Forging Progress: Scientists and Engineers Shaping the Dutch East Indies Transformation, 1778-1942

Yon Machmudi, Abdurakhman, Wildan Insan Fauzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


European students started arriving in the Dutch East Indies in the 18th century. Later in the 20th century, the Dutch began implementing various technologies in irrigation, roads, railways, shipping, and industry. Colonial politics gave scientists and engineers an important and strategic place in the Dutch East Indies government. The central question guiding this research is, “What role did scientists and engineers play in the modernization of the Dutch East Indies from 1778 to 1942?”. This historical research uses various archives at ANRI and newspapers from the colonial era to explore the role of scientists and engineers in developing science and technology and the transformation of the Dutch East Indies. The development of science and technology in the Dutch East Indies was intricately linked to Dutch colonial politics, disease outbreaks, capitalism’s growth, and modernization. The findings of this research show the role of engineers in various projects for the construction of irrigation canals, ports, dams, roads, railways, trams, mines, telegraphs, airplanes, weapons, industry, and radio. These various projects impacted community mobility, city development, provision of clothing and food, employment opportunities, and other socio-economic impacts. Dutch scientists’ activities initially had a limited impact on colonial society due to their elitist nature, lack of social support, bureaucratic obstacles, and entanglements in the political sphere. Dutch scientists have important positions in various research institutions, including botany, archaeology, physics, and the chemical industry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-66
Number of pages12
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Apostle of Enlightenment
  • Dutch East Indies
  • Sientists
  • Technocracy
  • The floracrats


Dive into the research topics of 'Forging Progress: Scientists and Engineers Shaping the Dutch East Indies Transformation, 1778-1942'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this