Science in the 20th Century and Beyond / Edition 1

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A compelling history of science from 1900 to the present day, this is the first book to survey modern developments in science during a century of unprecedented change, conflict and uncertainty. The scope is global. Science's claim to access universal truths about the natural world made it an irresistible resource for industrial empires, ideological programs, and environmental campaigners during this period. Science has been at the heart of twentieth century history - from Einstein's new physics to the Manhattan Project, from eugenics to the Human Genome Project, or from the wonders of penicillin to the promises of biotechnology. For some science would only thrive if autonomous and kept separate from the political world, while for others science was the best guide to a planned and better future. Science was both a routine, if essential, part of an orderly society, and the disruptive source of bewildering transformation. Jon Agar draws on a wave of recent scholarship that explores science from interdisciplinary perspectives to offer a readable synthesis that will be ideal for anyone curious about the profound place of science in the modern world.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Winner of the Choice award for Outstanding AcademicTitle

"Agar has abstracted and made manageable a range of rich andinformed analysis. Anyone who thinks seriously about science willfind it a very useful source."
The Economist

"Global in scope and fresh in approach, this monumental historylays out the evolution of science during a tumultuouscentury."

"Truly extraordinary in its depth and breadth, it makes significantcontributions to the history of science and more broadly to ourunderstanding of twentieth-century history. It is also remarkablein that, while written primarily with a scholarly audience in mind,it's nevertheless accessible and of interest to a wider audience,and an excellent advertisement for the discipline."
British Society for the History of Science

"Judging by the majestic scope of Jon Agar’s new volume, westill have fertile big-picture approaches to guide us through theuntidily evolving and multiplying plurality of the naturalsciences. Generations of students might take great pride incritiquing the book, just as scholars have done for fifty yearswith Kuhn’s (in)famously challenging The Structure ofScientific Revolutions."
Reviews in History

"Agar's approach focuses on the relationship of science to externalideas and practices, thus tying it more tightly to broaderhistories; it also emphasises patterns of discovery over theindividual flashes of insight. Both are useful correctives, andscientists, historians and those who aspire to be either will allbenefit from them."
Prospect - picked for 'What to read thissummer'

"A masterful, yet eminently readable, synthesis, which isunquestionably an essential addition to the library of historiansof science. I suggest it would also be of wider relevance toteachers of A-level science, giving us a little of the breadthoccasionally."
School Science Review

"All technology has its genesis, but everyone seems to have beentoo busy to synthesise the elements and tell the full story. JonAgar has set this to rights with this book, which will interest thescholar, the historian and the enquiring mind of anydiscipline."
Network Computing

"A synthetic history of a subject as big, broad and diverse astwentieth-century science is a major achievement. But Agar hasgiven us something more than that: his book is an innovative modelof how one might think about scientific practices at temporal andinstitutional scales much larger than those to which modernhistorical writing has become accustomed."
Steven Shapin, Harvard University, and author of TheScientific Life: A Moral History of a Late Modern Vocation

"Science in the Twentieth Century and Beyond is the bookhistorians of modern science have been waiting for. It offers anambitious yet masterly synthesis of the vast historical literatureon twentieth-century and contemporary science. Through the conceptof the 'working worlds' of science, it provides a unified andcompelling analytical framework within which to interpret andilluminate this ever expanding literature and the development ofthe sciences from 1900 to the present. Jon Agar is a sure-footedand informative guide over this complex terrain; what results is aclear and comprehensive work of breadth and vision that few otherscholars could have produced. Superbly crafted, elegantly written,inventive and thought-provoking, the book makes an absolutelyinvaluable contribution to the history of science. It will beindispensable to anyone who teaches, researches or is justinterested in the history of modern science and the contemporaryworld."
Jeff Hughes, University of Manchester

"A fine chronological survey of the multiple worlds in whichscientists worked in the twentieth century, responding to theirdemands by seeking to understand, to manipulate and to transformthem."
John Krige, Georgia Institute of Technology

"A tour-de-force, covering a period of over a hundred years inwhich the growth of science has been exponential, and astonishingin its coverage of the various branches of science and theirinosculations. There is no other book with the same range, andcommand of material and recent scholarship."
David Knight, Durham University

"Key ideas are articulated and linked in interesting andsurprising ways, key contexts described and a few explored indetail, and the demands of these contexts are linked to ideas. Thisis a trope which offers the prospect of addressing the scale oftwentieth-century science and rendering it in exemplary narrativeswhich convey meaning to the reader in the recognisable form ofhuman lives and work."
Robert Bud, The Science Museum, London

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Jon Agar is a lecturer in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge.

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Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgements
  • 1. Introduction
  • Part 1: Science after 1900
  • 2. New Physics
  • 3. New Sciences of Life
  • 4. New Sciences of the Self
  • Part 2: Sciences in a World of Conflict
  • 5. Science and the First World War
  • 6. Crisis: Quantum Theories and Other Weimar Sciences
  • 7. Science and Imperial Order
  • 8. Expanding Universes: Private Wealth and American Science
  • 9. Revolutions and Materialism
  • 10. Nazi Science
  • 11. Scaling Up, Scaling Down
  • Part 3: Second World War and Cold War
  • 12. Science and the Second World War
  • 13. Trials of Science in the Atomic Age
  • 14. Cold War Spaces
  • 15. Cold War Sciences (1): Sciences from the Working World of Atomic Projects
  • 16. Cold War Sciences (2): Sciences from Information Systems
  • Part 4: Sciences of Our World
  • 17. Transition: Sea Change in the Long Sixties
  • 18. Networks
  • 19. Connecting Ends
  • Part 5: Conclusions
  • 20. Science in the Twentieth Century and Beyond
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