How calculus-based mathematical physics arose in France after 1700: A historicized actor-network narrative as explanation

J. B. Shank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This essay argues that a historically specific actor-network narrative of how calculus-based mathematical physics came to be assembled and institutionalized in France around 1700 stands as an explanation of how and why this particular scientific development occurred in this particular time and place. In sum, its core argument is that deeply contextualized actor-network accounts of the contingent historical details productive of any precise scientific change are themselves, and with no need for anything else, historical explanations of these scientific changes. The essay argues for this position by criticizing the prevailing historical explanation of the beginnings of analytical mechanics in France and the reasons for the resistance of this historiography to a more deeply historical and contingent understanding. The essay ultimately seeks to defend contingent historicist interpretation on its own terms as its own powerful mode of historical explanation against the ahistorical forms of “historical explanation” still prevalent within the historiography of the mathematical sciences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)312-316
Number of pages5
JournalISIS
Volume110
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019

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