The British Journal for the History of Science


Fallible or inerrant? A belated review of the ‘constructivist's bible’

Jan Golinski, Making Natural Knowledge: Constructivism and the History of Science. Cambridge History of Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Pp. xiv+236. ISBN 0-521-44913-8. £15.95 (paperback).

M. D. Eddy a1
a1 Dibner Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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When Jan Golinski's Making Natural Knowledge was published in 1998 it was generally applauded for its ecumenical stance between the empirical ‘art’ of historians and the theoretical focus of the social sciences. Indeed, such a middling position was a unique approach to be taken in wake of the ‘science wars’ and this, in combination with the book's clear organization and (for the most part) forthright prose, quickly earned it a place upon HPS, STS and SSK postgraduate reading lists. Now, five years since its first edition was published (hardback, 1998), the work has become a standard introduction to historically minded scholars interested in the constructivist programme. In fact, it has been called the ‘constructivist's bible’ in many a conference corridor. Since the book has attained such a status (and since it has not been reviewed in the BJHS), it is perhaps worth reflecting on whether or not such canonical text (to use a biblical analogy) is fallible or inerrant – especially in relation to its content and pedagogical efficacy.

(Published Online March 2 2004)