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Science, Technology, and Mathematics > History of Science and Technology

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Archimedes and the Roman Imagination Cover

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Archimedes and the Roman Imagination

Mary Jaeger

The great mathematician Archimedes, a Sicilian Greek whose machines defended Syracuse against the Romans during the Second Punic War, was killed by a Roman after the city fell, yet it is largely Roman sources, and Greek texts aimed at Roman audiences, that preserve the stories about him. Archimedes' story, Mary Jaeger argues, thus becomes a locus where writers explore the intersection of Greek and Roman culture, and as such it plays an important role in Roman self-definition. Jaeger uses the biography of Archimedes as a hermeneutic tool, providing insight into the construction of the traditional historical narrative about the Roman conquest of the Greek world and the Greek cultural invasion of Rome. By breaking down the narrative of Archimedes' life and examining how the various anecdotes that comprise it are embedded in their contexts, the book offers fresh readings of passages from both well-known and less-studied authors, including Polybius, Cicero, Livy, Vitruvius, Plutarch, Silius Italicus, Valerius Maximus, Johannes Tzetzes, and Petrarch. "Jaeger, in her meticulous and elegant study of different ancient accounts of his life and inventions...reveal more about how the Romans thought about their conquest of the Greek world than about 'science'." ---Helen King, Times Literary Supplement "An absolutely wonderful book on a truly original and important topic. As Jaeger explores neglected texts that together tell an important story about the Romans' views of empire and their relationship to Greek cultural accomplishments, so she has written an important new chapter in the history of science. A genuine pleasure to read, from first page to last." ---Andrew Feldherr, Associate Professor of Classics, Princeton University "This elegantly written and convincingly argued project analyzes Archimedes as a vehicle for reception of the Classics, as a figure for loss and recovery of cultural memory, and as a metaphorical representation of the development of Roman identity. Jaeger's fastening on the still relatively obscure figure of the greatest ancient mathematician as a way of understanding cultural liminality in the ancient world is nothing short of a stroke of genius." ---Christina S. Kraus, Professor and Chair of Classics, Yale University "Archimedes and the Roman Imagination forms a useful addition to our understanding of Roman culture as well as of the reception of science in antiquity. It will make a genuine contribution to the discipline, not only in terms of its original interpretative claims but also as a fascinating example of how we may follow the cultural reception of historical figures." ---Reviel Netz, Professor of Classics, Stanford University Cover art: Benjamin West. Cicero Discovering the Tomb of Archimedes. Yale University Art Gallery. John Hill Morgan, B.A. 1893, LL.B. 1898, M.A. (Hon.) 1929, Fund.

The Artificial Ear Cover

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The Artificial Ear

Cochlear Implants and the Culture of Deafness

Stuart Blume

Part ethnography and part historical study, The Artificial Ear is based on interviews with researchers who were pivotal in the early development and implementation of the new technology necessary for cochlear implants. Through an analysis of the scientific and clinical literature, Stuart Blume reconstructs the history of artificial hearing from its conceptual origins in the 1930s, to the first attempt at cochlear implantation in Paris in the 1950s, and to the widespread clinical application of the "bionic ear" since the 1980s.

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

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

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.

Asbestos and Fire Cover

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Asbestos and Fire

Technological Tradeoffs and the Body at Risk

Rachel Maines

For much of the industrial era, asbestos was a widely acclaimed benchmark material. During its heyday, it was manufactured into nearly three thousand different products, most of which protected life and property from heat, flame, and electricity. It was used in virtually every industry from hotel keeping to military technology to chemical manufacturing, and was integral to building construction from shacks to skyscrapers in every community across the United States. Beginning in the mid-1960s, however, this once popular mineral began a rapid fall from grace as growing attention to the serious health risks associated with it began to overshadow the protections and benefits it provided.

In this thought-provoking and controversial book, Rachel Maines challenges the recent vilification of asbestos by providing a historical perspective on Americans’ changing perceptions about risk. She suggests that the very success of asbestos and other fire-prevention technologies in containing deadly blazes has led to a sort of historical amnesia about the very risks they were supposed to reduce. 

Asbestos and Fire
is not only the most thoroughly researched and balanced look at the history of asbestos, it is also an important contribution to a larger debate that considers how the risks of technological solutions should be evaluated.  As technology offers us ever-increasing opportunities to protect and prevent, Maines urges that learning to accept and effectively address the unintended consequences of technological innovations is a growing part of our collective responsibility.


Atmospheric Science at NASA Cover

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Atmospheric Science at NASA

A History

Erik M. Conway

This book offers an informed and revealing account of NASA’s involvement in the scientific understanding of the Earth’s atmosphere. Since the nineteenth century, scientists have attempted to understand the complex processes of the Earth’s atmosphere and the weather created within it. This effort has evolved with the development of new technologies—from the first instrument-equipped weather balloons to multibillion-dollar meteorological satellite and planetary science programs. Erik M. Conway chronicles the history of atmospheric science at NASA, tracing the story from its beginnings in 1958, the International Geophysical Year, through to the present, focusing on NASA’s programs and research in meteorology, stratospheric ozone depletion, and planetary climates and global warming. But the story is not only a scientific one. NASA’s researchers operated within an often politically contentious environment. Although environmental issues garnered strong public and political support in the 1970s, the following decades saw increased opposition to environmentalism as a threat to free market capitalism. Atmospheric Science at NASA critically examines this politically controversial science, dissecting the often convoluted roles, motives, and relationships of the various institutional actors involved—among them NASA, congressional appropriation committees, government weather and climate bureaus, and the military.

Auto Mechanics Cover

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Auto Mechanics

Technology and Expertise in Twentieth-Century America

Kevin L. Borg

The history of automobiles is not just the story of invention, manufacturing, and marketing; it is also a story of repair. Auto Mechanics opens the repair shop to historical study—for the first time—by tracing the emergence of a dirty, difficult, and important profession. Kevin L. Borg's study spans a century of automotive technology—from the horseless carriage of the late nineteenth century to the "check engine" light of the late twentieth. Drawing from a diverse body of source material, Borg explores how the mechanic’s occupation formed and evolved within the context of broad American fault lines of class, race, and gender and how vocational education entwined these tensions around the mechanic’s unique expertise. He further shows how aspects of the consumer rights and environmental movements, as well as the design of automotive electronics, reflected and challenged the social identity and expertise of the mechanic. In the history of the American auto mechanic, Borg finds the origins of a persistent anxiety that even today accompanies the prospect of taking one's car in for repair.

Aviation Infrastructure Performance Cover

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Aviation Infrastructure Performance

A Study in Comparative Political Economy

edited by Clifford Winston and Gines de Rus

Aviation performance is an important cog in modern globalized economies, which demand flexibility, mobility, efficiency, and dependability. Airport delays have gone from being a nuisance to being a salient public concern, drawing the ire of even the White House. In this important book, international transportation experts compare and contrast how different nations have managed their airports and air traffic control systems and how well they are meeting the needs of their people. The book's cross-national approach encompasses several different institutional arrangements, making it a timely and valuable study in comparative political economy. Among the countries studied, the United States is sometimes seen as a bastion of free markets, at the forefront of airline deregulation, but its airports and air traffic control system are publicly owned and operated. The same is true in continental Europe, for the most part. In contrast, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Canada are experimenting with privatization, while even mainland China is allowing the private sector to participate in airport ownership. Which methods work best, and under what circumstances? This book provides the answers.

Beastly Natures Cover

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Beastly Natures

Animals, Humans, and the Study of History

This volume of interdisciplinary essays on animals and cultural history boasts a stellar list of international contributors. It will be a valuable text for university courses in the fast-growing field of animal studies.

Becoming Yellow Cover

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Becoming Yellow

A Short History of Racial Thinking

Michael Keevak

In their earliest encounters with Asia, Europeans almost uniformly characterized the people of China and Japan as white. This was a means of describing their wealth and sophistication, their willingness to trade with the West, and their presumed capacity to become Christianized. But by the end of the seventeenth century the category of whiteness was reserved for Europeans only. When and how did Asians become "yellow" in the Western imagination? Looking at the history of racial thinking, Becoming Yellow explores the notion of yellowness and shows that this label originated not in early travel texts or objective descriptions, but in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century scientific discourses on race.

From the walls of an ancient Egyptian tomb, which depicted people of varying skin tones including yellow, to the phrase "yellow peril" at the beginning of the twentieth century in Europe and America, Michael Keevak follows the development of perceptions about race and human difference. He indicates that the conceptual relationship between East Asians and yellow skin did not begin in Chinese culture or Western readings of East Asian cultural symbols, but in anthropological and medical records that described variations in skin color. Eighteenth-century taxonomers such as Carl Linnaeus, as well as Victorian scientists and early anthropologists, assigned colors to all racial groups, and once East Asians were lumped with members of the Mongolian race, they began to be considered yellow.

Demonstrating how a racial distinction took root in Europe and traveled internationally, Becoming Yellow weaves together multiple narratives to tell the complex history of a problematic term.

The Beginning of Heaven and Earth Has No Name Cover

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The Beginning of Heaven and Earth Has No Name

Seven Days with Second-Order Cybernetics

Heinz von Foerster is one of the most consequential thinkers in the history of cybernetics. Von Foerster wrote nearly two hundred professional papers, gaining renown in fields from computer science and artificial intelligence to epistemology and family th

Heinz von Foerster was the inventor of second-order cybernetics, which recognizes the investigator as part of the system he is investigating. The Beginning of Heaven and Earth Has No Name provides an accessible, nonmathematical, and comprehensive overview of von Foerster’s cybernetic ideas and of the philosophy latent within them. It distills concepts scattered across the lifework of this scientific polymath and influential interdisciplinarian. At the same time, as a book-length interview, it does justice to von Foerster’s élan as a speaker and improviser, his skill as a raconteur. Developed from a week-long conversation between the editors and von Foerster near the end of his life, this work playfully engages von Foerster in developing the difference his notion of second-order cybernetics makes for topics ranging from emergence, life, order, and thermodynamics to observation, recursion, cognition, perception, memory, and communication. The book gives an English-speaking audience a new ease of access to the rich thought and generous spirit of this remarkable and protean thinker.

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