Towards a Framework for the History of Science

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Historians of Science, like their colleagues in the History of Technology, have long worked virtually theory free. I propose a framework based on Morton Fried’s sociopolitical formations (The Evolution of Political Society, 1967), extending his formations to include various forms of states. This framework enables scholars to compare systems of knowledge about nature (science in its broadest definition) across time, geographical locations, and cultures. Such comparisons show the wide range of human understandings about nature as well as highlight the character of modern science.

I applied this framework to the history of technology in a previous paper (The International Journal of the Humanities 3, 2005/6). Fried’s framework also works well for the history of science because the categories he used to define a society’s sociopolitical formation also determine its type of “science.” In addition, this framework yields a historical map of “science.”

In this paper, the framework is illustrated using three sociopolitical formations and their “sciences:” egalitarian societies, the limited Greek democracies, and modern democratic, industrial states. I briefly discuss the character of “science” in each, considering discovery and innovation and how knowledge is stored and transmitted to the next generation. Each sociopolitical formation is also analyzed using Thomas Kuhn’s concepts of world view, paradigm, and normal science.

I hope this paper stimulates a search for frameworks that will make it easy to appreciate of the great diversity in human understandings of nature, that will enable comparisons between different systems of “science,” and that will lead to discussions


Keywords: Historiography, History of Science, Frameworks, Theory, Morton Fried, Thomas Kuhn
Stream: Knowledge
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Kathleen Ochs

Associate Professor Emeritus, Liberal Arts and International Studies, Colorado School of Mines
Saguache, CO, USA

Professor Kathleen Ochs graduated in the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology from University of Toronto (1982). She taught at the Colorado School of Mines from 1980 to 2007, and taught selected courses at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the Naropa Institute. She has researched in various historical periods including England's Scientific Revolution (the Royal Society of London's History of Trades Program), American mining engineers in the 20th century, women and technology, and most recently, prehistorians' contributions to a complete history of technology. The Humanities Conference presentation returns to her first interest, the history of ideas including those of egalitarian, oral peoples.

Ref: H08P0443