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10 May

JD Bernal: politics and science

Eugene Garfield on JD Bernal and Bernal’s book Social Function of Science, which was an inspiration for the field of Scientometrics (the study of “the science of science” as Bernal put it in The Social Function of Science .) From Web of Stories.

Bernal was not only a scientist but a philosopher of science. Scientifically and philosophically a holist, Bernal saw science as a social activity, fundamentally related to all other social activities from the economic to the cultural to the political. Defending Bernal’s views in 2007 Helena Sheehan wrote:

Bernal’s book The Social Function of Science of 1939 quickly came to be regarded as a classic in this field. Based on a detailed analysis of science, both under capitalism and under socialism, he argued that science could achieve its full potential only under socialism. According to Bernal, science was outgrowing capitalism, which had begun to generate a distrust of science that in its most extreme form turned into rebellion against scientific rationality itself. The cause of science was, for Bernal, inextricably intertwined with the cause of socialism. He saw science as holding the key to the future and the forces of socialism alone as gathering to turn it. Later he developed this historical analysis further in his multi-volume work Science in History.

Read more at Helena Sheehan (2007) “J D Bernal: philosophy, politics and the science of science.” Journal of Physics: Conference Series (57). pp. 29-39. (DCU Doras)

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