The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

by

Thomas S. Kuhn

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A scientific revolution is the process by which one paradigm replaces another. This happens in gradually: first, some research carried out in the name of normal science uncovers an anomaly. As more people learn about this anomaly, debates break out, and scientists begin to question the initial paradigm’s basic rules and ideas. Then, one person has a flash of genius and proposes a new paradigm that explains and absorbs the anomaly. Eventually, more and more scientists are persuaded by this new theory, and the new paradigm emerges victorious.

Scientific Revolution Quotes in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

The The Structure of Scientific Revolutions quotes below are all either spoken by Scientific Revolution or refer to Scientific Revolution. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the University of Chicago Press edition of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions published in 2012.
Chapter 1 Quotes

History, if viewed as a repository for more than anecdote or chronology, could produce a decisive transformation in the image of science by which we are now possessed.

Related Characters: Thomas Kuhn (speaker)
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

As in political revolutions, so in paradigm choice—there is no standard higher than the assent of the relevant community.

Related Characters: Thomas Kuhn (speaker)
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

Examining the record of past research from the vantage of contemporary historiography, the historian of science may be tempted to exclaim that when paradigms change, the world itself changes with them. Led by a new paradigm, scientists adopt new instruments and look in new places. Even more important, during revolutions scientists see new and different things when looking with familiar instruments in places they have looked before. […] In so far as their only recourse to that world is through what they see and do, we may want to say that after a revolution scientists are responding to a different world.

Related Characters: Thomas Kuhn (speaker)
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:

Chemists could not, therefore, simply accept Dalton’s theory on the evidence, for much of that was still negative. Instead, even after accepting the theory, they had still to beat nature into line, a process which, in the event, took almost another generation. When it was done, even the percentage composition of well-known compounds was different. The data themselves had changed. That is the last of the senses in which we may want to say that after a revolution scientists work in a different world.

Related Characters: Thomas Kuhn (speaker), John Dalton
Page Number: 134
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

But scientists are more affected by the temptation to rewrite history, partly because the results of scientific research show no obvious dependence upon the historical context of the inquiry, and partly because, except during crisis and revolution, the scientist’s contemporary position seems so secure. More historical detail, whether of science’s present or of its past, or more responsibility to the historical details that are presented, could only give artificial status to human idiosyncrasy, error, and confusion. Why dignify what science’s best and most persistent efforts have made it possible to discard?

Related Characters: Thomas Kuhn (speaker)
Page Number: 138
Explanation and Analysis:
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Scientific Revolution Term Timeline in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

The timeline below shows where the term Scientific Revolution appears in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1. Introduction: A Role for History
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...ways or go back to the drawing board entirely. This is what Kuhn terms “ a scientific revolution .” Scientific revolutions cause scientists (and often the broader population) to view and experience the... (full context)
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There have been many scientific revolutions throughout history. Several of the most well-known revolutions are associated with scientists Nicolaus Copernicus, Isaac... (full context)
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Rather than a narrative of incremental progress, then, Kuhn sees scientific history as a cycle: scientific revolutions interrupt normal science, which leads to a new kind of normal science, which is then... (full context)
Chapter 5. The Priority of Paradigms
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...more important to normal science when paradigms are starting to collapse (just before and during scientific revolutions ). But when paradigms are functioning well, no one tries to rationalize them—it is only... (full context)
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...are many sub-fields and smaller paradigms within each larger discipline. Therefore, there can be smaller scientific revolutions , in which one group rethinks its paradigm while other larger groups continue with their... (full context)
Chapter 6. Anomaly and the Emergence of Scientific Discovery
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...successful at finding answers. But how does normal science, which avoids novelty, end up producing scientific revolutions ? In other words, Kuhn wants to investigate how discoveries “produced inadvertently by a game... (full context)
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...paradigm becomes, the easier it is for scientists to spot an anomaly. This is why scientific revolutions always come out of normal science. (full context)
Chapter 8. The Response to Crisis
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...do not have the necessary equipment or knowledge to create a new paradigm. A complete scientific revolution , then, is relatively rare. But each crisis does “loosen” the rules and stereotypes of... (full context)
Chapter 9. The Nature and Necessity of Scientific Revolutions
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...his choice of the word “revolution,” which immediately suggests a parallel to politics. In fact, scientific revolutions are akin to political revolutions in that both see communities beginning to doubt or grow... (full context)
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This persuasive element of scientific revolutions then helps explain why they are not cumulative. In order to have a convincing new... (full context)
Chapter 11. The Invisibility of Revolutions
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Kuhn turns his attention to the fact that the various scientific revolutions discussed in his book are rarely seen as such; instead, they are made “nearly invisible”... (full context)
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In particular, Kuhn notes that textbooks collapse after each scientific revolution and must be completely rewritten to reflect the new paradigm. Crucially, however, these new textbooks... (full context)
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In addition to erasing past scientific revolutions , this kind of history suggests that since the beginning of time, scientists have been... (full context)
Chapter 13. Progress through Revolutions
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Finally, Kuhn argues that science and progress are associated precisely because there are so many scientific revolutions . When one group emerges victorious from a moment of crisis, they are determined to... (full context)
Postscript - 1969
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Finally, Kuhn responds to the criticism that he only cares about major scientific revolutions (ones that affect large groups of people). On the contrary, Kuhn believes that the smaller,... (full context)