On the Method of History of Science [1947b]
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.
KeywordsScientific Thought Casual Event Definite Direction Exhaustive Explanation General Scope
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