Technoscience in History: Prussia, 1750-1850

Technoscience in History: Prussia, 1750-1850

by Ursula Klein


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The relationship of the current technosciences and the older engineering sciences, examined through the history of the “useful” sciences in Prussia.

Do today's technoscientific disciplines—including materials science, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and robotics—signal a radical departure from traditional science? In Technoscience in History, Ursula Klein argues that these novel disciplines and projects are not an “epochal break,” but are part of a history that can be traced back to German “useful” sciences and beyond. Klein's account traces a deeper history of technoscience, mapping the relationship between today's cutting-edge disciplines and the development of the useful and technological sciences in Prussia from 1750 to 1850.

Klein shows that institutions that coupled natural-scientific and technological inquiry existed well before the twentieth century. Focusing on the science of mining, technical chemistry, the science of forestry, and the science of building (later known as civil engineering), she examines the emergence of practitioners who were recognized as men of science as well as inventive technologists—key figures that she calls “scientific-technological experts.”

Klein describes the Prussian state's recruitment of experts for technical projects and manufacturing, including land surveys, the apothecary trade, and porcelain production; state-directed mining, mining science, and mining academies; the history and epistemology of useful science; and the founding of Prussian scientific institutions in the nineteenth century, including the University of Berlin, the Academy of Building, the Technical Deputation, and the Industrial Institute.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262539296
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 09/22/2020
Series: Transformations: Studies in the History of Science and Technology
Pages: 328
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

“The term ‘technoscience’ may feel futuristic, but Ursula Klein’s fascinating study shows that the phenomenon extends back centuries. She demonstrates in detail that mining, among other key fields, involved the kind of ‘useful knowledge’ that spurred modern science.”
Michael D. Gordin, Rosengarten Professor of Modern and Contemporary History, Princeton University
Technoscience in History imaginatively explores the role of useful sciences in Prussia’s knowledge economy. It recasts several canonical historical narratives: of industrialization, state expertise, and even Berlin University’s founding. It adds incredible historical depth to Bruno Latour’s Science in Action.”
Kathryn Olesko, Associate Professor, Associate Professor, Georgetown University

Ursula Klein is Permanent Senior Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin and coauthor of Materials in Eighteenth-Century Science: A Historical Ontology (MIT Press).

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vii

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

I Technical Experts and Innovation in Prussia

1 Technical Projects of the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences 19

2 Discovery and Invention: Klaproth 33

3 Pharmacy and Chemistry 43

4 Experts at the Royal Prussian Porcelain Manufactory 57

5 The Figure of Technical Expert 77

II The Model: Useful Science at Mining Academies

6 Silver Mining and the Freiberg Mining Academy 83

7 Mining and Mining Experts in Prussia: Gerhard 103

8 Experiments in the Laboratory of the Mining Department 117

9 The Lecture Series of the Mining Administration 123

10 Mines as Laboratories: Humboldt 131

III Useful Science and its Practitioners

11 Mining Science 151

12 The Science of Saltworks 163

13 The Figure of Scientific-Technological Expert 175

IV Toward Nineteenth-Century Technological Science

14 Useful Knowledge at the University of Berlin 187

15 The Academy of Civil Engineering and Architecture 197

16 A New Industrial Policy: The Industrial Institute 209

17 The Big Picture: Useful Science, Technological Science, Technoscience 227

Notes 243

References 277

Index 307

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