Specialization and Change In Scientific Careers. John Ziman. Cambridge University Press, New York 1987. 196 pp. $29.95.
The title of this book and the reputation of its author led me to hope for an insightful analysis of how the ever-increasing specialization of research has shaped modern science. What would 19th-century giants such as Helmholtz think of a scientific enterprise that generated half a million research papers per year, most of which are largely unreadable to scientists not working on the same problem?
Knowing Everything About Nothing, however, is a much more limited book. It is based on a study of specialization in scientific careers commissioned in 1981 by the British Science Research Council. John Ziman discusses in rather dry detail the many factors that determine the character of careers, based on interviews with scientists exploring why they seemed so rigidly specialized and resistant to change....