Liberal Values, Scientific Principles, and Research Communities in Nineteenth-century German-language Science


Location: 208 DeBartolo

Edward Jurkowitz is a visiting scholar at the Max Planck Institute for History of Science, Berlin. In this paper he traces how leading nineteenth- and early twentieth-century German-speaking natural scientists employed the values and theoretical resources of German liberalism in crafting their scientific methodologies and epistemologies, as well as in pursuing specific scientific projects. Examining the work of Hermann von Helmholtz, Max Planck, and Ernst Mach, he illustrates that these figures drew upon liberal social-political ideas, especially those of objectivity, freedom, and unity, as well as characteristic argumentative strategies, in theorizing the role of natural scientific principles in organizing science. In addition, Jurkowitz indicates how, when they described the psycho-physiological and social processes involved in recognizing scientific laws, as well as the methods of investigation and modes of engagement with other inquirers proper to natural philosophers/scientists, these authors drew upon common liberal resources but turned those to different ends. Comparing the works of Helmholtz, Planck, and Mach suggests how their epistemological views and scientific practices expressed and promoted alternative images of the ideal scientific community, indeed ones particularly suited, respectively, to the north-German lands, the unified German Reich, and the Habsburg cultural-political contexts.