Theories of Scientific Change

  • Robert Richards
Part of the Main Trends of the Modern World book series (MTMW)


The writing of science history may itself be regarded as a scientific enterprise, involving evidence, hypotheses, theories, and models. I wish here to investigate several historiographic models and their variants. While these undoubtedly do not exhaust the store available to imaginative historians of science, they nonetheless represent, I believe, those that have played the significant roles in the development of the discipline, either as models that have long functioned in historical writing or as models more recently proposed in metahistorical works.


Conceptual System Scientific Revolution Scientific Idea Scientific Thought Scientific Change 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    R. Bostocke, The Difference Between the Auncient Phisicke and the Latter Phisicke (1585),Google Scholar
  2. in Allen Debus, “An Elizabethan History of Medical Chemistry,” Annals of Science 18 (1962): 1–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 2.
    J.E. McGuire and P. Rattansi, “Newton and the ‘Pipes of Pan,’” Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 21 (1966): 108–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 3.
    Olaus Borrichius, De ortu et progressu chemiac dissertatio (1668), in Bibliotheca chemica curiosa, ed. J. Manget (Geneva: Chouet, 1702).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    John Freind, The History of Physick from the Time of Galen to the Beginning of the Sixteenth Century (London: Walthe, 1725).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    R. Watson, “On the Rise and Progress of Chemistry,” in vol. 1 of his Chemical Essays, 6th ed. (London: Evans, 1793).Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    Jean d’Alembert, Discours Préliminaire, in vol. I of Encyclopédic on dictionnaire raisonne des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 2d ed., ed. Dennis Diderot and Jean D’Alembert (Paris: Lucques, 1758–1771).Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    William Whewell, History of the Inductive Sciences (London: Parker, 1837).Google Scholar
  9. 14.
    George Sarton, Sarton on the History of Science: Essays by George Sarton (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1962).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 18.
    Immanuel Kant, Kritik der reinen Vernunft (1787), vol. 2 of Immanuel Kant Werke in sechs Banden, ed. W. Weischedel (Wiesbaden: Insel, 1956), p. 23 (B xii).Google Scholar
  11. 19.
    Alexandre Koyré, Metaphysics and Measurement: Essays in Scientific Revolution (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968).Google Scholar
  12. 20.
    Alexandre Koyré, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1957), p. 2.Google Scholar
  13. 21.
    The dispute may be followed in the following discussions: Francis Yates, Giordanu Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964);Google Scholar
  14. P. Rattansi, “Some Evaluations of Reason in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Natural Philosophy,” in Changing Perspectives in the History of Science, ed. M. Teich and R. Young (London: Heinemann, 1973);Google Scholar
  15. The various parties are brought together in Roger Stuewer, ed., Historical and Philosophical Perspectives on Science, vol. 5 of Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1970)Google Scholar
  16. 22.
    Alistair Crombie, Medieval and Early Modern Science, 2d ed. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1961), 2: 125;Google Scholar
  17. A. Rupert Hall, The Scientific Revolution, 1500–1800 (Boston: Beacon, 1966), pp. 370–71;Google Scholar
  18. Charles Gillispie, The Edge of Objectivity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1960), pp. 8–16.Google Scholar
  19. 30.
    Norwood Russell Hanson, Patterns of Discovery (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970), p. 90.Google Scholar
  20. 31.
    Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2d ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), p. 53.Google Scholar
  21. 33.
    Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archacology of the Human Sciences (New York: Vintage, [1966] 1973), p. xi.Google Scholar
  22. 39.
    Samuel Clarke, The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence, ed. H. Alexander (Manchester: Manchester University Press, [1717] 1956), p. 6.Google Scholar
  23. 40.
    J.D. Bernal, Science in History, 3d ed. (Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press, 1971), 1:31.Google Scholar
  24. 43.
    Erik Nordenskiold, The History of Biology, 2d ed (New York: Tudor, 1936), p. 477.Google Scholar
  25. 44.
    Robert Merton, The Sociology of Science (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973).Google Scholar
  26. 45.
    Joseph Ben-David, The Scientist’s Role in Society (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1971).Google Scholar
  27. 47.
    Margaret Jacob, The Newtonians and the English Revolution (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1976).Google Scholar
  28. 48.
    David Bloor, “Klassifikation und Wissenssoziologie: Durkheim und Mauss neu betrachtet,” Kölner Zeitschrift fur Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie 22 (1980): 20–51.Google Scholar
  29. 49.
    Arthur Mitzman, The Iron Cage: An Historical Interpretation of Max Weber (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1971).Google Scholar
  30. 50.
    David Bloor, Knowledge and Social Imagery (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1976), pp. 95–116.Google Scholar
  31. 51.
    See John Burrow, Evolution and Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966);Google Scholar
  32. and George Stocking, Race, Culture, and Evolution, 2d ed (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981).Google Scholar
  33. 52.
    Gerald Holton, Thematic Origins of Scientific Thought: Kepler to Einstein (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973).Google Scholar
  34. 53.
    Thomas Kuhn, “Reflections on My Critics,” in Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge, ed. Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970), p. 264.Google Scholar
  35. 54.
    Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, 2d ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), p. 108.Google Scholar
  36. 55.
    Karl Popper, Objective Knowledge (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972), p. 145.Google Scholar
  37. 56.
    Karl Popper, Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge, 2d ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), pp. 215–50.Google Scholar
  38. 57.
    Stephen Toulmin, Human Understanding (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972), p. 130.Google Scholar
  39. 62.
    See Diana Crane, Invisible College (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972).Google Scholar
  40. 63.
    Donald Campbell has developed his theory in a series of papers: “Methodological Suggestions from a Comparative Psychology of Knowledge Processes,” Inquiry 2 (1959): 152–82;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. “Blind Variation and Selective Retention in Creative Thought as in Other Knowledge Processes,” Psychological Review 67 (1960): 380–400;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. “Blind Variation and Selective Retention in Socio-Cultural Evolution,” in Social Change in Developing Areas, ed. H. Barringer, G. Blanksten, and R. Mack (Cambridge, Mass.: Schenkman, 1965);Google Scholar
  43. ‘Evolutionary Epistemology,’ in The Philosophy of Karl Popper, ed. Paul Schilpp (La Salle, Ill.: Open Court, 1974);Google Scholar
  44. “Unjustified Variation and Selective Retention in Scientific Discovery,” in Studies in the Philosophy of Biology, ed. Francisco Ayala and Theodosius Dobzhansky (London: Macmillan, 1974);Google Scholar
  45. “Discussion Comment on ‘The Natural Selection Model of Conceptual Evolution,’” Philosophy of Science 44 (1977): 502–507CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 65.
    See Imre Lakatos, “Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes” and “History of Science and Its Rational Reconstructions,” in The Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes: Philosophical Papers of Imre Lakatos, vol. 1, ed. John Worrall and Gregory Currie (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The University of Chicago Press 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Richards

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations