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Technical Knowledge in American Culture

Science, Technology, and Medicine Since the Early 1800s

Edited by Hamilton Cravens, David M. Katzman and Alan I Marcus

Publication Year: 1996

Technical Knowledge in American Culture addresses the relationships between what modern-day experts say to each other and to their constituencies and whether what they say and do relates to the larger culture, society, and era. These essays challenge the social impact model by looking at science, technology, and medicine not as social activities but as intellectual activities.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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pp. vii-viii


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p. ix

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Introduction. Technical Knowledge in American Culture: An Analysis

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pp. 1-18

Science, medicine, technology. These activities conjure up various images for students of American culture. In our own time they seem related to society and culture as problem and solution, as threats to the social fabric and remedies for it. Technical knowledge appears crucial to modern life, whether it is medical, scientific, or technological in character...


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1. The Ohio Mechanic's Institute: The Challenge of Incivility in the Democratic Republic

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pp. 21-36

The first several articles in this volume clearly identify dominant cultural notions of the early to middle nineteenth century-the rise of democratic culture, that is—and relate them to technical knowledge—to science, technology, and medicine. ...

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2. The American Career of Jane Marcet's Conversations on Chemistry, 1806-1853

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pp. 37-52

The American Revolution's consequences, ideological and otherwise, were to resonate through American culture and society for decades to come. Although historians still argue over whether its character was democratic or not, it did have large consequences that did much to undermine the hierarchical culture and society of the colonial era, as in the movement toward...

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3. From Individual Practitioner to Regular Physician: Cincinnati Medical Societies and the Problem of Definition among Mid-Nineteenth-Century Americans

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pp. 53-70

How the larger culture helps shape both technical knowledge and the technicians' notions of their own identity is suggested in Alan I Marcus's essay on the shift from individual practitioner to regular physician in mid-nineteenth-century Cincinnati. ...


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4. Diagnosing Unnatural Motherhood: Nineteenth-Century Physicians and "Puerperal Insanity"

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pp. 73-90

In her discussion of puerperal insanity, Nancy Theriot provides a rich and satisfying analysis of the interrelatedness of larger cultural notions and technical knowledge. As Marcus has given us a powerful portrait of the shift of U.S. culture from the age of individualism to the age of the group, so Theriot's discussion of this important yet baffling affliction demonstrates...

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5. The Inventor of the Mustache Cup: James Emerson and Populist Technology, 1870-1900

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pp. 91-109

Theriot's essay, itself a sophisticated contribution to its own field of interest, serves also as a bridge to the age of hierarchy in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In his suggestive essay about James Emerson, Edwin T. Layton has revealed the notions and actions of a vanquished faction of inventors in one of the age's most terrific cultural struggles, between...

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6. Race-ism and the City: The Young Du Bois and the Role of Place in Social Theory, 1893-1901

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pp. 110-124

The role of technical knowledge in American cultural constructions such as hierarchy, centralization, and expertise figure prominently in Zane L. Miller's essay, an arresting analysis of that most formidable opponent of racial bigotry, the African-American social scientist William E. B. Du Bois. ...

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7. The German-American Science of Racial Nutrition, 1870-1920

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pp. 125-145

That the science of nutrition might ever be allied with conceptions of human racial characteristics at first seems a peculiar suggestion. Yet in his essay on the American science of racial nutrition, Hamilton Cravens makes precisely that point. Larger cultural notions—in this instance, ideas of racial differences and of the centrality of racial traits to human behavior...


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8. The Case of the Manufactured Morons: Science and Social Policy in Two Eras, 1934-1966

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pp. 149-168

Like Zane Miller, Hamilton Cravens has explored the relationships between cultural notions and social science. As Miller examined the ideas of an important turn of the century sociologist on race, here Cravens has studied a group of child psychologists in the interwar years who took positions contrary to orthodox professional opinion on the stability of the intelligence...

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9. Responding to the Airplane: Urban Rivalry, Metropolitan Regionalism, and Airport Development in Dallas, 1927-1965

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pp. 169-188

Here, in the volume's penultimate essay, Robert B. Fairbanks addresses yet another aspect of the functioning of technical knowledge in American culture: the uses that representatives of vested interests make of technical knowledge in pursuit of their own goals. Fairbanks takes up the fascinating phenomenon of airports and their relationships to urban commercial, ...

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10. Unanticipated Aftertaste: Cancer, the Role of Science, and the Question of DES Beef in Late Twentieth-Century American Culture

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pp. 189-205

In his essay, Alan I Marcus addresses a knotty problem in contemporary America: government regulation of the environment, drugs, cosmetics, and food products, in this case diethylstilbestrol (DES), a growth hormone used to promote growth in cattle. ...

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pp. 206-208

It would appear only reasonable, in a book that began with a series of methodological arguments for serious students of cultural history, to assess what the yield of the methods and approaches championed herein has been. And, although the number of possible perspectives is not infinite, nevertheless we would require far more than the limited space available here to suggest some...


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pp. 209-252


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pp. 253-255

Index [Includes Back Cover]

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pp. 257-265

E-ISBN-13: 9780817382728
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817307936

Publication Year: 1996

OCLC Number: 425966340
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Technical Knowledge in American Culture

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Subject Headings

  • Technology -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Technology -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Technology -- United States -- History.
  • Science -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Science -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Medicine -- United States -- History
  • Medicine -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Medicine -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Science -- United States -- History.
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