This conclusion uses lessons from the book to offer broader reflections on the history and sociology of science, particularly relating to the attribution and distribution of credit (authorial and otherwise) for the development of scientific theories. While Darwin has been the book’s main character, the topic could instead be framed as the dissemination of Lyell’s approach to science (and likely would be had Darwin not eventually become much more famous than Lyell). In the text and end-note mini-essays Sponsel relates his arguments to the “author function” (Foucault), the “Matthew effect” (Merton), and other discussions of credit, self-fashioning, and scientific authorship (by Shapin, Biagioli, Galison, McSherry et al). Sponsel emphasizes the book’s lessons about the importance of face-to-face interaction (between Darwin and shipmates, for example, and between Darwin and Lyell), and amplifies arguments by SSK scholars that social “skills” should be seen as intrinsic to the practice of science. Sponsel closes by arguing that the now-common approach of studying scientific “practices” (rather than just scientific “ideas”) often marginalizes theories and theorizing despite their significance for historical actors themselves; this study of Darwin’s everyday activities sheds light on what it meant cognitively and socially for individuals and communities to “have” a theory.
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