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Catherine H. Crouch


Science in miniature

Ingenious Pursuits: Building the Scientific Revolution
by Lisa Jardine
Doubleday
320 pp.; $35

French DNA: Trouble in Purgatory
by Paul Rabinow
Univ. of Chicago Press
200 pp.; $25

Sex and Death: An Introduction to Philosophy of Biology
by Kim Sterelny and Paul E. Griffiths
Univ. of Chicago Press
416 pp.; $22, paper

Science is not done in a vacuum. Although the workings of the natural world are arguably independent of the human context in which they are discovered, it is undeniable that which scientific questions are pursued, and hence which scientific discoveries are made, depends on the culture in which the scientists are working. It is equally undeniable that scientific discoveries have a moral and philosophical impact on society. Three recent books—Lisa Jardine's Ingenious Pursuits: Building the Scientific Revolution; Paul Rabinow's French DNA: Trouble in Purgatory; and Kim Sterelny and Paul Griffiths's Sex and Death: An Introduction to Philosophy of Biology—address the questions of how science fits into the surrounding culture, each from a different angle.

One central message of Jardine's Ingenious Pursuits is that scientific progress depends on money, and money comes when there is economic and political reason to be interested in the scientific results. Al though Jardine's subject matter is Renaissance-era European science, this observation is just as true in America, or anywhere else, today (as I put the final touches on this review, I am also working on two grant proposals).

Jardine recounts the major scientific developments of the period together with the reasons that they were funded. For example, astronomical observatories were established in every major European capital and astronomers employed at those observatories because both land surveying and marine navigation depended on astronomical observations. (Louis XIV of France, on surveying new maps of France based on improved observations, remarked that ...

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