Scientists are a serious bunch, present mostly in their minds, careless about how they look ... right? Maybe not. Sociologist Shapin and historian Lawrence present a series of historical essays on the embodiment of knowledge. They argue that the products of intellect are not separate from the bodily process of thinking. But what have the passions and physiognomies of great thinkers to do with the knowledge they produce? Darwin's illness might have worked as a buffer distancing him from scientific controversy and social friction. Nietzsche's attacks on the ascetic ideal reflected his idea that bad philosophy was a symptom of a bad body. Proper social behavior was crucial to Descartes. These portraits of some of history's great "knowers" show clearly that the recurring themes and images of scientists (ascetic philosopher, hearty surgeon) express dominant societal beliefs about knowledge and humanity. Readers should expect a purely academic treatment of the subject--these are no joking caricatures of thick glasses and rumpled hair--yet this book is funny. Who could read the essay entitled "I Could Have Retched All Night," describing Darwin's notorious flatulence and incessant vomiting, without laughing, albeit uncomfortably. Science historians will find this a valuable addition to their libraries, as a reflection of a time when "the way we lived ... was understood to be intimately connected to the way we think." --Therese Littleton
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About the Author
Lawrence is reader at the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, London.
Shapin is professor of sociology at the University of California, San Diego.