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Science and Technology in World History: An Introduction [Paperback]

Professor domenico E. bertoloni meli III , Professor Harold Dorn
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Science and Technology in World History: An Introduction Science and Technology in World History: An Introduction 5.0 out of 5 stars (2)
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Book Description

4 Mar 1999

"Science has become so identified with practical benefits that the dependence of technology on science is commonly assumed to be a timeless relationship and a single enterprise... That belief, however, is an artifact of twentieth-century cultural attitudes superimposed without warrant on the historical record." -- from Science and Technology in World History: An Introduction

In modern industrial society, the tie between science and technology seems clear, even inevitable. But historically, as James E. McClellan III and Harold Dorn remind us, the connection has been far less apparent. For much of human history, technology depended more on the innovation of skilled artisans than it did on the speculation of scientists. Technology as "applied science," the authors argue, emerged relatively recently, as industry and governments began funding scientific research that would lead directly to new or improved technologies. In Science and Technology in World History, McClellan and Dorn offer an introduction to this changing relationship.

McClellan and Dorn review the historical record beginning with the thinking and tool making of prehistoric humans. Neolithic people, for example, developed metallurgy of a sort, using naturally occurring raw copper, and kept systematic records of the moon's phases. Neolithic craftsmen possessed practical knowledge of the behavior of clay, fire, and other elements of their environment, but though they may have had explanations for the phenomena of their crafts, they toiled without any systematic science of materials or the self-conscious application of theory to practice.

McClellan and Dorn identify two great scientific traditions: the useful sciences, patronized by the state from the dawn of civilization, and scientific theorizing, initiated by the ancient Greeks. Theirs is a survey of the historical twists and turns of these traditions, leading to the science of our own day.

Without neglecting important figures of Western science such as Newton and Einstein, the authors demonstrate the great achievements of non-Western cultures. They remind us that scientific traditions took root in China, India, and Central and South America, as well as in a series of Near Eastern empires, during late antiquity and the Middle Ages, including the vast region that formed the Islamic conquest. From this comparative perspective, the authors explore the emergence of Europe as a scientific and technological power. Continuing their narrative through the Manhattan Project, NASA, and modern medical research, the authors weave the converging histories of science and technology into an integrated, perceptive, and highly readable narrative.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press (4 Mar 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801858690
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801858697
  • Product Dimensions: 25.1 x 17.6 x 2.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,072,206 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"This historical account achieves its basic aim of demonstrating that, with the exception of quite recent history, technology has always influenced science, not the other way round." -- Nature

"If I could attach bells and whistles and flashing lights to this review I would do so because McClellan and Dorn's bools deserves to be brought to the attention of all professional historians -- and indeed the general reading public -- by any means necessary." -- Clifford D Conner, Canadian Journal of History/Annales canadiennes d'historie

"Inclusive and straightforward." -- Peter Hugill, Technology and Culture

"I very much recommend this book." -- Helge Kragh, Centaurus

"This book presents the history of man and his relationship with science and technology in a format that is eminently readable, yet it contains a wealth of information... While it would be impossible to cover all technologies in one volume, McClellan and Dorn have done an excellent job of including most of what has had the greatest impact." -- Netsurfer Digest

"Many nuggets of scholarly insight can be panned from Science and Technology in World History." -- Lance E. Metz, Industrial Archaeology


"Professors McClellan and Dorn have written a survey that does not present the historical development of science simply as a Western phenomenon but as the result of wide-ranging human curiosity about nature and attempts to harness its powers in order to serve human needs. This is an impressive amount of material to organize in a single textbook." -- Paula Findlen, Stanford University

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Scholars customarily draw a sharp distinction between prehistory and history. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By docread
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an unusual textbook for the general reader that tackles both the history of Technology and that of Science.Within the limitations of the format, it accomplishes what it sets out to achieve with impeccable scholarship and remarkable comprehensiveness.It offers a global survey examining both human endeavors from Neolithic time to our own modern world.
The impressive narrative brings together the converging histories of science and technology,describing their interactions and their social and economical impact on human societies.The authors assert that for much of human history ,technology depended more on the empirical innovations of skilled artisans and engineers, than it did on the speculation of scientists / Natural Philosophers as they were called.In many instances it was Technology that directed Science rather than the other way round.The text brings into focus the considerable contributions of non-Western cultures to technology as well as astronomy,chemistry ,medicine and mathematics.
Nevertheless a substantial part of the book is devoted to the great figures of Western Science from Galileo to Einstein and provides a comprehensive account of their achievements.The emergence of the recent historical phenomenon of 'Applied Science' thanks to funding from industry and governments ,is well covered.
The authors have succeeded in producing an accessible and highly readable historical narrative that should enlighten and entertain any reader interested in either subjects.It certainly expanded my mental horizon.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 11 April 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Everyone interested in science and technology should read this book. It shows how inventions and discoveries shaped the world in which we live today and gives a timeline of how and when they happened.

I have been looking for a book like this. Since I have an interest in the subject I probably already knew about all or most of the advances in this area but I had kind of lost track of the timeline and wondered what conditions caused some of them to happen. This book explains it.

I have read many history books. Mostly they are about kings and ruling powers and wars. After a while, they all seem to have contributed little to the advancement of mankind and presided over much suffering and possibly caused a lot of it. This book is much more uplifting because it is a story of how the increased understanding of the world around us gave us a better life.

At times the writing style is somewhat laborious but there was never any doubt that I would continue to read on because the subject is so fascinating to me.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  22 reviews
48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History Through Science and Technology 14 Oct 2002
By John D. Cofield - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an ambitious study of human history through its scientific and technological development. It begins with prehistoric times and ends with the many accomplishments of the late twentieth century. No area of the world is neglected, with much attention paid to the great civilizations of Asia in particular. There are also many mini-biographies of such worthies as Copernicus, Newton, Galileo, Edison, etc. which place them in the context of their time and the overall theme of technological development. The book is scholarly but not dry. Attempts have been made to appeal to the laymen through notes on "Cool Websites" and the like, and this is successful. Its a good overview of world history from a less than usual angle.
34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Winner of 1999 World History Association Book Award! 2 May 2000
By David A. Chappell - Published on
The World History Association has awarded its annual book prize to this work, because it clearly addressed science and technology from a global perspective. Not only Western science is covered, but also in the ancient and medieval periods, northeast Africa, southwest Asia, other parts of Asia and the precolumbian Americas. It thus provides a point of departure for comparative analysis of the markers that many archaeologists and historians use to measure change over time in the human past.
33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding book, except... 9 Jan 2004
By Anthony Millevolte - Published on
I agree with the previous reviewers on their accessment of the book--with the exception of the very last part of it. In fact, the chapter on modern physics has so many mistakes that it is almost rendered unusable, which is odd because the quality of the rest of the book is so high.
I wouldn't expect that two authors would be able to pull off what they have tried to do here (with such a breadth of material), but I believe that if they invite a guest author (or editor) to help with the chapter on the history of modern physics they will be fully successful in a subsequent edition.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Winner of 1999 World History Association Book Award! 2 May 2000
By David A. Chappell - Published on
The World History Association is pleased to award this book its 1999 prize, because it is a quality work of history from a global perspective. Not only the West is covered, but also, especially in the ancient and medieval periods, science in northeast Africa, southwest Asia, other parts of Asia, and the precolombian Americas. It provides a point of departure, then, for comparative analysis of a measure of change used by many historians and archeologists.
20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A much needed book on a fundamental topic 5 Jan 2000
By Jorge A. Gutierrez - Published on
McClellan and Dorn have written a basic but very complete book on the, until recently, parallel histories of technology and science. Very clear concepts, very well documented and extremely interesting. It should be mandatory reading for engineering and science undergraduates, journalists and, why not, politicians. I read it in 3 days, and enjoyed it as much as a good novel.
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