Messages from the History of Science

Monday, April 8, 2013 - 3:00pm
Event Type: 

1420 Molecular Biology Bldg.

David B. Wilson, Professor, Department of History, ISU

Abstract: There is an asymmetry between the past and the present. Present knowledge can distort comprehension of the past, creating obstacles to understanding bright ideas of past geniuses. Knowledge of the past, however, can aid comprehension of the present. That is, generalizations about the past generally apply to the present as well. Paradigm shifts may well be the best known such generalization stemming from the history of science. This talk, however, concentrates on two other messages from the past: the geographical distributions of scientific ideas and the lack of conflict between science and religion. Included will be Galileo, Descartes, Newton, Voltaire, Darwin, Kelvin, Maxwell, and the man who invented the word scientist. These are also examples of how the history of science can help bridge that unfortunate gap between what the physicist/novelist C. P. Snow dubbed “the two cultures” – the humanities and the sciences.