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Creativity Studies

Cognitive & Intellectual History

Sciences of the Artificial and Computer Science


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Cognitive & Intellectual History

In its older 'modern' sense, intellectual history is the history of how ideas develop, evolve and are transmitted.  In the more recent 'postmodern' sense it is the study of how texts were shaped by the ways in which languge was used.

Cognitive history is related to intellectual history in both the older and the newer senses.  However, its objective is to understand the development of minds, mentalities and identities of individuals or communities that have engaged in 'intellectual' or 'creative' thought.  Cognitive history uses a blend of historical and biographical methods and a theoretical framework derived from cognitive science.

Cognitive history as a method of investigation goes back no further than the mid-1970s.  The term 'cognitive history' itself was coined in the mid-1990s.

My own interest in cognitive history coincided with my first investigation of the creative process in the mid-1990s.  The following are some of my books and articles that are explicitly cognitive-historical in approach.

   Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1999.   Paperback edition: Permanent Black, New Delhi, 2009.

From the publisher's blurb:
"Jagadis Chandra Bose (1858-1937) was India's first scientist to receive international recognition.   Working in almost complete isolation in Calcutta in the heyday of the Raj, Bose did pioneering research, first in physics and then in plant physiology.  As a physicist he was the first to produce millimeter length radio waves and study their properties.  In biology he was a brilliant inventor of instruments which he used to perform delicate experiments on plant life.  However, his theories about the relationship btween living and non-living matter, and the responsiveness of plants to stimuli, were highly controversial in his time, to the extent that he invoked both warm admiration and intense dislike, even ridicule, amongst his peers in Europe and America.
        This book is the first comprehensive, critical study of Bose's science and philosophy of nature, and of his complex, wayward genius."


"... an important examination of the science of Jagadis Chandra Bose ... Dasgupta distances his account from nationalist historiography ... His reading complements the histories and biographies that have emphasized the socio-cultural history of science in India."    Dhruv Raina, ISIS (USA)

"Scholars interested in science and society issues as well as lay readers will find the narrative fascinating."  Deepak Kumar, The Book Review (India)

"... a book that has filled a void in the history of science in India"   Prajit Basu, Science, Technology and Society ( India)

" ... a thorough, critical, dispassionate, objective and lucid synthesis of an enormous amount of information .... a valuable contribution to the history of science, especially Indian science."   R.L. Bijlani, Indian J. of Physiology and Pharmacology (India).

"... The narrative is simple and replete with anecdotes that make it engaging reading.'  Satwal Sangwan, American Historical Review (USA)

"Subrata Dasgupta's ... fascinating case study of the physicist and later plant physiologist J.C. Bose ..."
New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies  (New Zealand)

"Dasgupta provides us with a richly researched and meticulously chronicled account of Bose's research ... Despite its attention to scientific detail the book is easy to read.  Dasgupta writes lucidly and he has a lively style of narrative ... the book ultimately offers exciting new vistas to explore in the history of modern science in India.   Abha Sur,  Journal of Asian Studies (International)

"... excellent book ... a critical (but sympathetic) look at Bose's work. "   Indian Review of Books (India)

(Article)  'Multidisciplinary Creativity: The Case of Herbert A. Simon,'  Cognitive Science, 27, 2003, 683-707.

(Article) 'Cognitive Style in Creative Work:  The Case of the Painter George Rodrigue', PsyArt : An Online Journal for the Psychological Study of the Arts, 2005.

TWILIGHT OF THE BENGAL RENAISSANCE:  R.K. Dasgupta and His Quest for a World Mind. 
 Dey's Publishing, Calcutta, 2005.

An intellectual and cognitive biography of a preeminent scholar of English, Bengali and Comparative Literature and the first director of the National Library of India.

THE BENGAL RENAISSANCE:  Identity and Creativity from Rammohun Roy to Rabindranath Tagore.
   Permanent Black, New Delhi, 2007.  Paperback reprint:  2010.

From the publisher's blurb:
"Scholars have long debated the very idea of a 'Bengal Renaissance'.  The controversies have been largely over whether there was a 'renaissance' at all, and its significance from social, political and cultural perspectives.   This book addresses the issue from the perspective of philosophy of science and the psychology of creativity ... Dasgupta shows that the Renaissance is characterized by a 'collective cognitive identity' which had its roots in British Orientalism and flowered within a remarkable community of creative individuals in nineteenth-century Bengal."


"Professor Subrata Dasgupta has brilliantly illustrated, through the eyes of a cognitive scientist and a psyhologist, the essential features of .'renaissance minds' which were witnessed in abundance in ... 19th century Bengal ..."   A.K. Biswas, Indian Journal of History of Science (India)

"... offers a new way to examine this particular epoch ... Subrata Dasgupta combines the attributes of a cognitive scientist and a historian to study and interpret minds as well as historical material.  Dasgupta also lends to the book a broad, humanistic outlook ... The strength of the book lies in its treatment of the subject, and the lucid manner in which it explains what went into the construction of the ideology of the Bengal Renaissanace."     Uma Das Gupta, The Telegraph  (India)

"This is, by any yardstick, the single-most important account in recent years, and raises the bar for the future.  Diligently researched, thoughtful and lucid in its exposition, it is rich with surprises."   Atul Chaturvedi,  The Indian Express (India)

"... a serious book, a must-read for anyone interested in one of the most glorious periods in the history of Bengal."  Star Weekend Magazine (Online)

AWAKENING : The Story of the Bengal Renaissance.  Random House India, Noida, 2010.  Paperback reprint, 2011.

Publisher's blurb: 
"In the nineteenth century, Bengal witnessed an extraordinary intellectual flowering.  Bengali prose emerged, and with it the novel and modern blank verse; old arguments about religion, society, and the lives of women were overturned; great schools and colleges were created; new ideas surfaces in scienc.  And all these changes were led by a handful of remarkable men and women.  For the first time comes a gripping narrative about the Bengal Renaissance recounted through the lives of all its players from Rammohun Roy to Rabindranath Tagore.  Immaculately researched, told with colour, drama, and passion.  Awakening is a stunning achievement."


"Reading Awakening has been an experience ... the reader is really transported into that golden era when cultures mingled, barriers broke and benefits flowed both ways."  Deccan Herald (India)

"Superbly documented, the book brings to the fore Subrata Dasgupta's skill as a chronicler of events."  The Hindu (India)

"[Brings] these characters to life in vivid detail."  Sunday Guardian (India)

"Masterly ... Awakening is in every sense a complete narrative of the Renaissance."  India Today

The first readable popular history of the 'Bengal Renaissance' ... Subrata Dasgupta ... writes in an easy ... style which is a pleasure to read ... a chronicle deftly told ... much to praise in what this book offers ..." Biblio (India)

"Writing on history need not be fashionably obfuscating nor helplessly boring ... If you believe that, do not return this book to its shelf ... Dasgupta has picked up something from the people he writes about -- the urge to veer away from the conventional."  The Telegraph (India)

"Dasgupta's significant contribution is his discovery of a common thread that binds most of the renaissance figures.  That common thread is the presence of an 'Indo-Western mind', the fusion of two cultures, two traditions ..."   Business Standard (India)

"... the writing is powerfully felt in places."  Outlook India



"... a fascinating reflection on a new academic discipline.  It is an intellectual and cultural story woven around the history of auomatic computation from 1819 t0 1969 ... Taking an even-handed view of developments on either side of the Atlantic, this book is a valuable counterpoint to shallower histories of the subject" -- Simon Lavington, Emeritus Professor, University of Essex.

"It Began with Babbage ... both explores the relationships that drove this history [of automatic computation] and explains in an admirably accessible style the key ideas that enabled it" -- Paul Rosenbloom, Professor, Department of Computer Science and Institute for Creative Technologies, University of Southern California,

"... a comprehensive, enlightening history of the emergence of computer science as a new scientific paradigm ... Highly recommended.  -- Choice


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