George Alfred Leon Sarton (1884-1956) was a Belgian-American polymath, historian of science, and father of the writer, May Sarton. He wrote the seminal classic works, History of Science, The Study of the History of Science, and a two volume (of a projected nine volume) introduction to the history of science.
Sarton was convinced that the study of the history of science was the only truly progressive history.
He received his PhD in mathematics at the Univeristy of Ghent in 1911. Though he emigrated to England after the Great War broke out, it was really just a temporary home until he emigrated to the United States in 1915, where he would live for the rest of his life. He became a lecturer at Harvard University in 1920 and a professor of the history of science from 1940-1951.
Sarton intended to complete an exhaustive nine volume history of science—which, during the preparation of the second volume, induced him to learn Arabic and travel around the Middle East inspecting original manuscripts—but at the time of his death only the first two volumes had been completed.
He is credited with launching the formal study of the history of science in the United States as well as with founding the most noted academic journal in the subject, Isis.
In honor of Sarton's achievements, the History of Science Society created the award known as the George Sarton Medal. It is the most prestigious award of the History of Science Society. It has been awarded annually since 1955 to an outstanding historian of science selected from the international scholarly community. The medal honors a scholar for lifetime scholarly achievement.
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