Standard Grant: The Role of Craft Skill in Scientific Practice


Pamela Smith
Seth Low Professor of History

This award provides support for the Making and Knowing Project, a research initiative of the Center for Science and Society at Columbia University. The research brings together students, practitioners, scholars of the humanities and social sciences, natural scientists, and specialists from computer science and the digital humanities in formal university courses and a series of "expert crowdsourcing" workshops and working groups. The award will support further development of the project's collaborative and pedagogy-driven research methodology. It will also facilitate the completion of an open access digital critical edition and English translation of an important French artisanal and technical manuscript. The manuscript was never published or extensively studied prior to this project. It contains a huge variety of recipes and instructions in areas as varied as medicine, metalworking, surveying, ballistics, pigment and varnish making, cannon casting, and detailed observations of animal behavior. It provides an important perspective into the earliest phases of the Scientific Revolution, when nature was investigated primarily by skilled artisans by means of continuous and methodical experimentation in the making of objects during a period when making was knowing. The open-access critical edition will make the manuscript accessible to diverse audiences, and allow them to experience the processual knowledge of historical techniques through texts, images, and videos.