Herbert Butterfield and the History of Science

Student Author(s)

Ian Bussan

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Marc Baer

Document Type


Event Date



In terms of traditional historiography, the history of science is a relatively new field of historical analysis. Though he was certainly not the first person to promote the discipline as worthy of interest in and of itself, British historian Herbert Butterfield can be considered a major popularizer of the history of science as an integral part of world, and especially modern, history. Butterfield, a respected historian who also specialized in diplomatic history, helped create the study as we know it today, in its “great men” formula that has been the basis for narrative accounts of science's historical activities. While earlier practitioners focused on methodological practices or the national grandeur of a country's famous scientists, it was Butterfield who created the field as an integral subcategory of modern world history. This research explored Butterfield's predecessors, his writings on the history of science, and his subsequent promotion of and influence on the history of science.

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