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Claims, Authority, and Spheres of Practice, Pt. 2 April 20, 2009

Posted by Will Thomas in Methods.
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On initially looking at the articles on sciences in North America that BJHS has made available for free, one possible exercise that occurred to me was to draw some links between the pieces.  Perrin Selcer’s piece on “standardizing wounds” in World War I (“the scientific management of life in the First World War”), my piece on World War II operations research, Jeff Hughes’  review of recent a-bomb literature, and Jamie Cohen-Cole’s piece on Harvard’s Center for Cognitive Studies could conceivably be linked fairly easily.

On a closer look, this exercise seemed to be less potentially useful than I initially imagined.  While it might conceivably be possible to connect World War I-era wound treatment standardization to OR’s contributions to military planning, or OR to cognitive science (via decision theory), or, to go down another branch, to connect the treatment standardization issue to Christer Nordlund’s piece on hormone therapies creating improved people, it might not be wise.  It would be easy to wave one’s hands around about standardization, flexibility, knowledge, and large-scale practice, but the historical picture produced would, it seems to me, be more misleading than helpful.

Though these papers might all work their way into an edited volume with a sufficiently vague theme, none of them were written with the others in mind (for obvious reasons).  Importantly, though, even if the papers were more closely related, it would still be difficult to forge connections between them, because (more…)