The history of science has many functions. Historians should consider how their work contributes to various functions, going beyond a simple desire to understand the past correctly. There are both internal and external functions of the history of science in relation to science itself; I focus here on the internal, as they tend to be neglected these days. The internal functions can be divided into orthodox and complementary. The orthodox function is to assist with the understanding of the content and methods of science as it is now practised. The complementary function is to generate and improve scientific knowledge where current science itself fails to do so. Complementary functions of the history of science include the raising of critical awareness, and the recovery and extension of past scientific knowledge that has become forgotten or neglected. These complementary functions are illustrated with some concrete examples.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society.