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STEM in Rare Books

A guide to works on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics in Rare Books.

STEM in Rare Books

This guide provides a list of books about STEM in Hornbake Library’s Literature and Rare Books collection.  The books in this guide feature the writing of well known scientists such as Galileo Galilei, Francis Bacon, and Charles Darwin as well as works by figures you may be less familiar with like George Bate, Benjamin Banneker, and Mary Sommerville.  

The goal of this guide is not necessarily to direct readers to scientifically accurate information, but rather to provide insight into what theories and concepts were common when the work was published. Sometimes the concepts mentioned in these texts continue to influence STEM fields today.  For example, without René Descartes proposing analytic geometry in Geometria, we wouldn’t have calculus.  

However, some of the other theories and concepts mentioned in these books have been proven false over the years.   For example, The Descent of Man is an essential work on evolution, but there are parts containing troubling examples of racism.  While the prejudice in The Descent of Man is frustrating, learning more about the text can help us to understand the way that STEM fields struggle to take accountability for racism both in the past and present day.  In other cases the inaccuracies are more innocuous, as with Fr. Basilii Valintini Benedicter Ordens Letztes Testament, a work about alchemy.  While we now understand alchemy is a pseudoscience, it was still important in the development of legitimate scientific fields like chemistry.  Whether the concepts mentioned in these works are considered accurate or not, reading them can help us to better understand STEM's past, present, and future.

The works presented in this guide are from the Literature and Rare Books collection in Special Collections and University Archives, located in Hornbake Library.  For more information about our holdings contact us!