SIGCIS 2012 Workshop, Traditional Papers I: Identities of Science

Name: Ulf Hashagen
Institutional Affiliation: Research Institute for the History of Science and Technology Deutsches Museum D-80306 Munich Germany
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Paper Type: Traditional
Paper Title: Computers for Science: Scientific Computing and Computer Science in the German Scientific System, 1870-1970
Paper Abstract: It is a commonplace to say that in Germany scientific computing (Wissenschaftliches Rechnen) and computer science (Informatik) developed between 1870 and 1970 within a national system of organized science and innovation.  More specifically, the first-unsuccessful-attempt to establish scientific computing as a "cross-discipline" within the German scientific system was made at the beginning of this period; and the "fundamental discipline" of Informatik was institutionalized as the West German form of computer science at the end of it. It is doubtful whether the historiography usually applied to the history of mathematics and informatics treating this development as part of the history of a specialty and hence as early history of computer science is an appropriate historiographical method.  Therefore this talk will view the computer, as well as the numerical and graphic methods, the mathematical tables, and mathematical instruments and mathematical machines as a partly interrelated array of tools used as a specific kind of research technology in the natural and engineering sciences.  In addition, the users of these mathematical methods, instruments, and machines are considered as the decisive actors. The question also arises as to how particular cultures of scientific computing formed in different disciplines is furthermore examined and how they either remained constant or changed under immanent or external influences. I would maintain that the historical process can then only be comprehended through an analysis of the various "specialty histories" interconnected by such institutions as universities, governmental ministries, professional scientific associations, and funding organizations, as well as by processes of negotiation in the scientific system as a whole. Therefore, the importance of national or disciplinary scientific ideologies and institutional structures of the knowledge system will be investigated as to how they affected the application and development of methods and instruments of scientific computing and as to how they affected the emergence and institutionalization of the new discipline of informatics.