The Social Organisation of Enlightenment Science

  • Colin A. Russell
Chapter
Part of the Themes in Comparative History book series (TCH)

Abstract

There is no ‘inevitability’ about scientific progress. The very variable rates at which science progressed during the Enlightenment — and at other times — should be enough to convince us of this. Some have argued that few scientific theories are entirely value-free and that the practice of science depends greatly upon the cultural context in which it flourishes or wilts. At the very least social changes will affect the rate of scientific advance (leaving aside the question of its direction). The purpose of this chapter is to explore some of the ways in which Enlightenment science was affected by its social framework. In the broadest sense of the term we are talking about the institutionalisation of science. Except for the hypothetical scientist working alone on his desert island, screened from all influences from the outside world, everyone who practises science does so in some kind of institutional framework, even though the institutions may not be primarily designed for science itself (as, for example, when the scientist works for a firm or pursues a strong amateur interest within a loosely structured local community). But the institutionalisation of science as conventionally understood refers to the formally constituted bodies which are dedicated primarily or exclusively to the practice of science.

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Notes and References

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Copyright information

© Colin A. Russell 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Colin A. Russell
    • 1
  1. 1.The Open UniversityMilton KeynesUK

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