Science & Education

, Volume 20, Issue 3–4, pp 317–341 | Cite as

How Historical Experiments Can Improve Scientific Knowledge and Science Education: The Cases of Boiling Water and Electrochemistry

Article

Abstract

I advance some novel arguments for the use of historical experiments in science education. After distinguishing three different types of historical experiments and their general purposes, I define complementary experiments, which can recover lost scientific knowledge and extend what has been recovered. Complementary experiments can help science education in four major ways: to enrich the factual basis of science teaching; to improve students’ understanding of the nature of science; to foster habits of original and critical inquiry; and to attract students to science through a renewed sense of wonder. I illustrate these claims with my own recent work in historical experiments, in which I reproduced anomalous variations in the boiling point of water reported 200 years ago, and carried out new experimental and theoretical work arising from the replication of some early electrochemical experiments.

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of History and Philosophy of ScienceUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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