Problems of the Combination of Social and Methodological Analysis of the History of the Science in the Teaching of Engineering Sciences (Case Studies of the Historical Development of Radar Science and Technology)


The subject of methodological analysis in this report will be radar science and technology as a special discipline of scientific engineering (as distinct from the engineering industry). This choice is predetermined by the following factors. Firstly, radar theory emerged in the framework of a developed engineering science, and one may speak of its independent evolution as an engineering discipline. It has branched off from another engineering science (radio engineering theory) and did not initially emerge as an applied natural science. And second, the invention of radar resulted in truly revolutionary changes in industrial radio production, as well as in the respective fields of engineering science and practical activity which, in turn, produced a powerful impulse back to radar, turning it, in the latter part of the 20th century, into a modern complex engineering discipline, namely, radar systems engineering. Radar theory is discussed in this article not as much as a specific engineering science, but as a model of the analysis of the historical development of an engineering discipline. On the one hand, it is an object of case systems study; on the other, it has given an impetus in engineering science and activity to the development of methodological principles of the systems approach. In this sense, the invention of radar was a prerequisite for the development of systems engineering. As part of the “family” of systems engineering disciplines, it underwent radical transformations and arose as radar systems engineering. In this report I would to look in detail at the process by which radically novel science and technology originate. But my interest is not only to add fresh detail to the stories of this particular sphere of science and technology but rather to use this example as case study to uncover the social and logical structure of the origination of new sciences and technologies at all. I am going in this report not only to investigate the external social conditions of the origination of radar R & D and industrial organizational structures (first of all in the Soviet Union) but also to analyze of the internal methodological structures of the radar science and technology as a new scientific-technological discipline and technological theory.

Two basic phases in the development of radar theory can be distinguished. The first is associated with the gradual evolution of one of the branches of radio engineering into a new engineering discipline; and the second is connected with the “revolutionary” transition to a radically new systems ontology and cybernetics view of the world, replacing the traditional electrodynamics world of view of the radio-engineering with a switchover to qualitatively new activity settings, norms of scientific thinking, and working methods. We shall trace these changes against the background of the following dynamic parameters of scientific disciplines: a growing number of publications, a changing structure of the body of publications and of the research community (establishment of institutes, departments, magazines, etc.). Important for studies of engineering sciences are also data on the development of industrial facilities and engineering activity. Against the background of these dynamic parameters (which provide reference and targeting points for methodological systems analysis of the history of science) one can much better see the internal structural changes in an engineering theory as well.

Vitaly Gorokhov