Science in the archives : pasts, presents, futures /

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Bibliographic Details
Imprint:Chicago : The University of Chicago Press, 2017.
Description:viii, 397 pages : illustrations, map ; 23 cm
Subject:Scientific archives.
Scientific archives -- History.
Science -- History.
Scientific archives.
Format: Print Book
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Hidden Bibliographic Details
Other authors / contributors:Daston, Lorraine, 1951- editor.
Notes:Includes bibliographical references and index.
Summary:Archives bring to mind rooms filled with old papers and dusty artifacts. But for scientists, the detritus of the past can be a treasure trove of material vital to present and future research: fossils collected by geologists; data banks assembled by geneticists; case histories published in medical journals; weather diaries and data silos trawled by climate scientists; libraries visited by historians. These are the vital collections, assembled and maintained over millennia, which define the sciences of the archives. With 'Science in the Archives', Lorraine Daston offers the first study of the important role that these archives play in the natural and human sciences. Ranging across disciplines and centuries, contributors cover episodes in the history of astronomy, geology, genetics, philology, climatology, medicine, and more - as well as fundamental practices such as collecting, retrieval, and data mining. Chapters cover topics ranging from doxology in Greco-Roman antiquity to NSA surveillance techniques of the twenty-first century. Thoroughly exploring the practices, politics, economics, and potential of the sciences of the archives, this volume reveals the essential historical dimension of the sciences, while also adding a much-needed long term perspective to contemporary debates over the uses of Big Data in science.
Standard no.:40027000817
Review by Choice Review

This volume's articles deal with historically universal problems of accumulation, preservation, management, interpretation, and dissemination of data. The articles explore how stores of observations were used in the past and contemplate present techniques for retrieving electronic information. Additionally, the articles consider the types of documents in which knowledge was recorded, and evaluate the consequences of "data deluge." Political controversies have arisen over how data is gathered and analyzed, perhaps particularly in those disciplines in which the science is its archive, such as evolutionary genetics and climatology. Ownership of information and access to evidence are perennial dilemmas. Most authors focus on the biological sciences, although astronomy and paleontology are also addressed. Like editor Daston, director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, the contributors are experienced and well-regarded historians of science. While the text is likely of most interest to researchers or readers of works such as Ann Blair's Too Much to Know (CH, Aug'11, 48-7064), this reviewer can see herself using parts of this collection in a historiography class, together with a textbook such as John Tosh's The Pursuit of History (first edition, CH, Mar'85), now in its sixth edition, or The Houses of History, edited by Anna Green and Kathleen Troup (1999). Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above; faculty and professionals. --Amy K. Ackerberg-Hastings, independent scholar

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Choice Review