Making 20th Century Science: How Theories Became Knowledge

Hardcover | March 25, 2015

byStephen G. Brush

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Historically, the scientific method has been said to require proposing a theory, making a prediction of something not already known, testing the prediction, and giving up the theory (or substantially changing it) if it fails the test. A theory that leads to several successful predictions ismore likely to be accepted than one that only explains what is already known but not understood. This process is widely treated as the conventional method of achieving scientific progress, and was used throughout the twentieth century as the standard route to discovery and experimentation.But does science really work this way? In Making 20th Century Science, Stephen G. Brush discusses this question, as it relates to the development of science throughout the last century. Answering this question requires both a philosophically and historically scientific approach, and Brush blends thetwo in order to take a close look at how scientific methodology has developed. Several cases from the history of modern physical and biological science are examined, including Mendeleev's Periodic Law, Kekule's structure for benzene, the light-quantum hypothesis, quantum mechanics, chromosometheory, and natural selection. In general it is found that theories are accepted for a combination of successful predictions and better explanations of old facts.Making 20th Century Science is a large-scale historical look at the implementation of the scientific method, and how scientific theories come to be accepted.

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Historically, the scientific method has been said to require proposing a theory, making a prediction of something not already known, testing the prediction, and giving up the theory (or substantially changing it) if it fails the test. A theory that leads to several successful predictions ismore likely to be accepted than one that only ...

Stephen G. Brush studied chemistry and physics (at Harvard and Oxford) and did research in theoretical physics at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. His group at Livermore showed that a gas of electrons (ignoring quantum effects) could condense to a solid at low temperatures and high densities. Inspired by a graduate seminar with Thom...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:672 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:March 25, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199978158

ISBN - 13:9780199978151


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Table of Contents

IllustrationsPrefacePART I THE RECEPTION AND EVALUATION OF THEORIES IN THE SCIENCES1. Who Needs "The Scientific Method"?I.1.1 The Rings of UranusI.1.2 Maxwell and PopperI.1.3 What is a "Prediction"? A Mercurial DefinitionI.1.4 Hierarchy and DemarcationI.1.5 What's Wrong with Quantum Mechanics?I.1.6 Was Chemistry (1865-1980) more scientific than Physics?Mendeleev's Periodic LawI.1.7 Scientific Chemists: Benzene and Molecular OrbitalsI.1.8 The Unscientific (but very successful) method of Dirac and Einstein:Can We Trust Experiments to Test Theories?I.1.9 Why was Bibhas De's paper rejected by Icarus?I.1.10 The Plurality of Scientific MethodsPersons mentioned in this Chapter2. Reception Studies by Historians of ScienceI.2.1 What is "Reception"?I.2.2 The Copernican Heliocentric SystemI.2.3 Newton's Universal GravityI.2.4 Darwin's Theory of Evolution by Natural SelectionI.2.5 Bohr Model of the AtomI.2.6 Conclusions and GeneralizationsPersons mentioned in this Chapter3. The Role of Prediction-Testing in the Evaluation of Theories:A Controversy in the Philosophy of ScienceI.3.1 IntroductionI.3.2 Novelty in the Philosophy of ScienceI.3.3 What is a Prediction? (Revisited)I.3.4 Does Novelty Make a Difference?I.3.5 Evidence from case historiesI.3.6 Are Theorists less trustworthy than Observers?I.3.7 The Fallacy of Falsifiability: Even the Supreme Court was FooledI.3.8 ConclusionsPersons mentioned in this chapter4. The Rise and Fall of Social Constructionism 1975-2000I.4.1 The Problem of defining "Science and Technology Studies"I.4.2 The Rise of Social ConstructionismI.4.3 The Fall of Social ConstructionismI.4.4 Post MortemI.4.5 Consequences for "Science Studies"Persons mentioned in this ChapterPART II ATOMS, MOLECULES, AND PARTICLES1. Mendeleev's Periodic LawII.1.1 Mendeleev and the Periodic LawII.1.2 Novel PredictionsII.1.3 Mendeleev's PredictionsII.1.4 Reception by Whom?II.1.5 Tests of Mendeleev's PredictionsII.1.6 Before the Discovery of GalliumII.1.7 The Impact of Gallium and ScandiumII.1.8 The Limited Value of Novel PredictionsII.1.9 Implications of the LawII.1.10 ConclusionsPersons mentioned in this chapter2. The Benzene Problem 1865-1930II.2.1 Kekule's TheoryII.2.2 The first Tests of Kekul's TheoryII.2.3 Alternative HypothesesII.2.4 Reception of Benzene Theories 1866-1880II.2.5 New Experiments, New Theories 1881-1900II.2.6 The Failure of Aromatic Empiricism 1901-1930Persons mentioned in this Chapter3. The Light Quantum HypothesisII.3.1 Black-Body RadiationII.3.2 Planck's TheoryII.3.3 Formulation of the Light-Quantum HypothesisII.3.4 The Wave Theory of LightII.3.5 Einstein's "Heuristic Viewpoint"II.3.6 What did Millikan Prove?II.3.7 The Compton EffectII.3.8 Reception of Neo-Newtonian Optics before 1923II.3.9 The Impact of Compton's DiscoveryII.3.10 Rupp's Fraudulent ExperimentsII.3.11 ConclusionsPersons Mentioned in this Chapter4. Quantum MechanicsII.4.1 The Bohr ModelII.4.2 The Wave Nature of MatterII.4.3 Schrodinger's Wave MechanicsII.4.4 The Exclusion Principle, Spin, and the Electronic Structure of AtomsII.4.5 Bose-Einstein StatisticsII.4.6 Fermi-Dirac StatisticsII.4.7 Initial Reception of Quantum MechanicsII.4.8 The Community is ConvertedII.4.9 Novel Predictions of Quantum MechanicsII.4.10 The Helium AtomII.4.11 Reasons for accepting Quantum Mechanics after 1928Persons mentioned in this Chapter5. New ParticlesII.5.1 Dirac's Prediction and Anderson's Discovery of the PositronII.5.2 The Reception of Dirac's TheoryII.5.3 The Transformation of Dirac's TheoryII.5.4 Yukawa's Theory of Nuclear ForcesII.5.5 Discovery of the Muon and Reception of Yukawa's TheoryII.5.6 The Transformation of the YukonII.5.7 ConclusionsPersons Mentioned in this Chapter6. Benzene and Molecular Orbitals 1931-1980II.6.1 Resonance, Mesomerism, and the Mule 1931-1945II.6.2 Reception of Quantum Theories of Benzene 1932-1940II.6.3 Chemical Proof of Kekule's TheoryII.6.4 Anti-Resonance and the RhinocerosII.6.5 The Shift to Molecular Orbitals after 1950II.6.6 AromaticityII.6.7 The Revival of Predictive ChemistryII.6.8 Reception of Molecular Orbital Theory by Organic ChemistsII.6.9 Adoption of MO in TextbooksII.6.10 A 1996 SurveyII.6.11 ConclusionsPersons Mentioned in this ChapterPART III SPACE AND TIME1. RelativityIII.1.1 The Special Theory of RelativityIII.1.2 General Theory of RelativityIII.1.3 Empirical Predictions and ExplanationsIII.1.4 Social-Psychological FactorsIII.1.5 Aesthetic-Mathematical FactorsIII.1.6 Early Reception of RelativityIII.1.7 Do Scientists Give Extra Credit for Novelty? The Case of Gravitational Light BendingIII.1.8 Are Theorists less Trustworthy than Observers?III.1.9 Mathematical/Aesthertic Reasons for Accepting RelativityIII.1.10 Social-Psychological Reasons for Accepting RelativityIII.1.11 A Statistical Summary of Comparative ReceptionIII.1.12 ConclusionsPersons Mentioned in this Chapter2. Big Bang CosmologyIII.2.1 The Expanding Universe is ProposedIII.2.2 The Age of the EarthIII.2.3 The Context for the Debate: Four "New Sciences" and One Shared MemoryIII.2.4 Cosmology Constrained by Terrestrial TimeIII.2.5 Hubble Doubts the Expanding UniverseIII.2.6 A Radical Solution: Steady-State CosmologyIII.2.7 Astronomy Blinks: Slowing the ExpansionIII.2.8 Lemaoetre's Primeval Atom and Gamow's Big BangIII.2.9 Arguments for Steady State WeakenIII.2.10 The Temperature of SpaceIII.2.11 Discovery of the Cosmic Microwave BackgroundIII.2.12 Impact of the Discovery on CosmologistsIII.2.13 Credit for the PredictionIII.2.14 ConclusionsPersons mentioned in this ChapterPART IV HEREDITY AND EVOLUTION1. Morgan's Chromosome TheoryIV.1.1 IntroductionIV.1.2 Is Biology like (Hypothetico-Deductive) Physics?IV.1.3 PrecursorsIV.1.4 Morgan's TheoryIV.1.5 The Problem of UniversalityIV.1.6 Morgan's Theory in Research JournalsIV.1.7 Important Early SupportersIV.1.8 Bateson and the Morgan Theory in BritainIV.1.9 The Problem of Universality RevisitedIV.1.10 Books and Review Articles on Genetics, Evolution and CytologyIV.1.11 Biology TextbooksIV.1.12 Age Distribution of Supporters and OpponentsIV.1.13 ConclusionsPersons mentioned in this Chapter2. The Revival of Natural Selection 1930-1970IV.2.1 IntroductionIV.2.2 Fisher: A new Language for Evolutionary ResearchIV.2.3 Wright: Random Genetic Drift, A Concept Out of ControlIV.2.4 Haldane: A Mathematical-Philosophical Biologist Weighs inIV.2.5 Early Reception of the TheoryIV.2.6 Dobzhansky: The Faraday of Biology?IV.2.7 Evidence for Natural Selection, before 1941IV.2.8 Huxley: A New Synthesis is ProclaimedIV.2.9 Mayr: Systematics and the Founder PrincipleIV.2.10 Simpson: No Straight and Narrow Path for PaleontologyIV.2.11 Stebbins: Plants are also SelectedIV.2.12 Chromosome Inversions in DrosophilaIV.2.13 Ford: Unlucky Blood GroupsIV.2.14 Resistance to AntibioticsIV.2.15 Two "Great Debates": Snails and Tiger MothsIV.2.16 Selection and/or Drift? The Changing Views of Dobzhansky and WrightIV.2.17 The Views of other Founders and LeadersIV.2.18 The Peppered MothIV.2.19 The Triumph of Natural Selection?IV.2.20 Results of a Survey of Biological PublicationsIV.2.21 Is Evolutionary Theory Scientific?IV.2.22 Context and ConclusionsPersons mentioned in this ChapterPART V CONCLUSIONS1. Which Works Faster: Prediction or Explanation?V.1.1 Comparison of Cases Presented in this BookV.1.2 From Princip to PrincipeV.1.3 Can Explanation be Better than Prediction?V.1.4 Special Theory of Relativity: Explaining "Nothing"V.1.5 The Old Quantum theory: Many Things are Predicted, but Few are ExplainedV.1.6 Quantum Mechanics: Many Things are Explained, Predictions are Confirmed too lateV.1.7 Millikan's WalkNotes for Part INotes for Part IINotes for Part IIINotes for Part IVNotes for Part VSelected Bibliography: Includes works cited more than once in a chapterIndex