Social Scientist. v 17, no. 190-91 (March 1989) p. 3.


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DELHI SCIENCE FORUM*

The Notion of Science According to Bern a I

The Cambridge of the 1920s and 1930s witnessed the emergence of a new credo'of scientists, who were to influence, in a very significant way, future thinking on the relationship between science and society and the influence of modem science on society. The more important of these thinkers included five Cambridge men, J.D. Bernal, Joseph Needham, J.B.S. Haldane, Hyman Levy and Lancelot Hogben. They inaugurated an investigation into the social and historical dimensions of science. As we all know, Needham was the earliest to have broken away from the classical Eurocentric tradition of the history of science, and Haldane later migrated to and settled down in India. Bernal set out to study the status of science in a socialist world. He was particularly influenced by science in the Soviet Union. Hyman Levy and Hogben strongly opposed racist and eugenic theories then prevalent in the British academic world of the time. All these men lived through a historically critical and depressing juncture, in particular a period when science was held responsible both for development and technological unemployment; besides it had been put to rather destructive use during World War II. In this context they played a significant role in restoring to science its humanistic face.

Here we shall attempt to abstract the notion of science as understood by J.D. Bernal. Bernal has written extensively on the social function of science and on the historical development of science from antiquity to the contemporary period. His monumental four volume work. Science in His-tofy has proved to be of relevance not only to historians of science but to scientists as well, for as Kosambi has pointed out, the investigation of science is as much an investigation into the history of science.

Bernal got down to writing Science in History after the Second World War when the entire tradition of science was undergoing a tremendous self-examination. This was a consequence of both the prevalent political crisis, as well as the remarkable technological changes that had changed the face of the globe. Bernal set out to investigate the major problems that surfaced when science increasingly began to play a siginificant role in society and, therefore, his purpose was to elucidate the relation between the development of science and other aspects of human history. Bernal commences his investigation "of the above-mentioned relationship with the assumption that civilization itself and its material aspects could not have been possible without science. To explain this point, he demands that one

*A group of Scientists aird^ Science activists at New Delhi.



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