Studies in History and Philosophy of Science

Mathematical Practitioners and the Transformation of Natural Knowledge in Early Modern Europe

Editors: Cormack, Lesley B., Walton, Steven A., Schuster, John A. (Eds.)

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  • Frames the ‘scholar/craftsman’ argument as a conversation about influence, appropriation, and collaboration
  • Treats the interconnections between practice and theoretical change at the time of the Scientific Revolution
  • Examines the reality of practical mathematics as well as its value and use for natural philosophers
  • Extends and problematizes the seminal work of E.G.R. Taylor and Edgar Zilsel
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Hardcover $119.99
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Softcover $119.99
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  • ISBN 978-3-319-84160-1
  • Free shipping for individuals worldwide
  • Usually dispatched within 3 to 5 business days.
About this book

This book argues that we can only understand transformations of nature studies in the Scientific Revolution if we take seriously the interaction between practitioners (those who know by doing) and scholars (those who know by thinking). These are not in opposition, however. Theory and practice are end points on a continuum, with some participants interested only in the practical, others only in the theoretical, and most in the murky intellectual and material world in between. It is this borderland where influence, appropriation, and collaboration have the potential to lead to new methods, new subjects of enquiry, and new social structures of natural philosophy and science.

The case for connection between theory and practice can be most persuasively drawn in the area of mathematics, which is the focus of this book. Practical mathematics was a growing field in early modern Europe and these essays are organised into three parts which contribute to the debate about the role of mathematical practice in the Scientific Revolution. First, they demonstrate the variability of the identity of practical mathematicians, and of the practices involved in their activities in early modern Europe. Second, readers are invited to consider what practical mathematics looked like and that although practical mathematical knowledge was transmitted and circulated in a wide variety of ways, participants were able to recognize them all as practical mathematics. Third, the authors show how differences and nuances in practical mathematics typically depended on the different contexts in which it was practiced: social, cultural, political, and economic particularities matter. Historians of science, especially those interested in the Scientific Revolution period and the history of mathematics will find this book and its ground-breaking approach of particular interest.



About the authors

Lesley B. Cormack is a historian of science and now Dean of Arts at the University of Alberta.  She is the author of Charting an Empire: Geography at the English Universities 1580-1620 (Chicago, 1997), A History of Science in Society: From Philosophy to Utility with Andrew Ede (Broadview Press,2004, 3rd Edition University of Toronto Press, 2017) and editor of Making Contact:  Maps, Identity, and Travel (University of Alberta Press, 2003) and A History of Science in Society: A Reader (Broadview Press, 2007)She is now completing a book on the development and use of the Molyneux Globes in sixteenth century England.

Steven A. Walton teaches history of science and technology, European history, and military history at Michigan Technological University, where is also actively involved with the graduate program in Industrial Archaeology.  His primary scholarly writing is on the intersections between science, technology and the military, particularly in the early modern and antebellum American world. He has just published the travel diaries of Thomas Kelah Wharton, a nineteenth-century architect and artist, an article on U.S. Civil War artillery, and is working on a book on Transitions in Defense, on changed in fortification practice and rationale in sixteenth-century England.  He has edited works on Fifty Years of Medieval Technology & Social Change (Ashgate, 2017); Wind & Water in the Middle Ages: Fluid Technologies from Antiquity to the Renaissance (ACMRS, 2006); and Instrumental in War: Science, Research, and Instruments Between Knowledge and the World (Brill, 2005).

John A. Schuster is Honorary Research Fellow in the Unit for History and Philosophy of Science and Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science, University of Sydney; and Honorary Fellow, Campion College, Sydney, the only private liberal arts college in Australia. He previously taught at Princeton, Leeds, Cambridge and the University of New South Wales. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. He has published on the historiography of the Scientific Revolution; the nature and dynamics of the field of early modern natural philosophy; Descartes' natural philosophical and mathematical career; the problem of the origin of experimental sciences in the 17th and 18th centuries; and the political and rhetorical roles of scientific method. Recent publications include Descartes-agonistes: Physico-Mathematics, Method and Corpuscular-Mechanism—1618-33 (Springer, 2013) and ‘Cartesian Physics’ in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Physics  (2013): 56-95

Reviews

“This slim yet wide-ranging volume offers compelling perspectives for broadening the scholar/craftsman debate. It is relevant to anyone studying the history of science in early modern Europe. As a whole, the essays capture the complexities of the theoretical, practical, and material concerns of mathematical practitioners and invite further discussion.” (Catherine Abou-Nemeh, ISIS, Vol. 109 (2), June, 2018)

“Mathematical Practitioners and the Transformation of Natural Knowledge in Early Modern Europe is a collection of nine papers from various authors from around the globe. … I do believe that this text could be a good supplement for students, and I firmly believe that this could be very useful for any professor looking for additional historical content.” (Brent Kelderman, MAA Reviews, June, 2017)


“The introductory section begins by setting out the problematic relationship between handwork and brainwork, both in terms of the Zilsel thesis, whose central claim was that skilled artisans and mathematical practitioners were essential for the Scientific Revolution, and through an enquiry into how practitioners and natural philosophers might have interacted. … This book shows that diverse and new historiographical approaches to the study of practical mathematics should be considered” (Argante Ciocci, Nuncius, Vol. 33 (3), November, 2018)



Table of contents (9 chapters)

Table of contents (9 chapters)
  • Introduction: Practical Mathematics, Practical Mathematicians, and the Case for Transforming the Study of Nature

    Cormack, Lesley B.

    Pages 1-8

  • Handwork and Brainwork: Beyond the Zilsel Thesis

    Cormack, Lesley B.

    Pages 11-35

  • Consuming and Appropriating Practical Mathematics and the Mixed Mathematical Fields, or Being “Influenced” by Them: The Case of the Young Descartes

    Schuster, John A.

    Pages 37-65

  • Mathematics for Sale: Mathematical Practitioners, Instrument Makers, and Communities of Scholars in Sixteenth-Century London

    Cormack, Lesley B.

    Pages 69-85

  • Technologies of Pow(d)er: Military Mathematical Practitioners’ Strategies and Self-Presentation

    Walton, Steven A.

    Pages 87-113

Buy this book

eBook $89.00
price for USA in USD (gross)
  • ISBN 978-3-319-49430-2
  • Digitally watermarked, DRM-free
  • Included format: EPUB, PDF
  • ebooks can be used on all reading devices
  • Immediate eBook download after purchase
Hardcover $119.99
price for USA in USD
  • ISBN 978-3-319-49429-6
  • Free shipping for individuals worldwide
  • Usually dispatched within 3 to 5 business days.
Softcover $119.99
price for USA in USD
  • ISBN 978-3-319-84160-1
  • Free shipping for individuals worldwide
  • Usually dispatched within 3 to 5 business days.
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Bibliographic Information

Bibliographic Information
Book Title
Mathematical Practitioners and the Transformation of Natural Knowledge in Early Modern Europe
Editors
  • Lesley B. Cormack
  • Steven A. Walton
  • John A. Schuster
Series Title
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Series Volume
45
Copyright
2017
Publisher
Springer International Publishing
Copyright Holder
Springer International Publishing AG
eBook ISBN
978-3-319-49430-2
DOI
10.1007/978-3-319-49430-2
Hardcover ISBN
978-3-319-49429-6
Softcover ISBN
978-3-319-84160-1
Series ISSN
0929-6425
Edition Number
1
Number of Pages
XII, 203
Number of Illustrations
12 b/w illustrations, 1 illustrations in colour
Topics