The Scientific Imagination in South Africa. 1700 to the Present

South Africa provides a unique vantage point from which to examine the scientific imagination over the last three centuries, when its position on the African continent made it a staging post for Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonialism. In the eighteenth century, South African plants and animals caught the imagination of visiting Europeans. In the nineteenth century, science became central to imperial conquest, devastating wars, agricultural intensification and the exploitation of rich mineral resources. Scientific work both facilitated, and offered alternatives to, the imposition of segregation and apartheid in the twentieth century.

William Beinart and Saul Dubow offer an innovative exploration of science and technology in this complex, divided society. Bridging a range of disciplines from astronomy to zoology, they demonstrate how scientific knowledge shaped South Africa's peculiar path to modernity. In so doing, they examine the work of remarkable individual scientists and institutions, as well as the contributions of leading politicians from Jan Smuts to Thabo Mbeki.

Page credits & information

Beinhart, William and Saul Dubrow. The Scientific Imagination in South Africa. 1700 to the Present. Cambridge University Press. 2020