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Science in the 20th Century and Beyond (PHSS - Polity History of Science series) [Hardcover]

Jon Agar
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
RRP: 30.00
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Book Description

2 Mar 2012 PHSS - Polity History of Science series
A compelling history of science from 1900 to the present day, this is the first book to survey modern developments in science during a century of unprecedented change, conflict and uncertainty. The scope is global. Science′s claim to access universal truths about the natural world made it an irresistible resource for industrial empires, ideological programs, and environmental campaigners during this period. Science has been at the heart of twentieth century history – from Einstein′s new physics to the Manhattan Project, from eugenics to the Human Genome Project, or from the wonders of penicillin to the promises of biotechnology. For some science would only thrive if autonomous and kept separate from the political world, while for others science was the best guide to a planned and better future. Science was both a routine, if essential, part of an orderly society, and the disruptive source of bewildering transformation. Jon Agar draws on a wave of recent scholarship that explores science from interdisciplinary perspectives to offer a readable synthesis that will be ideal for anyone curious about the profound place of science in the modern world.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Polity Press (2 Mar 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745634699
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745634692
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 16.1 x 5.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 606,993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

Winner of the Choice award for Outstanding Academic Title "Agar has abstracted and made manageable a range of rich and informed analysis. Anyone who thinks seriously about science will find it a very useful source." The Economist "Global in scope and fresh in approach, this monumental history lays out the evolution of science during a tumultuous century." Nature "Truly extraordinary in its depth and breadth, it makes significant contributions to the history of science and more broadly to our understanding of twentieth–century history. It is also remarkable in that, while written primarily with a scholarly audience in mind, it′s nevertheless accessible and of interest to a wider audience, and an excellent advertisement for the discipline." British Society for the History of Science "Judging by the majestic scope of Jon Agar’s new volume, we still have fertile big–picture approaches to guide us through the untidily evolving and multiplying plurality of the natural sciences. Generations of students might take great pride in critiquing the book, just as scholars have done for fifty years with Kuhn’s (in)famously challenging The Structure of Scientific Revolutions ." Reviews in History "Agar′s approach focuses on the relationship of science to external ideas and practices, thus tying it more tightly to broader histories; it also emphasises patterns of discovery over the individual flashes of insight. Both are useful correctives, and scientists, historians and those who aspire to be either will all benefit from them." Prospect – picked for ′What to read this summer′ "A masterful, yet eminently readable, synthesis, which is unquestionably an essential addition to the library of historians of science. I suggest it would also be of wider relevance to teachers of A–level science, giving us a little of the breadth occasionally." School Science Review "All technology has its genesis, but everyone seems to have been too busy to synthesise the elements and tell the full story. Jon Agar has set this to rights with this book, which will interest the scholar, the historian and the enquiring mind of any discipline." Network Computing "A synthetic history of a subject as big, broad and diverse as twentieth–century science is a major achievement. But Agar has given us something more than that: his book is an innovative model of how one might think about scientific practices at temporal and institutional scales much larger than those to which modern historical writing has become accustomed." Steven Shapin, Harvard University, and author of The Scientific Life: A Moral History of a Late Modern Vocation "Science in the Twentieth Century and Beyond is the book historians of modern science have been waiting for. It offers an ambitious yet masterly synthesis of the vast historical literature on twentieth–century and contemporary science. Through the concept of the ′working worlds′ of science, it provides a unified and compelling analytical framework within which to interpret and illuminate this ever expanding literature and the development of the sciences from 1900 to the present. Jon Agar is a sure–footed and informative guide over this complex terrain; what results is a clear and comprehensive work of breadth and vision that few other scholars could have produced. Superbly crafted, elegantly written, inventive and thought–provoking, the book makes an absolutely invaluable contribution to the history of science. It will be indispensable to anyone who teaches, researches or is just interested in the history of modern science and the contemporary world." Jeff Hughes, University of Manchester "A fine chronological survey of the multiple worlds in which scientists worked in the twentieth century, responding to their demands by seeking to understand, to manipulate and to transform them." John Krige, Georgia Institute of Technology "A tour–de–force, covering a period of over a hundred years in which the growth of science has been exponential, and astonishing in its coverage of the various branches of science and their inosculations. There is no other book with the same range, and command of material and recent scholarship." David Knight, Durham University

From the Back Cover

A compelling history of science from 1900 to the present day, this is the first book to survey modern developments in science during a century of unprecedented change, conflict and uncertainty. The scope is global. Science′s claim to access universal truths about the natural world made it an irresistible resource for industrial empires, ideological programs, and environmental campaigners during this period. Science has been at the heart of twentieth century history – from Einstein′s new physics to the Manhattan Project, from eugenics to the Human Genome Project, or from the wonders of penicillin to the promises of biotechnology. For some science would only thrive if autonomous and kept separate from the political world, while for others science was the best guide to a planned and better future. Science was both a routine, if essential, part of an orderly society, and the disruptive source of bewildering transformation. Jon Agar draws on a wave of recent scholarship that explores science from interdisciplinary perspectives to offer a readable synthesis that will be ideal for anyone curious about the profound place of science in the modern world. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful synthesis. Sweeping coverage 10 Feb 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
What's the big picture for history of science and technology in the 20thC? Many surveys simply list events descriptively in long chains. Agar works to build a synthesis. Along the way he develops a general model for "working worlds" as a new way to think organise our thinking about the work. Good international coverage. Also good balance of technical, biographical, and wider context.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Really nice 18 Aug 2012
By L. E. Cooper VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
IMy Husband is really into this subject and was very pleased to get it. He said it was a very good over view of a very complex subject and it lacked pictures but overall a very inciteful and enjoyable book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good intro to a dull subject 13 Aug 2012
By Lego Man TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book bravely tackles what I usually find a dull subject. The
history of science is no doubt important but seeing as science is
largely 'cutting edge' I have always found it less than interesting.
Thankfully Jon Agar manages to make this task bearable by keeping a
respectful balance of science and biography combined with a very
readable writing style. All in all it gives a thorough overview of the
role that science has played throughout the 20th century - essentially
it does what it says on the cover!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Taking apart science for inspection 27 April 2012
By Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Not a book to be digested, from a-z, as it carries a large intellectual weight and needs to be reflected upon. This incorporates a big sweep, as it takes apart the mechanical worlds of science, to inspect its inner workings. Science is perceived as a successful belief system, that over turned religion whilst taking many of its basic concepts and then reforming them. Science rests upon belief and adherents.

Faith in a higher realm becomes recast into becoming value free. The first lesson a scientist undergoes is to learn to lie to (him) self before he lies with consistency to others. The magic conjuring trick of becoming value free is something both Nietzsche and Feyerabend dissected as ultimately a charade. To become value free needs a yard stick to measure this slight of hand by and the faithful with their slack jaws and rolling eyes provide it. After all if you have invested your life in this belief system you would not want the boat to rock, would you?

Science only regualtes itself, according to its own faith systems, hence its similarity to religion, replete with zealots, prosletisers and the ever faithful flock.

The chapter on National Socialist science is the first one I read, knowing something but not being an expert. There are considerable insights revealed within this book, as the National Socialists wedded their crumbling ideology to rational science, whilst also attempting to cleave away anything that connected their version of science to Einstein.

Far from being scientific negators, National Socialism was a creed which based itself on the science of eugenics to create a mystical notion of volk.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Overview of a Very Large Subject. 17 May 2012
By Bruce TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a very large and imposing book - over 500 pages of densely-packed information. But it is comprehensive and interesting, even if the subject and the text-only presentation might seem dry to some.

Although the 20th Century has seen massive and rapid growth in science, there will be periods within this book that are more interesting to some people than others. Some for example, might find the war years "exciting" as a period of rapid arms development and the bizarre experiments of the Nazis in their desparation to find an advantage. But the book is well organised into 20 chapters with clear indexes, which enable you to look up any particular aspects, so it is something that you can dip into and it's not essential to follow through sequentially.

Jon Agar's big idea is that after the 19th Century, Science became dominated by "working worlds" and these are what drove progress in these fields. In previous centuries, there may have been individuals who advanced our knowledge through experimentation, out of curiosity, or a personal interest. By the 20th Century though, Agar argues that Science was solving the problems of "work" - how do we make our working lives more efficient, safer - how do we communicate, how do we win wars etc. ?

This may seem an obvious point, but it allows the book to be divided up into these "working worlds" of transport, power and lighting,communication,agriculture, computers, the armed forces etc. This makes the book less daunting and allows you to look at aspects that interest you and also to make sense of what has become a very large subject. If you are not that interested in advances in medicine for example, but are fascinated by Quantum theory, then it is possible to pick and choose easily.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of research and communication 17 May 2012
By Mr. Richard Pearn TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Science in the 20th Century and Beyond (PHSS - Polity History of Science series) (Hardcover)

Overview

This is an amazing book as it succeeds in what it set out to do, cover the achievements of all branches of science in one volume. Jon Agar has done a splendid job and the book encompasses everything that has happened in science in the twentieth century. It is a one stop reference for scientists or a really good read about the developments in science for everyone else, it's a book I will use over and over again.

The books scope

The book can be used as a 'story of twentieth century science' or as a reference book to find out who did what and when. It works well on both levels. The language used is quite formal but everything is explained well so that people without science backgrounds can get into the book with perhaps a little work. I do have a science background but really enjoyed reading this book and I did learn lots of new facts and had many new insights into the work and lives of many scientists.

Research

This book has been researched in depth and I could not find anything missing at my level (a university lecturer in science). The references and index in the book are very comprehensive and the book opens doors to anyone who wants to find out more. Every quote is referenced in the text so it is easy to get to the papers read in the research. This is where, for me anyway, the book scores very highly as it can take you right to the source and depth of the material.

Structure

The book is well structured and covers maths, physics, chemistry, biology and computing and at the same time brings in specialisations within each branch, for example quantum physics and microbiology.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A milestone on a long journey of human understanding
The photo of a nuclear blast on the cover gives a clue that Jon Agar believes warfare to be a major factor in shaping the scientific world that we know today. Read more
Published 14 months ago by M. Williams
4.0 out of 5 stars A good reference book
This is an excellent read, full of excellent information, covering all aspects of 20th century science. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Matthew H
4.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly and educational if a little reserved
First, I'd like to ask if there's any kind of badge or medal given to a person who has read this hefty tome from cover to cover? Read more
Published 19 months ago by bomble
2.0 out of 5 stars Unfortunately not my type of text - a contrary view
I'm obviously going against the grain here noting that so far all reviews bar one have been four or five stars. So let me explain. Read more
Published 19 months ago by John M
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent - and one for all the curious
Love this book. Sometimes books which break up their information into segments have a habit of being underwhelming, something and nothing. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Mr. Steve Jansen
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and compelling
This is a very interesting book and the case Agar makes about the working worlds and science's interdependence is well made. Read more
Published 21 months ago by J. R. Atkinson
4.0 out of 5 stars Heavyweight book that goes beyond the surface
This is a big heavy reference book, of the kind I used to drag home from the school library for a science project or homework. Read more
Published 21 months ago by A.M.Boughey
4.0 out of 5 stars More than a reference book, less than a hearty science read
This is an enormous science reference book documenting scientific process, advancement, theory, political placement and activity from the year 1900 onwards. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Rosey Lea
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended!
Well this is a weighty tome! However, given the subject of the book is science in the twentieth century and beyond it is not surprising that it has many pages and makes a good... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Another Weasley
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb
At first sight, this book's 500 pages might be off-putting.

However, the subject, part history of science, with a bit of looking to the future, appeals an dis... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Mr. K. P. Rogers
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