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Who are scientists? What kind of people are they? What capacities
and virtues are thought to stand behind their considerable authority? They are experts - indeed, highly respected experts - authorized to describe and interpret the natural world and widely trusted to help transform knowledge into power and profit. But are they morally different from other people? "The Scientific Life" is historian Steven Shapin's story about who scientists are, who we think they are, and why our sensibilities about such things matter.
Conventional wisdom has long held that scientists are neither better nor worse than anyone else, that personal virtue does not necessarily accompany technical expertise, and that scientific practice is profoundly impersonal. Shapin, however, here shows how the uncertainties attending scientific research make the virtues of individual researchers intrinsic to scientific work. From the early twentieth-century origins of corporate research laboratories to the high-flying scientific entrepreneurship of the present, Shapin argues that the radical uncertainties of much contemporary science have made personal virtues more central to its practice than ever before, and he also reveals how radically novel aspects of late modern science have unexpectedly deep historical roots.
Building on the insights of Shapin's last three influential books, featuring an utterly fascinating cast of characters, and brimming with bold and original claims, this elegantly conceived history of the scientific career and character ultimately encourages us to reconsider the very nature of the technical and moral worlds in which we now live.
Steven Shapin is the Franklin L. Ford Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University. He is the author of A Social History of Truth, The Scientific Revolution, and, with Simon Schaffer, coauthor of Leviathan and the Air-Pump. He has also written for the New Yorker and is a frequent contributor to the London Review of Books.
An excellent book. - New York Times Book Review "Highly readable.... A book which every scientist curious about our predecessors should read." - New Scientist "It's hard to believe there could be a more accessible, informed or concise account." - London Review of Books "Informed, nuanced, and articulated with clarity.... An impressive achievement." - Science"