Sciences : histoire orale
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Oral History of Sciences

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Oral history has already been accepted by historians. That the work of historians may be partly based on oral testimonies or hints from them is not new in itself [1 ; 2]. But, their use for history of sciences did not spread before the 1960s. This was partly due to the impulsion of the American philosopher and historian of sciences, Thomas Kuhn, who contributed to the collection of the Archives for History of Quantum Physics [3]. Since then, there has been a multiplication of institutes that have nurtured programs for oral history of sciences. One can list the Oral History Research Office at Columbia University, the Regional Oral History Office at Berkeley University or the Center for Contemporary History and Policy at Chemical Heritage Fundation in Philadelphia. Currently, one of the most furnished collections is probably at the Niels Bohr Library at the American Institute of Physics (AIP). The emergence of oral history undoubtedly testifies for the increasing interest of historians of sciences for the social meaning of knowledge. This leads them to examine not only traditional sources (hagiographic, disciplinary, institutional) but also oral sources, which favors the conservation of the memory of sciences. However, until now, oral history of sciences has mainly been practiced by North-American researchers and current collections mainly focus on US-based research [2]. By promoting oral history in Europe and by mixing American and European corpuses, the SHO website aims to exhibit the plurality of scientific cultures and the dynamism of their interactions.


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