Non-Western perspectives continue to gain significance in history and other disciplines. This publication, now in its second edition, aims to introduce the pursuit of science in Non-Western traditions through a series of brief essays and reading lists, in the style of a richly annotated course syllabus. It is an outline and guide to resources, not a complete survey text.
Delving into “non-Western science,” one quickly finds that concepts of “Western,” “Non-Western” and “science” are problematic—as many of our contributors note. If “science” is defined by practices that emerged from the Scientific Revolution in Europe, how can one characterize alternative forms of “science” in other traditions? Moreover, given the blending of cultural traditions in the past several centuries, what constitutes the “West” or “non-West”? With intent to enrich classroom discussions on these issues, this volume supplements historical material readily available elsewhere. For example, we highlight the astronomy of the early Chinese, the navigational techniques of Pacific islanders and the ancient medical knowledge of sub-Saharan Africans. Moreover, in these historical contexts, science can blur into technology, as conventionally defined—and we hope additionally to promote healthy consideration of the relationship between science and technology.
We have not included a contribution on medieval Arabic science (though clearly non-European) because historians of science have acknowledged its role in contributing to the rise of science in modern Europe--good texts and resources dealing with that tradition are readily available. On the other hand, we include contemporary science in other non-European regions such as Latin America and Japan, where science has followed a "Western" model but has been overlooked by European and North American historians of science until recently. Essays in this collection that deal with adoption or integration of Western science in cultures where it did not originally develop can lead the reader to important insights into how power and culture affect the pursuit of science.
The collection includes contributions on China, India, Africa, Latin America, Native America, Australia and the Pacific, and Japan. Each chapter begins with an introduction that aims to address the scope, noteworthy scientific achievements, and major figures in each tradition. A list of major references appears that may serve as first purchases for those planning to pursue the topic in more depth. A list of noteworthy sources for addressing current scholarship also is included: significant journals, newsletters, websites, listservs, study centers, or professional organizations where someone can update the sources on the reading lists, review the latest research, or contact professionals in the field.
Each chapter then presents a six-day "syllabus" with a brief synopsis for each day's theme or focus. Each day includes a list of student readings--1-1.5 hours of introductory material. Additional recommended extended reading appears also for the student or teacher interested in pursuing the day's topic in more depth. As appropriate, audio-visual materials are cited along with suggested topics for further research at the end of some chapters.
This volume is available online at the History of Science Society's website. The website allows us to provide periodic revisions and supplemental materials, and we invite you to check occasionally for updates.
We hope that this small volume will prove useful to seasoned historians of science, as well as to graduate or undergraduate students in the history of science who want to expand their repertoires. In addition, we hope that it will serve ethnic/minority students who want to deepen their knowledge of science in a particular tradition, and college or K-12 science teachers who want to engage students in the humanistic dimensions of science.
We owe many thanks to our contributors, who volunteered their efforts and pursued this project despite their crowded schedules. In addition, we would like to acknowledge the support of Keith Benson, Jay Malone, and the staff of the History of Science Society in fostering this undertaking from its initial conception to the published volume.