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Golden goose or tradesman’s entrance?

Image: Clem Rutter [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Flickr

Centuries of debate about putting science to work hold lessons for today, says David Willetts

The term ‘applied science’ was first used by the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in an essay published on 1 January 1818—the same day as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Like her, he was partly warning about a dangerous shift in values towards the utilitarian, fearing that Plato would be seen as less worthy in modern London than a “handscraftsman from a laboratory”.

Coleridge was translating Immanuel Kant’s distinction of pure knowledge, which was necessarily true, from applied knowledge, which was contingent.

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