Looking twice at the history of science

Friday, August 12, 2016

A Unified Theory of the Second Scientific Revolution, Part 2: a Solution

Haüy's crystallography-what did it have in common with Coulomb's physics and Cuvier's zoology?
As I wrote last week, there are at least seven theories about the second scientific revolution (SSR), all of them claiming that science changed dramatically in the three decades on either side of 1800, none of them explaining how its assertions can be reconciled with those of the other six theories. Let’s assume for the moment that a reconciliation is possible and desirable. How might it be realised? How can we unite, in a single theory, the insights that are scattered across these seven different theories? Here is my proposal. It proceeds in three steps. Expand post.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

A Unified Theory of the Second Scientific Revolution, Part 1: the Problem

Gaston Bachelard (1882-1962) forming the scientific mind.
There are two kinds of conference paper: the ones we give, and the ones we would have given if only we had been able to do enough research to back up our seductive hunches and our bold conjectures. At the 3 Societies conference in Edmonton in July, I gave a modest talk about an experimenter in 1730s France who had a notion of ‘exactitude’ that applied equally well to qualitative and quantitative research. The talk I would have given is much more sweeping and provocative. Frankly I would have preferred to listen to the ambitious talk, and not the modest and sensible one, but academic caution got the better of me. Here then is the sweeping and provocative talk, in summary form, safely packaged as a speculative blog post (or two). Expand post.