Is There A Difference Between Science And Technological History?
Depends on who and how you ask...again
Click on https://www.jdbcom.com for the Substack archive.
Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.
This is a bit tricky because technological history is poorly defined, frankly. I believe that this is because, in part, “technology” is a very abused concept, and has been since the 1980s. What makes it worse is that there are several definitions.
The application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry. Oxford, Sense 1.
A capability given by the practical application of knowledge. Merriam-Webster, Sense 1b.
Methods, systems, and devices which result from scientific knowledge being used for practical purposes. Collins.
Then there’s science, and again, there’s disagreement about how to define it.
The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. Oxford, Sense 1.
Knowledge about the natural world that is based on facts learned through experiments and observation. Merriam-Webster, Sense 1.
The study of the nature and behavior of natural things and the knowledge obtained about them. Collins.
The Collins definition belies the idea of any science applied to technology, but there’s an extensive field of science called “archaeology” that unearths artefacts made by humans—nothing natural about that.
The historians and the scientists split over that field.
There’s generally four kinds or practices of science:
The fourth is controversial, but I’m counting it, anyway. All of our definitions seem to point to technology being the product of applied science. We can look at it that way, but… in the Merriam-Webster definition, there’s no science to it. This points to the philosophy that says it isn’t stupid if it works dosen’t require too much observation, just experimentation—called prototyping in industry.
What’s this to do with history?
Well, remember a few issues back when I talked about air brakes and the dearth of historical research on industry and manufacturing? Not that historians aren’t that interested in the development of the milling machine, but there are not a lot of trails to follow because factories and machine shops junk old and obsolete equipment or modify it to suit another purpose. Science leaves a trail of scientific papers (though many are now virtual, they’re still called “papers’) that invite other scholars to reproduce the results. Industry/technology leaves patents behind that are often protected by law from reproduction, and that have unpublished disclosures that are key to the developments, and often die with the patentee.
Science and Technological History are linked, but are not the same.
Practitioners of one often skirt into the other, and “clean” or “pure” histories in either field are not just rare, they are practically nonexistent. Shows us that the more technical branches of the history profession aren’t quite as straightforward as, oh, say, mid-19th century American military history is. Believe that and I’ve got a bridge for ya…
Class of ‘73 Update
Yes, there’s been a little activity. Website is in process, but without our favorite hangout, it’s not so simple putting a location to our activities… and there're that class gift we need to come up with. I finally heard from the school about the class gift (they’re very shorthanded).
Does anyone have any good ideas for that?
Standby for more updates as I get ‘em…
The Safe Tree: Friendship Triumphs
The Safe Tree is the end of the Stella’s Game Trilogy, but it has nothing to do with the difference between science and technology.
Four friends trying their best to stay in touch, to stay together, to stay alive. They meet all these struggles in the last volume of their story, a tumultuous ride from beginning to end. Once again, let me know if you want an autographed copy.
A History of History: A Primer
The Past Of The Past: A Catalog
On 22 October:
1879: Thomas Edison perfected his carbonized cotton filament lightbulb in Menlo, New Jersey. It was the culmination of a long series of tests of several materials that were successful but expensive. Edison sought to bring down the cost of his illuminators so that distributed electricity—from his generators—would pay for itself. His innovation was the key to electrical distribution worldwide.
1938: Chester Carlson finally got his electrophotography/xerographic process to work in his Queens, New York apartment. The first image was just the date and the word “Astoria,” but it took about ten minutes and five different actions to create. Today, we push a button on our Xerox machine and…
And today is NATIONAL MAKE A DOG’S DAY. All you really need to do is scratch a belly and some ears and you’re there.