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Hidden Histories of Science by Robert B.…

Hidden Histories of Science

by Robert B. Silvers (Editor)

Other authors: Steven Jay Gould (Contributor), Daniel J. Kevles (Contributor), R. C. Lewontin (Contributor), Jonathan Miller (Contributor), Oliver Sacks (Contributor)

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This fine book collects essays by five men of science who are also excellent writers. The collective topic is how the history of science contains many cases where understanding has been temporarily lost, or strongly resisted.

The best essay is the last, by Oliver Sacks. Titled "Scotoma: Forgetting and Neglect in Science," it gives examples of many different situations leading to discoveries being ignored, rejected, or simply lost. Particularly he notes that while in the 19th century it was enough to describe, in the 20th it was necessary to explain, and so unfortunately only what was explainable was described.

Jonathan Miller is both a medical doctor and a stage director. "Going Unconscious" begins with Mesmer's 'discovery' of the unconscious in 18th Century. Miller explains that we are capable of many complex functions, such as walking, that don't require conscious direction, and that it is these functions which still available when hypnosis shuts down consciousness. This 'automatic self' is vital to the higher forms of intellection. But then Miller counters that this understanding was put aside when Freud's very different use of the idea of unconsciousness came to the fore, one whose purpose was to suppress disturbing thoughts and memories.

Stephen Jay Gould's "Ladders and Cones: Constraining Evolution by Canonical Icons" is not of his stronger essays. The heart of it is that the conventional images of 'the Ascent of Man' and 'the Tree of Life' are misleading enough to be considered inhibiting of our scientific imaginations.

In Daniel J. Kevles "Pursuing the Unpopular: A History of Courage, Viruses, and Cancer," he traces our growing understanding of certain causes of cancer, that some are caused by viruses (noting retroviruses as a significant special case), and how these viruses turn healthy cells cancerous. But it is not a routine story of progressive discovery; he writes: "It is difficult to think of another case of scientific advance where almost every one of the key pioneers encountered pointed resistance from his community of peers."

R. C. Lewontin's "Genes, Environment, and Organisms" suggests that the last 50 years have transformed Biology so that it is closer to a 'hard' science, such as physics, but that it has lost the signifcant perception that organisms and their environments can only be understood interdependently
1 vote grunin | Feb 20, 2006 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Silvers, Robert B.Editorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gould, Steven JayContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kevles, Daniel J.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lewontin, R. C.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Miller, JonathanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sacks, OliverContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 094032203X, Hardcover)

In a collection of original essays delivered as lectures at the New York Public Library in 1994, Stephen Jay Gould, Jonathan Miller, Oliver Sacks, Daniel Kevles, and Richard Lewontin illuminate a broad range of episodes in the history of science.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:15 -0400)

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2 editions of this book were published by NYRB Collections.

Editions: 1590170520, 094032203X

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