How Historical Experiments Can Improve Scientific Knowledge and Science Education: The Cases of Boiling Water and Electrochemistry
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- Chang, H. Sci & Educ (2011) 20: 317. doi:10.1007/s11191-010-9301-8
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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.