Access

You are not currently logged in.

Access your personal account or get JSTOR access through your library or other institution:

login

Log in to your personal account or through your institution.

The Skeleton in the Closet: Should Historians of Science Care about the History of Mathematics?

Amir Alexander
Isis
Vol. 102, No. 3 (September 2011), pp. 475-480
DOI: 10.1086/661620
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/661620
Page Count: 6
Subjects: History of Science & Technology
Find more content in these subjects: History of Science & Technology
  • Download PDF
  • Add to My Lists
  • Cite this Item
We're having trouble loading this content. Download PDF instead.

Abstract

ABSTRACTUp until the 1950s, the history of mathematics was an integral part of the history of science. To George Sarton and his contemporaries, mathematics was the rational skeleton that organized science and held it together, and its history was a fundamental component of the broader history of science. But when historians began focusing on the cultural roots of science rather than its rational structure, the study of mathematics was marginalized and ultimately excluded from the history of science. The alienation between the two fields is detrimental to both, and in recent years there has been a sustained effort to reestablish meaningful communication between the two. This time, however, mathematics is seen not as the static skeleton of science but, instead, as a dynamic and historically evolving field in its own right—just like science itself. The new approach allows for a culturally sensitive study of mathematics, as well as a new and fruitful relationship between the history of science and the history of mathematics. The essays in this Focus section offer a sampling of the new approaches, opening the way to a rapprochement between fields that have gone their separate ways but should by rights be closely interconnected.