Apr 30, 2020 in Review

The Global Turn In The History Of Science

The history of science development has been flourishing lately around the globe. The essay of Fa-ti Fan briefly discusses the concepts of circulation and trade, which the science has adopted to examine the history of science in the global context. The author indicates the recently evinced interest to the concept of the global history of science. The writer mentions George Sarton and Joseph Needham who have contributed to the central characteristics of the notions and earlier studies on the concepts. Finally, the essay discusses the differences between the global and regional approaches towards studying the issue and indicates the high time for the East Asian STS to take a global turn.

The discipline of the history of science examined George Sarton and Joseph Needham, who insisted on viewing the history from the global perspective. Although their life opinions were rather diverse, as Sarton considered humanism and universalism, while Needham supported the Marxist cosmopolitanism, they both soared above Eurocentric parochialism. Sargon considered the history of science, as a process of cumulative advancements, in contrast to the historical materialist Needham, who looked at the history of science from the economical and sociological points of view. Studying the science, Sarton used experimental and mathematical science, while Needham utilized the technological innovations. However, the main argument of their examination was globalization processes over the globe, which influenced the procedure of studying history of science. The evidences in the essay prove the argument when the author talks about the globalization around the world. He also discusses that every researcher can have his own idea on the examination of diverse notions.

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The idea of “globalization” turns into the argument about the global and trans-regional interactions and connections. The author considers the notions of “the transmission, exchange, and circulation of knowledge, skills, and material objects.” The author proves the argument suggesting that the science cannot be developed and examined fully without being transmitted and exchanged among diverse researchers from different countries. People’s skills, knowledge and material objects circulate around the globe, aiding the transition of the information.

The essay put an emphasis on the concept of circulation, arguing that information and ideas transmitted across the cultures played a significant role in constructing the modern society. He supports this claim, indicating that the circulation of human actors, knowledge, and material objects arose as a part of globalization in the following centuries. The argument is valid, as the knowledge and material objects are transmitting around the globe, within the continents, no matter whether they reach capitals or provinces, colonies or metropoles. Moreover, the interaction of the information as well as material objects occurs within institutions and social classes. The concept of transmition focuses on the movement of processes rather than completed products. The issue of the interaction and exchange can explain more than the result of finished objects.

Fa-ti Fan calls the “circulation” a series of struggles, negotiations, stops and starts, as well as pushes and pulls. The depiction of circulation intends to impose excessive uniformity, unity, and directionality on what is multidirectional, complex, and messy. The circulation implies diverse stages of evolvement and it various states. Transit and interaction include various zones and boundaries as well as mechanisms of circulation. During this process the cases of exchange, transformation and mutations occur. The excellent example of globalization and “circulation” include migration of people across the borders of diverse countries. Globalization often results in increased mobility of people, since the trade and technologies evolve as well as the sovereignty of the countries and establishment of the strong borders take place. The migration evidences the “circulation” process, which occurs through crossing of the border, monitoring of people, documents’ identity, and control of the flow.

One more concept, which the author describes in the context of the global history of science, is “trade”. Fa-ti Fan argues that trade aims to reconstruct the close historical links between commerce and science. The article also discusses the scientific contact and exchange, which forms the notion of “contact zone”. The author uses this notion “to explain the ways in which well-defined research communities in high-energy physics, with their distinctive cultures, coordinate their actions and beliefs for scientific research”. This argument is valid, as the article explains that all the researchers combine their knowledge to find answers to the questions and pursue the research. The evidence of the argument is explained in an example of tribes, which speak diverse languages but must create a pidgin or contact language to be able to trade. The author supports the argument, claiming that both components of the trade, including scientific contact and knowledge exchange, can occur under diverse circumstances. For example, coercion for information; migrations of people and their knowledge, skills, and talents; knowledge transmitted through kinship or under moral /political authority; and many other situations that are result from trading, remaining the major elements of the global history of science.

The author suggests one more argument about the concepts of “trade” and “circulation” that is the relationship between the global and the regional history of science. The argument is supported by the fact that the regional history of science cannot exist without the global one and visa verse. The example of “a shared written language and textual tradition among the cultural elites in China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam for centuries until the nineteenth century” clarifies the argument. The author explains that the circulation of texts, knowledge, people, and material objects, has occurred within the mentioned regions. Therefore, each region had its own unique tradition but due to the cooperation with other regions, cultural customs were exchanged and transmitted among different nations. Moreover, even though, East Asian STS relates mostly to East Asia, it cannot disregard the global influence.

In his essay, the author used diverse sources of literature, including both Asian and international authors. Fa-ti Fan also used his own previous works, which reflect similar themes and topics. The reference list comprises from books and journal articles. Fa-ti conducted a deep research on the topic and the works of diverse authors to write a brief and clear essay explaining the concepts of the history of science. The article is formed in the way that one source supports another one, providing clear evidences. The review of the article shows that diverse authors support one evidence. For example, it is indicated that the abstract is supported by four sources.

Almost all sources used by Fa-ti Fan are secondary, written based on the books or previous articles. The reason for the incorporation of secondary sources the fact that such articles also deeply analyze primary sources and are full of noteworthy and examined information. For instance, “Terrall, Mary, and Kapil Raj, Circulation and Locality in Early Modern Science. Special issue of British Journal for the History of Science 43, no. 4: 513 – 623”, is a secondary source, taken from the journal. The article’s author analyzed books and other articles to write a scientific essay. Moreover, all the sources support the author’s evidences, which are logically formed and inserted in the article.

The review also showed that plenty of sources substantiate the evidences. The author aims to support each argument with evidence and numerous references. This proves that Fa-ti Fan conducted a deep research to write the essay. I agree and support the author’s choice of the sources. However, in my opinion, he could insert more examples of the concepts he was trying to explain. This approach would have made the text more understandable and convincible for the readers.

I think that the scope of the work is appropriate, as the readers are able to understand the topic properly. The article is of suitable length, easy to read and comprehend the illustrated concepts. The author says, “I have commented on some of the opportunities and challenges in the global history of science. Without making this essay unduly long…”. Fa-ti Fan understands that the article must short to be easy for the reader to understand it, reread it and find all the necessary information. If the article was very long and complicated, the readers would refuse to read it and it would be more difficult for them to focus on the idea of the essay.

I suppose that the author could more clearly explain the concepts. Fa-ti Fan proposed the notions of “circulation and “trade” in the course of global science history. He also explained the relations between the regional and global approaches to the history of science. However, to my mind, the author could develop the theme of the science history in a more detailed way, including more instances of the concepts. In addition, the article could give more information about the formation of the history of science. Furthermore, I think that Fa-ti Fan’s essay is of rather a compact size and the omitted notions can embarrass the understanding of the whole article.

The method and style of the article is plain, allowing the readers identify the entire idea of the author. Fa-ti Fan structured his work in a very simple but well perceivable way. He started with the overall description of the history of science and gradually moved to a more detailed depiction of the main notions of the history of science. The article, started with the description of the early stages of the history of science development, then moved to the “globalization” and the two concept, such as circulation and trade, and, finally, described their relation on the regional and global levels. The author made the article open-ended, suggesting the need for the further exploration of the subject. “Circulation, contact, exchange, transfer, and other transnational/transregional issues remain largely unexplored”. I think that such decision to leave the space for further exploration is the best possible solution for the ending, since no researcher can investigate an issue from start to finish. The style and method of writing are suitable for the article with any theme, as it allows an author to present his/her ideas and thoughts clearly.

Fa-ti Fan is a scholar who wrote plenty of scholar articles and a book. All his essays are connected with the development of the history of science, particularly the Chinese one. He explored many concepts related to the history of science and modern East Asia. The article “The Global Turn in the History of Science” reflects some previous works of the author, which are connected with the development of history of science, peculiarly in China. A good example of such essay is “Redrawing the Map: Science in Twentieth-Century China”, which explains the scientific concepts in modern China. The works of Fa-ti Fan play a significant role in the research on the topic, as they show a deep analysis of the notions and explain the state of the science in China in a very understandable way. The “The Global Turn in the History of Science” was inserted in the history of science, as it offered the understanding of the main notions, which contribute to the better understanding of the subject.

The essay certainly follows the standard line of interpretation. It can be easily interpreted by any culture and classified in any field. With the help of this essay, people can better understand the notions described. The plain style of the article can provoke people’s curiosity in the field of the history of science. The article certainly contributed into the field of science and took a significant place in the available research. Later many other scholars used the work of Fa-ti Fan, as a source for their researches and essays. For example, Pierce Salguero in “Toward a Global History of Buddhism and Medicine” used the Fa-ti Fan work in his exploration of the relationship of Buddhism to the medicine. This proves the fact that this particular essay contributes not only to the field of history of science but also to medicine, religion and philosophy. Thus, the article “The Global Turn in the History of Science” is a significant work, which aids in understanding of the scientific notions and the concept of the science of history. Moreover, the work contributes to numerous scientific fields and is used in the further investigation of history of science.


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