Agency and industry : Charles C. Gillispie’s "The Natural History of Industry," then and now

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Charles Coulston Gillispie’s “The Discovery of the Leblanc Process” and “The Natural History of Industry” (Isis 48 (1957): 152–70, 398–407) were unique, yet characteristic of their era. Together, they engaged with discussions of the historical relationship between science and industry. While influential contemporaries favored a narrative structured by Anglo-centrism and the linear model, Gillispie turned to France and offered a different view. Similar to sociologist Robert Merton, Gillispie argued that French Enlightenment scientists (and scientists generally) served society and the state as educators and managers in exchange for support for their essentially disinterested pursuit of scientific knowledge. Organizing useful knowledge to inspire material and intellectual progress through teaching and encyclopedic publications was therefore part of their brief. Gillispie developed this view further in the 1980s, arguing against those who would grant agency to non-humans as well as human actors. His work is thus of continuing interest for current debates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)922-941
JournalTechnology and culture
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • IR-88705
  • METIS-301037


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