Who is Georges Sarton

Photo of Georges Sarton

Georges Sarton (1884-1956), born in Belgium, received his academic education at the university of Ghent where he graduated as a chemist and earned his PhD in mathematics. At the start of the first World War he immigrated to the United States where he became a US citizen in 1924. He held positions at the universities of Illinois, the Carnigie Institution in Washington (now Carnegie Institution of Science) and Harvard were he ended his career as professor of History of Science.

The merits of Sarton to science and the world are multiple. First, he developed the history of science as a respectable academic discipline. Second he established two academic journals, Iris (1912) and Osiris (1934),that to this day are leading the research field. Fourth he published some very influential books about the history of science. Fourth is that he philosophically tied science to the unity of nature (the idea that there is an order in the universe that can be described) and the unity of mankind (the idea that there is no fundamental difference between men as far as they work together towards the same goal). In a time where eugenics had its own legitimate association in the US and the NSDAP and other fascist parties in Europe were proclaiming racial superiority. In his introduction Sarton is advocating through his trinity: knowledge, nature, and man, a humanistic, comparative, tolerant and charitable way of life. In my humble opinion his most important merit