The Evolution of Oersted’s Scientific Concepts [1970b]

Lecture to the Royal Danish Academy of Science and Letters on October 30th, 1970
  • Robert S. Cohen
  • John J. Stachel
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 21)


Mind in Nature expresses the view of the world which Oersted reached in the full maturity of his thought. The romantic appearance he gives to it is undoubtedly an echo of his first love for ‘Naturphilosophie’ but in the dominant role he assigns to reason we can clearly discern not only the fruit of his own experience as a scientist, but above all the traces of an inspiration coming from the French school, which set the tone for scientific thought during the period in which he accomplished his creative work. Nevertheless, it would be unjust to call him an eclectic: he never sought a compromise between the opposing forces by which he was influenced; he strove rather to draw forth from them a synthesis which, while keeping what was most valid in each tendency, could offer a harmonious view of nature and man’s place in it. In this respect, his attitude recalls that of Niels Bohr. They were both open to all the currents of thought of their day, but did not accept them without subjecting them to a penetrating critique; moreover, they were able to transform them and blend them into a harmonious unity. Bohr often said that he was happy to have been born in a small country where no tradition limited one’s thinking but where, on the contrary, there was free access to all the external cultural impulses; it is precisely this fusion of different traditions, he observed, which has given rise in the course of history to ever richer new civilizations, and this same law governs the formation of new guiding ideas in science.


Scientific Concept Scientific Thought Natural Force French School Electromagnetic Action 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert S. Cohen
  • John J. Stachel

There are no affiliations available

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