Russian & Soviet Science and Technology


The best overview of Western works on the history and social study of science and technology in the Soviet Union is Susan Solomon, “Reflections on Western Studies of Soviet Science,” in The Social Context of Soviet Science (ed. Lubrano and Solomon; see Section I), pp. 1-29. Articles describing the evolution of Soviet interpretations of the history of science are David Joravsky, “Soviet Views on the History of Science,” Isis, 1955, 46:3-13; and Alexander Vucinich, “Soviet Marxism and the History of Science,” The Russian Review, 1982, 41:123-142.

One Soviet contribution to historiography–nor in fact itself on the history of Russian or Soviet science–caused a great controversy over methodology and interpretation in the field as a whole. In 1931, at the Second International Conference of the History of Science in London, the Soviet physicist and historian Boris Hessen presented a paper on Isaac Newton that is often considered the most influential paper in the externalist interpretation of the history of science. By externalism we usually mean the explanation of the evolution of science in terms of economic and social forces rather than on the basis of experimental evidence and logical deduction. Paradoxically, after Hessen called for externalist interpretations of the history of science, most Soviet works in the field have been internalist in nature. Although not on Soviet science, his paper must be seen in the context of Soviet events that fundamenrally affected its form and substance. This context, largely ignored in the West, is explored in Loren Graham, “The Socio-Political Roots of Boris Hessen: Soviet Marxism and the History of Science,” Social Studies of Science, 1985, 15:705-722.

The social study of science and technology in the Soviet Union is usually termed naukovedenie, or “science studies.” The nature and evolution of this field are explored in Linda Lubrano, Soviet Sociology of Science (Columbus, Ohio: American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, 1976); and Yakov Rabkin, ÒNaukovendenie: The Study of Scientific Research in the Soviet Union,” Minerva 1976, 14:61-78.

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