On the Method of History of Science [1947b]

  • Robert S. Cohen
  • John J. Stachel
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 21)


The history of science confronts us with the problem, not only of recording as accurately as possible, but also of ‘explaining’ the development of scientific thought and discovery, i.e. of reducing this development to some laws or principles of more or less general scope. Of course, even this simple assertion, which just means that history of science should itself be a science, is in itself questionable and is sometimes seriously questioned: some people seem to think that the evolution of scientific discoveries is largely due to ‘chance’; they emphasize the fortuitous aspect of the circumstances in which individual discoverers and thinkers have grown to maturity or have been led to their discoveries. Quite apart from its barrenness, this view is, however, definitely disproved by fact. In a large number of instances, it is possible to show quite conclusively that in spite of the capricious interplay of casual events the development of a particular branch of knowledge has followed a general trend, towards which apparently unconnected individual efforts were clearly converging. Also the often-noticed phenomenon of simultaneous discovery cannot be attributed to mere chance, but calls for a closer analysis.


Scientific Thought Casual Event Definite Direction Exhaustive Explanation General Scope 
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  1. Enriques. F., Problems of Science, tr. By K. Royce (LaSalle. III.. Open court. 1943); The Historic Development of Logic, tr. By J. Rosenthal (New York. Holt, 1929); Signification de l’histoire de la pensée Scientifique (Paris, Hermann, 1934 ); La théorie de la connaissance scientifique je kant à nos jours ( Paris, Hermann. 1938 ).Google Scholar
  2. Farrington. B., Head and Hand in Ancient Greece: Four Studies in the Social Relations of Thought (London, Watts & co., 1947); Greek Science. Its Meaning for Us (London. Penguin Books. 1953 ); Science and Politics in the Ancient World ( London, Allen & Unwin. 1946 )Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert S. Cohen
  • John J. Stachel

There are no affiliations available

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