The Uses of Experiment: Studies in the Natural Sciences

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Cambridge University Press, May 18, 1989 - Science - 481 pages
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Experiment is widely regarded as the most distinctive feature of natural science and essential to the way scientists find out about the world. Yet there has been little study of the way scientists actually make and use experiments. The Uses of Experiment fills this gap in our knowledge about how science is practised. Presenting 14 original case studies of important and often famous experiments, the book asks the questions: What tools do experimenters use? How do scientists argue from experiments? What happens when an experiment is challenged? How do scientists check that their experiments are working? Are there differences between experiments in the physical sciences and technology? Leading scholars in the fields of history, sociology and philosophy of science consider topics such as the interaction of experiment; instruments and theory; accuracy and reliability as hallmarks of experiment in science and technology; realising new phenomena; the believability of experiments and the sort of knowledge they produce; and the wider contexts on which experimentalists draw to develop and win support for their work. Drawing on examples as diverse as Galilean mechanics, Victorian experiments on electricity, experiments on cloud formation, and testing of nuclear missiles, a new view of experiment emerges. This view emphasises that experiments always involve choice, tactics and strategy in persuading audiences that Nature resembles the picture experimenters create.
 

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Contents

Scientific instruments models of brass and aids to discovery
31
Glass works Newtons prisms and the uses of experiment
67
A viol of water or a wedge of glass
105
EXPERIMENT AND ARGUMENT
115
Galileos experimental discourse
117
Fresnel Poisson and the white sport the role of successful predictions in the acceptance of scientific theories
135
The rhetoric of experiment
159
REPRESENTING AND REALISING
181
Justification and experiment
299
THE CONSTITUENCY OF EXPERIMENT
335
Extraordinary experiment electricity and the creation of life in Victorian England
337
Why did Britain join CERN?
385
HALLMARKS OF EXPERIMENT
407
From Kwajalein to Armageddon? Testing and the social construction of missile accuracy
409
The epistemology of experiment
437
Select bibliography
461

Magnetic curves and the magnetic field experimentation and representation in the history of a theory
183
Artificial clouds real particles
225
Living in the material world
275

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About the author (1989)

Gooding lectures in history and philosophy of science at the University of Bath and is a Visiting Research Fellow of the Royal Institution Centre for the History of Science and Technology.

Schaffer is Reader in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge.

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