Videnskabshistorisk Selskab

Peter HeeringPeter Heering,
Europa Universität Flensburg, Institute of mathematic, scientific and technical literacy:

Understanding experiment through practice: The replication method as a historiographical approach

Experiments and experimental practices have gained substantial attention in the historiography of Science (and physics in particular) in the last decades. Whilst experiments were taken to be subordinated to theory development and could even be characterized as being materialized theories, historians nowadays ascribe more relevance and originality to them. Ian Hacking’s dictum ‘Experimentation has a life of its own’ (Hacking 1983) can be seen as being a formulation that became itself characteristic for this development. Particularly material and performative aspects have gained attention in the last three decades.

The replication method became one approach that enabled the analysis of these aspects with respect to historical experiments. This approach, which focuses on the re-enactment of historical experiments, aims at addressing material as well as practical aspects. Particularly with respect to the practice with the instruments, aspects such as skills or tacit knowledge (which are per se not verbalizable) became specifically relevant. Consequently, this methodological approach can be used to develop a broader understanding of scientific practices and scientific experimentation by addressing practical as well as material aspects.

In my presentation, I will discuss the methodological approach and illustrate it with some case studies that range from experiments originally carried out in the 18th and in the 20th century.

Michael R. MatthewsMichael R. Matthews,

University of New South Wales, School of Education:

Pendulum Motion: Historical, Philosophical and Educational Considerations

The pendulum played a major role in the Scientific Revolution.  Galileo used the ‘marvellous properties’ of the pendulum to demonstrate his ‘conservation’ laws, to legitimise his recourse to mathematical proofs in physics (natural philosophy), and he recognised that it isochronous  properties provided the basis of reliable timekeeping.  Christiaan Huygens patented a pendulum clock in 1657, and he proposed the seconds-pendulum as an international standard of length.  Newton, in his Principia, used this value to establish that acceleration due to gravity on the surface of the earth was the same type of acceleration as the moon's centripetal acceleration towards the earth.  Pendulum motion figured in Newton's major metaphysical dispute with the Cartesians, namely the dispute concerning the existence of the aether.  The importance of the pendulum in science and philosophy was exceeded only by its importance to commerce, navigation, exploration and Western expansion. A convenient and accurate measure of the passage of time was crucial for the pressing commercial problem of determining longitude at sea, as well as for everyday economic and social affairs.
HPS-informed teaching of pendulum motion can convey something of its rich history, and additionally illustrates important general philosophical topics:
* The interplay of mathematics, observation, and experiment in the development of modern science.
* The interactions of philosophy and science.
* The ambiguous role of empirical evidence in the justification or falsification of scientific claims.
* The contrast between modern scientific conceptualizations and those of common sense.

tirsdag d. 20. september, den , kl. 16.30

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