Since the last article on WW2-era German science was so well-received, I’ve decided to keep the theme of great pieces of scholarship about scientific history going. This week’s post is largely drawn from the essays of Gerard Holton. Holton’s work is, similar to the scholarship covered in the previous post, criminally under-talked about in the progress studies community. The Holton essays I talk about in this post, largely written between the early 1950s and 1970s, have lasting relevance today.1
Holton would have been best described as a scientific historian; however, as you’ll see in the modeling section of this post, his contributions go beyond that of an ordinary historian. The application of his physicist’s mind and toolkit to the problem of scientific innovation was incredible. Nowadays, we might consider him a social scientist who studied science itself, an early progress studies scholar. And a great one.
In this post I’ll go over: