This volume is a compilation of papers from a 1990 symposium held in Paris and organized by the REHSEIS (Research on the Epistemology and History of Exact Sciences and Scientific Institutions). Adnan Badran, Assistant Director-General for Science of UNESCO, gave the opening address. Badran said "...considering the theme of this meeting, 'Science and Empires,' one infers that a brand of knowledge was developed at some place and transferred to some other places and the question is what is it that makes certain areas of knowledge prevail over borders and cultures?" (13) Are some scientific endeavors simply universal? He cited a UNESCO study that operated under the premise "science cannot be developed independently of social and cultural context." Other issues for this conference included defining European science; exploring the links between Classical and Modern Science; understanding the connection between political strategies and expansion; tracking the emergence of a national science; and comparing sciences of local and ideological context. About 120 scientists attended the conference, many from French-speaking countries or from South America, although Turkey, China and Japan were also represented. Papers were delivered in French, Spanish or English, but were translated into English or French for the present volume.
The presenters were primarily concerned with the "second" (not first)
European expansion, and so many articles were interesting but irrelevant
to my inquiries this semester. About 1/3 of the volume is in French.
The quality of the English articles is somewhat unpolished, and I derived
less value from this work than I had supposed I would. However, I
selected six articles that at least referred to the time period I was concerned
with, and which I hoped would be of general relevance. The idea of
scientific knowledge replication is novel to me, as is the phrasing of
the question. ("areas of knowledge prevail over borders...")
A key paper by George Bassala, "The Spread of Western Science" Science,
vol CLVI, no. 277, 5, (1967) looks like it would be worth pursuing.
Bassala argues that there are three overlapping phases of scientific development.
1) geographic exploration, bringing data back to the sending metropolis
2) developing theoretical studies which can best be done in the center,
which setting up research projects in the periphery 3) colonials
develop a separate practice.
Integration Problems: Introductory Report
There is no true model of the integration of native science with colonial science. National research tends to be non-intergrationist, polarized against the colonial policies and powers. As regards the split between research and education, Westerners tend to teach technology and engineering, while the natives tend to teach science. But Westerners are the ones who insist that science be taught, while locals are more interested in promoting technology, engineering and lab training. Finally, translation of scientific works into local languages can be a vexed political question.
Ottomans and European Science
George Bassala's center-periphery diffusion model doesn't apply to the Ottomans, who were neither a center nor a periphery. The Ottomans' thought themselves morally and materially superior because of their sound finances, secure military, mining expertise, and victories in battle. They were Islamic, and the heirs to the flourishing Islamic culture of the Middle Ages. They translated geography using Spanish and Italian sources in about 1580, roughly thirty years behind. Guns and gunpowder were introduced about 50 years after they appeared in Europe. Mining was on par, and medicine also kept pace, because Sephardic and Italian Jews left Europe and came to serve the Ottomans. The Ottomans translated astronomy tables, but not the theory, as they were interested first in the calendar and timekeeping aspects. The first Ottoman printing house was built in 1727. Specialized military, math, civil life and art education came later, as did an emphasis on theory and research.
Western Mathematics in China, 17th Century and 19th Century
There were two waves of foreign mathematical teaching in China. The Jesuit teachings of Matteo Rici were of use to members of the Astronomy Board and sparked a re-discovery of Chinese math traditions amongst Chinese scholars who believed that Western math had its origins in China. British missionaries, entering China after the 1842 Opium War, had a variety of Protestant patrons and established a number of special schools. Even before their defeat at the hands of the British, the Chinese valued mathematics as they applied to calendrical change and to gunnery. They were apparently less interested in Western religious or civil values. After 1842, math was of national import, being used for war and for defense.
World-Science: How is the History of World-Science to be Written?
Polanco argues that the "modern scientific world system took form from a world-science that had its genesis in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries." (225) Polanco is defining "world-science" after the model of Braudel's world-economy. "World-science" concerns only a geographic fragment of the whole; it is autonomous and capable of providing for its own needs; and it has internal links and exchanges. Babylonian, Greek, Pre-Columbian, and European are each examples. There is a center, a hierarchy of interconnected zones, boundaries that are slow to change, and a weak diffuse network structure. Economic, cultural, scientific and technological zones need not be the same. Shifts from one world-science geographic center to another are not due to the quality of ideas, but rather to the legislative, cultural and political freedoms allowed to scientists (substituting LOGOS idealism for Liberal idealism?) The number of papers published in a country (funded science) correlates to the GNP of a country, and not generally to the affluence of its inhabitants (the US is an exception).
Models of European Scientific Expansion: The Ottoman Empire
as a Source of Evidence
George Bassala suggested that Europe reproduced its "scientific-technical patterns" in its colonies, and his seminal article drew a lot of critical response. Elena says the Ottoman empire doesn't fit Bassala's scientific diffusion model (above), and doesn't even, for that matter, fit proposed models for empires. (functioning neither as formal colonies nor as informal empires) Most importantly, "The Ottoman Empire was never a stimulus for metropolitan science." (260) He quotes Voltaire's acidic remark to Frederick the Great in 1771: "It is now sixty years since ...(the Turks) have been importing watches from Geneva, and the are still not able to make one, or even to set it right."(261, cited in Bernard Lewis, Muslim Discovery of Europe, 1982.) At the end of the eighteenth century, the Ottoman empire's finances fell into the hands of European bankers, and that ended Ottoman economic independence. By their scientific learning, nations perpetuate themselves, and do not necessarily liberate others.
Problems in Scientific Administration: A Study of the Scientific
Surveys in British India 1751-1900
Next to guns and ships, survey operations were the most potent tools
in the hands of a colonizing power. Surveys helped the British meet
unknown people, chart untrodden paths, and estimate local resources.
Survey and European expansion go forward side by side. In 1818 the
Great Trigonometrical Survey of India was established, and its resources
were slowly organized for efficiency. By 1851 the Geological Survey
of India was formed (meteorology was part of their work as well).
The history Kumar relates is the half-humorous half-awful story of
a hundred years of civil servants interacting with scientists, each imprisoned
in their own conflicting priorities (compare the ardent pleas for funding
of a solar observatory because knowledge of sunflares helps to predict
famine to ardent pleas to send Survey members to other countries during
the hot months). Infighting was common, and inter-departmental budget battles
all-too-familiar. By the by, I was surprised to find that the plot line
of Kim (Kim joins the "Great Game" as a member of the Geological Survey)
had more basis in fact than I knew.