Books  General Natural History  History of Science 

Making 20th Century Science: How Theories Became Knowledge

A large-scale examination of scientific development in the 20th century.
Discusses cases like Mendeleev's Periodic Law, light-quantum hypothesis, and chromosome theory.
Draws conclusions on the methodology behind the formation of scientific theories

By: Stephen G Brush (Author)

672 pages, 8 illustrations

Oxford University Press USA

Hardback | May 2015 | #221082 | ISBN-13: 9780199978151
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About this book

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 is more 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 the two 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, chromosome theory, 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.



Chapter I.1 Who Needs "The Scientific Method"?
I.1.1 The Rings of Uranus
I.1.2 Maxwell and Popper
I.1.3 What is a "Prediction"? A Mercurial Definition
I.1.4 Hierarchy and Demarcation
I.1.5 What's Wrong with Quantum Mechanics?
I.1.6 Was Chemistry (1865-1980) more scientific than Physics? Mendeleev's Periodic Law
I.1.7 Scientific Chemists: Benzene and Molecular Orbitals
I.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 Methods
Persons mentioned in this Chapter

Chapter I.2 Reception Studies by Historians of Science
I.2.1 What is "Reception"?
I.2.2 The Copernican Heliocentric System
I.2.3 Newton's Universal Gravity
I.2.4 Darwin's Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection
I.2.5 Bohr Model of the Atom
I.2.6 Conclusions and Generalizations
Persons mentioned in this Chapter

Chapter I.3 The Role of Prediction-Testing in the Evaluation of Theories: A Controversy in the Philosophy of Science
I.3.1 Introduction
I.3.2 Novelty in the Philosophy of Science
I.3.3 What is a Prediction? (Revisited)
I.3.4 Does Novelty Make a Difference?
I.3.5 Evidence from case histories
I.3.6 Are Theorists less trustworthy than Observers?
I.3.7 The Fallacy of Falsifiability: Even the Supreme Court was Fooled
I.3.8 Conclusions
Persons mentioned in this chapter

Chapter I.4 The Rise and Fall of Social Constructionism 1975-2000
I.4.1 The Problem of defining "Science and Technology Studies"
I.4.2 The Rise of Social Constructionism
I.4.3 The Fall of Social Constructionism
I.4.4 Post Mortem
I.4.5 Consequences for "Science Studies"
Persons mentioned in this Chapter

Chapter II.1. Mendeleev's Periodic Law
II.1.1 Mendeleev and the Periodic Law
II.1.2 Novel Predictions
II.1.3 Mendeleev's Predictions
II.1.4 Reception by Whom?
II.1.5 Tests of Mendeleev's Predictions
II.1.6 Before the Discovery of Gallium
II.1.7 The Impact of Gallium and Scandium
II.1.8 The Limited Value of Novel Predictions
II.1.9 Implications of the Law
II.1.10 Conclusions
Persons mentioned in this chapter

Chapter II.2 The Benzene Problem 1865-1930
II.2.1 Kekulé's Theory
II.2.2 The first Tests of Kekulé's Theory
II.2.3 Alternative Hypotheses
II.2.4 Reception of Benzene Theories 1866-1880
II.2.5 New Experiments, New Theories 1881-1900
II.2.6 The Failure of Aromatic Empiricism 1901-1930
Persons mentioned in this Chapter

Chapter II.3 The Light Quantum Hypothesis
II.3.1 Black-Body Radiation
II.3.2 Planck's Theory
II.3.3 Formulation of the Light-Quantum Hypothesis
II.3.4 The Wave Theory of Light
II.3.5 Einstein's "Heuristic Viewpoint"
II.3.6 What did Millikan Prove?
II.3.7 The Compton Effect
II.3.8 Reception of Neo-Newtonian Optics before 1923
II.3.9 The Impact of Compton's Discovery
II.3.10 Rupp's Fraudulent Experiments
II.3.11 Conclusions
Persons Mentioned in this Chapter

Chapter II.4 Quantum Mechanics
II.4.1 The Bohr Model
II.4.2 The Wave Nature of Matter
II.4.3 Schrödinger's Wave Mechanics
II.4.4 The Exclusion Principle, Spin, and the Electronic Structure of Atoms
II.4.5 Bose-Einstein Statistics
II.4.6 Fermi-Dirac Statistics
II.4.7 Initial Reception of Quantum Mechanics
II.4.8 The Community is Converted
II.4.9 Novel Predictions of Quantum Mechanics
II.4.10 The Helium Atom
II.4.11 Reasons for accepting Quantum Mechanics after 1928
Persons mentioned in this Chapter

Chapter II. 5 New Particles
II.5.1 Dirac's Prediction and Anderson's Discovery of the Positron
II.5.2 The Reception of Dirac's Theory
II.5.3 The Transformation of Dirac's Theory
II.5.4 Yukawa's Theory of Nuclear Forces
II.5.5 Discovery of the Muon and Reception of Yukawa's Theory
II.5.6 The Transformation of the Yukon
II.5.7 Conclusions
Persons Mentioned in this Chapter

Chapter II.6 Benzene and Molecular Orbitals 1931-1980
II.6.1 Resonance, Mesomerism, and the Mule 1931-1945
II.6.2 Reception of Quantum Theories of Benzene 1932-1940
II.6.3 Chemical Proof of Kekulé's Theory
II.6.4 Anti-Resonance and the Rhinoceros
II.6.5 The Shift to Molecular Orbitals after 1950
II.6.6 Aromaticity
II.6.7 The Revival of Predictive Chemistry
II.6.8 Reception of Molecular Orbital Theory by Organic Chemists
II.6.9 Adoption of MO in Textbooks
II.6.10 A 1996 Survey
II.6.11 Conclusions
Persons Mentioned in this Chapter

Chapter III.1. Relativity
III.1.1 The Special Theory of Relativity
III.1.2 General Theory of Relativity
III.1.3 Empirical Predictions and Explanations
III.1.4 Social-Psychological Factors
III.1.5 Aesthetic-Mathematical Factors
III.1.6 Early Reception of Relativity
III.1.7 Do Scientists Give Extra Credit for Novelty? The Case of Gravitational Light Bending
III.1.8 Are Theorists less Trustworthy than Observers?
III.1.9 Mathematical/Aesthertic Reasons for Accepting Relativity
III.1.10 Social-Psychological Reasons for Accepting Relativity
III.1.11 A Statistical Summary of Comparative Reception
III.1.12 Conclusions
Persons Mentioned in this Chapter

Chapter III.2. Big Bang Cosmology
III.2.1 The Expanding Universe is Proposed
III.2.2 The Age of the Earth
III.2.3 The Context for the Debate: Four "New Sciences" and One Shared Memory
III.2.4 Cosmology Constrained by Terrestrial Time
III.2.5 Hubble Doubts the Expanding Universe
III.2.6 A Radical Solution: Steady-State Cosmology
III.2.7 Astronomy Blinks: Slowing the Expansion
III.2.8 Lemaître's Primeval Atom and Gamow's Big Bang
III.2.9 Arguments for Steady State Weaken
III.2.10 The Temperature of Space
III.2.11 Discovery of the Cosmic Microwave Background
III.2.12 Impact of the Discovery on Cosmologists
III.2.13 Credit for the Prediction
III.2.14 Conclusions
Persons mentioned in this Chapter

Chapter IV.1 Morgan's Chromosome Theory
IV.1.1 Introduction
IV.1.2 Is Biology like (Hypothetico-Deductive) Physics?
IV.1.3 Precursors
IV.1.4 Morgan's Theory
IV.1.5 The Problem of Universality
IV.1.6 Morgan's Theory in Research Journals
IV.1.7 Important Early Supporters
IV.1.8 Bateson and the Morgan Theory in Britain
IV.1.9 The Problem of Universality Revisited
IV.1.10 Books and Review Articles on Genetics, Evolution and Cytology
IV.1.11 Biology Textbooks
IV.1.12 Age Distribution of Supporters and Opponents
IV.1.13 Conclusions
Persons mentioned in this Chapter

Chapter IV.2 The Revival of Natural Selection 1930-1970
IV.2.1 Introduction
IV.2.2 Fisher: A new Language for Evolutionary Research
IV.2.3 Wright: Random Genetic Drift, A Concept Out of Control
IV.2.4 Haldane: A Mathematical-Philosophical Biologist Weighs in
IV.2.5 Early Reception of the Theory
IV.2.6 Dobzhansky: The Faraday of Biology?
IV.2.7 Evidence for Natural Selection, before 1941
IV.2.8 Huxley: A New Synthesis is Proclaimed
IV.2.9 Mayr: Systematics and the Founder Principle
IV.2.10 Simpson: No Straight and Narrow Path for Paleontology
IV.2.11 Stebbins: Plants are also Selected
IV.2.12 Chromosome Inversions in Drosophila
IV.2.13 Ford: Unlucky Blood Groups
IV.2.14 Resistance to Antibiotics
IV.2.15 Two "Great Debates": Snails and Tiger Moths
IV.2.16 Selection and/or Drift? The Changing Views of Dobzhansky and Wright
IV.2.17 The Views of other Founders and Leaders
IV.2.18 The Peppered Moth
IV.2.19 The Triumph of Natural Selection?
IV.2.20 Results of a Survey of Biological Publications
IV.2.21 Is Evolutionary Theory Scientific?
IV.2.22 Context and Conclusions
Persons mentioned in this Chapter

Chapter V.1 Which Works Faster: Prediction or Explanation?
V.1.1 Comparison of Cases Presented in this Book
V.1.2 From Princip to Principe
V.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 Explained
V.1.6 Quantum Mechanics: Many Things are Explained, Predictions are Confirmed too late
V.1.7 Millikan's Walk

Notes for Part I
Notes for Part II
Notes for Part III
Notes for Part IV
Notes for Part V

Selected Bibliography: Includes works cited more than once in a chapter

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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 Thomas Kuhn at Harvard, he also conducted research in history of science, and switched to that field full-time in 1968. He has published historical works on the kinetic theory of gases, planetary physics, and other topics.

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