Filed under book | Tags: · biography, computing, electricity, history of computing, history of science, mathematics, science, technology
In this engrossing biography, Dorothy Stein strips away the many layers of myth surrounding Ada Lovelace’s reputation as the inventor of the science of computer programming to reveal a story far more dramatic and fascinating than previous accounts have indicated. Working with original sources, Stein clears up a number of puzzles and misinterpretations of Ada’s life and activities.
Augusta Ada Byron, Countess of Lovelace, was the only daughter of the poet Lord Byron and the close friend and associate of a number of the foremost scientific, literary, and artistic figures of the early Victorian period. She enjoys a growing reputation today for her report on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine—considered to be the first computer. Yet Stein shows how the often self-serving Babbage conspired to create the legend, using the Countess to promote his projects and make exaggerated claims for his engine. By placing Lady Lovelace’s report in the social and cultural context in which it was written, she finds that, far from being a clear and masterly exposition of the structure and logic of the computer, it was a rather mystical tract that dwelt on the inventor’s outdated philosophy of mathematics, and his mechanistic view of theology and the workings of capitalist economics.
Ada’s own life is vividly told, often in her own words, as Stein weaves into her narrative excerpts from letters, memoirs, and little-known documents to create an account that is at once black comedy, detective story, psychological drama, and scientific explanation. She examines the barriers and opportunities that Ada faced as she strove to develop her ambitions and search for truths that would free her of that shadow of her mysterious father and her overbearing and manipulative mother.
Stein reveals a turbulent and complex woman who tries to run away, who marries and bears three children, attempts to bury herself in the study of mathematics, and to find herself in a career in music or in writing. Ada corresponds and associates with men as diverse as Dickens, Chadwick, Quetelet, and Wheatstone. She sickens and attempts to find the cause of her malady by exploring the fringes of several sciences. Her interest in the use of electricity to treat nervous disorders involves her in the controversies over mesmerism and phrenology, and turns her from Babbage to Faraday and to Andrew Crosse, the “electrician” whose work served as the model for Frankenstein. With Ada, Stein examines the roots of the fear, fascination, and mystic awe with which we still regard the impact of high technology upon ordinary life.
Publisher MIT Press, 1987
History of Computing Series
ISBN 0262691167, 9780262691161
Filed under book | Tags: · big science, entrepreneurship, history of science, science, silicon valley, technoscience
Who are scientists? What kind of people are they? What capacities and virtues are thought to stand behind their considerable authority? They are experts—indeed, highly respected experts—authorized to describe and interpret the natural world and widely trusted to help transform knowledge into power and profit. But are they morally different from other people? The Scientific Life is historian Steven Shapin’s story about who scientists are, who we think they are, and why our sensibilities about such things matter.
Conventional wisdom has long held that scientists are neither better nor worse than anyone else, that personal virtue does not necessarily accompany technical expertise, and that scientific practice is profoundly impersonal. Shapin, however, here shows how the uncertainties attending scientific research make the virtues of individual researchers intrinsic to scientific work. From the early twentieth-century origins of corporate research laboratories to the high-flying scientific entrepreneurship of the present, Shapin argues that the radical uncertainties of much contemporary science have made personal virtues more central to its practice than ever before, and he also reveals how radically novel aspects of late modern science have unexpectedly deep historical roots. His elegantly conceived history of the scientific career and character ultimately encourages us to reconsider the very nature of the technical and moral worlds in which we now live.
Building on the insights of Shapin’s last three influential books, featuring an utterly fascinating cast of characters, and brimming with bold and original claims, The Scientific Life is essential reading for anyone wanting to reflect on late modern American culture and how it has been shaped.
Publisher University of Chicago Press, 2008
ISBN 0226750248, 9780226750248
Filed under proceedings | Tags: · art, art history, experimental art, experimental science, history of science, history of technology, science, technology
What is the result of recent studies on the history of experiment? How has our image of science been changed since Ian Hacking’s statement, “experimentation has a life of its own,” turned into a catch phrase for investigations into the history of science? What is the lesson to be drawn from the studies following Steven Shapin’s and Simon Schaffer’s Leviathan and the Air Pump (1985) and Peter Galison’s How Experiments End (1987)?
In trying to answer these questions, this conference did not aim at contributing to a more developed philosophy of scientific experimentation, nor did it try to return to the grand narratives on the history of science. Rather, the goal of this conference was to identify characteristic configurations within in the history of experimentalization from 1800 to the present. The guiding question was: what are the typical forms of experiment that emerged in the separated and shared history of science, technology, and the arts?
Conference: The Shape of Experiment, Berlin, 2-5 June 2005
Publisher Max-Planck-Institute for the History of Science, Berlin
Preprint series, No. 318
Filed under book | Tags: · 1800s, biography, empiricism, enlightenment, history of science, music, neurophysiology, neuroscience, physiology, psychology, science, vision
Although Hermann von Helmholtz was one of most remarkable figures of nineteenth-century science, he is little known outside his native Germany. Helmholtz (1821-1894) made significant contributions to the study of vision and perception and was also influential in the painting, music, and literature of the time; one of his major works analyzed tone in music. This book, the first in English to describe Helmholtz’s life and work in detail, describes his scientific studies, analyzes them in the context of the science and philosophy of the period—in particular the German Naturphilosophie—and gauges his influence on today’s neuroscience.
Helmholtz, trained by Johannes Müller, one of the best physiologists of his time, used a resolutely materialistic and empirical scientific method in his research. This puts him in the tradition of Kant and the English empirical philosophers and directly opposed to the idealists and naturalists who interpreted nature based on metaphysical presuppositions. Helmholtz’s research on color vision put him at odds with Goethe’s more romantic theorizing on the subject; but at the end of his life, Helmholtz honored Goethe’s contributions, acknowledging that artistic intuition could reveal truths about the human mind that are inaccessible to science.
Helmholtz’s work, eclipsed at the beginning of the twentieth century by new ideas in neurophysiology, has recently been rediscovered. We can now recognize in Helmholtz’s methods–which were based on his belief in the interconnectedness of physiology and psychology–the origins of neuroscience.
Originally published as Helmholtz: Des lumières aux neurosciences, Odile Jacob, Paris, 2001
Translated and edited by Laurence Garey
Publisher MIT Press, 2010
ISBN 0262014483, 9780262014489
Filed under book | Tags: · colour, electromagnetism, history of science, light, photography, science
This is the story of the greatest puzzle in our universe: what is light? Light Years is an engaging survey of everything we know of the universe’s most enigmatic phenomenon and the remarkable people who have been captivated by it. Light Years looks over the shoulders of the great revolutionaries of light theory–Bacon, Galileo, Newton, Faraday, Maxwell and Feynman–and traces the evolution of light-driven devices from the camera to the laser.
Publisher John Wiley & Sons, 2001
Filed under book | Tags: · mathematics, metaphysics, philosophy, physics, science, special relativity, theory of relativity, time, vienna circle
In 1942, the logician Kurt Godel and Albert Einstein became close friends; they walked to and from their offices every day, exchanging ideas about science, philosophy, politics, and the lost world of German science. By 1949, Godel had produced a remarkable proof: In any universe described by the Theory of Relativity, time cannot exist. Einstein endorsed this result reluctantly but he could find no way to refute it, since then, neither has anyone else. Yet cosmologists and philosophers alike have proceeded as if this discovery was never made. In A World Without Time, Palle Yourgrau sets out to restore Godel to his rightful place in history, telling the story of two magnificent minds put on the shelf by the scientific fashions of their day, and attempts to rescue the brilliant work they did together.
Publisher Basic Books, New York, 2005
review (Kelley L. Ross)
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Filed under proceedings | Tags: · acoustics, aesthetics, history of science, music, radio, science, sound
The following collection of papers documents the workshop Sounds of Science – Schall im Labor, 1800 to 1930, carried out at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, in October 2006.
The workshop asked about the role sound plays in the configurations among science, technology and the arts, focusing on the years between 1800 and 1930. The chronological point of departure was the appearance of a registration technique: in 1802 Ernst Florens Friedrich Chladni published his book on acoustics where he extensively described the Klangfiguren – his visualizations of the movements of a vibrating, sounding body. This time span was also characterized by the systematization of research into hearing, which Hermann von Helmholtz greatly promoted through his book On the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music, which first appeared in 1863. Helmholtz’s resonance theory of hearing described in this book was not replaced by a new explanation for the process of hearing until the end of the 1920s, which gives another temporal delineation for the workshop. Furthermore, between 1800 and 1930 a wealth of technical innovation in the realm of acoustical media occurred: in addition to a series of visualization techniques for sound, the phonograph and gramophone, microphone and loudspeaker, telephone and radio were invented. As well, the music of European tonal composition underwent a radical change during this time that led to a collapse of the tonal system and provoked the demand for music composed of sounds and noises, rather than tones.
Conference participants were invited to discuss the role of sounds in the laboratory from different angles, in three parts. The “Materiality of Sound” was oriented towards research into material cultures and cultural techniques in experimentation. “Registration, Transmission, Transformation” put questions of medial historiography into the foreground, while “Experimental Aesthetics” thematized aesthetic implications.
With papers by Bernhard Siegert, Peter Szendy, Julia Kursell, Florian Hoelscher, Florian Dombois, Henning Schmidgen, Jonathan Sterne, Wolfgang Hagen, Douglas Kahn, Daniel Gethmann, Elena Ungeheuer, Myles W. Jackson
Publisher Max-Planck Institute for the History of Science