A Retrospect on the Historiography of the Life Sciences

  • Robert Olby
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 110)


One of the pleasures of writing for this Festschrift is the stimulus it affords to the recall of old times midst the spires of Oxford. Just as Muriel Beadle discovered that “These ruins are inhabited”, so a very inexperienced and ill-educated biology teacher encountered not only the artefacts of the history of science in the Old Ashmolean Building but also a real live historian of science in All Souls’ College. And there was more to come - my first sight of galley proofs, of Augustine to Galileo no less, and of famous names from beyond these shores - Georges Canguilhem, N.R. Hanson, Alexandre Koyré, S. Sambursky, René Taton, Owsei Temkin - presented live at the Symposium on Scientific Change organized by Alistair in 1961. Of all the memories the most vivid are those of seminars in the Old Library of All Souls. It was there that the late Arthur Koestler, just visible but barely audible, discoursed on the Trinity and the Keplerian solar system. In vain did Philip Ritterbush call from the back row in his powerful voice for the speaker to raise his; but we knew his theme - it was the intimate relationship between Kepler’s theology and his science. This has become one of the most famous examples of the revolt from the “conflict thesis” of the relation between science and religion, which the tradition of the history of ideas provoked in those days.


Scientific Change Uncertain Object Discursive Formation Idealist Philosophy Galley Proof 
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© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Dordrecht 1985

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  • Robert Olby

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