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Science in Latin America

Science in Latin America

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    Science in Latin America
    Book Description:

    Science in Latin America has roots that reach back to the information gathering and recording practices of the Maya, Aztec, and Inca civilizations. Spanish and Portuguese conquerors and colonists introduced European scientific practices to the continent, where they hybridized with local traditions to form the beginnings of a truly Latin American science. As countries achieved their independence in the nineteenth century, they turned to science as a vehicle for modernizing education and forwarding "progress." In the twentieth century, science and technology became as omnipresent in Latin America as in the United States and Europe. Yet despite a history that stretches across five centuries, science in Latin America has traditionally been viewed as derivative of and peripheral to Euro-American science.

    To correct that mistaken view, this book provides the first comprehensive overview of the history of science in Latin America from the sixteenth century to the present. Eleven leading Latin American historians assess the part that science played in Latin American society during the colonial, independence, national, and modern eras, investigating science's role in such areas as natural history, medicine and public health, the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, politics and nation-building, educational reform, and contemporary academic research. The comparative approach of the essays creates a continent-spanning picture of Latin American science that clearly establishes its autonomous history and its right to be studied within a Latin American context.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79571-6
    Subjects: History of Science & Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. INTRODUCTION: The Latin American Scientific Theater
    (pp. 1-28)

    This volume collects for the first time a history of science as a whole in the geographical and cultural region known as Latin America. The authors are historians of science and discuss, among other issues, what, at different moments and under different circumstances, has been understood as science in Latin America, the forms scientific activity has taken, the settings responsible for the autochthonous peculiarities of science in the region, and the adoption of European science and its evolution in Latin America. This is a local history of how geographical accidents, individuals and groups of individuals, institutions, ideologies, concepts, and scientific...

  4. CHAPTER 1 Natural History and Herbal Medicine in Sixteenth-century America
    (pp. 29-50)

    From the moment the territory known today as Latin America became part of the “Western world” some five hundred years ago, two different viewpoints of the same process have existed—two ways of analyzing the history of a region that for five centuries has tried to find the syncretism necessary to eradicate the great social and economic differences created by two different world views still current among the population. Latin Americans throughout these five centuries have lived and taken an active role in the conflict entailed in preserving a culture under the permanent influence and tutelage of another that has...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Science and Public Happiness during the Latin American Enlightenment
    (pp. 51-92)

    The Enlightenment in the Americas was simultaneously the cause and the effect of social and cultural changes in the region. Changes increased in intensity during the eighteenth century and during the first third of the nineteenth. In that period, social and economic life in the colony became more dynamic; there was educational, cultural, and scientific secularization; and a Creole nationalist consciousness and revolutionary movements emerged in Latin America. The Enlightenment ideal came to fruition in the arts, history, literature, urbanism, ethnography, philosophy, linguistics, and, especially, science and technology.

    In Spain’s colonial empire in the Americas beginning in the sixteenth century...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Modern Scientific Thought in Santa Fe, Quito, and Caracas, 1736–1803
    (pp. 93-122)

    The Enlightenment current that permeated the Viceroyalty of New Granada in the late eighteenth century—simultaneous with the reign of Carlos III—encouraged a new, “useful,” philosophy, which involved the teaching of Newtonian natural philosophy. The theories and concepts of this new philosophy were aimed at opposing Scholastic thought by explaining reality through observation and experience. They were also an attempt to promote a different vision of the world in new generations by teaching modern physics in nontraditional ways.

    Before they were incorporated into programs of study at the universities of New Granada, Copernican theses could be found, for example,...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Scientific Traditions and Enlightenment Expeditions in Eighteenth-century Hispanic America
    (pp. 123-150)

    During the eighteenth century, a great number of European expeditions traveled all over Hispanic America.¹ The numerous studies of the subject during the 1990s have considerably improved our knowledge of the Enlightenment and of the role science and technology played in the economic and social development of the Spanish colonies, although there are signs of exhaustion among researchers. It has become trite to reiterate the geostrategic dimension, neomercantilist profits, or the tendency toward emancipation that marked eighteenth-century scientific expeditions. A new effort is needed to find new points of view within studies of European expansion. It is therefore worth remembering...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Science and Freedom: Science and Technology as a Policy of the New American States
    (pp. 151-162)

    Between 1810 and 1824, the movement for independence of the Latin American nations emerged and was consolidated. In most cases, independence was attained after a cruel and prolonged war against Spain.

    Along with the armed revolution, another revolution took place in the heart of Latin American society, the result of transformative forces active since the end of the colonial period and others set in motion by the independence movement itself. This revolution was intellectual in nature and led to the conception of the full sovereignty of nations in the face of King Ferdinand VII’s rights. It also allowed political objectives...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Scientific Medicine and Public Health in Nineteenth-century Latin America
    (pp. 163-196)

    Medical concepts and clinical attitudes characteristic of the Enlightenment—called “proto-clinical” by Michel Foucault—changed significantly in postrevolutionary France during the late eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth.¹ Inside the modernizing trends of Renaissance and baroque medicine, such as iatrochemistry, iatromechanics, and vitalism, and nosologic botany-oriented systems,² the medical system proposed by Hermann Boerhaave stands out for its hegemonic position.

    This system, nurtured as it was by earlier medical developments, integrated elements from the basic sciences of the time (anatomy, modern physics, and a chemistry free from iatrochemical interpretations) with pathology based on clinical observation, just as Thomas...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Academic Science in Twentieth-century Latin America
    (pp. 197-230)

    This chapter analyzes the period during which a scientific community began to emerge in Latin America; it also explores in some detail the advocacy and organization of science in the region since the end of the nineteenth century. This journey gives us the opportunity to come into contact with a wide spectrum of issues that were previously scattered in a variety of articles and monographs. These issues include the importance of scientific societies; private and official sponsorship; conflicting bureaucratic and intellectual notions regarding research, particularly when the state took charge of organizing scientific activity; and the slow process of decision...

  11. CHAPTER 8 Excellence in Twentieth-century Biomedical Science
    (pp. 231-240)

    For a long time, the development of science in Latin America was considered a poor imitation of the history of scientific development in the industrialized countries. This idea deprived the region’s science of a dynamic past of its own and guided the actions of the North American philanthropic agencies for many years. It inspired the first efforts toward modernization, that proposed a linear science-development model.¹ This model assumed that the development of science would go through the same phases in all countries.

    The first critical studies of Latin American science that reacted to these models emphasized the concept of “periphery.”²...

  12. CHAPTER 9 International Politics and the Development of the Exact Sciences in Latin America
    (pp. 241-256)

    The purpose of this chapter is to motivate the reader to participate in the process of constructing the history of the exact sciences in Latin America and internationally. Given that we live in a time in which the world and basic concepts are being reorganized, I am taking this liberty. My subject requires us to define five elements. Four of them are explicit—development, the exact sciences, Latin America, and international politics—and one is implicit—the periodization of the magnificent and, to many, confusing history of the twentieth century. If these five terms are understood well, confusion should diminish;...