Science & Education

, Volume 20, Issue 3–4, pp 317–341

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


DOI: 10.1007/s11191-010-9301-8

Cite this article as:
Chang, H. Sci & Educ (2011) 20: 317. doi:10.1007/s11191-010-9301-8


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.

Copyright information

© 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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