Philosopher and author of TheStructureOfScientificRevolutionsISBN 0226458083 .
http://www.emory.edu/EDUCATION/mfp/Kuhnsnap.htmlfrom this site ...
Of the five books and countless articles he published, Kuhn's most renowned work is The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which he wrote while a graduate student in theoretical physics at Harvard. Initially published as a monograph in the International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, it was published in book form by the University of Chicago Press in 1962. It has sold some one million copies in 16 languages and is required reading in courses dealing with education, history, psychology, research, and, of course, history and philosophy of science. Structure has also generated a good deal of controversy, and many of Kuhn's ideas have been powerfully challenged
Well I'm about finished with Thomas Kuhn's treatise on the ingredients of a good scientific revolution. What is a scientific revolution? Kuhn says it
arises from a problem in nature that science has a difficult time explaining. The problem forces scientists into warring camps supporting one of
many theories, all of which explain some details, but not all. Each camp of scientists has its own way of interpreting the data associated with the
problem, and in effect, systematizing the universe. After a problem has split itself open with many potential solutions, there must occur a radical
paradigm shift. This is the magical "AHA" that captures all of the competing theories in the elegant net of a new fundamental idea, changing forever
the way scientists (and eventually humans) understand the universe. Kuhn uses a number of examples:
Copernicus: The shift from an earth-centered view to a sun-centered view; the elevation of the sun from its classical status as a planet.
Lavoisier: The discovery of oxygen and how it supplanted the Phlogiston theory of combustion.
Dalton: The introduction of the quantitative atomic theory (elaborating Democritus' qualitative speculations), and how it altered how chemists thought of elements, compounds, and mixtures.
Franklin: Moved electricity from a theory of fluids to one explaining its attractive and repulsive effects.
Einstein: Relativity of spatial frames replaces the absolute frames of Newtonian mechanics. Generally has significant measurable differences only in phenomenon involving speeds near that of light or involving strong gravitational fields.
Try teaching Kuhn in a theory of knowledge class. High school students will enjoy discussing the notion of paradigmatic shifts in thinking and making connections to similar dynamic shifts in areas like philosophy, the arts, mathematics, language, and history. I think we somehow get the impression that science is a cumulative discipline, that there is a fluid progression of thought from one generation to the next. Kuhn's theory makes scientific discovery seem more like flashes of lightning than an eternal flame. --Prof Taylor
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