Work in Progress [24/01/2020]

Work in Progress

Sébastien Plutniak (Laboratori LISST, Toulouse): The development of metrological scientific specialties: archaeology and archaeometry in France (18th–20th centuries). A study of engineers' life-course and recognition


Les sessions del seminari Work in Progress del CEHIC tenen per objectiu la presentació de recerques i projectes en curs.

Resum: In the history of science, the development of scientific specialities based on the use of measurement and/or computation occurred in many disciplines: e.g. psychometry in psychology, econometry in economy, bibliometrics in documentation sciences, numerical ecology, computational linguistics, etc. In many cases, engineers played an important role in this process. Many studies focused on the particularities of engineers' knowledge (Boon 2011) and the development of industrial research (Shinn 2005). Besides, there is a vast literature on the history of engineering, addressing engineers' institutions, skills, careers, and political commitments. These works emphasize the generality, domain-free, and transposable skills of engineers, who have been characterized by their ability to operate in multiple areas.
Archaeology has been one of these domains. From its beginning (Napoleon's campaign in Egypt from 1798) to the development of archaeometry from the 1960s, engineers have always been present in the growth archaeology. Using the case of France, I will also address the multi-activity typical of engineers. However, contrary to previous studies which focus on engineers' knowledge and skills, I will pay particular attention to their life courses, recognition and interaction with non-engineer archaeologists. Three datasets will be used:
1) the prosopography of 39 actors who were both engineers and archaeologists (18th–20th centuries);
2) a detailed examination of the social composition of 3 French archaeological societies (1894–1984);
3) archival materials and interviews with archaeologists related to the development of archaeometry in the 2sd half of the 20th century.
This perspective from historical sociology will shed new light on general issues concerning the formalisation of scientific research fields and the conflicts of definition it raises.



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