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Histories of Science in Early Modern Europe

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Author Topic: Histories of Science in Early Modern Europe  (Read 69 times)
Bianca
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« on: October 16, 2008, 12:42:03 pm »










Three of the papers in this collection address histories of mathematics which were written from the late fifteenth century to the early seventeenth century. The fourth examines seventeenth-century histories of another despised subject—magic—and reveals a surprising degree of common ground, in both techniques and sources, with the less controversial historians of mathematics. These papers show how Renaissance scholars used history to underpin larger claims about the usefulness and potential of the sciences for their society. In the case of mathematics, their writings also helped to overcome the indifference of university authorities and students—and even the lay public—towards the teaching of the sciences, and to frame the forms in which the sciences were eventually established in the academy.

The writing of history is the most humanist of activities, and to that extent the following four papers contribute to the debate about the role of humanism in the Scientific Revolution. As Owen Hannaway wrote in this journal, "humanism and science, like science and religion, form one of those subjects that invite periodic reassessment."7 It is a subject which has, perhaps, [End Page 35] become less urgent in recent years. The so-called antagonism between humanism and science was most evident when historians identified Renaissance science with astronomy and mathematics—subjects which, it is true, many humanists from Petrarch to Erasmus dismissed as petty-minded and reeking of the scholastic classroom. Even so, scholars who worked in these fields found much that humanism contributed even to the "hard" sciences—most importantly in the editing and translation of Greek scientific texts.8
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