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Beyond the Scientific Revolution: Thinking Globally about the History of Modern Science

Symposium & JEMH Special Issue
October 21, 2016 - 9:00am

Humphrey School room 50b

Scholarship on the history of modern of modern science has increasingly called into question the origin story that locates the birth of modern science in one singular historical transformation that occurred all at once in one precise location (western Europe) over the course of one exceptionally transformative century. The increasing recognition that non-Western influences played an undeniable part in this set of changes has been especially destabilizing to this grand Euro-centric narrative of modernity, but if, as Steven Shapin has asserted, "there was no such thing as the Scientific Revolution," than how should we understand the history of modern science in its earliest historical manifestations? 

On October 21, 2016, a group of leading historians of early modern science will come together at the University of Minnesota for a symposium entitled "Beyond the Scientific Revolution: Thinking Globally about the History of Modern Science." The ultimate goal of this meeting is to produce a special issue of the Journal of Early Modern History (JEMH) devoted to this question. Attempts to re-assert the claim for a singular European origin of modern science in the 16th-17th centuries while also accounting for this change globally have recently be made by authors such as Toby Huff, H. Floris Cohen, and David Wooton, and even when the paradigm of an early modern "Scientific Revolution" is not explicitly deployed, the notion modern science was brought into the world all at once in Europe through one singular, modernizing transformation still lurks in the background of current scholarship. In what sense is this framework still useful or compelling? And if the “Scientific Revolution” is no longer the best category for organizing our understanding of early science and its modern development, then what alternative approaches exist, and how might they be imagined and developed into new histories?

Participants at the workshop will offer short “think pieces” articulating their position with respect to these historiographical problems, and together with our in-person and online participants they will each be workshopped on October 21 at our all-day symposium. UMN faculty and students are welcome to attend the symposium along with interested participants in the Twin Cities Metro region. Members of working groups at the Consortium for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine will be participating online from across North America​. Advanced registration is required. Please contact Lydia Brosnahan at for more information.

Beyond the Scientific Revolution symposium schedule
Friday, October 21, 2016
Humphrey School room 50b