Center on the Periphery: Historical Aspects of 20th-Century Swedish Physics

Center on the Periphery: Historical Aspects of 20th-Century Swedish Physics

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Lindqvist, Svante, ed.

The chapters in this volume do not claim to give a full account of the history of Swedish physics in the twentieth century. Rather, the intention has been to collect in one volume as many of the historians working in the field as possible. One aim is to make the Swedish research internationally accessible: the articles give a sample of the perspectives, problems, and interests of today's Swedish historians of science, and the bibliography is intended to make the literature in the field known and accessible to foreign scholars. However, the main purpose of this collection is to stake out a new area for Swedish history of science, to create a territory for a new generation of Swedish historians of science. The territory has four relatively arbitrary markers—the four themes under which the chapters have been classified:

  • cultural and social histories of science
  • the institutions and politics of big science
  • the international networks of communication
  • science as applied technology

Their purpose is merely to define vaguely this territory, to create a "possibility space." But like all the intellectual dwellings of science, this space must be continually questioned, redefined, and filled with new content.
This volume also seeks to make a case for a broad cultural and social history of science. In our ambition to address questions of interest to the international community of history of science, Swedish historians of science may have failed to see our work as also being part of general history. Our ambition to move from the periphery toward the center of the international community of history of science must not, however, lead us to forget that our topic is at the center when it comes to explaining the history of twentieth-century Sweden, the century in which science began to be seen as a productive force and a prerequisite for the emerging welfare state.

“ . . . the book makes an important contribution to the understanding of science in its national and international context in the twentieth century by bringing issues of spatiality to the fore in the social and cultural analysis of science. In so doing, it undoubtedly succeeds in its goal of placing the history of Swedish physics firmly back on the map.” —THES