George Sarton

George Sarton

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George Sarton was a Belgian chemist
Chemist
A chemist is a scientist trained in the study of chemistry. Chemists study the composition of matter and its properties such as density and acidity. Chemists carefully describe the properties they study in terms of quantities, with detail on the level of molecules and their component atoms...

 and historian
Historian
A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...

 who is considered the founder of the discipline of history of science
History of science
The history of science is the study of the historical development of human understandings of the natural world and the domains of the social sciences....

. He left Belgium because of the First World War and settled in the United States where he spent the rest of his life researching and writing about the history of science
History of science
The history of science is the study of the historical development of human understandings of the natural world and the domains of the social sciences....

. His daughter is the American writer May Sarton
May Sarton
May Sarton is the pen name of Eleanore Marie Sarton , an American poet, novelist, and memoirist.-Biography:...

.

Sarton's life and work


George Alfred Leon Sarton was born in Ghent
Ghent
Ghent is a city and a municipality located in the Flemish region of Belgium. It is the capital and biggest city of the East Flanders province. The city started as a settlement at the confluence of the Rivers Scheldt and Lys and in the Middle Ages became one of the largest and richest cities of...

, Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

 on August 31, 1884. He graduated from the University of Ghent in 1906 and two years later won a gold medal for one of his papers on chemistry. He received his PhD in mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

 at the University of Ghent in 1911. He married Mabel Eleanor Elwes, an English artist, in 1911 and their daughter Eleanore Marie (known as: May
May Sarton
May Sarton is the pen name of Eleanore Marie Sarton , an American poet, novelist, and memoirist.-Biography:...

) was born the following year. Although he emigrated to England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 after World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 broke out, he came to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 in 1915, where he would live for the rest of his life. He worked for the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace and lectured at Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

, 1916-18, where he became a lecturer in 1920 and then professor of the history of science
History of science
The history of science is the study of the historical development of human understandings of the natural world and the domains of the social sciences....

 from 1940 until his retirement in 1951. He was also a research associate of the Carnegie Institution of Washington from 1919 until 1948.

Sarton intended to complete an exhaustive nine volume history of science
History of science
The history of science is the study of the historical development of human understandings of the natural world and the domains of the social sciences....

 — which, during the preparation of the second volume, induced him to learn Arabic and travel around the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 inspecting original manuscripts of Islamic scientists — but at the time of his death only the first three volumes had been completed. (I. From Homer to Omar Khayyam. — II. From Rabbi Ben Ezra to Roger Bacon
Roger Bacon
Roger Bacon, O.F.M. , also known as Doctor Mirabilis , was an English philosopher and Franciscan friar who placed considerable emphasis on the study of nature through empirical methods...

, pt. 1-2. — III. Science and learning in the fourteenth -century, pt. 1-2. 1927-48.) The project was inspired by his study of Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

 but the period of Leonardo's life was not reached before the death of Sarton.

After his death (March 22, 1956, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, in the Greater Boston area. It was named in honor of the University of Cambridge in England, an important center of the Puritan theology embraced by the town's founders. Cambridge is home to two of the world's most prominent...

) a representative selection of his papers was edited by Dorothy Stimson
Dorothy Stimson (historian)
Dorothy Stimson was an American historian of science. She served as the president of the History of Science Society during 1953-1957. Her research interest included the reception of the Copernican theory...

 and published by Harvard University Press in 1962.

History of Science Society


In honor of Sarton's achievements, the History of Science Society
History of Science Society
The History of Science Society is the primary professional society for the academic study of the history of science.It was founded in 1924 by George Sarton and Lawrence Joseph Henderson, primarily to support the publication of Isis, a journal of the history of science Sarton had started in 1912....

 created the award known as the George Sarton Medal
George Sarton Medal
The George Sarton Medal is the most prestigious award given by the History of Science Society. It has been awarded annually since 1955. It is awarded to an historian of science from the international community who became distinguished for "a lifetime of scholarly achievement" in the field...

. It is the most prestigious award of the History of Science Society
History of Science Society
The History of Science Society is the primary professional society for the academic study of the history of science.It was founded in 1924 by George Sarton and Lawrence Joseph Henderson, primarily to support the publication of Isis, a journal of the history of science Sarton had started in 1912....

. It has been awarded annually since 1955 to an outstanding historian of science selected from the international scholarly community. The medal honors a scholar for lifetime scholarly achievement. Sarton was the founder of this society and of the serial publications Isis
Isis (journal)
Isis is an academic journal published by University of Chicago Press. It focuses on the history of science, history of medicine, and the history of technology, as well as their cultural influences, featuring both original research articles as well as extensive book reviews and review essays.It was...

 and Osiris
Osiris (journal)
Osiris is an annual peer-reviewed academic journal covering research in the history of science. It is published by the University of Chicago Press and was established in 1936 by George Sarton....

which it publishes.

Major works

  • Introduction to the History of Science, (I. From Homer to Omar Khayyam. — II. From Rabbi Ben Ezra to Roger Bacon, pt. 1-2. — III. Science and learning in the fourteenth-century, pt. 1-2. 1927-48.) Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins.
  • A History of Science. Ancient science through the Golden Age of Greece, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1952.
  • A History of Science. Hellenistic science and culture in the last three centuries B.C., Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1959.
  • The Study of the History of Science (German: Das Studium der Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 1965.)

External links