Solomon’s House Revisited: The Organization and Institutionalization of Science (Nobel Symposium 75)

Solomon’s House Revisited: The Organization and Institutionalization of Science (Nobel Symposium 75)

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Frängsmyr, Tore, ed., 1990, xiii + 350pp.

Science is not only a matter of great theories and daring thinking. It is also about the organization and practical work. The scientist has seldom been in an ivory tower; one the contrary, he has been dependent on the society around him. Today more than ever, the scientist is part of an organization, either in a small laboratory or as part of a network in a big project.


When the royal Swedish Academy of Sciences celebrated its 250th anniversary in 1989, a Nobel symposium was arranged to discuss in a very broad sense the organization and institutionalization of science, what Francis Bacon described as Solomon's house.


Organization, in the form of academies, universities, institutes, and laboratories, has both a supportive and stimulating effect on science. Not even individualists, such as Newton or Darwin, worked in a vacuum; they had the backing of their academies and learned societies. At the same time, it is obvious that the institutionalization of science has also created problems. Over the centuries, the state and the church have imposed restrictions. Industry has favored the growth of science but also laid down conditions for its direction. Pure research had to be weighed against applied research. Specialization has often conflicted with a more general interest in the quest for truth. With the changeover to "big science," research has entered a new phase of institutionalization, radically altering the whole research setting. Interdisciplinary, interuniversity, and international cooperation have made the demands on the individual scientist. The opportunity for the individual creativity has often had to be balanced against the interests of the institution. In this book these aspects of the organization and institutionalization of science are discussed by leading historians of science. It is a rich book that opens up the discussion of the more practical but necessary side of science. While emphasis is on the historical perspective, many articles also give insights into the history of modern and current science.


“The overall effect is a volume which provides, through its inner tensions, a provoking revisionist view of (some might see it as a rearguard action against)the social history of science, or at least that part of the social history of science which deals with scientific institutions and organization broadly conceived.” –Social Studies of Science