Article ID: CBB001320450

Is Science Mostly Driven by Ideas or by Tools? (2012)


Thomas Kuhn was a theoretical physicist before he became a historian. He saw the history of science through the eyes of a theorist. He gave us an accurate view of events in the world of ideas. His favorite word, paradigm, means a system of ideas that dominate the science of a particular place and time. A scientific revolution is a discontinuous shift from one paradigm to another. The shift happens suddenly because new ideas explode with a barrage of new insights and new questions that push old ideas into oblivion. I remember the joy of reading Kuhn's book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, when it first appeared in 1962. It made sense of the relativity and quantum revolutions that had happened just before the theoretical physicists of my generation were born. Those were revolutions led by deep thinkers---Einstein and Heisenberg and Schrödinger and Dirac---who guessed nature's secrets by dreaming dreams of mathematical beauty. Their new paradigms were created out of abstract ideas. In those revolutionary years from 1900 to 1930, ideas led the way to understanding.

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Authors & Contributors
Barker, Peter
Andersen, Hanne
Chen, Xiang
Seth, Suman
Dongen, Jeroen van
Stöltzner, Michael
Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences
Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
British Journal for the History of Science
Physics in Perspective
Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte
Cambridge University Press
Auburn University
Edition Open Access
Revolutions in science
Philosophy of science
Development of science; change in science
History of science, as a discipline
Theoretical physics
Kuhn, Thomas S.
Einstein, Albert
Darwin, Charles Robert
Copernicus, Nicolaus
Lenard, Philipp
Friedman, Michael
Time Periods
20th century, early
20th century
20th century, late
19th century
21st century
United States

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