The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) by Thomas Kuhn is a classic historical analysis of science. It’s an interesting, profound and pleasantly short read. Kuhn was a physicist who became interested in science and became a Professor of the History of Science.

The book describes science as being an activity where a paradigm is established and ‘normal’ science proceed with scientists solving various puzzles within the current paradigm. Eventually, however, enough problems with the paradigm are found so that a paradigm shift and scientific revolution occurs that then goes on to be the paradigm for another period of normal science.

The examples given are mainly from physics and chemistry, with Ptolemy’s physics and view of the Universe being usurped by Galileo’s which was then usurped by Newton which then the paradigm until Relativity and Quantum Mechanics upset those paradigms.

Kuhn also looks at the sociology of science and how it is a group activity with the practitioners being immersed usually in normal science and going ahead and solving problems and occasionally being involved in a paradigm shifting change.

The book itself is dense and quite hard to read. It is a scholarly text. But it is comprehensible to a layman. The ideas of the book have become so deeply referred to in discourse that many readers will experience a strange kind of deja vu.

But the book is undoubtedly worth reading and extols an important and profound point in the history of science.



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