Drifting Continents and Shifting Theories

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Cambridge University Press, Dec 15, 1988 - Science - 313 pages
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This innovative book uses the story of how a modern science achieved its present shape and focus to introduce the question of the nature of scientific change and its philosophical analysis. The "modern revolution in geology" of the 1960s and 1970s saw the triumph of the global theory of plate tectonics, and decisive turning point in fifty years' controversy and competition first sparked in 1912 by Wegener's proposal of continenta drift. Here, Professor Le Grand interweaves a history of this episode of scientific change with reflective discussions of its historical, philosophical, and social circumstances, and of the development of science more generally. The approach of the book is exploratory; the reader is encouraged to be an active participant--to use the historical narrative to understand and criticize some of the more recent, influential ideas about science and scientists, to draw conclusions, and especially to pose questions about how and why changes occur in scientific knowledge and practice.
 

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Contents

Introduction
1
Solid as a rock? Geology before Wegener
17
Wegener and his theory antecedents and arguments
37
Debate around the earth
55
Specialties localism and problemsolving
80
Interregnum competition and stalemate
100
Palaeomagnetism Drift and polar wandering
138
Patterns and puzzles from the sea
170
Shifting theories
188
The revolution proclaimed
229
Theories of scientific change and the modern revolution in geology
267
Bibliography
279
Index
305
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