Article ID: CBB001320539

Agency and Industry: Charles C. Gillispie's “The Natural History of Industry,” Then and Now (2013)


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.


Description Refers to Charles Coulston Gillispie's “The Discovery of the Leblanc Process” and “The Natural History of Industry” (Isis 48 (1957): 152--70, 398--407).

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Authors & Contributors
Gillispie, Charles Coulston
Amir, Sulfikar
Bordoni, Stefano
Brock, Adrian C.
Chadarevian, Soraya de
DiMoia, John P.
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Bulletin for the History of Chemistry
Studium: Tijdschrift voor Wetenschaps- en Universiteitgeschiedenis
Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society
French Historical Studies
History of Psychology
American Philosophical Society
Princeton University Press
Intercollegiate Studies Institute
History of science, as a discipline
Historians of science, modern
History of technology, as a discipline
Gillispie, Charles Coulston
Bocks, Paul
Butterfield, Herbert
Danziger, Kurt
Duhem, Pierre
Foucault, Michel
Time Periods
20th century, late
21st century
20th century, early
20th century
Arizona State University
Science History Institute (SHI)

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