Paper pub. date
November 2011
ISBN 9780870716096 (paperback)
6 x 9 inches, 208 pages. Black & white illustrations. Bibliography. Index.

Artisan/Practitioners and the Rise of the New Sciences, 1400-1600

Pamela O. Long

This book provides the historical background for a central issue in the history of science: the influence of artisans, craftsmen, and other practitioners on the emergent empirical methodologies that characterized the “new sciences” of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Pamela Long offers a coherent account and critical revision of the “Zilsel thesis,” an influential etiological narrative that claims these craftsmen were instrumental in bringing about the “Scientific Revolution.”

Artisan/Practitioners reassesses the issue of artisanal influence from three different perspectives: the perceived relationships between art and nature; the Vitruvian architectural tradition with its appreciation of both theory and practice; and the development of “trading zones”—arenas in which artisans and learned men communicated in substantive ways. These complex social and intellectual developments, the book argues, underlay the development of the empirical sciences.

This volume provides new discussion and synthesis of a theory that encompasses broad developments in European history and study of the natural world. It will be a valuable resource for college-level teaching, and for scholars and others interested in the history of science, late medieval and early modern European history, and the Scientific Revolution.

About the author

Pamela O. Long is an independent historian of premodern European history and the history of science and technology. She has received grants and fellowships from many institutions, including the American Academy in Rome, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Science Foundation. She is a co-director of the Michael of Rhodes Project. She is the author of Openness, Secrecy, Authorship: Technical Arts and the Culture of Knowledge from Antiquity to the Renaissance and co-editor of the Historical Perspectives on Technology, Society and Culture Series.

Read more about this author

"This interesting, well-written volume offers an introduction to the history of Western science through an examination of the influence of artisans, craftspeople, and other practitioners such as weavers, painters, architect/engineers, instrument makers, and mariners on the emerging disciplines of the scientific revolution and the new humanism. Independent historian Long, focusing on the 15th-17th centuries, makes generous use of primary sources. She advances a perspective that goes beyond not only the early Marxist and Vienna circle accounts, but those of the later Anglo-American historians as well. She suggests that while the artisanal influence was substantial, the dichotomous categories usually employed—artisan/scholar, handworker/theorist, experimental/mathematical, etc.—were oversimplifications. In practice, there were informal, loosely drawn 'trading zones' where considerations of the practical categories of material production and engineering, for example, could lead naturally to broader and more abstract discussions of both the essential nature of matter and the foundations of natural phenomena. These areas of mutual interest facilitated the broad adoption of a variety of empirical practices, once almost exclusively the realm of artisan/practitioners, by more formal and scholarly investigators in both the sciences and humanities. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above." —R. M. Davis, emeritus, Albion College, Choice Magazine


"This book is aimed at a nonspecialist audience (p. 6), but it is so effective in demonstrating the complexities of historical development and in providing substantial historiographical context that it seems even better suited for graduate students and for historians of science interested in the ways their field has developed, entangled as it is in so many others. The bibliography and notes are excellent."

Shana Worthen, University of Arkansas at Little Rock


" ... This is an excellent introduction to the field and exactly the book that I would give to graduate students or advanced undergraduates in a survey course of the history of technology of early modern science in order to engage in the curent scholarly debate about knowledge, epistemology, and practice."

Steven A. Walton, Aestimatio 2014

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