5. Sarton and the history of science community
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I should stress the fact, on the other hand, that I have absolutely no concrete evidence that Sarton actually considered Koyré not to conform to his ideal type of science historian. It is only my personal judgement or feeling that he did not quite conform to that ideal type. I happened to sit in at an executive committee meeting of the International Academy of the History of Science and the Union of the History and Philosophy of Science held in Jerusalem on the occasion of the 1953 International Congress of the History of Science, and I was impressed by the genial relations between Sarton and Koyré, as well as others who were present, such as Bodenheimer, Millas Vallicrosa, Laignel-Lavastine, Joseph Needham, and their much younger associate, René Taton.
I knew Laignel-Lavastine through his work, and I had come to get more closely acquainted with him during the Congress. There was an item on the agenda of that evening's meeting which required a bit of subtle handling, and, all of a sudden, Laignel-Lavastine, who was very close to me, cast an inquisitive glance upon me and asked about the why and wherefore of my presence there. It was explained that I was Sarton's guest and that I naturally had no right to vote. For a moment I was afraid I was going to be thrown out of the room I had entered through no fault of my own, but the matter was settled with the greatest of ease, and I was allowed to stay. This little incident helped me though to notice more clearly the concern that seemed to prevail among these senior members of the family of the historians of science.
I also see that Sarton had Giorgio de Santillana review Koyré's Etudes Galileennes and that he published this not as an ordinary review but as a main article, though the review is by no means a long one .
Santillana rounds up his review with the following words: "After following this careful investigation, one is apt to feel that in its very accuracy it does less than justice to a fundamental character of Galileo's thought. In that intricate web of doubts, tests, and qualifications, we should not lose perception of an essential physical insight and firm¬ness which eventually proved more fruitful than Cartesian clarity. But if we thus risk losing sight of the wood because of the trees, it is not the author's fault; it is simply that he has done his job with painstaking exactness.
I. Bernard Cohen writes:
"In 1936, Harvard established the degree of Ph.D. in the history of science, and Sarton inaugurated his seminars. Under his direction, two candidates completed their doctorates… I suspect that the reason why there were not more professionally students was that the immensity of his task of editing Isis and Osiris of research and writing, and of lecturing and propagandizing for the new discipline left little energy for attracting and training students. Yet he must have had considerable pleasure in seeing his labours bear fruit all over the world, in witnessing new journals and many books and articles in the history of science ."
When I first came to Harvard in the school year 1934-1935, there were two candidates for Ph.D. in the history of science, both working under the direction of Professor Sarton. One of them was Robert S. Woodbury who lectured on the history of technology in M.I.T. I do not remember the other gentleman's name. They did not continue their work for the doctorate, however. As I remember it, it was said that a committee for work toward Ph.D. in the history of Science had been set up in 1932 and that such work had thus become possible at Harvard since that date. I find no reference to such an arrangement in Isis, and this seems very puzzling to me. Could this possibly indicate a disappointment of Sarton on the decision taken?
James B. Conant, Harvard's distinguished president, makes the following statements which seem to contain a clue, though somewhat vague, concerning this matter:
"George Sarton's official connection with Harvard University started in the fall of 1916 and continued until his retirement as professor emeritus in 1951. The first appointment as a lecturer for two years seems to have been one of those temporary arrangements incidents to a world war and its dislocations… Certainly the first arrangements that were made were quite special. Sarton received an appointment to the staff of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, as well as an appointment as lecturer at Harvard. The History of Science Society was founded for the explicit purpose of supporting Isis. In all these matters, Professor Lawrence J. Henderson played an active role.
"Henderson was one of a small group of younger men on whose judgment President Lowell relied… Neither President Lowell nor Professor Henderson were unduly worried about academic formalities or organization. They did not let concern about the future interfere with their conviction that the one thing that really matters in a university is the ability and originality of the scholarly professors. And President Lowell was usually willing to take unorthodox steps in support of his convictions…
"In 1933, at Henderson's instigation, an attempt was made to work out an arrangement with the Carnegie Institution by which Sarton's appointment as annual lecturer would be transformed into a permanent professorship. But it was not until 1940 that this suggestion became a reality and Professor Sarton's relationship to both Harvard and the Carnegie Institution was put on a permanent unambiguous basis. That this was a step forward in the recognition by Harvard of the significance of the history of science and the acknowledgement of Sarton's eminence, there could be no doubt. Furthermore, the appointment of a standing committee on History and [of?] Science of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences a few years earlier had provided for the first time at Harvard an academic basis for both graduate work leading to a Ph.D. degree and an undergraduate field of concentration. But such steps in Professor Sarton's opinion fell far short of establishing his discipline on an adequate basis ."
Conant may be referring to the committee which I remember as having been set up in 1932, but he does not specify the date of its formation. At any rate, Conant explicitly refers to Sarton's dissatisfaction with the steps taken at Harvard in the way of establishing the history of science there as an independent academic discipline.
The following statements by Conant are also of interest from this standpoint. He says. "... This and similar proposals that Professor Sarton from time to time put forward had budgetary implications which prevented the administration from giving them serious consideration". And again, "The time was not ripe for the launching of a scheme of the magnitude which Sarton had in mind. For my own part, I felt that in the United States, unlike Europe, a new academic discipline must prove its value at the undergraduate level if it was to find adequate support for a graduate program. On this point I never could convince Professor Sarton… ."
I do not remember hearing Sarton say anything concerning this question. My experience, however, has led me to think that, under certain circumstances, instruction in the history of science could at times be thought of as associated more conveniently with students of relatively advanced level. For the history of science obviously has to rest upon some knowledge of basic sciences and an appreciation of the flavour that can be bestowed by history upon our judgment. If I am not mistaken, instruction in such fields as librarianship and education too, which need necessarily be built upon or superadded to knowledge already acquired in certain branches of learning, are generally planned as postgraduate teaching. Sarton may possibly have had such a scheme of instruction in mind for the training of historians of science.
Altogether, it seems that Sarton, as a pioneer in establishing the history of science as an independent academic discipline, had the feeling that he was not in possession of adequate means for duly carrying out his mission from the standpoint of instruction. But he surely must have felt that he was in a fine position so far as laying the foundation of this work as a scholar was concerned. Hence his words quoted above to the effect that he would prefer to work quietly in his "little corner preparing materials for the bridge to be built.
Arnold Thackray and Robert K. Merton write:
"True, World War I made him a refugee and destroyed his early secure world. Yet he never experienced the fury of war at first hand, unlike many of his generation in Europe. The privations born of civil dislocation threatened, interrupted, and transformed his personal life. Yet they could not grip or hold him, thanks to his determination, his energy, and his burning sense of mission. And all through the later years of the Depression and World War II he was to have a reasonably steady income, secure access to a major library, the environs of an academic town remote from the world's trouble centres, and a library to do scholarly work that made many regular members of the Harvard Faculty appear somewhat like dull serfs enslaved to teaching and committee work ."
At Widener Library Sarton did not have to gain access to the stacks through the main entrance. He had a pass key to certain closed doors leading to the stacks through a staircase not far from his study. He took me to the stacks a couple of times through these closed doors in order to consult certain books. He would grasp the rail of the balustrade with his hand and pull himself up so that he would run up the stairs and without consulting the cards he remembered the approximate place where the needed books were located and after a short search he would pick up the particular book needed. I do not know how often he could accomplish this feat. But undoubtedly he was very familiar with sections of Widener Library stacks which were of greatest interest to him. Moreover, I never saw anybody else have recourse to this method of getting at the needed books, and nor did I hear anyone speak of other persons using a similar procedure. I have the feeling that the method was perhaps unique with Sarton. And the privilege was undoubtedly very generous and invaluable for anyone who could put it into good use.
Speaking of Sarton, Lynn Thorndike says:
"Once he did think of starting an Institute for the History of Science, but I dissuaded him, pointing out that he was already turning out more for the history of science all by his lonesome in 185 Widener than he would be able to do, if he saddled himself with a directorship, a librarian, a secretary, an annual report, multifarious administration, and what not ."
There is a brief reference to such an institute in Conant's article referred to above. But it is difficult with just such limited information to venture any guess on the comparative weights instruction and research activities were to occupy in the institute Sarton had in mind.
Jonaton R. Cole and Harriet Zuckerman write:
"Unlike his own teacher, George Sarton, Merton had some success in recruiting students to the discipline [of sociology or the sociology of science]. In his concern to establish the history of science as a respectable scholarly enterprise, Sarton made demands on students so severe as to be self defeating. Not many learned the classical and oriental languages whose mastery, along with five or six major modern languages, Sarton deemed necessary. And still fewer obtained the equivalent of advanced degrees in both the physical and the biological sciences he also considered necessary for historians of science. He also failed to develop a coherent formulation of principal problems in the field and a set of usable research techniques. Although Sarton developed a distinctive perspective on the history of science, it was not one that could be readily adopted by potential recruits. It is not surprising then that few historians of science count themselves among Sarton's students ."
Two of the earliest publications of Merton are closely related to the history of science. These are "Science, Technology and Society in Seventeenth Century England", published in Osiris (1938), and "The Course of Arabian Intellectual Development, 700-1300 A.D." (In collaboration with Sorokin), published in Isis (1935). He came under the influence of George Sarton, as we shall presently see.
The same is probably true of Henry Guerlac who was a Harvard junior fellow and who shifted from chemistry to the history of chemistry sometime about 1935. Marie Boas Hall says that Henry Guerlac was a biochemist, obtained his master's degree in 1933, and was elected to a junior fellowship at Harvard, and that shortly after this he turned to history, in the study of which he was influenced by L. J. Henderson rather than directly by George Sarton . Doris Helman too came apparently under Sarton's influence. For she worked for her Master's Degree under him in Radcliffe. I my self was sent to America, in 1934, by the Turkish Ministry of Education to study the history of science specifically under Sarton.
Henry Guerlac introduced the history of science as an independent academic discipline in Cornell, where F. K. Richtmyer, who was much interested in the history of his field, physics,  was, I believe, dean. Here, Marie Boas Hall, a Radcliffe graduate, became one of the first graduate students in the history of science. Frederick G. Kilgour, a student of Sarton, and a classmate of mine in some of the history of science courses, contributed, from quite early years on, to the cultivation of the history of science at Yale, where John F. Fulton, professor of physiology and the history of medicine, who had become associated at some stage of his postgraduate work with Harvard and who was a staunch supporter of Sarton's aspirations, was anxious to promote work in the history of science .
I cannot be exhaustive in giving such examples. I am simply not equipped with the means for doing so. But Harvard itself was of course the outstanding and the most obvious example. Brilliant young representatives of the history of science such as Willy Hartner and Giorgio de Santillana joined the Harvard group of history of science instructors in and shortly after 1935, and they, in turn, formed new centres of work and instruction in the history of science.
President Conant of Harvard University spoke thus in February 1960:
"Henderson's great contribution to the history of science was in bringing George Sarton to Harvard… This is not the time or place for me to attempt even to summarize the history of Professor Sarton's long years at Harvard, his prodigious scholarship, his editorship of Isis and Osiris, his vain attempts during the depression years to persuade either Harvard or any other university to endow what he considered a minimal department of the history of science. That we are meeting here tonight with a teaching staff in the history of science at Harvard in active service, that a flourishing undergraduate and graduate field of study in history and science has been long characteristic of this university are some of the fruits of George Sarton's long uphill struggle to make the history of science an important part of the American academic scene ."
It seems to me that these words of Conant have much food for thought. Sarton's activity and efforts in the line of teaching and organizing instruction in the history of science, in general courses in the history of science in particular, in contrast to histories of special branches of science such as the history of mathematics or the history of chemistry, must have played a great part in establishing and spreading the history of science as an independent academic discipline. I believe, likewise, that Sarton's activity of carrying out simple teaching, year after year, and organizing such in¬struction of more or less elementary general as well as special undergraduate courses should receive much more emphasis than it has hitherto done, in contradistinction to the activity of organizing and guiding research for graduate students trained in fields other than the history of science, whereas this latter aspect seems to have tended to draw more attention by the writers on the subject.
Robert K. Merton speaks of how he met professor Sarton for the first time in a personal interview. It was in the fall of 1933 that he knocked on the door of Sarton's room in the Widener Library. He had audited a course of his somewhat irregularly and he had heard of his reputation as a remote and austere person, a person dedicated to his own scholarship and difficult to gain access to. Merton was then a third year graduate student. He writes:
"On that initial well-remembered occasion, the reputedly unapproachable scholar did not merely invite me into his "tiny book-lined study"; he positively ushered me in. Thus began my short, incomplete, and sometimes unruly apprenticeship, followed by an intermittent epistolary friendship that continued until his death in 1956.1 began that first audition by telling of my plans for a dissertation already begun. I can not say that he greeted those plans with conspicuous enthusiasm; instead he mildly suggested that so large a canvas as 17th-century English science might be a bit excessive for a novice. But he did not veto the idea. I should describe his response as, at best, ambivalent. Having registered his doubts, he then proceeded to tailor a research course to the needs of the first graduate student to have come to him from the social sciences since his arrival at Harvard some seventeen years before.
"I now suspect that the unheralded appearance of a young sociologist-in-the-making may have reactivated his own youthful ecumenical vision of transcending disciplinary boundaries… Since, not quite incidentally, he was also a Harvard lecturer; I was there to ask that this composite personage break through all bureaucratic barriers to establish a research course for a neophyte sociologist.
"Happily, Harvard was not in the hands of bureaucratic virtuosos and manifestly that special course was soon arranged; else I would not be thinking back on the devices this early master of the art and craft of the history of science invented to bring that maverick sociologist across academic boundaries into the then hardly institutionalized discipline of the history of science.
"There is yet another evident hypothesis: that in truth, George Sarton happened to treat me with friendly care, even with solicitude. This is somewhat more plausible. It has the further merit of being in accord not merely with possibly undependable memory traces but with personal documents… Nor is it surprising that I should have remained attached to him, early and late in our evolving relationship. For as I have discovered only now in reliving the history of that relationship for this centenary moment, he had bound me to him -not with any such intent, I believe- by a flow of gifts, freely bestowed, which in their cumulative outcome may have affected my life and work in ways that have little or nothing to do with substantive doctrine or method of inquiry but much to do with discovering the pleasures and joys, as well as the nuisances and pains, of life as a scholar. I now see that he provided an accumulation of advantage, thus leading me to incur a debt that called for a life of continuing work long after the insidious temptations of an easy retirement have been painlessly resisted.
"Only now, decades after the events, have I come to recognize the attended flow of the gifts material and symbolic, which this ostensibly peripheral mentor bestowed upon me, and should I be exaggerating their import and consequences, as I may be doing in the first flush of their composite discovery, they remain nevertheless as I describe them ."
Bernd Dibner writes: "There are three named rooms in the Burndy Library: the Leonardo Room, the Faraday Room and the George Sarton Room. They are intended to represent to visitors the library's major areas of interest. The Sarton Room breathes the spirit of the old-timers who helped Uncle George in his mission to foster the history of science as an intellectual discipline. Photographs and other pictorial matter relating to Sarton appear on the walls, his publications fill the bookcases, and memorabilia are exhibited in a large display cabinet. The memorabilia include off prints from among the more than 300 papers -spanning the breadth of human knowledge- that he published after his association with the Carnegie Institution and while at Harvard University. The off prints on display bear his inscriptions to friends and correspondents ."
Concerning Millas Vallicrosa, Thomas E. Glick writes as follows:
"That Millas was able to launch the history of science in Spain, in addition to pursuing his Hebrew and Arabic studies and pedagogy, was in part a result of the example, stimulation, support, and encouragement that he received from George Sarton ." Joseph Needham too seems to have been influenced to some extent by Sarton and his Introduction to the History of Science .
All in all, there seems to be little doubt that Sarton was eminently successful in exciting interest in the history of science and that he was clearly instrumental in the expansion of instruction and research in the new discipline which he had somehow, through thick and thin, managed to summon into existence. His personal participation in instruction at Harvard must be deemed significant too. It extended over many years, it was supplemented by similar work at Radcliffe, and it was commensurate to the conditions prevailing for the newly forming discipline. The history of science courses given by Sarton, Henderson, Hartner, Santillana, and Dana B. Durand were not under populated when I took them. Sarton's courses in 1937 and 1938 had, as I remember them, about fifty students each.
Aldo Mieli too brought out a first rate journal of the history of science, had pretty important publications, and organized the International Academy of the History of Science . But he has never been deemed, so far as I know, to rival Sarton as a pioneer in establishing the new discipline. Neugebauer undoubtedly made great contribution to the spread and growth of the history of science. But he concentrated on the exact sciences with emphasis on Antiquity and the history of astronomy. He replaced Raymond Clare Archibald at Brown University, as I recall from a talk by Archibald in Sarton's Seminar. Donald Fleming, who prepared his Ph.D. thesis under Sarton's distinguished student I. Bernard Cohen, was in Brown around and shortly after 1950. I believe he had been a student of Sarton as well. He was not working with Neugebauer's group, however, so far as I know. For Neugebauer's idea of the history of science, or the scope of his department or section at Brown, was of a somewhat restricted nature. This is reminiscent of research work referred to by Sarton in his footnote to the passage quoted above from his "Une Encyclopédic Leonardesque". We see Donald Fleming to have joined the Harvard staff some time later, as information given by Price for the academic year 1967-1968 indicates .
The following words of Dorothy Stimson seem to summarize very well Sarton's position. She says:
"The encyclopaedic range of his writings led the way to fresh and fertile fields for other scholars. His teaching trained younger people in his methods and his point of view. Most of all, his unremitting maintenance of the highest standards of scholarship, his whole-souled devotion to his self-imposed task, and his integrity are certain to keep his memory alive for years to come. It is largely owing to his efforts and influence that the spread of the history of science is steadily widening in this country ."
 See, Isis, vol. 33, 1941, pp. 654-656.
 I. Bernard Cohen, "George Sarton", Isis, vol. 48, 1957, p. 296.
 James B. Conant, "George Sarton and Harvard University", Isis, vol. 48, 1951, pp. 302-303.
 Ibid., p. 304.
 Arnold Thackray and Robert R. Merton, "On Discipline Building: The Paradoxes of George Sarton", Ms, vol. 63, 1972, p. 480.
 Lynn Thorndike, "Some Letters of George Sarton", Isis, vol. 48, 1957, p. 323.
 Jonathan R. Cole and Harriet Zuckerman, "The Emergence of a Scientific", The Idea of Social Structure, Papers in Honor of Robert K. Merton, 1957, pp. 155-156.
 Marie Boas Hall, "Eloges, Henry Guerlac 10 June 1910-29 May 1985", his, vol. 77, 1986, pp. 504-506.
 See, F. K. Richtmyer, In Introduction to Modem Physics, McGraw Hill. 1934, pp. 1-80.
 See, John E Fulton, "On the Development of Science. VI. The Discovery of the Circulation", The Yale Scientific Magazine Lectures, The Yale Scientific Magazine, vol. 23, No. 6, March 1949; Chauncy D. Leake, "John Farquhar Fulton, 1899-1960", Isis, vol. 51,1960, pp. 560-562.
 James B. Conant, "History in the Education of Scientists', Harvard Library Bulletin, vol. 14, number 3, 1960, p. 317.
 Robert K. Merton, "Recollections and Reflections. George Sarton: Episodic Recollections by an Unruly Apprentice," Isis, vol. 76, 1985, pp. 470-474.
 Bern Dibner, "Sarton Letters at the Burndy Library" Isis, vol. 75, 1984, p. 45-49.
 Thomas F. Glick, "Jose Maria Millas Vallicrosa (1897-1970) and the Founding of the History of Science in Spain", Isis, vol. 68, 1977, p. 277.
 Arnold Thackray and Robert K. Merton, op. cit., p. 491.
 P. Sergescu, "Aldo Mieli (1879-1950)", Brochure No. 5 of l'Union Internationale d'Histoire des Sciences, 19 pages; Herbert Butterfield, "The History of Science and the Study of History", Harvard Library Bulletin, vol. 13, 1959, pp. 329-347.
 Derek J. de Solla Price, "A Guide to Graduate Study and Research in the History of Science and Medicine", Isis, vol. 58, 1967, p. 389.
 Dorothy Stimson, "Dr. Sarton and the History of Science Society", Isis, vol. 48, 1957, p. 284.
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by: FSTC, Mon 04 August, 2008