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Artisan/Practitioners and the Rise of the New Sciences, 1400-1600

Pamela O. Long

Publication Year: 2011

This book provides the historical background for a central issue in the history of science: the influence of artisans, craftsmen, and other practitioners on the emergent empirical methodologies that characterized the “new sciences” of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Long offers a coherent account and critical revision of the “Zilsel thesis,” an influential etiological narrative which argues that such craftsmen were instrumental in bringing about the “Scientific Revolution.”

Artisan/Practitioners reassesses the issue of artisanal influence from three different perspectives: the perceived relationships between art and nature; the Vitruvian architectural tradition with its appreciation of both theory and practice; and the development of “trading zones”—arenas in which artisans and learned men communicated in substantive ways. These complex social and intellectual developments, the book argues, underlay the development of the empirical sciences.

This volume provides new discussion and synthesis of a theory that encompasses broad developments in European history and study of the natural world. It will be a valuable resource for college-level teaching, and for scholars and others interested in the history of science, late medieval and early modern European history, and the Scientific Revolution.

Published by: Oregon State University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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List of Illustrations

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pp. x-xi

The Thomas Hart and Mary Jones Horning Endowment in the Humanities at Oregon State University was established by a bequest from Benjamin Horning (1890–1991) in memory of his parents, Mary Jones and Thomas Hart Horning, members of pioneering families of Benton County and Corvallis, Oregon. Benjamin Graham Horning graduated from what was then Oregon Agricultural College in 1914, and went on to complete a medical degree at Harvard and a ...

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pp. xii

This book came out of the public lectures that I gave as the Horning Visiting Scholar at Oregon State University in April 2010. Three of the essays in this book are a direct result of the lectures, while a fourth, on the Vitruvian tradition, is an addition. It was a great pleasure to spend the week at Oregon State to give lectures to wonderful, inquisitive audiences, to talk extensively throughout the week with faculty and graduate students in the history department and in ...

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Introduction: Artisanal Values and the Investigation of Nature

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pp. 1-9

A long-standing issue in the history of science can be framed as a question: Did artisan/practitioners influence the development of the new sciences? By the expression “artisan/practitioners,” I refer to a broadly diverse group of skilled artisans such as weavers and instrument makers; architect/engineers involved in the design and construction of buildings, bridges, and the like; and practitioners such as farmers and navigators.1 ...

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Chapter 1: Artisan/Practitioners as an Issue in the History of Science

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pp. 10-29

In the 1920s and 1930s, just as the history of science as a discipline was taking shape, a new thesis emerged concerning the influence of artisans and artisanal culture on what was termed the “scientific revolution” of the seventeenth century. A group of scholars began to discuss the ways in which the mechanical arts—that is, the arts and crafts carried out by skilled artisans—influenced the development of the mechanical ...

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Chapter 2: Art, Nature, and the Culture of Empiricism

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pp. 30-61

By the early fifteenth century fundamental cultural changes were under way that gave fabricated objects and the people who made them greater social and cultural significance. One result was that gradually the worlds of artisanal practice and the worlds of learning moved closer together. This growing proximity eventually allowed the values and practices of artisans to influence the culture of learning, including investigations of ...

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Chapter 3: Artisans, Humanists, and the De architectura of Vitruvius

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pp. 62-93

Just as the categories of art and nature came at times to be conflated or almost interchangeable from the fifteenth century, the wide divisions between workshop-trained artisans and university-educated scholar/ humanists narrowed and in some cases disappeared. Some learned men undertook practices in which they became skilled, and some artisans took up writing, tried to learn Latin, and in one way or another absorbed ...

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Chapter 4: Trading Zones, Arenas of Production and Exchange

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pp. 94-126

The study of Vitruvius’s De architectura, the investigation of ancient artifacts, and the creation of new forms in art and architecture, along with the production of writings concerning these matters, created numerous “trading zones.” The metaphor of the trading zone refers to arenas— symbolic or actual places—where people from different backgrounds ...

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Conclusion: Empirical Values in a Transitional Age

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pp. 127-131

This book has focused on the thesis that artisans influenced the methodology of the new sciences that developed from the mid-sixteenth century. Marxist scholars such as Hessen, Borkenau, Grossmann, and Zilsel, as well as non-Marxists such as Robert Merton, argued that artisans, or modes of production, or machines used by artisans exerted such influence. The opponents of the thesis, some of them influential ...


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pp. 132-165


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pp. 166-189


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pp. 190-196

E-ISBN-13: 9780870716478
E-ISBN-10: 0870716476
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870716096
Print-ISBN-10: 0870716093

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2011