Simon Werrett: "Thrifty Science"

  • Date: –15:00
  • Location: Engelska parken - The Rausing Room
  • Organiser: Department of History of Science and Ideas
  • Contact person: H. Otto Sibum
  • Seminarium

Office for History of Science

Simon Werrett, University College London: "Thrifty Science"

Historians have long known that early modern experimental inquiry occurred in people’s homes and often employed simple apparatus made with domestic items such as pots, pans, and glasses. In this presentation, based on a book manuscript currently in preparation, I argue that this was not an accident of history but part of a distinctive approach to material culture in early modern science that I call “thrifty science”. Following the thrifty values of “oeconomy” or household management, householders (at least in England, the focus here) sought to put their possessions into “service” and “make use” of them in diverse ways, one of which was as a means to understand the workings of Nature. Experimental philosophy then involved an array of ingenious means to put domestic space and furnishings to good use, which this presentation will survey. Understanding thrifty science, I shall argue, then helps make sense of some of the quite unthrifty characteristics of modern and contemporary science, and offers opportunities for thinking about the direction a more sustainable form of science might take in the future.