a1 Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. 20560, U.S.A.
Between the two World Wars an extensive body of writings appeared in the United States explicitly or implicitly on the historical development of the sciences. I am not referring to the vast literature of popularization in magazines and newspapers but to substantial works, often in book form, coming from various intellectual and scholarly traditions. Only a few examples are classifiable by later standards as professional history of science. Following Arnold Thackray, one can designate some authors as ‘proto-historians’ of science. Most of the writings, including those of the ‘proto-historians,’ have distinctive attributes: methods, attitudes and goals, reflecting traditions other than professional history of science or even the general history exemplified by the American Historical Association's membership of that era. What follows is a bird's eye view of a past of interest for its own sake and for clues about the professionalization of history of science after 1950.