Thomas Samuel Kuhn

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Thomas Samuel Kuhn (surname pronounced /ˈkuːn/; July 18, 1922 – June 17, 1996) was an American physicist who wrote extensively on the history of science and developed several important notions in the sociology and philosophy of science.

Kuhn has made several notable claims concerning the progress of knowledge:

  • Science undergoes periodic "paradigm shifts" instead of progressing in a linear and continuous way
  • These paradigm shifts open up new approaches to understanding that scientists would never have considered valid before
  • Scientists can never divorce their subjective perspective from their work; thus, our comprehension of science can never rely on full "objectivity" - we must account for subjective perspectives as well

Contents

Life

Thomas Kuhn was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to Samuel L. Kuhn, an industrial engineer, and Minette Stroock Kuhn. He obtained his B.S. degree in physics from Harvard University in 1943, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in physics in 1946 and 1949, respectively. As he states in the first few pages of the preface to the second edition of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, his three years of total academic freedom as a Harvard Junior Fellow were crucial in allowing him to switch from physics to the history (and philosophy) of science. He later taught a course in the history of science at Harvard from 1948 until 1956 at the suggestion of university president James Conant. After leaving Harvard, Kuhn taught at the University of California, Berkeley, in both the philosophy department and the history department, being named Professor of the History of Science in 1961. At Berkeley, he wrote and published (in 1962) his best known and most influential work:[1] The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In 1964, he joined Princeton University as the M. Taylor Pyne Professor of Philosophy and History of Science. In 1979, he joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as the Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Philosophy, remaining there until 1991. Kuhn interviewed and taped Danish physicist Niels Bohr the day before Bohr's death. [2] In 1994, Kuhn was diagnosed with cancer of the bronchial tubes, of which he died in 1996.

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