Date: 9 December 2015

Time: 16-17:15

Location: W&N Building VU, C161

Stevin Seminar: Machines as Metaphors: a ‘big picture’ of the history of modern science

Frans van Lunteren on Machines as Metaphors

Wednesday 9 December 16.00-17.15h
Wis- & Natuurkundegebouw: WN C 161
Afterwards drinks in The Basket

Abstract
Machines as metaphors: a ‘big picture’ of the history of modern science

Over the last few decades there have been several calls for a ‘big picture’ of the history of science. There is a general need for a concise overview of the rise of modern science, with a clear structure allowing for a rough division in periods. Here I would like to propose such a scheme, one that is both elementary and comprehensive. It focuses on four machines, which mediated between science and society during successive periods of time. Following an extended developmental phase each of these machines came to play a highly visible role in Western societies, both socially and economically. Each of these machines, moreover, was used as a powerful resource for the understanding of both inorganic and organic nature. More specifically, their metaphorical use helped to construe and refine some key concepts that would play a prominent role in such understanding. Finally, in a refined form, each of these machine would eventually make its entry in scientific research, thereby strengthening the ties between these machines and nature.

Frans van Lunteren is professor in the history of science, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Leiden University.