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History of science should aim at improving it, not turning it to stone

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Abstract for 2015 Wilkins-Bernal-Medawar Lecture: Who Cares about the History of Science? by Cambridge science philosopher Hasok Chang:

The history of science has many functions. Historians should consider how their work contributes to various functions, going beyond a simple desire to understand the past correctly. There are both internal and external functions of the history of science in relation to science itself; I focus here on the internal, as they tend to be neglected these days. The internal functions can be divided into orthodox and complementary. The orthodox function is to assist with the understanding of the content and methods of science as it is now practised. The complementary function is to generate and improve scientific knowledge where current science itself fails to do so. Complementary functions of the history of science include the raising of critical awareness, and the recovery and extension of past scientific knowledge that has become forgotten or neglected. These complementary functions are illustrated with some concrete examples. (paywall) More.

See also: Marchin’, marchin’ for Science (Hint: the problems are back at your desk, not out in the streets)

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