Thesis ID: CBB566169313

Engaging Experiments: U.S. Science Education Before the Laboratory Method (2022)


The direct involvement of students in conducting experiments in order to learn science has been a common part of U.S. educational practice since the late 19th century, the result of the rapid spread of what was known as the “laboratory method” of teaching. Those promoting the laboratory method recognized it as a new educational approach, often crediting it to European exemplars that were then “imported” into American educational institutions. Yet the extended history of science instruction in the U.S., including earlier attempts at laboratory-based instruction, raises questions about the American context of this pedagogical development and how earlier generations of scientists prepared themselves and their students for scientific work. In this dissertation, educational uses of the laboratory and the experiment during this earlier period are examined through the work of three American scientists in the early-to-mid 19th century: Benjamin Silliman (Sr.), professor at Yale; Amos Eaton, professor at Rensselaer School/Institute (later Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); and Eben N. Horsford, professor at Harvard’s Lawrence Scientific School. In examining the ways in which these scientists integrated the scientific experiment into their educational endeavors, this work shows that instructional uses of science experiments examined reflect complex interactions between scientific epistemology (ideas of how scientific knowledge is produced) and educational philosophy (ideas of how individual knowledge is developed through education). Furthermore, this dissertation establishes an important prehistory for the development of the laboratory method, particularly considering how experimental science became part of the tumultuous landscape of American higher education as academic institutions sought to determine their best form and purpose.

Citation URI

This citation is part of the Isis database.

Similar Citations

Article Pierre Savaton; (2015)
Les exercices pratiques de sciences naturelles de 1902 aux années 1930: Des textes aux pratiques (/p/isis/citation/CBB631696484/) unapi

Multimedia Object Lukas Rieppel; Cowles, Henry M.; (2020)
Henry M. Cowles, “The Scientific Method: An Evolution of Thinking from Darwin to Dewey” (Harvard UP, 2020) (/p/isis/citation/CBB489190367/) unapi

Article Brandon Boesch; (2018)
Representing in the Student Laboratory (/p/isis/citation/CBB947401532/) unapi

Article David Brandon Dennis; R. A. Lawson; Jessica M. Pisano; (2020)
Bringing History into the Lab: A New Approach to Scientific Learning in General Education (/p/isis/citation/CBB574408801/) unapi

Book Kikuchi, Yoshiyuki; (2013)
Anglo-American Connections in Japanese Chemistry: The Lab as Contact Zone (/p/isis/citation/CBB001421134/) unapi

Chapter Jed Z. Buchwald; Anna Marie Roos; Gideon Manning; (2023)
Descartes’ Experimental Journey Past the Prism and Through the Invisible World to the Rainbow (/p/isis/citation/CBB272897224/) unapi

Chapter Zancul, Maria Cristina de Senzi; Barreto, Elton de Oliveira; (2014)
Scientific Instruments for Physics Teaching in Brazilian Secondary Schools, 1931--1961 (/p/isis/citation/CBB001420896/) unapi

Article Schmidgen, Henning; (2013)
Camera Silenta: Time Experiments, Media Networks, and the Experience of Organlessness (/p/isis/citation/CBB001320388/) unapi

Thesis Olszewski, M; (cited 2010)
The Botanical Teaching Models of Dr Auzoux in Nineteenth-Century France, Great Britain and America (/p/isis/citation/CBB001567251/) unapi

Thesis Yegge, John G.; (2014)
A Historical Analysis of the Relationship of Faith and Science and its Significance within Education (/p/isis/citation/CBB001567599/) unapi

Article Kidwell, Peggy; (2007)
Mobilizing Minds: American Mathematics and Science Education for the Cold War (/p/isis/citation/CBB000930281/) unapi

Book Barbara Schneider; Joseph Krajcik; Jari Lavonen; Katariina Salmela-Aro; Margaret J. Geller; (2020)
Learning Science: The Value of Crafting Engagement in Science Environments (/p/isis/citation/CBB848656364/) unapi

Article Charles Winrich; Peter Garik; (2021)
Integrating History of Science in In‑service Physics Teacher Education: Impact on Teachers’ Practice (/p/isis/citation/CBB374872661/) unapi

Article Klein, David; (2007)
A Quarter Century of US “Math Wars” and Political Partisanship (/p/isis/citation/CBB000831583/) unapi

Article Hiebert, Elfrieda; (2013)
Listening to the Piano Pedal: Acoustics and Pedagogy in Late Nineteenth-Century Contexts (/p/isis/citation/CBB001320391/) unapi

Authors & Contributors
Garik, Peter
Barreto, Elton de Oliveira
Beek, Viola van
Buchwald, Jed Z.
Clow, Nani N.
Cowles, Henry M.
Osiris: A Research Journal Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Science and Education
British Society for the History of Mathematics Bulletin
History of Education
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
NTM: Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Technik und Medizin
Cambridge University
Harvard University
Johns Hopkins University
Palgrave Macmillan
Yale University Press
University of Cambridge (United Kingdom)
Science education and teaching
Teaching; pedagogy
Experiments and experimentation
History of science, as a discipline
Universities and colleges
Auzoux, Louis Thomas Jerôme
Conant, James Bryant
Descartes, René
Ewing, John
Lodge, Oliver
Newton, Isaac
Time Periods
19th century
21st century
20th century
20th century, early
20th century, late
18th century
United States
Great Britain
University of Chicago
University of Pennsylvania
National Science Foundation (U.S.)

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment