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Never Pure: Historical Studies of Science as if It Was Produced by People with Bodies, Situated in Time, Space, Culture, and Society, and Struggling for Credibility and Authority Paperback – April 21, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0801894213 ISBN-10: 0801894212

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Never Pure: Historical Studies of Science as if It Was Produced by People with Bodies, Situated in Time, Space, Culture, and Society, and Struggling for Credibility and Authority + The Scientific Revolution and the Origins of Modern Science (Studies in European History) + Styles of Knowing: A New History of Science from Ancient Times to the Present
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 568 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press (April 21, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801894212
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801894213
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #937,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

What makes his essays so enjoyable and alive... is their leaping range of reference, always running one step ahead and urging us to catch up.

(Jenny Uglow New York Review of Books)

Professor Shapin has a sense of humor, a good eye for an anecdote and the ability to turn a phrase.

(Katherine Bouton New York Times)

While it might not be for novices, anyone who is interested in how and why science enjoys a privileged position as a source of knowledge should read Shapin’s take on the authority given to it vis-à-vis religion and morality, why it is compliment to be both a gentleman and a scholar, and why it matters whether Newton ate chicken or Darwin farted.

(Seed Magazine)

An impressive work and one that scientists will benefit from reading. Shapin reminds us that... neither scientists nor science itself can be separated from the context of peoples’ minds, bodies, cultures, societies. Expectations based on any other understanding are simply unrealistic.

(Sam Lemonick Chemical and Engineering News)

He is a graceful and engaging essayist, and the ample selection of essays in Never Pure ... affords an excellent basis for reflecting on what he has had to say about the life of science.

(Robert E. Kohler Science)

Never Pure will enrich the bookshelf of any historian of science.

(Katy Barrett Endeavour)

A highly labored style of writing is deployed to perform scholarly virtues that go by names like 'careful,' 'accurate,' and 'rich.'

(Steve Fuller Aestimatio: Critical Reviews in the History of Science)

About the Author

Steven Shapin is the Franklin L. Ford Professor of the History of Science at Harvard, and his books include Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life (with Simon Schaffer), A Social History of Truth: Civility and Science in Seventeenth-Century England, and The Scientific Revolution. He has written for the New Yorker and writes regularly for the London Review of Books.

Customer Reviews

It reminds me--a bit too much--of another discipline called Musicology.
Personne
This is an incredibly well referenced (over 145 pages of citations many with author notes) collection of essays by a Harvard professor of the History of Science.
Dave English
Steven Shapin has been writing about the history of science for a long time, and has written some very valuable and insightful things.
Nathan Andersen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Steven Shapin has been writing about the history of science for a long time, and has written some very valuable and insightful things. I've found his The Scientific Revolution to be extremely useful for delivering in the form of a few simple ideas and several illustrations some of the basic insights of recent history of science into what happened and what didn't happen in the 16th and 17th centuries to pave the way for what we now call "science." This book, though, is not really a book about "science" - whether historical or philosophical or sociological. It is, rather, primarily, a book about changes, over the last couple of decades, in the dominant approaches to science mostly by historians but also by philosophers and sociologists. The specific studies -- of credibility, of the rhetoric of experiment and of experiment as a form of rhetoric (i.e. in the form of public demonstrations), of the importance of trust in the scientific enterprise, and the relation between science and common sense -- are intended here primarily as indications of the range of legitimate historical investigation into science and scientists. They are intended to demonstrate in some detail that to treat science as a subject of careful research, in which nothing in particular is taken for granted in advance about its allegedly special status, produces important and intriguing results, without in any way threatening science as such or undermining its credibility. What I find most compelling in the book are the thoughtful reflections on the part of a seasoned veteran historian of science of the status and import of the work in the field to which he has contributed broadly.Read more ›
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Erik Gfesser VINE VOICE on May 30, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Shapin describes the first chapter as "an attempt to survey changing sensibilities in the history and social studies of science over the past few decades", an attempt that is "both a reflection on what I have done - as represented by the contents of this book - and on what has changed over the past several decades in academic historical and sociological engagements with science." He emphasizes that "each scholar is a unique product of his or her times" and that "it is never right for historians to think of themselves alone as outside of history." The remaining fifteen chapters (and this is a weighty, 500-page collection that includes over 100 pages of notes) consist of lightly edited, previously published material from 1984 through 2007, broken down into several parts: "Methods and Maxims", "Places and Practices", "The Scientific Person", "The Body of Knowledge and the Knowledge of Body", "The World of Science and the World of Common Sense", and "Science and Modernity". Notes by the publisher indicate that this collection of essays reflects on "the historical relationships between science and common sense, between science and modernity, and between science and the moral order. They explore the relevance of physical and social settings in the making of scientific knowledge, the methods appropriate to understanding science historically, dietetics as a compelling site for historical inquiry, the identity of those who have made scientific knowledge, and the means by which science has acquired credibility and authority.Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey A. Veyera VINE VOICE on July 26, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The author is a widely-read polymath with a grasp for science, history, philosophy, and telling a good yarn. You really can't beat that combination, one not seen sense Daniel Boorstin's last book.

This is more a compilation of interesting essays on the history of science ranging widely in subject matter, one supposes in accord with the rather eclectic tastes of the author. Thus in addition to an excellent essay on the development of laboratories in the 18th century one also gets a lot of material on dietary advice. No matter---the presentation of all is uniformly interesting even if you didn't know you were interested in such things before.

The author also is well-grounded---he doesn't worship science; indeed, he correctly notes one can't even define the term in a way universally acknowledged. His is a warts-and-all narrative which only serves to increase one's respect for the great men of science past, fumbling along on guesswork and fancy to advance human knowledge one faltering step at a time.

Highly recommended, although your mileage may vary if you're thin-skinned or highly-specialized.
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49 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Personne VINE VOICE on February 3, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Scientists and lovers of knowledge know that the scientific process is anything but polite. For every quiet observer like Jane Goodall, changing our views with gentle persuasion, there is an Edward Teller, willing to bulldoze his opponents with whatever means are available. For every Carl Sagan, exciting millions of people with his enthusiasm, there is a Fritz Zwicky, so unliked that many of his worthy ideas were ignored until the man himself was dead. Study and counterstudy, poorly reported in the mass media, make one wonder how anything comes out of it. But it does. The 'scientific method', as messy as it is, eventually gives us pretty good models of the way things work. How have we arrived at this way of doing things? How did we cast aside the authoritarianism of popes and bishops and Aristotle? Did we? That would make a really good book.

"Never Pure..." is not that book. The author, Steven Shapin, belongs to an academic discipline called "Sociology and History of Science". It reminds me--a bit too much--of another discipline called Musicology. In both cases, academics scurry after the actual practitioners of the art, trying to determine what they did. They then take the information and wrap it up in impenetrable balderdash, using a language and vocabulary that could only be intended to stun a tenure committee into acquiescence. I will include an example at the end of this review, so you can judge for yourself.

Still, there's a good book in here begging to get out. The first half places us in the mid 17th century, the very beginning of the Royal Society in London. The two main subjects are Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke, men of different social levels, who helped build the early Society.
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