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A HISTORY OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY IN THE PHILIPPINES*

by

Olivia C. Caoili**

Introduction

The need to develop a country's science and technology has generally been recognized as one of the imperatives of socioeconomic progress in the contemporary world. This has become a widespread concern of governments especially since the post world war II years.(1)

Among Third World countries, an important dimension of this concern is the problem of dependence in science and technology as this is closely tied up with the integrity of their political sovereignty and economic self-reliance. There exists a continuing imbalance between scientific and technological development among contemporary states with 98 per cent of all research and development facilities located in developed countries and almost wholly concerned with the latter's problems.(2) Dependence or autonomy in science and technology has been a salient issue in conferences sponsored by the United Nations.(3)

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*Paper prepared for the University of the Philippines Science Research Foundation in connection with its project on "Analysis of Conditions for National Scientific and Technological Self-Reliance: The Philippine Situation," June 1986.

**Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, College of Social Sciences and Philosophy. University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.

(1) For a brief summary of the evolution of government concern for the development of science and technology, see Olivia C. Caoili, Dimensions of Science Policy and National Development: The Philippine Experience, Monograph Series No. 1 (College, Laguna: Center for Policy and Development Studies, University of the Philippines at Los Baños, October 1982), pp. 4-34.

(2) Guy B. Gresford and Bertrand H. Chatel, "Science and Technology in the United Nations," World Development, Vol. II No. 1 (January 1974), p. 44.

(3) See, for example, UNESCO, Science and Technology in Asian Development: Conference and Application of Science and Technology to the Development of Asia, New Delhi, August 1968 (Paris: UNESCO, 1970); United Nations Conference on Science and Technology for Development, Vienna, Austria, 1979, in Nature, Vol. 280 (16 August 1979), pp. 525-532.

It is within the above context that this paper attempts to examine the history of science and technology in the Philippines. Rather than focusing simply on a straight chronology of events, it seeks to interpret and analyze the interdependent effects of geography, colonial trade, economic and educational policies and socio-cultural factors in shaping the evolution of present Philippine science and technology. As used in this paper, science is concerned with the systematic understanding and explanation of the laws of nature. Scientific activity centers on research, the end result of which is the discovery or production of new knowledge.(4) This new knowledge may or may not have any direct or immediate application.

In comparison, technology has often been understood as the "systematic knowledge of the industrial arts."(5) As this knowledge was implemented by means of techniques, technology has become commonly taken to mean both the knowledge and the means of its utilization, that is, "a body, of knowledge about techniques."(6) Modern technology also involves systematic research but its outcome is more concrete than science, i.e. the production of "a thing, a chemical, a process, something to be bought and sold."(7)

In the past, science and technology developed separately, with the latter being largely a product of trial and error in response to a particular human need. In modern...
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