I found Thomas Kuhn’s book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” quite a challenge to get through. Normally, if a book doesn’t keep my attention, or I find it difficult to read after the first few pages, I give up. However, I was determined to persevere with this book, especially given that the Times Literary supplement once described it as one of “The Hundred Most Influential Books Since the Second World War”.
“The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”, first published in 1962, is an analysis of the history of science. At the time of its publication, it ruffled quite a few feathers, and continues to do so today. In this book, Kuhn challenges the common view that scientific progress occurs by the accumulation of knowledge, leading to the development of accepted facts and theories. He argues for a model whereby periods of “normal science” are interrupted by periods of revolutionary science. It is during such periods of revolution that the evolution of scientific theory occurs. Kuhn argues that a paradigm shift occurs, whereby the rules of research and the direction of research change, and new questions are asked of previous data.
One example that Thomas Kuhn uses in his book is the Copernican Revolution. This refers to the paradigm shift from the Ptolemaic model of the heavens, which postulated the Earth at the center of the galaxy, towards the heliocentric model with the Sun at the center of our Solar System. While Copernicus originally put forward this model, it was only until Galileo introduced his theories concerning motion that the heliocentric model became an accepted fact.
I wouldn’t recommend this book for the common reader: it’s quite an academic book and there is a lot to get your head around. Personally, I found this a very difficult book to read; however, it did get me thinking about scientific research and how we go about it. It is a book I believe I will revisit from time to time and gain a little bit more knowledge each time I do. I think it would be ideal for a researcher who has an interest in philosophy and/or history.
Author: Thomas Kuhn
Publication Date: April 30, 2012