser, Barney G. 1964 Organizational Scientists: Their Professional Careers. Indianapolis, Ind.: Bobbs-Merrill.

Gottschalk, C. M.; and Desmond, W. F. 1962 Worldwide Census of Scientific and Technical Serials. Paper delivered at the annual meeting of the American Documentation Institute. Unpublished manuscript.

Hagsthom, Warren O. 1965 The Scientific Community. New York: Basic Books.

Halbert, Michael H.; and Ackoff, Russell L. 1958 An Operations Research Study of the Dissemination of Scientific Information. Pages 87–120 in International Conference on Scientific Information, 1958, Preprints of Papers for the International Conference on Scientific Information, Washington, D.C., November 16–21, 1958. Area i. Washington: National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council.

Institute For Scientific Information 1964 The Use of Citation Data in Writing the History of Science, by Eugene Garfield et al. Philadelphia: The Institute. → Constitutes a report of research for the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research under contract AF 49(638)-1256.

International Conference ON Scientific Information, 1958 1958 Preprints of Papers for the International Conference on Scientific Information, Washington, D.C., November 16–21, 1958. Areas i-viii. Washington: National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council.

Kaplan, Norman 1964 Sociology of Science. Pages 852–881 in Robert E. L. Faris (editor), Handbook of Modern Sociology. Chicago: Rand McNally.

Kaplan, Norman 1965 The Norms of Citation Behavior: Prolegomena to the Footnote. American Documentation 16:179–184.

Kaplan, Norman (editor) 1965 … Science and Society. Chicago: Rand McNally.

Little [Arthur D.] Inc. 1959 Basic Research in the Navy. 2 vols. Cambridge, Mass.: Arthur D. Little, Inc.

Lotka, Alfred J. 1926 The Frequency Distribution of Scientific Productivity. Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences 16:317–323.

Meltzer, Leo 1956 Scientific Productivity in Organizational Settings. Journal of Social Issues 12, no. 2: 32–40.

Menzel, Herbert 1958 The Flow of Information Among Scientists: Problems, Opportunities and Research Questions. Unpublished manuscript, Columbia Univ., Bureau of Applied Social Research.

Menzel, Herbert 1960 Review of Studies in the Flow of Information Among Scientists. 2 vols. in 1. Unpublished manuscript, Columbia Univ., Bureau of Applied Social Research.

Merton, Robert K. (1949) 1957 Social Theory and Social Structure. Rev.…enl. ed. Glencoe, 111.: Free Press.

Merton, Robert K. 1957 Priorities in Scientific Discovery: A Chapter in the Sociology of Science. American Sociological Review 22:635–659.

Orr, Richard H. 1964 Communication Problems in Biochemical Research: Report of a Study. Federation Proceedings 23:1117–1132.

Price, Derek J. DE Solla 1963 Little Science, Big Science. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

Schilling, Charles W. 1963–1964 Informal Communication Among Bioscientists. Parts 1–2. Unpublished manuscript, George Washington Univ., Biological Sciences Communication Project.

Stevens, Mary E. 1965 Automatic Indexing: A State-of-the-art Report. National Bureau of Standards Monograph No. 91. Washington: Government Printing Office. → Includes a BIBLIOGRAPHY of 662 items on pages 183–220.

Stoher, Norman W. 1966 The Social System of Science. New York: Holt.

Tornudd, Elin 1958 Study on the Use of Scientific Literature and Reference Services by Scandinavian Scientists and Engineers Engaged in Research and Development. Pages 9–65 in International Conference on Scientific Information, 1958, Preprints of Papers for the International Conference on Scientific Information, Washington, D.C., November 16–21, 1958. Area i. Washington: National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council.

U.S. President’S Science Advisory Committee 1963 Science, Government, and Information: The Responsibilities of the Technical Community and the Government in the Transfer of Information; a Report. Washington: Government Printing Office.

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science [Lat. scientia=knowledge]. For many the term science refers to the organized body of knowledge concerning the physical world, both animate and inanimate, but a proper definition would also have to include the attitudes and methods through which this body of knowledge is formed; thus, a science is both a particular kind of activity and also the results of that activity.

The Scientific Method

The scientific method has evolved over many centuries and has now come to be described in terms of a well-recognized and well-defined series of steps. First, information, or data, is gathered by careful observation of the phenomenon being studied. On the basis of that information a preliminary generalization, or hypothesis, is formed, usually by inductive reasoning, and this in turn leads by deductive logic to a number of implications that may be tested by further observations and experiments (see induction; deduction). If the conclusions drawn from the original hypothesis successfully meet all these tests, the hypothesis becomes accepted as a scientific theory or law; if additional facts are in disagreement with the hypothesis, it may be modified or discarded in favor of a new hypothesis, which is then subjected to further tests. Even an accepted theory may eventually be overthrown if enough contradictory evidence is found, as in the case of Newtonian mechanics, which was shown after more than two centuries of acceptance to be an approximation valid only for speeds much less than that of light.

Role of Measurement and Experiment

All of the activities of the scientific method are characterized by a scientific attitude, which stresses rational impartiality. Measurement plays an important role, and when possible the scientist attempts to test his theories by carefully designed and controlled experiments that will yield quantitative rather than qualitative results. Theory and experiment work together in science, with experiments leading to new theories that in turn suggest further experiments. Although these methods and attitudes are generally shared by scientists, they do not provide a guaranteed means of scientific discovery; other factors, such as intuition, experience, good judgment, and sometimes luck, also contribute to new developments in science.

Branches of Specialization

Science may be roughly divided into the physical sciences, the earth sciences, and the life sciences. Mathematics, while not a science, is closely allied to the sciences because of their extensive use of it. Indeed, it is frequently referred to as the language of science, the most important and objective means for communicating the results of science. The physical sciences include physics, chemistry, and astronomy; the earth sciences (sometimes considered a part of the physical sciences) include geology, paleontology, oceanography, and meteorology; and the life sciences include all the branches of biology such as botany, zoology, genetics, and medicine. Each of these subjects is itself divided into different branches—e.g., mathematics into arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and analysis; physics into mechanics, thermodynamics, optics, acoustics, electricity and magnetism, and atomic and nuclear physics. In addition to these separate branches, there are numerous fields that draw on more than one branch of science, e.g., astrophysics, biophysics, biochemistry, geochemistry, and geophysics.

All of these areas of study might be called pure sciences, in contrast to the applied, or engineering, sciences, i.e., technology, which is concerned with the practical application of the results of scientific activity. Such fields include mechanical, civil, aeronautical, electrical, architectural, chemical, and other kinds of engineering; agronomy, horticulture, and animal husbandry; and many aspects of medicine. Finally, there are distinct disciplines for the study of the history and philosophy of science.

The Beginnings of Science

Science as it is known today is of relatively modern origin, but the traditions out of which it has emerged reach back beyond recorded history. The roots of science lie in the technology of early toolmaking and other crafts, while scientific theory was once a part of philosophy and religion. This relationship, with technology encouraging science rather than the other way around, remained the norm until recent times. Thus, the history of science is essentially intertwined with that of technology.

Practical Applications in the Ancient Middle East

The early civilizations of the Tigris-Euphrates valley and the Nile valley made advances in both technology and theory, but separate groups within each culture were responsible for the progress. Practical advances in metallurgy, agriculture, transportation, and navigation were made by the artisan class, such as the wheelwrights and shipbuilders. The priests and scribes were responsible for record keeping, land division, and calendar determination, and they developed written language and early mathematics for this purpose. The Babylonians devised methods for solving algebraic equations, and they compiled extensive astronomical records from which the periods of the planets' revolution and the eclipse cycle could be calculated; they used a year of 12 months and a week of 7 days, and also originated the division of the day into hours, minutes, and seconds. In Egypt there were also developments in mathematics and astronomy and the beginnings of the science of medicine. Wheeled vehicles and bronze metallurgy, both known to the Sumerians in Babylonia as early as 3000 BC, were imported to Egypt c.1750 BC Between 1400 BC and 1100 BC iron smelting was discovered in Armenia and spread from there, and alphabets were developed in Phoenicia.

Early Greek Contributions to Science

The early Greek, or Hellenic, culture marked a different approach to science. The Ionian natural philosophers removed the gods from the personal roles they had played in the cosmologies of Babylonia and Egypt and sought to order the world according to philosophical principles. Thales of Miletus (6th cent. BC) was one of the earliest of these and contributed to astronomy, geometry, and cosmology. He was followed by Anaximander, who extended Thales' ideas and proposed that the universe is composed of four basic elements, i.e., earth, air, fire, and water; this theory was also taught by Empedocles (5th cent. BC) in Sicily. The philosophers Leucippus and Democritus (both 5th cent. BC) held that everything is composed of tiny, indivisible atoms. In the school founded at Croton, S Italy, by the Greek philosopher Pythagoras of Samos (6th cent. BC) the principal concept was that of number. The Pythagoreans tried to explain the workings of the universe in terms of whole numbers and their ratios; in addition to contributions to mathematics and philosophy, they also made notable studies in the area of biology and anatomy, e.g., by Alcmaeon of Croton (fl. c.500 BC). The most important developments in medicine were made by Hippocrates of Cos (4th cent. BC), known as the Father of Medicine, who formulated the science of diagnosis based on accurate descriptions of the symptoms of various diseases. The greatest figures of the earlier Greek period were the philosophers Plato (427–347 BC) and Aristotle (384–322 BC), each of whom exerted an influence that has extended down to modern times.

Influence of the Alexandrian Schools

The later Greek, or Hellenistic, culture was centered not in Greece itself but in Greek cities elsewhere, particularly Alexandria, Egypt, which was founded in 332 BC by Alexander the Great. The so-called first Alexandrian school included Euclid (fl. c.300 BC), who organized the axiomatic system of geometry that has served as the model for many other scientific presentations since then; Eratosthenes (3d cent. BC), who made a remarkably accurate estimate of the size of the earth; and Aristarchus (3d cent. BC), who showed that the sun is larger than the earth and suggested a heliocentric model for the solar system. Archimedes (287–212 BC) worked at Syracuse, Sicily, and made contributions to mathematics and mechanics that were surprisingly modern in spirit. The second Alexandrian school flourished in the first centuries of the Christian era, after Rome had become the leading power in the Mediterranean; it included Ptolemy (2d cent. AD), who presented the geocentric system of the universe that was to dominate astronomical thought for 1400 years, and his contemporary Heron, who contributed to geometry and pneumatics. Galen (2d cent. AD) studied at Pergamum and Alexandria and later practiced medicine and made important anatomical studies at Rome. The Romans assimilated the more practical scientific accomplishments of the Greeks but added relatively little of their own. With the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th cent., science ceased to develop in the West.

Scientific Progress in China and India

In the East some accomplishments in science had been made paralleling the early developments in the West. However, although many societies were quick to adopt the fruits of technology, they tended to discourage the development of science on the classical model, which is based on the unbiased interaction of theory and experiment.

In China scientific theories were largely subservient to the main schools of philosophy and theology, particularly those of Confucianism, Taoism, and, later, Buddhism. The agricultural society, which endured until modern times, encouraged the separation of theory and experiment, the former falling to the educated, scholar classes and the latter to the lower, craftsman classes. Astronomy and mathematics were used for practical purposes, such as calendar determination, and there was little interest in theory in these fields. Theories of metallurgy, alchemy, and medicine were all tied to the prevailing religious and philosophical doctrines. Nevertheless, many important practical discoveries were made. Paper was invented in the 2d cent. AD; block printing was known in the 7th cent. AD, with movable clay type by the 11th cent. and cast-metal type in Korea by the beginning of the 15th cent.; gunpowder was invented in the 3d cent. AD and firearms were in use by the 13th cent.; and the magnetic compass came into use during the 11th and 12th cent.

In India an alphabetic script was developed, as well as a numeral system based on place value and including a zero; this latter Hindu contribution was adopted by the Arabs and combined with their numeral system. Important Hindu scientists flourished in the 6th and 7th cent. AD and also in the 12th cent., making contributions to astronomy and mathematics. Many of these early Indian works showed the influence of Greek science, as in the geocentric systems of astronomy, or of Babylonian science, as in their development of algebraic methods for solving many problems.

Science in the Middle Ages

Muslim Preservation of Learning

With the eclipse of the Greek and Roman cultures, many of their works passed into the hands of the Muslims, who by the 7th and 8th cent. AD had extended their influence through much of the world surrounding the Mediterranean. All of the Greek works were translated into Arabic, and commentaries were added. Important developments from the East were also transmitted, and the Hindu numeral system was introduced, as well as the manufacture of paper and gunpowder, learned from the Chinese. Scholars gathered at cities like Damascus, Baghdad, and Cairo, at one end of the Mediterranean, and at Cordova and Toledo, in Spain, at the other end. Many astronomical observations were made at different locations, but there was little effort to improve or modify the Greek model of Ptolemy. In medicine important contributions were made by Al-Razi (Rhazes, 865–925) and Ibn-Sina (Avicenna, 980–1037), and in alchemy and pharmacology by Jabir (Geber, 9th cent.), whose work was expanded in the 10th cent. by a mystical sect aligned with the Sufi tradition. At Cairo, Al-Hazen (965–1038) studied optics, particularly the properties of lenses, and Maimonides (1135–1204), the Jewish philosopher, came there from Spain to practice medicine as physician to Saladin, the Sultan. The Arabs thus preserved the scientific works of the Greeks and added to them, and also introduced other contributions from Asia. This body of learning first began to be discovered by Europeans in the 11th cent.

The Craft Tradition and Early Empiricism in Europe

Certain technical innovations during the Early Middle Ages, e.g., development of the heavy plow, the windmill, and the magnetic compass, as well as improvements in ship design, had increased agricultural productivity and navigation and contributed to the rise of cities, with their craft guilds and universities. These changes were more pronounced in N Europe than in the south. The introduction of papermaking (12th cent.) and printing (1436–50) made possible the recording of craft traditions that had been handed down orally in previous centuries. This served to reduce the gap between the artisan classes and the scholar classes and contributed to the development of certain individuals who combined elements of both traditions—the artist-engineers such as Leonardo da Vinci, whose studies of flight and other technological problems were far beyond their time, and the artist-mathematicians, such as Albrecht Dürer, who examined the laws of perspective and wrote a textbook on geometry. Many artists came to study anatomy in detail.

Beginning in the 12th cent. the Arabic versions of Greek works were translated into Latin, an edition of Ptolemy's Almagest being translated at Toledo, and one of Aristotle's biological works in Sicily. Leonardo da Pisa (Fibonacci) presented some of the new Hindu-Arabic mathematics in the early 13th cent., and the medical and alchemical works were also translated. Also in the 13th cent., a trend toward empiricism was promoted by Roger Bacon and others, but this was short-lived. The dominant philosophy of science and other fields was the Christianized version of Aristotelian philosophy created by Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas in the 13th cent. This view tended to treat scientific theories as extensions of philosophy and, for example, postulated the existence of angelic agents to account for the movements of the heavenly bodies. Even so, the craft traditions continued to develop in an independent manner, particularly medieval alchemy, and certain schools grew up that were not dominated by the main scholastic philosophy. The rebirth, or Renaissance, of learning spread throughout the West from the 14th to the 16th cent. and was further enhanced by the great voyages of discovery that began in the 15th cent.

The Scientific Revolution

Science, in the modern sense of the term, came into being in the 16th and 17th cent., with the merging of the craft tradition with scientific theory and the evolution of the scientific method. The feeling of dissatisfaction with the older philosophical approach had begun much earlier and had produced other results, such as the Protestant Reformation, but the revolution in science began with the work of Copernicus, Paracelsus, Vesalius, and others in the 16th cent. and reached full flower in the 17th cent.

The Rejection of Traditional Paradigms

Copernicus broke with the traditional belief, supported by both scientists and theologians, that the earth was at the center of the universe; his work, finally published in the year of his death (1543), proposed that the earth and other planets move in circular orbits around the sun. Paracelsus rejected the older alchemical and medical theories and founded iatrochemistry, the forerunner of modern medical chemistry. Andreas Vesalius, like Paracelsus, turned away from the medical teachings of Galen and other early authorities and through his anatomical studies helped to found modern medicine and biology. The philosophical basis for the scientific revolution was expressed in the writings of Francis Bacon, who urged that the experimental method plays the key role in the development of scientific theories, and of René Descartes, who held that the universe is a mechanical system that can be described in mathematical terms. The science of mechanics was established by Galileo, Simon Stevin, and others. The astronomical system of Copernicus gained support from the accurate observations of Tycho Brahe; the modification of Johannes Kepler, who used Tycho's work to show that the planetary orbits are elliptical rather than circular; and the writings of Galileo, who based his arguments on his own mechanical theories and observations with the newly invented telescope. Other instruments were also of major importance in the discoveries of the scientific revolution. The microscope extended human knowledge of living things just as the telescope had extended human knowledge of the heavens. The mechanical clock was perfected in the late 16th cent. by Christian Huygens, who also made improvements in the telescope, and thus events, both celestial and terrestrial, could be timed with greater precision—an essential factor in the development of the exact sciences, such as mechanics. The 17th cent. also saw the discovery of the circulation of the blood by William Harvey and the founding of modern chemistry by Robert Boyle.

Improved Communication of Scientific Knowledge

Another important factor in the scientific revolution was the rise of learned societies and academies in various countries. The earliest of these were in Italy and Germany and were short-lived. More influential were the Royal Society in England (1660) and the Academy of Sciences in France (1666). The former was a private institution in London and included such scientists as Robert Hooke, John Wallis, William Brouncker, Thomas Sydenham, John Mayow, and Christopher Wren (who contributed not only to architecture but also to astronomy and anatomy); the latter, in Paris, was a government institution and included as a foreign member the Dutchman Huygens. In the 18th cent. important royal academies were established at Berlin (1700) and at St. Petersburg (1724). The societies and academies provided the principal opportunities for the publication and discussion of scientific results during and after the scientific revolution.

The Impact of Sir Isaac Newton

The greatest figure of the scientific revolution, Sir Isaac Newton, was a fellow of the Royal Society of England. To earlier discoveries in mechanics and astronomy he added many of his own and combined them in a single system for describing the workings of the universe; the system is based on the concept of gravitation and uses a new branch of mathematics, the calculus, that he invented for the purpose. All of this was set forth in his Philosophical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687), the publication of which marked the beginning of the modern period of mechanics and astronomy. Newton also discovered that white light can be separated into a spectrum of colors, and he theorized that light is composed of tiny particles, or corpuscles, whose behavior can be described by the laws of mechanics. A rival theory, holding that light is composed of waves, was proposed by Huygens about the same time. However, Newton's influence was so great and the acceptance of the mechanistic philosophy of Descartes and others so widespread that the corpuscular philosophy was the dominant one for more than a century.

The Age of Classical Science

The history of science during the 18th and 19th cent. is largely the history of the individual branches as they developed into the traditional forms by which they are still recognized today.

The Evolution of Mathematics and Physics

In mathematics the calculus invented by Newton and G. W. Leibniz was developed by the Bernoullis, Leonhard Euler, and J. L. Lagrange into a powerful tool that was to be used not only in mathematics but also in physics and astronomy. Newtonian physics spread to the Continent slowly, its acceptance being hindered by adherents of the older Cartesian philosophy and by disputes over priority in the invention of the calculus. However, by the late 18th cent. it was firmly established. Other branches of physics came into their own during this period. The study of electricity expanded to include electric currents and magnetism, and it was finally synthesized in the theory of electromagnetic radiation of J. C. Maxwell in the second half of the 19th cent. These discoveries provided the foundation for the technological advances in communications and in other fields using electrical energy. The wave theory of light was revived at the beginning of the 19th cent. by Thomas Young and developed by others; Maxwell's theory showed that light was one form of electromagnetic energy. In the 18th cent. scientists thought that heat was a kind of fluid called caloric. However, by the early 19th cent. it became apparent that heat is a form of motion—the motion of the particles of which substances are composed. The classical theory of heat and thermodynamics was developed by J. P. Joule, Lord Kelvin, R. J. E. Clausius, and others, who showed the relation between heat and other forms of energy and formulated the law of conservation of energy. Maxwell, Ludwig Boltzmann and others developed statistical mechanics, which treats matter as a large aggregate of many particles and applies statistical methods to the prediction of its behavior.

Innovations in Chemistry

Chemistry became increasingly quantitative and experimental during the 18th cent. Joseph Priestley and other English scientists made a number of discoveries which served as the basis for A. L. Lavoisier's explanation of the role of oxygen in combustion and respiration. John Dalton proposed the modern version of the atomic theory in the early 19th cent. and Dmitri Mendeleev, in his periodic table, showed how the chemical elements described by the atomic theory could be arranged in a systematic way. In the mid-19th cent. R. W. Bunsen and G. R. Kirchhoff developed spectroscopy as a tool for chemical analysis. Also in the 19th cent., the synthesis of urea by Friedrich Wöhler (1828) established that organic substances are composed of the same kinds of atoms as inorganic substances, thus opening a new era in the study of organic chemistry.

Advances in Astronomy

Astronomy progressed on the theoretical level through the contributions to celestial mechanics of P. S. Laplace and others, and on the observational level through the work of many scientists. They included William Herschel, who built telescopes and discovered Uranus (1781), the first planet found in modern times, and his son John Herschel, who extended his father's observations to the Southern Hemisphere skies and pioneered in astrophotography, which in modern astronomy is the chief method of observation. Another tool that found important application in astronomy was the spectroscope. Increasingly astronomers made use of the instruments, techniques, and theories of other fields, particularly physics.

Birth of Modern Geology

Modern geology may be said to date from the work of James Hutton, who postulated (1785) that the geologic processes and forces that had shaped the earth were still in operation and could be observed directly. Georges Cuvier, the French naturalist, founded the field of comparative anatomy and applied its principles to geology in the study of the fossil remains of animals of the distant past, thus also founding the field of paleontology.

New Ideas in Biology

In biology Carolus Linnaeus instituted a system of classification of animals and plants, and improvements in this system helped scientists to arrange different forms of life according to complexity, suggesting to some that organisms may evolve from simple to complex forms. In the 19th cent. K. E. von Baer founded the field of embryology, the study of the earliest stages of different forms of life, and Matthias Schleiden and Theodor Schwann identified the cell as the basic unit of living matter. In medicine the treatment of disease was furthered by the introduction of smallpox vaccination by Edward Jenner and the recognition of the role of germs and viruses in causing diseases. A number of ways of reducing the growth of such organisms were introduced, including pasteurization of foods and antiseptic surgery. Anesthetics were introduced in the 19th cent. by several scientists, and, through chemistry, new medications were developed that aimed at treatment of specific ailments.

Science and the Industrial Revolution

Some of the greatest changes were in the area of technology, in the development of new sources of energy and their application in transportation, communications, and industry. Among the important aspects of the Industrial Revolution were the invention of the steam engine by James Watt and its use in factories, mines, ships, and railroad engines; the development of the internal-combustion engine and the companion growth of petroleum technology to provide fuel for it; the invention of many different kinds of agricultural machinery and the resulting enormous increase in productivity; the improvement of many metallurgical processes, particularly those involving iron and steel; and the invention of the electric generator, electric motor, and numerous electric devices that are now commonplace.

Revolutions in Modern Science

The enormous growth of science during the classical period engendered an optimistic attitude on the part of many that all the major scientific discoveries had been made and that all that remained was the working out of minor details. Faith in the absolute truth of science was in some ways comparable to the faith of earlier centuries in such ancient authorities as Aristotle and Ptolemy. This optimism was shattered in the late 19th and early 20th cent. by a number of revolutionary discoveries. These in turn attracted increasing numbers of individuals into science, so that whereas a particular problem might have been studied by a single investigator a century ago, or by a small group of scientists a few decades ago, today such a problem is attacked by a virtual army of highly trained, technically proficient scholars. The growth of science in the 20th cent. has been unprecedented.

In much of modern science the idea of progressive change, or evolution, has been of fundamental importance. In addition to biological evolution, astronomers have been concerned with stellar and galactic evolution, and astrophysicists and chemists with nucleosynthesis, or the evolution of the chemical elements. The study of the evolution of the universe as a whole has involved such fields as non-Euclidean geometry and the general theory of relativity. Geologists have discovered that the continents are not static entities but are also evolving; according to the theory of plate tectonics, some continents are moving away from each other while others are moving closer together.

The Impact of Elementary Particles

Physics in particular was shaken to the core around the turn of the century. The atom had been presumed indestructible, but discoveries of X rays (1895), radioactivity (1896), and the electron (1897) could not be explained by the classical theories. The discovery of the atomic nucleus (1911) and of numerous subatomic particles in addition to the electron opened up the broad field of atomic and nuclear physics. Atoms were found to change not only by radioactive decay but also by more dramatic processes—nuclear fission and fusion—with the release of large amounts of energy; these discoveries found both military and peaceful applications.

Quantum Theory and the Theory of Relativity

The explanation of atomic structure required the abandonment of older, commonsense, classical notions of the nature of space, time, matter, and energy in favor of the new view of the quantum theory and the theory of relativity. The first of these two central theories of modern physics was developed by many scientists during the first three decades of the 20th cent.; the latter theory was chiefly the product of a single individual, Albert Einstein. These theories, particularly the quantum theory, revolutionized not only physics but also chemistry and other fields.

Advances in Chemistry

Knowledge of the structure of matter enabled chemists to synthesize a sweeping variety of substances, especially complex organic substances with important roles in life processes or with technological applications. Radioactive isotopes have been used as tracers in complicated chemical and biochemical reactions and have also found application in geological dating. Chemists and physicists have cooperated to create many new chemical elements, extending the periodic table beyond the naturally occurring elements.

Biology Becomes an Interdisciplinary Science

In biology the modern revolution began in the 19th cent. with the publication of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution (1859) and Gregor Mendel's theory of genetics, which was largely ignored until the end of the century. With the work of Hugo de Vries around the turn of the century biological evolution came to be interpreted in terms of mutations that result in a genetically distinct species; the survival of a given species was thus related to its ability to adapt to its environment through such mutations. The development of biochemistry and the recognition that most important biological processes take place at the molecular level led to the rapid growth of the field of molecular biology, with such fundamental results as the discovery of the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the molecule carrying the genetic code. Modern medicine has profited from this explosion of knowledge in biology and biochemistry, with new methods of treatment ranging from penicillin, insulin, and a vast array of other drugs to pacemakers for weak hearts and implantation of artificial or donated organs.

The Abstraction of Mathematics

In mathematics a movement toward the abstract, axiomatic approach began early in the 19th cent. with the discovery of two different types of non-Euclidean geometries and various abstract algebras, some of them noncommutative. While there has been a tendency to consolidate and unify under a few general concepts, such as those of group, set, and transformation, there has also been considerable research in the foundations of mathematics, with a close examination of the nature of these and other concepts and of the logical systems underlying mathematics.

Astronomy beyond the Visual Spectrum

In astronomy ever larger telescopes have assisted in the discovery that the sun is a rather ordinary star in a huge collection of stars, the Milky Way, which itself is only one of countless such collections, or galaxies, that in general are expanding away from each other. The study of remote objects, billions of light-years from the earth, has been carried out at all wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation, with some of the most notable results being made in radio astronomy, which has been used to map the Milky Way, study quasars, pulsars, and other unusual objects, and detect relatively complex organic molecules floating in space. The latter, coupled with the discovery of extrasolar planetary systems and possible microscopic fossils in meteorites of Martian origin, have raised new questions about the origin of life and the possible existence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.

Modern Science and Technology

The technological advances of modern science, which in the public mind are often identified with science itself, have affected virtually every aspect of life. The electronics industry, born in the early 20th cent., has advanced to the point where a complex device, such as a computer, that once might have filled an entire room can now be carried in an attaché case. The electronic computer has become one of the key tools of modern industry. Electronics has also been fundamental in developing new communications devices (radio, television, laser). In transportation there has been a similar leap of astounding range, from the automobile and the early airplane to the modern supersonic jet and the giant rocket that has taken astronauts to the moon. Perhaps the most overwhelming aspect of modern science is not its accomplishments but its magnitude in terms of money, equipment, numbers of workers, scope of activity, and impact on society as a whole. Never before in history has science played such a dominant role in so many areas.

Promise and Problems of Modern Science

Modern science holds out a number of promises, as well as a number of problems. In the foreseeable future researchers may solve the riddle of life and create life itself in a test tube. Most diseases may be brought under control. Science is also working toward control over the environment, e.g., dispersing hurricanes before they can endanger life or property. New sources of energy are being developed, and these together with the capacity to manipulate alien environments may make life possible on the moon or other planets.

Among the challenges faced by modern science are practical ones such as the production and distribution of enough energy to meet increased demands and the elimination or reduction of pollutants in the environment. Some of these problems are political and sociological as well as scientific, as are such problems as control over nuclear and other forms of weapons (biological, chemical) and regulation of the use of computers and other electronic devices that may seriously infringe on individual privacy and freedom. Some have profound ethical implications, e.g., those associated with gene manipulation, organ transplantation, and the capacity to sustain life beyond the point at which it once would have ended. There are also philosophical problems raised by science, as in the uncertainty principle of the quantum theory, which places an absolute limit on the accuracy of certain physical measurements and thus on the predictions that may be made on the basis of such measurements; in the quantum theory itself, with its suggestion that at the atomic level much depends on chance; and in certain paradoxical discoveries in mathematics and mathematical logic. Even a detailed account of the history of science cannot be complete, for scientific activity is not isolated but takes place within a larger matrix that also includes, for example, political and social events, developments in the arts, philosophy, and religion, and forces within the life of the individual scientist. In other words, science is a human activity and is affected by all that affects human beings in any way.


See H. Poincaré, Science and Hypothesis (1902, tr. 1905, repr. 1952); J. Bronowski, The Common Sense of Science (1953); E. Nagel, The Structure of Science (1961); A. Koyré, Metaphysics and Measurement (1968); G. Sarton, Introduction to the History of Science (3 vol., 1927–48; repr. 1968); B. Commoner, Science and Survival (1966, repr. 1969); N. R. Hanson, Perception and Discovery: An Introduction to Scientific Inquiry (1969); J. Monod, Chance and Necessity (tr. 1971); L. P. Williams and H. J. Steffens, The History of Science in Western Civilization (3 vol., 1978–79); C. A. Ronan, Science (1982); J. Ziman, An Introduction to Science Studies (1985); T. S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (3d ed. 1996); L. Jardine, Ingenious Pursuits: Building the Scientific Revolution (1999); D. Teresi, Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science (2002); J. al-Khalili, The House of Wisdom: How Arabic Science Saved Ancient Knowledge and Gave Us the Renaissance (2011); D. Knight, Voyaging in Strange Seas: The Great Revolution in Science (2014). See also R. J. Blackwell, ed., A Bibliography of the Philosophy of Science, 1945–1981 (1983).

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Scientists collect samples of air, water, soil, plants, and tissue to detect and monitor pollution. Pollutants are most often extracted from samples, then isolated by a technique called chromatography and analyzed by appropriate detection methods. Many pollutants are identified by their spectral fingerprints, unique patterns of absorbed or emitted radiation in the ultraviolet (UV), visible, or infrared (IR) region of the electromagnetic spectrum . Biomonitoring and technologies including satellite observation, sidescan sonar, and bioluminescent reporter chips are also used for pollution monitoring. In the United States, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approves the methods for monitoring regulated pollutants such as pesticide residues and those in air and drinking water.

Sampling and Extraction

Air can be actively or passively sampled. Actively sampled air is pumped through a filter or chemical solution. For example, airborne lead, mostly originating from metals processing plants, is collected on filters by active sampling and then analyzed spectroscopically. Air that is not pumped but allowed to flow or diffuse naturally is passively sampled. Nitrogen oxides, resulting from vehicle emissions and combustion, can be monitored in passive sampling tubes by their reaction with triethanolamine to form nitrates. The tubes are taken to a laboratory and the amount of nitrate analyzed.

Liquid or solid extraction removes a mix of pollutants from samples. In liquid extraction, samples are shaken with a solvent that dissolves the pollutants. Solid extraction involves the adherence or absorption of pollutants to a solid that is then heated to release a mix of vaporized pollutants which are subsequently analyzed.

chemical method
anions in water (e.g., nitrate, phosphate, sulfate, bromide, fluoride, chloride) ion exchange chromatography/conductivity detector
criteria pollutants sulfur dioxide, ozone, nitrogen oxides ultraviolet absorption spectroscopy
dioxins and furans high-resolution gas chromatography/high-resolution mass spectrometry
greenhouse gases carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide infrared absorption spectroscopy
herbicides diquat and paraquat in drinking water high-performance liquid chromatography/ultraviolet spectroscopy
chlorinated disinfection by-products, haloacetic acids gas chromatography/electron capture detector or mass spectrometry
hydrocarbons in vehicle emissions infrared absorption spectroscopy
metals inductively coupled plasmaatomic emission spectrometry or mass spectrometry or graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometry for trace amounts (e.g. arsenic and lead)
mercury cold vapor atomic absorption spectrometry
organophosphate pesticides (e.g. malathion, parathion) gas chromatography/nitrogen/phosphorus detector
pcbs, chlorinated pesticides (e.g. ddt, lindane) and herbicides in water gas chromatography/electron capture detector or mass spectrometry
phthalates in water or biological samples gas chromatography/electron capture or photoionization detector or mass spectrometry
toxic gases such as hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, styrene, hydrogen fluoride ultraviolet or infrared absorption spectroscopy
volatile organic compounds (vocs) in water gas chromatography/photoionization and electrolytic conductivity detectors in series
volatile organic compounds in air fourier transform infrared spectroscopy


Chromatography is the method most often used in environmental chemistry to separate individual pollutants from mixtures. The mixture to be analyzed is added to a liquid or gas, depending on whether liquid or gas chromatography is employed. The liquid or gas, called the mobile phase, is then forced through a stationary phase, often a column packed with solid material that can be coated with a liquid. The stationary and mobile phases are chosen so that the pollutants in the mixture will have different solubilities in each of them. The greater the affinity of a pollutant for the stationary phase, the longer it will take to move through the column. This difference in the migration rate causes pollutants to separate.

A chromatogram is a graph of intensity peaks that are responses to a detection method, indicating the presence of a pollutant, plotted against time. Individual pollutants are identified by comparing their chromatogram to one for the suspected compounds under the same conditions. The pollutant concentration is determined from the height of the peaks and area under them.

Different kinds of chromatography work best for different pollutants. Gas chromatography separates organic chemicals that vaporize easily (VOCs). Benzene and ethylbenzene are VOCs in vehicle exhaust and are monitored in drinking water. Many pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and dioxin are separated by gas chromatography. Less volatile substances such as the herbicide diquat are isolated by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Ion exchange chromatography separates inorganic ions such as nitrates that can pollute water when excess fertilizer or leaking septic tanks wash into it.


Chromatographic methods are routinely automated. A detector that responds to the pollutants' physical or chemical properties analyzes the gas or liquid leaving the column. Detectors can be specific for individual pollutants or classes of pollutants, or nonspecific.

Nonspecific Detectors. Flame ionization, thermal conductivity, and mass spectrometry are common nonspecific detection methods that detect all molecules containing carbon and hydrogen. In mass spectrometry, molecules of a gas are energized in a variety of ways, such as bombardment with electrons or rapid heating, causing them to gain or lose electrons. Because they have different masses and charges, the resulting ions are separated when they pass through magnetic and electric fields. The size and distribution of peaks for ions with different mass-to-charge ratios, known as the mass spectrum, identify the gas and determine its concentration. Gas chromatography coupled with high-resolution mass spectrometry definitively identifies PCBs and is the most accurate way to determine their concentration. Portable gas chromatograph/mass spectrometers can measure VOCs in soil and water to parts per billion (ppb).

Specific Detectors. Methods that detect classes of pollutants include nitrogen/phosphorous detectors for organophosphate pesticides, thermionic ionization detectors that detect molecules containing NO2, nitro groups, such as dinitrotoluene and electron capture. Electron capture is particularly sensitive to compounds, such as organohalide pesticides that contain the halogen atoms, chlorine, bromine, or fluorine. These atoms strongly attract electrons. The electron capture detector emits electrons that are captured by the halogens atom. The reduction in electric current corresponds to the concentration of pollutant. Chlorinated disinfection by-products, haloacetic acid, and phthalates in drinking water can be separated by gas chromatography and measured by electron capture. Sulfur hexafluoride, an ozone-depleting gas, can be measured to parts per trillion (ppt) by electron capture. Spectroscopic detection methods including IR, UV, and atomic absorption and emission spectroscopy are unique for specific compounds.

Spectroscopic Detection. The electromagnetic spectrum encompasses all forms of electromagnetic radiation from the most energetic cosmic and gamma rays to the least energetic radio waves. The part of the spectrum that is particularly useful in identifying and measuring pollutants consists of radiation that interacts with the atoms and molecules that make up life on Earth. This includes radiation in the UV, visible, and IR regions.

Atomic Spectra. Atoms of different elements may be thought of as having different arrangements of electrons around the nucleus in increasing energy levels. When metals such as lead, copper, and cadmium are vaporized at high temperatures, some electrons jump to higher energy levels. When the electrons drop to their original levels, the metal atoms emit radiation in a range of wavelengths from IR to UV, including visible light. The colors in fireworks result from such emissions. The wavelengths emitted constitute a unique "fingerprint" for each element and their intensity reflects the metal concentration. Inductively coupled plasma emission spectra (ICPAES), in which a high-temperature gas or plasma excites metal atoms, are used to identify and quantify heavy metal contamination.

The same spectral fingerprint is obtained from the wavelengths of light that each element absorbs. Trace amounts of certain metals such as mercury and arsenic are more accurately measured from their absorption, rather than their emission spectra.

UV and IR Spectra. Many pollutants can be identified by their UV and IR spectra because all molecules that absorb strongly at specific wavelengths exhibit spectral fingerprints. Pollutants separated by liquid chromatography are often detected by spectroscopy. Gases such as those from vehicle emissions, landfills, industrial manufacturing plants, electric power plants, and hazardous incineration smokestacks can be monitored by spectroscopic methods. Gas and chemical leaks may also be monitored by spectroscopy.

UV Absorption Spectra. Toxic gases such as hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, and styrene can be monitored by their UV absorption spectra. Open path monitors emit UV radiation from a source, such as a bulb containing excited xenon gas, across the area to be monitored. Detectors record the absorbed wavelengths to produce a spectral fingerprint for each gas. Ammonia is often used as a coolant for turbine generators in power plants. It can be monitored for worker safety by its UV spectrum. The EPA has established National Ambient Air Quality standards for the six criteria pollutants: carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide.

Satellite instruments monitoring stratospheric ozone generally measure the decrease in intensity in UV solar radiation due to ozone absorption. The total ozone mapping spectrometer on the Earth probe satellite (TOMS/EP) scans back and forth beneath the satellite to detect six individual frequencies of UV light that are scattered by air molecules back through the stratosphere. The more ozone in the stratosphere, the more "backscattered" UV radiation will be absorbed compared to UV radiation directly from the sun.

Some IR open path monitors use a tunable diode laser source in the near IR. The laser emits the specific frequency at which a monitored gas absorbs, so there is no interference from other gases or particles such as rain or snow. Such lasers are widely employed in the telecommunications industry. Pollutants that absorb at specific wavelengths in this range include hydrogen fluoride, an extremely toxic gas used in the aluminum smelting and petroleum industries. Hydrogen fluoride can be monitored to one part per million (ppm) for worker safety by this method.

The greenhouse gases carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane may also be monitored by IR spectroscopy. Currently, emissions of carbon dioxide from power plants are not generally measured directly but are estimated. However, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over Mauna Loa has been measured continuously by IR spectroscopy since 1958. The Mauna Loa Observatory is located on the earth's largest active volcano on the island of Hawaii. It is relatively remote from human activity and changes in carbon dioxide concentration above it are considered a reliable indicator of the trend of carbon dioxide concentration in the troposphere. Data from Mauna Loa show a 17.4 percent increase in carbon dioxide concentration from 315.98 parts per million (ppm) by volume of dry air in 1959 to 370.9 ppm in 2001.

Remote sensors for vehicle emissions contain units that detect and measure carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and hydrocarbons by their IR spectra. Because IR absorption bands from water and other gases found in car exhaust interfere with the IR spectrum of NOx, the sensor also contains a unit that measures NOx from their UV absorption spectra.

Fourier transform IR spectroscopy (FTIR) analyzes the absorption spectrum of a gas mixture to detect as many as twenty gases simultaneously. The technique involves analyzing the spectra mathematically and then comparing the observed fingerprints with calibrated reference spectra stored on the hard drive of the computer to be used for analysis. Reference spectra for more than one hundred compounds are stored, including most of the VOCs considered hazardous by the EPA. Instruments that use UV Fourier transform analysis are now available. The instruments are generally installed at one location, but are portable and can be battery operated for short-term surveys. Multiple gas-monitoring systems are used in a variety of industries, including oil and gas, petrochemical, pulp and paper, food and beverage, public utility, municipal waste, and heavy industrial manufacturing.


Biomonitoring is the study of plants, vertebrate, and invertebrate species to detect and monitor pollution. Moss and lichens absorb heavy metals, mainly from air, and have been analyzed by scientists studying air pollution.

Water pollution can be studied by recording changes in the number and type of species present and in specific biochemical or genetic changes in individual organisms. Blue mussels accumulate metals in certain tissues over time and are monitored in the United States and international waters for changes in pollution levels. The index of biotic integrity (IBI), first developed by James Karr in 1981 to assess the health of small warmwater streams, uses fish sampling data to give a quantitative measure of pollution. Twelve indicators of stream health, appropriate to the geographical area, including the total number of fish, the diversity of species, and food chain interactions, are numerically rated with a maximum of five points each. An IBI close to sixty corresponds to a healthy stream, whereas a rating between twenty and twelve implies a considerable pollution. Versions of the IBI with appropriate indicators are used to assess rivers and streams in France, Canada, and different regions of the United States.

Bioluminescent Reporter Technology

In bioluminescent reporter technology, bacteria that break down pollutants are genetically modified to emit blue green light during the degradation process. The bacteria are embedded in a polymer porous to water and combined with a light sensor integrated with a silicon computer chip. The sensor measures the intensity of the glow to determine the amount of pollution, and that information is transmitted to a central computer.

Bioluminescent reporter technology is still being studied by researchers, but is currently employed in some wastewater treatment plants in the United Kingdom. Incoming wastewater is monitored for chemicals that inhibit the bacterial activity necessary for efficient wastewater treatment. The incoming water is automatically sampled and mixed with freeze-dried luminescent bacteria from the treatment plant. A reduction in light intensity compared to a control with pure water indicates the chemical inhibition of wastewater microorganisms. This technology is also being used to identify petroleum pollutants, such as napthelene.

Sidescan Sonar

Sidescan sonar instruments bounce sound off surfaces both vertically and at an angle to produce images of sea and riverbeds. Because PCBs tend to stick preferentially to organic matter, there is a greater possibility of finding them in small-grain aquatic sediments, since these contain more organic material. The EPA has analyzed sound reflection patterns from sidescan sonar data to identify areas of small grain size and selectively sample for PCBs in the Hudson River, New York. Sidescan sonars are also used to detect sea grass, an indicator of marine health, and sewage or oil leaks from underwater pipelines.


Once a potentially harmful pollutant is measured in trace amounts, then regulators, such as the EPA, have to decide on a safe limit. Risk analysis is the method used to set limits on harmful pollutants in the United States. Risk is calculated based on laboratory tests, sometimes on animals, and epidemiological studies that relate human health to exposure.

Risk analysis is conducted for individual pollutants, but people can be exposed to multiple pollutants simultaneously, such as pesticides, heavy metals, dioxins, and PCBs. Even though a person's exposure to individual chemicals may fall within regulated limits, the pollutants may interact to cause as yet unknown adverse health effects. It is known, for instance, that exposure to both asbestos and tobacco smoke geometrically increases the risk of cancer. Because there are so many potentially harmful chemicals in the environment scientists cannot predict all their possible interactions and consequent health effects on the body.

see also Air Pollution; Arsenic; Dioxin; Greenhouse Gases; Heavy Metals; Lead; Mercury; Ozone; PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls); Pesticides; Risk; Vehicular Pollution; VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds); Water Treatment.


Csuros, Maria. (1997). Environmental Sampling and Analysis Lab Manual. Boca Raton, FL: Lewis Publishers.

Manahan, Staley E. (2001). Fundamentals of Environmental Chemistry, 2nd edition. Boca Raton, FL: Lewis Publishers.

Schnelle, Kard B., Jr., and Brown, Charles A. (2002). Air Pollution Control Technology Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

internet resources

Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center Web site. "Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Record from Mauna Loa." Available from

Goddard Space Flight Center Web site. "Ozone Measurements, TOMS on Earth Probe Satellite." Available from

University of Tennessee. Center for Environmental Biotechnology Web site. "Bioreporter Research Projects." Available from

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water. "Approved Methods for Inorganic Chemicals and Other Parameters." Available from

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Technology Transfer Network Emissions Measurement Center. "CFR Promulgated Test Methods." Available from

U.S. Geological Survey. National Environmental Methods Index Web site. Available from

Patricia Hemminger

When New Jersey inventors John Mooney and Carl Keith invented the three-way catalytic converter in 1974, the Wall Street Journal called it a $20 million mistake. Industry estimates today credit the catalytic converter with preventing fifty million tons of carbon monoxide and fifty million tons each of hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides from polluting the air worldwide. In addition, the use of catalytic converters required that lead be removed from gasoline.

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The term science (in Latin scientia, in Greek epistēmē ) means knowledge. In philosophy it refers strictly to proven ideas, to the exclusion of hypotheses or speculations. Until the twentieth century, proof remained mysterious, but what it achieves has been clear since antiquity: certainty, truth unshakable by criticism or doubt. In the nineteenth century Newtonian mechanics was admitted as scientific in this strict sense, and its overthrow was an earthquake. Scholars now agree that certitude is limited to logic and mathematics. Thus scientists have shifted their efforts toward securing for science a surrogate certainty usually probability.

This shift raises many new questions, thus far unstudied. For example, is Isaac Newtons theory still scientific? In 1962 the historian of science Thomas S. Kuhn spoke of pre-science and of petrified science. Which defunct theory should remain in the up-to-date science textbook? Kuhn suggested that it should present only the latest ideas. Which ones? If not proof, what makes an idea scientific? This is one version of the problem of the demarcation of science (as sets of statements) in disregard for other aspects of the scientific enterprise and its context intellectual, educational, sociopolitical, and so on. Another possible point of departure is the social dimension of science. In the early seventeenth century the English philosopher Francis Bacon said that the advancement of science would improve the human condition, so investing efforts in scientific research would be the most efficient way to spend ones spare time. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, the early-nineteenth-century German philosopher, noted that the invention of gunpowder made city walls useless and so altered the political landscape. The German political philosopher Karl Marx in the nineteenth century equated science with technology ( grosso modo ) and declared all social and political changes as due to technological progress. Following on Marx, in 1939 the English physicist J. D. Bernal made the dubious claim that medieval science was superior to ancient science. In 1964 the Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser rejected many of Marxs sweeping generalizations but still declared the humanities mostly errors that express bourgeois ideology; he contrasted this ideology with science proper, which includes both the exact sciences and revolutionary dialectical materialism as he understood it. He did not trouble himself to demarcate these fields sufficiently to invite detailed discussions as to whether a certain theory, say, in physics or in economics, is or is not scientific. In 1919decades before Althusserthe American economist Thorstein Veblen studied the nature of science in an effort to examine the validity of claims for the scientific status of diverse economic theories, including that of Marx. He demarcated science historically, by reference to the scientific ethos that, he said, these theories represent; this ethos is often called humanism, the same ethos that Althusser later dismissed as bourgeois. Veblen also drew attention to the wealth of empirical finds and role of theories as explanatory (as opposed to classificatory).

Twentieth-century social science developed ideas about specific aspects of society, including prestige social prestige, the prestige of ideas, and the prestige of scientific ideas. (Prestige is enhanced by power over life; thus nuclear physics is most prestigious.) The concept of science must include the gathering of some sort of empirical information and the search for some interconnections between that information and certain ideas. Science then appears to involve intellectual activities of some sort. Already four centuries ago Bacon deemed science the outcome of the indiscriminate collection of factual information and its use as a solid foundation on which to construct truly scientific ideas. His view, perhaps modified, prevails as the myth of science. (Being a myth proper, it is used at times in its original variant and at other times in modification.) The problem of demarcation then becomes: What do I know, and how can I show that I truly know it? This approach puts science in a psychological context, raising the question, as suggested by the twentieth-century philosopher of science Karl Popper: Is the psychology used to characterize science scientific? Science is also a publicly available fund of knowledge; the traditional view of it as psychological leads to the view (characteristic of the approaches known as reductionism and psychologism) of everything social as inherently psychological.

If science can be viewed as psychological, so too can mathematics, as suggested by Bacon and the nineteenth-century English philosopher and economist John Stuart Mill. The refutation of this notion led to the revolutionary shift of the view of knowledge from psychology to sociologyfrom my knowledge to oursopening the way for the study of the enterprise of science, its prestige, and the social class of its practitioners. This in turn opens interesting secondary questions: Are the teaching of science and the administration of science scientific? (Is the dean of the faculty of science a scientist?) Is all science-based technology scientific? The sociology of science, a young discipline hatched in the early twentieth century, has not yet reached these questions. Such questions pose a difficulty: Science is international, but science-based professions are not. (Compare Japanese science with Japanese technology.) Come to think of it, how international is science? (Is establishing some lingua franca for science advisable?)

Here is a general dispute about all human studies: Existentialists and postmodernists want them to be utterly context dependent, case by case; positivists and analysts want them utterly context free. Seeking a middle ground in sociological laws to set limits on fragmentation, one may view social institutions as generalizations that determine the extent of context dependence. Money is one such institution. Rather than speak separately of the interests of every economic agent, we speak of their profit motive, which, as Georg Simmel argued in 1900, is an intermediary. This role of money makes it important and explains the success of the economic theory that eliminates it from its equations (by replacing prices with relative prices). The trouble is, while waiting for sociology to develop, how should social scientists proceed? They can make use of trivial sociology that at times is powerful. The suitable general concept here is that of games or science regulated by recognized rules (usually institutionalized). Games need not be problematic unless placed under the artificial limitations imposed in game theory, and as in the case of war games, they need not always be frivolous. As to the triviality of the sociology of games, it is advantageous: It stops the question-begging nature of the theory of science from becoming a nuisance. Thus the rules of the game are negotiable. The game of science then might, but need not, exclude science administration, science education, (science-based) technology, and more. Also the rules may be flexible. All this is a secondary issue, as it obviously should be, as long as science remains chiefly the search for ideas and information of a certain kind. The problem of demarcation now reappears: Which kind? Any kind we want.

As this view of science allows excessive freedom, it also invites instituting limitationsto some function, to some tradition, or to some existing paradigms. Paradigms can be ideas (Newton on gravity), preferred ideas (Einstein), institutions (the Royal Society of London, the local medical school, the patent office), traditions, perhaps ways of life. Approaches to problems via paradigms are limited: Taken too seriously, they prove troublesome as too much may depend on an innocent arbitrary choice. The paradigm of this trouble concerns choices of words resting on the view that the commonness of usage is its only justification. We do not want all usage justified, because we want language to function as a useful means for communication.

What then is the function of science? Among several functions, its most conspicuous is explanation, discovery, invention, better living. Jumping a few steps ahead, one can say that its chief function is the search for true explanations (as suggested by Newton, Einstein, and Popper). Its other functions are peripheral. Assuming this to be the case, one can view science as primarily but not solely the enterprise of approaching true explanations of increasing funds of publicly available information.

This is lovely but full of holes. How do we learn from experience? In what way are scientific theories empirical? Popper broke new ground when he said that theories are empirical when they exclude certain observations and to the extent that they do so. Testing them is, then, the search for these observations; the function of testing theories is to refute them so as to usher in their successors. Applying such a test to the theories of Marx and Sigmund Freud, Popper proved them nonempirical. This approach depends on the exact wording of theories, which may become testable by the enrichment of their contents. Popper later tried to square the two ideas: that the empirical is the refutable and that the aim of theorizing is the approximation of the truth (Einstein). The success of his attempt is under debate.

Robert K. Merton approached matters more historically. In 1938, in the wake of Max Weber, the German sociologist of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, Merton identified the scientific revolution with the establishment of the Royal Society of London and the motive for it as Protestantism. He then developed a quasi-Weberian model of science, resting on the theory of science of William Whewell (1840, 1858). Mertons views earned much fame and much criticism. The criticism is at times valid, as Whewells view is outdated, and at times based on trivial evidence that he idealized science (which he frankly admitted), both in the sense of presenting it at its best and in the sense that Weber recommended the developing of an ideal type. Reports on poor examples of laboratory life as if they were representative appeared as alleged refutations of his views, although fraud is hard to eradicate anywhere.

The presentation of science by Michael Polanyi (1958, 1966) is the most intriguing, even though he played down the rationality of science. He compared the sociology of science to that of the arts and deemed both artistic and scientific training as the tacit transmission of ways of life in workshops by way of personal example. Polanyis view is insightful and beneficial, although it overstresses tradition as endorsement while slighting the traditional encouragement of criticism and of independence (as suggested by Popper). Polanyi was in error when he ignored efforts to render the tacit explicit and open the results to criticism.

Polanyis views were further developed by Kuhn, who wished to extend the instruction of leaders beyond their immediate personal example limited to their workshops. Their products can travel and serve as substitutes for personal examples. These become chief examples or, in Greek, paradigms. A science is mature, he said, as it gains a ruling paradigm. This notion appealed to those who wanted their products to serve as paradigms, especially in social studies, where the craving for status is strong. Kuhn later admitted that a territory can be divided between paradigms. He also admitted that identifying a paradigm is difficult. This difficulty should not trouble followers of Polanyi, but it does bother followers of Kuhn, as he declared paradigms obligatory. Kuhns approach runs contrary to the view of Merton about the liberalism of science. Kuhn also declared his theory applicable only to the study of nature, not of society.

How do the studies of nature and society differ? Any discussion of this question has to be in accord with one view of science or another. One may of course go to and fro, using the best view of science to differentiate natural and social science and then taking the best differentiation one has to try to learn what it says about science. One thing is certain: Social sciences have a more important role to play in the discussion of science than was heretofore believed.

SEE ALSO Althusser, Louis,; Existentialism; Freud, Sigmund; Ideology; Knowledge; Marx, Karl; Merton, Robert K; Mill, John Stuart; Paradigm; Philosophy of Science; Popper, Karl; Postmodernism; Revolutions, Scientific; Scientific Method; Scientism; Social Science; Sociology, Knowledge in; Veblen, Thorstein


Agassi, Joseph. 1981. Sociologism in Philosophy of Science. In Science and Society: Studies in the Sociology of Science, 85103. Hingham, MA: Kluwer Boston.

Althusser, Louis. 1964. Marxisme et humanisme. Cahiers de lInstitut de Science Économique Appliquée 20: 109133.

Althusser, Louis. 1996. Marxism and Humanism. In For Marx. Trans. Ben Brewster, 219241. London: Verso, 1996.

Bacon, Francis. [1620] 2000. Novum Organum [The new organon], eds. Lisa Jardine and Michael Silverthorne. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press.

Bernal, J. D. 1939. The Social Function of Science. London: Routledge.

Carnap, Rudolf, and Richard C. Jeffrey, eds. 19711980. Studies in Inductive Logic and Probability. 2 vols. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Einstein, Albert. 1994. Ideas and Opinions. New York: Modern Library.

Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. [1837] 2004. The Philosophy of History. Trans. J. Sibree. University of Idaho, Department of Philosophy.

Kuhn, Thomas S. 1962. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Latour, Bruno, and Steve Woolgar. 1986. Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts. Foreword by Jonas Salk. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Levi, Isaac. 1986. Hard Choices: Decision Making under Unresolved Conflict. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press.

Merton, Robert K. [1938] 2001. Science, Technology, and Society in Seventeenth-Century England. New York: Howard Fertig.

Merton, Robert K. 1965. On the Shoulders of Giants. New York: Free Press.

Notturno, Mark A. 1985. Objectivity, Rationality and the Third Realm: Justification and the Grounds of Psychologism: A Study of Frege and Popper. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Polanyi, Michael. 1958. Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Polanyi, Michael. 1966. The Tacit Dimension. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

Popper, Karl R. 1945. The Open Society and Its Enemies. London: Routledge.

Popper, Karl R. 1959. The Logic of Scientific Discovery. New York: Basic Books.

Popper, Karl R. 1972. Knowledge without the Knowing Subject. In Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach, 106152. Oxford: Clarendon.

Russell, Bertrand. 1931. The Scientific Outlook. New York: Norton.

Russell, Bertrand. 1948. Human Knowledge, Its Scope and Limits. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Simmel, Georg. [1900] 2004. The Philosophy of Money, ed. David Frisby. Trans. Tom Bottomore and David Frisby. 3rd ed. London and New York: Routledge.

Veblen, Thorstein. [1919] 1990. The Place of Science in Modern Civilization and Other Essays. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

Wettersten, John R. 1995. Preliminary Report on Efforts of Psychologism to Gain Influence in Proper Epistemological, Methodological, and Psychological Societies. In Critical Rationalism: Essays for Joseph Agassi, eds. I. C. Jarvie and Nathaniel Laor. Vol. 2. Dordrecht, Netherlands, and Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Whewell, William. 1858. Novum Organum Renovatum. London: John W. Parker.

Whewell, William. 1967. The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, Founded upon Their History. 2 vols. New York and London: Johnson Reprint Corporation.

Joseph Agassi

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sci·ence / ˈsīəns/ • n. the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment: the world of science and technology. ∎  a particular area of this: veterinary science. ∎  a systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular subject: the science of criminology. ORIGIN: Middle English (denoting knowledge): from Old French, from Latin scientia, from scire ‘know.’

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science knowledge, esp. of a technical kind. XIV. — OF. — L. scientia, f. scient-, prp. stem of scīre know; see -ENCE.
So scientific concerned with science or the sciences XVI; (of proof, etc.) demonstrative XVII; pert. to science XVIII. — (O)F. scientifique or late L. scientificus. Hence scientist XIX.

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This entry includes two subentries:

East Asia

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scienceabeyance, conveyance, purveyance •creance • ambience •irradiance, radiance •expedience, obedience •audience •dalliance, mésalliance •salience •consilience, resilience •emollience • ebullience •convenience, lenience, provenience •impercipience, incipience, percipience •variance • experience •luxuriance, prurience •nescience • omniscience •insouciance • deviance •subservience • transience •alliance, appliance, compliance, defiance, misalliance, neuroscience, reliance, science •allowance •annoyance, clairvoyance, flamboyance •fluence, pursuance •perpetuance • affluence • effluence •mellifluence • confluence •congruence • issuance • continuance •disturbance •attendance, dependence, interdependence, resplendence, superintendence, tendance, transcendence •cadence •antecedence, credence, impedance •riddance • diffidence • confidence •accidence • precedence • dissidence •coincidence, incidence •evidence •improvidence, providence •residence •abidance, guidance, misguidance, subsidence •correspondence, despondence •accordance, concordance, discordance •avoidance, voidance •imprudence, jurisprudence, prudence •impudence • abundance • elegance •arrogance • extravagance •allegiance • indigence •counter-intelligence, intelligence •negligence • diligence • intransigence •exigence •divulgence, effulgence, indulgence, refulgence •convergence, divergence, emergence, insurgence, resurgence, submergence •significance •balance, counterbalance, imbalance, outbalance, valance •parlance • repellence • semblance •bivalence, covalence, surveillance, valence •sibilance • jubilance • vigilance •pestilence • silence • condolence •virulence • ambulance • crapulence •flatulence • feculence • petulance •opulence • fraudulence • corpulence •succulence, truculence •turbulence • violence • redolence •indolence • somnolence • excellence •insolence • nonchalance •benevolence, malevolence •ambivalence, equivalence •Clemence • vehemence •conformance, outperformance, performance •adamance • penance • ordinance •eminence • imminence •dominance, prominence •abstinence • maintenance •continence • countenance •sustenance •appurtenance, impertinence, pertinence •provenance • ordnance • repugnance •ordonnance • immanence •impermanence, permanence •assonance • dissonance • consonance •governance • resonance • threepence •halfpence • sixpence •comeuppance, tuppence, twopence •clarence, transparence •aberrance, deterrence, inherence, Terence •remembrance • entrance •Behrens, forbearance •fragrance • hindrance • recalcitrance •abhorrence, Florence, Lawrence, Lorentz •monstrance •concurrence, co-occurrence, occurrence, recurrence •encumbrance •adherence, appearance, clearance, coherence, interference, perseverance •assurance, durance, endurance, insurance •exuberance, protuberance •preponderance • transference •deference, preference, reference •difference • inference • conference •sufferance • circumference •belligerence • tolerance • ignorance •temperance • utterance • furtherance •irreverence, reverence, severance •deliverance • renascence • absence •acquiescence, adolescence, arborescence, coalescence, convalescence, deliquescence, effervescence, essence, evanescence, excrescence, florescence, fluorescence, incandescence, iridescence, juvenescence, luminescence, obsolescence, opalescence, phosphorescence, pubescence, putrescence, quiescence, quintessence, tumescence •obeisance, Renaissance •puissance •impuissance, reminiscence •beneficence, maleficence •magnificence, munificence •reconnaissance • concupiscence •reticence •licence, license •nonsense •nuisance, translucence •innocence • conversance • sentience •impatience, patience •conscience •repentance, sentence •acceptance • acquaintance •acquittance, admittance, intermittence, pittance, quittance, remittance •assistance, coexistence, consistence, distance, existence, insistence, outdistance, persistence, resistance, subsistence •instance • exorbitance •concomitance •impenitence, penitence •appetence •competence, omnicompetence •inheritance • capacitance • hesitance •Constance • importance • potence •conductance, inductance, reluctance •substance • circumstance •omnipotence • impotence •inadvertence • grievance •irrelevance, relevance •connivance, contrivance •observance • sequence • consequence •subsequence • eloquence •grandiloquence, magniloquence •brilliance • poignance •omnipresence, pleasance, presence •complaisance • malfeasance •incognizance, recognizance •usance • recusance

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