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New Book on Science in Latin America

I like to scan the New Scholarly Books section of the Chronicle of Higher Education; every so often, something interesting in History of Science or Women’s Studies pops up. Recently I saw a little blurb under history of science that read

Science in Latin America: A History, edited by Juan José Saldaña…Translation of writings by Latin American historians on the role of science in the region’s societies since the colonial era.


That piqued my interest so I poked around on the web. You can order the book on Amazon. The summary below is from this site, where you’ll also find the table of contents and an extensive excerpt.

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.

Here’s the first paragraph from the introduction:

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 theories affect one another in a specific social and cultural context.

It looks like a very tasty read. If anyone out there is already reading this, please write and tell us what you think of it.

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