Thematic Origins of Scientific Thought: Kepler to Einstein

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Harvard University Press, 1988 - Science - 499 pages
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The highly acclaimed first edition of this major work convincingly established Gerald Holton's analysis of the ways scientific ideas evolve. His concept of "themata," induced from case studies with special attention to the work of Einstein, has become one of the chief tools for understanding scientific progress. It is now one of the main approaches in the study of the initiation and acceptance of individual scientific insights.

Three principal consequences of this perspective extend beyond the study of the history of science itself. It provides philosophers of science with the kind of raw material on which some of the best work in their field is based. It helps intellectual historians to redefine the place of modern science in contemporary culture by identifying influences on the scientific imagination. And it prompts educators to reexamine the conventional concepts of education in science.

In this new edition, Holton has masterfully reshaped the contents and widened the coverage. Significant new material has been added, including a penetrating account of the advent of quantum physics in the United States, and a broad consideration of the integrity of science, as exemplified in the work of Niels Bohr. In addition, a revised introduction and a new postscript provide an updated perspective on the role of themata. The result of this thoroughgoing revision is an indispensable volume for scholars and students of scientific thought and intellectual history.


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The Thematic Imagination in Science
Its Physics
Thematic and Stylistic Interdependence
in the United States
On the Origins of the Special Theory of Relativity
Mach Einstein and the Search for Reality
Einstein Michelson and the Crucial Experiment
On Trying to Understand Scientific Genius
The Duality and Growth of Physical Science
Models for Understanding the Growth of Research
Niels Bohr and the Integrity of Science

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About the author (1988)

Born in Berlin, Germany, Gerald Holton received his Ph.D. in physics from Harvard University in 1946. Shortly afterward, he launched into what has become a major part of his career---directing a well-known program that originally was developed to teach physical science to liberal arts majors at Harvard. This program, called Harvard Project Physics, became the model for an ambitious program to teach physics in a similar historical manner in colleges and high schools throughout the United States. Later, Holton used this model in a somewhat different manner, establishing a program for the public understanding of science that eventually grew into a journal, Science, Technology and Human Values. For many years, Holton was a coeditor of Daedalus, the journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has also gained recognition as a biographer of Albert Einstein, and he has worked tirelessly to demonstrate that science requires as much creative imagination as do the arts and humanities.

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