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Journal Article

The Origins of Pure and Applied Science in Gilded Age America

Paul Lucier
Vol. 103, No. 3 (September 2012), pp. 527-536
DOI: 10.1086/667976
Stable URL:
Page Count: 10
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ABSTRACT“Pure science” and “applied science” have peculiar histories in the United States. Both terms were in use in the early part of the nineteenth century, but it was only in the last decades that they took on new meanings and became commonplace in the discourse of American scientists. The rise in their currency reflected an acute concern about the corruption of character and the real possibilities of commercializing scientific knowledge. “Pure” was the preference of scientists who wanted to emphasize their nonpecuniary motives and their distance from the marketplace. “Applied” was the choice of scientists who accepted patents and profits as other possible returns on their research. In general, the frequent conjoining of “pure” and “applied” bespoke the inseparable relations of science and capitalism in the Gilded Age.
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