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Thomas Samuel Kuhn

Kuhn, Thomas Samuel, 1922–96, American philosopher and historian of science, b. Cincinnati, Ohio. He trained as a physicist at Harvard (Ph.D. 1949), where he taught the history of science from 1948 to 1956. He subsequently taught at the Univ. of California, Berkeley (until 1964), Princeton (until 1979), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (until 1991). In his highly influential work The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), Kuhn distinguished between normal science and revolutionary science. In normal science, researchers operating within a particular "paradigm," i.e., Ptolemaic astronomy, engage in activity that involves solving problems related to the paradigm. In revolutionary science, which occurs rarely, researchers abandon one paradigm, i.e. Ptolemaic astronomy, and embrace another, i.e., Copernican astronomy. Kuhn held the abandoned paradigm and the embraced one to be "incommensurable" with one another such that the fundamental concepts of one cannot be rendered by the terms of the other. The jump from one paradigm to another, he argued, has a sociological explanation, but no strictly rational justification. Kuhn's other works include The Copernican Revolution (1957) and The Essential Tension (1977).

See G. Gutting, ed., Paradigms and Revolutions: Appraisals and Applications of Thomas Kuhn's Philosophy of Science (1980).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Historians, U.S.: Biographies


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