Discovery in science
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Before us is an extraordinarily ambitious work by a renowned historian of astronomy. There are two overall aims of this engaging book. The first is to disclose the complex structure of discovery; and the second is to provide a comprehensive system of classification for the use of astronomers. The two aims are connected by means of over thirty-five elaborate case studies taken from 450 years of astronomical history. On the basis of this “finite database of historical experience” (281) of discoveries of new classes of objects, Dick argues that discovery should not be understood to be a one-time, momentary event by a single, solitary person. But rather, discovery is best characterized as a “collective” process (à laKen Caneva and Peter Galison) involving many people over long periods of time—spanning decades or even centuries. Though this idea finds some expression in the work of Thomas Kuhn, in Dick’s view, discovery is “much more common” in the history of science than revolutions, and...