Thomas S. Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (“Structure” in the following) was first published in 1962 and became the most widely read book on the history of science. Since then, philosophers, historians, sociologists, educationalists, anthropologists, psychologists, economists, cultural commentators, journalists and readers belonging to many more academic and non-academic areas have been discussing this book. In scholarly journals, seminars, popular writings, monographs, public lectures and conferences, the book has been analyzed, commented upon, (often) criticized, (sometimes) praised, its impact assessed, and, in various instances, dismissed as trivial.
The appearance of Structure was perhaps the second major milestone, after the first publication of the journal Isis in 1912, to mark the rise of the history of science to a field enjoying broad recognition beyond the narrow community of its practitioners. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the publication of Structure, the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science organized an international conference, inviting scholars from various disciplines not only to reflect on Kuhn’s impact and legacy but also on the history and the current state of the history of science. The present volume is an outcome of the conference 50 Years Since Structure: Towards a History of the History of Science, held in Berlin in October 2012.
The primary intention of the organizers of this event was not to celebrate Kuhn’s book, but rather to offer an occasion to discuss the remarkable developments that have led the community of historians, philosophers and sociologists of science to its present state. To this end, scholars were invited who themselves have shaped these developments in the past decades. For some, Structure was a decisive factor in these developments, for others it did not play much of a role; yet most would acknowledge that it is a book that was always “there,” accompanying most of us in our collective or personal undertakings to further establish history of science. Indeed, the book has had a dominating presence for roughly half of the lifetime of the history of science as an institutionalized endeavor.
The present book sets Kuhn’s Structure in context and makes it the subject of historical reflection and analysis. The first part of the volume is dedicated to personal recollections, including an interview with Kuhn himself conducted in 1990. The second part aims at historicizing Kuhn and his work. One important context that is discussed is that of the Cold War and its impact on the role and understanding of science. Another context relevant to situating Kuhn’s work is that of the philosophical discussions of science in the twentieth century. The contributions to this part not only deal with the overarching theoretical argument of Structure, but also with the context of Kuhn’s choice and interpretation of his major case studies: the birth of Copernican astronomy and the quantum revolution.
The contributions to the third part trace Kuhn’s legacy in traditions of research and teaching in the history of science, which is remarkably substantial given that he never created a Kuhnian school in the history and philosophy of science in the traditional sense of the term. The essays in this part show in particular that the impact of Structure and other works not only consisted in discussions of Kuhn’s challenging claims, but also in the models they set for productive investigations in the history of various scientific fields, some of them far from Kuhn’s original concerns.
The openness of Kuhn’s work is also reflected in the reinterpretations that it made possible. The fourth part is dedicated to such reinterpretations, in particular in the sociology of science, where his concepts and terminology have fallen on fertile ground. The fifth part deals with issues in the history and philosophy of science that were either neglected by Kuhn or where his position was challenged by alternative approaches.
In closing, we would like to honor the memory of the British historian of science, John Pickstone, who sadly passed away in February 2014 before this book was published. His “big picture” approach to the history of modern science, technology and medicine greatly influenced the field. He will be missed by all those who had the pleasure of knowing him or working with him.
Table of Contents
Alexander Blum, Kostas Gavroglu, Christian Joas, Jürgen Renn
Where to Start?
John L. Heilbron
Part 1: Personal Recollections
1 The Nature of Scientific Knowledge: An Interview with Thomas S. Kuhn
2 Steve’s Question and Tom’s Last Lecture: A Personal Perspective
3 Thomas Kuhn: A Man of Many Parts
Part 2: Historicizing Kuhn
6 Contemporary Science and the History and Philosophy of Science
Olival Freire Jr.
7 Kuhn in the Cold War
9 Two Encounters
Fynn Ole Engler, Jürgen Renn
Part 3: Kuhn’s Legacy
10 Thomas Kuhn
Jed Z. Buchwald
12 Constructive Controversy and the Growth of Knowledge
Martin J. S. Rudwick
15 Science, Politics, Economics and Kuhn’s Paradigms
José M. Sánchez-Ron
16 Abgesang on Kuhn’s “Revolutions”
Part 4: Reinterpreting Kuhn
18 The Notion of Incommensurability
19 Kuhn, Meritocracy, and Excellence
Part 5: Beyond Kuhn
21 Kuhnian and Post-Kuhnian Views on How Science Evolves
Mary Jo Nye
22 Experimental Turnaround, 360°: The Essential Kuhn Circle
23 History of Science: The French Connection
25 On Kuhnian and Hacking-Type Revolutions
Silvan S. Schweber
26 Goethe Was Right: ‘The History of Science Is Science Itself’
M. Norton Wise
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