By Lois N. Magner
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Extra resources for A History of the Life Sciences
Scientists generally see themselves as engaged in a special form of work in which the core values include craftsmanship, ingenuity, originality, simplicity, and elegance. What scientists look for and admire is very different from what is currently fashionable in the history of science. In moments of weakness, many scientists and even some historians of science might join me in confessing to the pleasure and inspiration they derived in their youth from reading currently unfashionable panegyrics to science and scientists, such as Microbe Hunters, Arrowsmith, Crucibles, and Madame Curie.
Once death could be anticipated and remembered, attempts could be made to ward it off by both magical and rational means. Primitive attempts at wound management and surgery would provide knowledge of human anatomy and the location of vulnerable sites on and in the body. Observations made while caring for the sick and the dying would have provided important physiological information, such as the importance of the breath, heartbeat, pulse, blood, and body heat. Knowledge of animal anatomy and behavior is important to the hunter, herdsman, butcher, cook, and shaman.
Science students tend to find history courses boring and irrelevant, merely a chronicle of wars, treaties made and treaties broken, kings, queens, politicians, and more wars. Scientists whose work saved more lives from the ravages of disease than all our wars have been Page xiii able to eliminate are accorded little or no place in general history books. But the history of modern civilizations cannot be fully understood without attention to the influence of science and technology. As a creative endeavor, history is clearly different from chronology, but historians, especially historians of science, hold many different ideas about what is most fundamental to their discipline.