Only a scholar as rich in learning as I. Bernard Cohen could do
justice to a theme so subtle and yet so grand. Spanning five
centuries and virtually all of scientific endeavor, Revolution
in Science traces the nuances that differentiate both
scientific revolutions and human perceptions of them, weaving
threads of detail from physics, mathematics, behaviorism, Freud,
atomic physics, and even plate tectonics and molecular biology,
into the larger fabric of intellectual history.
How did "revolution," a term from the physical sciences, meaning
a turning again and implying permanence and recurrence--the
cyclical succession of the seasons, the ''revolutions'' of the
planets in their orbits--become transformed into an expression for
radical change in political and socioeconomic affairs, then become
appropriated once again to the sciences?
How have political revolutions--French, American, Bolshevik--and
such intellectual forces as Darwinism further modified the concept,
from revolution in science as a dramatic break with the past to the
idea that science progresses by the slow accumulation of knowledge?
And what does each transformation in each historical period tell us
about the deep conceptual changes in our image of the scientist and
Cohen''s exploration seeks to uncover nothing less than the
nature of all scientific revolutions, the stages by which they
occur, their time scale, specific criteria for determining whether
or not there has been a revolution, and the creative factors in
producing a revolutionary new idea. His book is a probing analysis
of the history of an idea and one of the most impressive surveys of
the history of science ever undertaken.