Thomas Kuhn and the idea of scientific revolutions

4.4 Timeline

Group activity: Timeline

You should now appreciate how important knowledge of the history of science is to the philosophy of science. To help provide a common basis for discussion of examples for the rest of the course please join with the other students in devising a timeline of key events in the history of science. The timeline should not to be intended to be remotely exhaustive or based on selection by importance, merely as a very partial sample of the history of science that can be used to illustrate what has been learned so far. The timeline should mention some examples of the following:

  • laws of nature
  • causal processes of some specific kind
  • unobservable entities, new sciences emerging
  • successful novel predictions
  • successful normal science
  • degenerating research programmes
  • anomalies
  • scientific revolutions
  • metaphysical or high theoretical components to science.

Everyone should try to contribute at least one example to the final agreed list.

It is not necessary that everyone agrees that the examples really have the alleged status, just that they agree to use them as examples to discuss issues in the rest of the course. For example, it might be agreed that atoms will be listed as ‘unobservable entities’ even if some people are of the view that they are now observed, or that Boyle’s law is a ‘law of nature’, even if some people are of the view that there is no distinction between laws and accidents. Everyone should check they understand the concepts above.

Go to the History of Science timeline wiki to add your examples. We have put one event in to start you off. Please add your examples in the appropriate place in the list, so that the events are in chronological order.