A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF SCIENCE by Clifford D. Conner

A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF SCIENCE

Miners, Midwives and “Low” Mechanicks
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Revisionist history with a strong proletarian bent.

Conner is out to dethrone the Great Men of science (Galileo, Newton, Darwin) and replace them with a cast of men (and women), often anonymous, who fueled advances in science largely through their technological prowess. Thus are celebrated the Polynesian star-gazing navigators of prehistory and the pre-Socratics, as well as the bricklayers, potters, miners, midwives, weavers, dyers, glassblowers, clockmakers and other artisans of medieval and modern times. The voyages of discovery? Made possible by crafty crews and kidnapped native guides. Star maps? Local folk were drafted to do the meticulous work, while the likes of Tycho Brahe took credit. The elite of the Royal Societies and Academies hardly ever credited their loyal assistants, fostering the Great Men approach adopted by most historians of science. Clearly there is a lot to be said for the unsung, and we can be grateful to Conner for providing context and technical details for discoveries and inventions that fueled the scientific and industrial revolutions. But the frequent inveighing against Western imperialism and capitalism is tiresome. By the time Conner reaches the modern era, he has much to say about the military industrial complex, Big Pharma and his growing distrust of science. His solution, to bring science, technology and industry under democratic control in the context of a global planned economy, seems pure wishful thinking.

Lots of useful technology history here, but the volume shouldn’t stand alone.

Pub Date: Nov. 9th, 2005
ISBN: 1-56025-748-2
Page count: 560pp
Publisher: Nation Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2005