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Problems and challenges in the historical study of the neurosciences



Problems and challenges in the historical study of the neurosciences



Journal of the History of the Neurosciences 11(1): 55-62



The paper focuses on historiographical questions relevant to the historical study of the neurosciences. I attempt to illuminate these questions by looking at them from the perspective of general historiography of science. In the first section, I consider the disciplinary structure of the modern neurosciences and discuss some of the historiographical problems that are involved in the historical description of a highly multidisciplinary field. For example, how far back in time can one trace brain research as part of the construction that we call the neurosciences? The main part of the paper deals with recent trends in contextualist historiography in relation to the neurosciences. I suggest that one important source for the trend, as it emerged in the 1970s, was a renewed interest in the history of phrenology and its reception in Britain. By looking at the historiography of phrenology, some of the rival positions in modern historiography of science can be illuminated. In the last part of the paper, I comment on the advantages and disadvantages of contextualist historiography of science, including its relation to the producers of science, the scientists.

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Accession: 047080716

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PMID: 12012577

DOI: 10.1076/jhin.11.1.55.9097


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