Historiography of science and scientific revolution is a broad area with different historians that have contributed to it. These historiographies examine different themes, philosophies and ideas on different subject ad context hen assisting in understanding the concepts behind them. This people therefore, explore different areas by different historiographies that assisted in providing insight in issues of scientific revolutions.
Historiography of science and the scientific revolution is areas that have seen many philosophers contribute and air out their own point of view. These philosophers include Boris Hessen, Ludwik Fleck, Vannevar Bush, and Thomas Kuhn among many others.
Thomas Kuhn Samuel is among the influential philosophers of the 20th century. His contribution to the field of philosophy of science resulted to a paradigm shift on various aspects of positivists’ doctrine and insights to the history of science . On his contribution or account of the development of science, he held the view that science enjoyed periods of stable growth encompassed by instances of revisionary revolutions. He further added on this thesis, that theories developed in different periods suffered some impairment in terms of comparability.
Kuhn scientific paradigm or patterns originated from the great works of Copernicus revolution and Newton principles. He criticizes these works for being open-ended and leaving unanswered questions in the domain of other people. These activities in great books are spurred by the name “normal science”. According to Kuhn, normal science is not aimed at novelty a position that contravenes that of Popper. He postulates that discoveries in science are always accompanied by or associated with changes in the paradigm as novelty signals the end of normal science . He, in summary argues that theories of facts or discoveries demonstrate the end of normal science and that normal science is not aimed at its own end or demise.
Furthermore, in his studies, Kuhn points out that discovery are rare because people expectations hinder or obscure their visions of achieving them. The psychology of people is directed in making themselves what they expect to see and this clouds their perception of the world. If people could not have this psychological mindset, then the rate of new discoveries could have been high . Therefore, there should be a paradigm change coupled with a crisis to trigger scientist to recognize or discover anomalous contrary to their expectations. In normal science, theories are not questioned as they tries to bring facts and theory into closer agreement without criticizing the background of theories postulated.
He also observed that new paradigms are responsible for placing of new relations in a given data. In case the normal actions or puzzles applied to solve certain problems or crisis fails, this changes the scientific activity in a gradual manner leading to change of goals and its methods and any other attributes associated with the first one.
Kuhn also argues that science is non-cumulative as terms change their meanings over time. He argues this through historical examples where Aristotle argued that stone fell as a result of nature force that drove it towards the center of the universe, position that was refuted by the 17th century scientists . Therefore, Kuhn asserts that science revolution may be incommensurable as new paradigm may lead to some incompatible predictions. Hence science revolution is a transition and this independent from other normal sciences.
Hessen and Grossman
Boris Hessen is yet another contributor to the science and evolution debate. His arguments based on the correlation between problems in economic, technology and science during the times of Newton. The works of Hessen’s and Grossmann display or take on the Marxists approach whereby they conceptualize science as an entity of wholesome of labour within a system of social production . Therefore, they base their arguments and analysis on both cognitive and social dimensions in reference to labor processes. In the social and economic roots of Newton principia, Hessen’s formulates three theses; the first was proposed by Grossman and his second thesis although proposed by Hessen and seconded by Grossmann. The first thesis is concerned about technological developments and economic developments /in the early modern periods and relations of these two aspects in their contribution or part in the emergence of modern science. Second thesis base its conclusions on converse specifically on areas that the seventeenth scientist would not relate or draw on the existing technology such as heat, electric motors, engines and generators. In this thesis, there was development of physics disciplines like thermodynamics and electrodynamics. The third and final thesis concerned the ideological constraints that are associated or placed on science and specifically in England at the time of “class compromise” of “glorious revolution” back in 1688. Basing on this compromise, Newton was able to endorse the mechanization of pictures as adapted to his concept of matter to be able to introduce God in his material world. In his view, he argues that economic always presents demands that needs to be met, these demands cause technical problems which may generate scientific problems. For instance, Hessen’s in his arguments noted that further development of trade of a given nature was solely depended on improvement in transport. There are various forms of transportation and he notes that the most efficient and effective forms of transport was water. To ensure that these goods are transported, it requires application of technology, which is a problem that should be dealt with. The problem includes increasing tonnage of capacity of the ship and its speed, improvement of floating qualities of the ship, development of means that will ensure better navigation and to improve the construction of docks and canals.
Thesis on the emergence of modern technology is twofold, first the one that takes technology to be a goal of science putting in mind the motives of pursuing science in the first place. The second is the one that takes technology as a pre-condition of science and does not consider motives. For instance, technology was developed for fostering or facilitating the process of economic development and that science was used to investigate or study a specific problem in order to make improvement on it. Second is that the development for technology was to facilitate or speed up the process of economic development and that science developed through means of technology, which was being developed or applied. The first expression about technology is that attributed to the Marxist historiography of science while the second expression is a formulation or expression of Hessen-Grossmann thesis. The first view inclining to the Marxist historiography of science involves four categories of arguments, which further develop into less or more strong from of economic determinism. These four steps of arguments include the casual or connection that is established between technical projects and economic interests . It also shows that technical projects requires or involves technological problems. It further demonstrates that technological problems that are experienced they correspond to specific fields in science. Last, is that scientist in the early times were motivated by technical or economic interests to solve their technological issues or problems and in studying the respective fields of science.
In reference to the first thesis, which Hessen and Grossman suggested that technology opens horizons for science, they argued that science developed as a result or as a mean of studying the existing technology. In other words, the current state of technology that was in place helped in development of science. This assertion therefore, means that the aspect of concept of nature changed. For instance, this was explained in the way things changes like the change of feudal mode of production to capitalist mode of production, towns became important in various countries and the country reduced, manufacturing and artisan became more important that the traditional forms of economic like agriculture among many other changes that happened in the universe. Furthermore, traditional labor forms was supported and replaced with natural processes. Therefore, nature through the support of human labor transformed the way things were carried out. Machines, although not products of nature they are manmade and were made to obey human laws as human beings controlled them. This also lead to conceive of the world as an ideal machine and its operations as natural phenomena, which came to be known as “mechanization of the world picture”
Second, they argued that the rise in social prestige of technology because of its increased economic significance made it possible to merge two traditions that had earlier on been segregated. The mechanical and liberal arts and the knowledge of the craftsman and knowledge of the learned merged together and related together, shared their experienced and skills leading to new experimental traditions. Both Hessen and Grossman built on the main thesis by stating that the science of mechanics “theoretical “mechanics developed as a result of the study of contemporary technology of “practical mechanics”
On the second Hessen thesis is on the limited horizon of science, is a converse of the first, which argues that if theoretical mechanic was made possible by mechanical technology it can be presumed that other fields like physics which did not feature prominently in the 17th century may not have developed since the required technology to develop them was not yet developed. Both Hessen and Grossmann held views that in the early modern times, scientific occupations was pursed in order to improve the already available technology and in understanding how it functioned but the focus was not in improving it further to become more efficient and effective.