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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index K > Thomas S. Kuhn Quotes

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Thomas S. Kuhn
(18 Jul 1922 - 17 Jun 1996)

American science historian and science philosopher who held that science was not a steady, cumulative acquisition of knowledge, but it is “a series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions.”


Science Quotes by Thomas S. Kuhn (18 quotes)

'Normal science' means research firmly based upon one or more past scientific achievements, achievements that some particular scientific community acknowledges for a time as supplying the foundation for its further practice.
— Thomas S. Kuhn
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), 10.
Science quotes on:  |  Achievement (73)  |  Research (360)  |  Science (875)

Almost always the men who achieve these fundamental inventions of a new paradigm have been either very young or very new to the field whose paradigm they change.
— Thomas S. Kuhn
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), 89-90.
Science quotes on:  |  Change (133)  |  Invention (174)  |  Paradigm (10)  |  Youth (32)

As in political revolutions, so in paradigm choice—there is no standard higher than the assent of the relevant community... this issue of paradigm choice can never be unequivocally settled by logic and experiment alone.
— Thomas S. Kuhn
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), 93.
Science quotes on:  |  Assent (2)  |  Choice (40)  |  Community (27)  |  Experiment (369)  |  Logic (132)  |  Paradigm (10)  |  Standard (15)

Concerned to reconstruct past ideas, historians must approach the generation that held them as the anthropologist approaches an alien culture. They must, that is, be prepared at the start to find that natives speak a different language and map experience into different categories from those they themselves bring from home. And they must take as their object the discovery of those categories and the assimilation of the corresponding language.
— Thomas S. Kuhn
'Revisiting Planck', Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences (1984), 14, 246.
Science quotes on:  |  Anthropologist (2)  |  Category (5)  |  Experience (132)  |  History (156)  |  Idea (226)  |  Language (71)  |  Reconstruction (8)

Each paradigm will be shown to satisfy more or less the criteria that it dictates for itself and to fall short of a few of those dictated by its opponent.
— Thomas S. Kuhn
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), 108-9.
Science quotes on:  |  Criteria (5)  |  Opponent (6)  |  Paradigm (10)

Groups do not have experiences except insofar as all their members do. And there are no experiences... that all the members of a scientific community must share in the course of a [scientific] revolution. Revolutions should be described not in terms of group experience but in terms of the varied experiences of individual group members. Indeed, that variety itself turns out to play an essential role in the evolution of scientific knowledge.
— Thomas S. Kuhn
Thomas S. Kuhn's Foreword to Paul Hoyningen-Huene, Reconstructing Scientific Revolutions: Thomas S Kuhn's Philosophy of Science (1993), xiii.
Science quotes on:  |  Experience (132)  |  Group (24)  |  Knowledge (679)  |  Scientific Revolution (8)

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.
— Thomas S. Kuhn
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), 1.
Science quotes on:  |  Anecdote (15)  |  Chronology (3)  |  History (156)  |  Image (15)  |  Science (875)  |  Transformation (27)

Later scientific theories are better than earlier ones for solving puzzles in the often quite different environments to which they are applied. That is not a relativist's position, and it displays the sense in which I am a convinced believer in scientific progress.
— Thomas S. Kuhn
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd edition (1970), 206.
Science quotes on:  |  Application (72)  |  Environment (75)  |  Progress (200)  |  Puzzle (16)  |  Scientific Progress (12)  |  Sense (104)  |  Solution (109)  |  Theory (353)

Research under a paradigm must be a particularly effective way of inducing paradigm change.
— Thomas S. Kuhn
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), 52.
Science quotes on:  |  Change (133)  |  Paradigm (10)  |  Research (360)

Scientific development depends in part on a process of non-incremental or revolutionary change. Some revolutions are large, like those associated with the names of Copernicus, Newton, or Darwin, but most are much smaller, like the discovery of oxygen or the planet Uranus. The usual prelude to changes of this sort is, I believed, the awareness of anomaly, of an occurrence or set of occurrences that does not fit existing ways of ordering phenomena. The changes that result therefore require 'putting on a different kind of thinking-cap', one that renders the anomalous lawlike but that, in the process, also transforms the order exhibited by some other phenomena, previously unproblematic.
— Thomas S. Kuhn
The Essential Tension (1977), xvii.
Science quotes on:  |  Anomaly (6)  |  Nicolaus Copernicus (30)  |  Charles Darwin (216)  |  Discovery (360)  |  Law (273)  |  Sir Isaac Newton (176)  |  Occurrence (21)  |  Oxygen (34)  |  Phenomenon (114)  |  Scientific Revolution (8)  |  Uranus (2)

The historian of science may be tempted to claim 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. It is rather as if the professional community had been suddenly transported to another planet where familiar objects are seen in a different light and are joined by unfamiliar ones as well.
— Thomas S. Kuhn
In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962, 2nd ed. 1970). Excerpt 'Revolutions as Changes of World View', in Joseph Margolis and Jacques Catudal, The Quarrel between Invariance and Flux (2001), 35-36.
Science quotes on:  |  Change (133)  |  Claim (24)  |  Community (27)  |  Difference (135)  |  Familiarity (10)  |  Historian (18)  |  History Of Science (34)  |  Instrument (40)  |  Look (32)  |  New (107)  |  Object (47)  |  Paradigm (10)  |  Place (32)  |  Planet (84)  |  Profession (26)  |  Revolution (34)  |  Science (875)  |  Temptation (5)  |  Transportation (6)  |  Unfamiliarity (3)  |  World (231)

The resolution of revolutions is selection by conflict within the scientific community of the fittest way to practice future science. The net result of a sequence of such revolutionary selections, separated by periods of normal research, is the wonderfully adapted set of instruments we call modern scientific knowledge.
— Thomas S. Kuhn
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), 171.
Science quotes on:  |  Community (27)  |  Conflict (27)  |  Knowledge (679)  |  Research (360)  |  Result (129)  |  Revolution (34)  |  Selection (20)  |  Sequence (15)

The success of the paradigm... is at the start largely a promise of success ... Normal science consists in the actualization of that promise... Mopping up operations are what engage most scientists throughout their careers. They constitute what I am here calling normal science... That enterprise seems an attempt to force nature into the preformed and relatively inflexible box that the paradigm supplies. No part of the aim of normal science is to call forth new sorts of phenomena; indeed those that will not fit the box are often not seen at all. Nor do scientists normally aim to invent new theories, and they are often intolerant of those invented by others.
— Thomas S. Kuhn
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), 23-4.
Science quotes on:  |  Career (29)  |  Paradigm (10)  |  Phenomenon (114)  |  Promise (13)  |  Science (875)  |  Success (114)  |  Theory (353)

The transition from a paradigm in crisis to a new one from which a new tradition of normal science can emerge is far from a cumulative process, one achieved by an articulation or extension of the old paradigm. Rather it is a reconstruction of the field from new fundamentals, a reconstruction that changes some of the field's most elementary theoretical generalizations as well as many of its paradigm methods and applications. During the transition period there will be a large but never complete overlap between the problems that can be solved by the old and by the new paradigm. But there will also be a decisive difference in the modes of solution. When the transition is complete, the profession will have changed its view of the field, its methods, and its goals.
— Thomas S. Kuhn
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), 84-5.
Science quotes on:  |  Application (72)  |  Crisis (5)  |  Fundamental (59)  |  Goal (36)  |  Method (73)  |  Paradigm (10)  |  Problem (180)  |  Process (97)  |  Reconstruction (8)  |  Solution (109)  |  Theory (353)  |  Tradition (17)  |  Transition (8)

Though the world does not change with a change of paradigm, the scientist afterward works in a different world... I am convinced that we must learn to make sense of statements that at least resemble these. What occurs during a scientific revolution is not fully reducible to a re-interpretation of individual and stable data. In the first place, the data are not unequivocally stable.
— Thomas S. Kuhn
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), 120.
Science quotes on:  |  Change (133)  |  Data (59)  |  Interpretation (38)  |  Paradigm (10)  |  Scientific Revolution (8)  |  Understanding (231)  |  World (231)

To turn Karl [Popper]'s view on its head, it is precisely the abandonment of critical discourse that marks the transition of science. Once a field has made the transition, critical discourse recurs only at moments of crisis when the bases of the field are again in jeopardy. Only when they must choose between competing theories do scientists behave like philosophers.
— Thomas S. Kuhn
'Logic of Discovery or Psychology of Research', in I. Lakatos and A. Musgrave (eds.), Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge (1970), 6-7.
Science quotes on:  |  Abandon (13)  |  Choose (6)  |  Competition (18)  |  Crisis (5)  |  Criticism (34)  |  Discourse (7)  |  Philosopher (67)  |  Karl Raimund Popper (41)  |  Scientist (237)  |  Theory (353)  |  Transition (8)

We may... have to relinquish the notion, explicit or implicit, that changes of paradigm carry scientists and those who learn from them closer and closer to the truth... The developmental process described in this essay has been a process of evolution from primitive beginnings—a process whose successive stages are characterized by an increasingly detailed and refined understanding of nature. But nothing that has been or will be said makes it a process of evolution toward anything.
— Thomas S. Kuhn
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), 169-70.
Science quotes on:  |  Beginning (71)  |  Change (133)  |  Detail (33)  |  Development (122)  |  Evolution (342)  |  Nature (534)  |  Paradigm (10)  |  Primitive (17)  |  Process (97)  |  Scientist (237)  |  Succession (30)  |  Truth (450)  |  Understanding (231)

What chemists took from Dalton was not new experimental laws but a new way of practicing chemistry (he himself called it the 'new system of chemical philosophy'), and this proved so rapidly fruitful that only a few of the older chemists in France and Britain were able to resist it.
— Thomas S. Kuhn
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), 133.
Science quotes on:  |  Chemist (49)  |  John Dalton (20)  |  Experiment (369)  |  Law (273)



Quotes by others about Thomas S. Kuhn (2)

'Normal' science, in Kuhn's sense, exists. It is the activity of the non-revolutionary, or more precisely, the not-too-critical professional: of the science student who accepts the ruling dogma of the day... in my view the 'normal' scientist, as Kuhn describes him, is a person one ought to be sorry for... He has been taught in a dogmatic spirit: he is a victim of indoctrination... I can only say that I see a very great danger in it and in the possibility of its becoming normal... a danger to science and, indeed, to our civilization. And this shows why I regard Kuhn's emphasis on the existence of this kind of science as so important.
'Normal Science and its Dangers', in I. Lakatos and A. Musgrave (eds.), Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge (1970), 52-3.
Science quotes on:  |  Activity (48)  |  Civilization (90)  |  Criticism (34)  |  Danger (32)  |  Description (40)  |  Dogmatism (5)  |  Emphasis (9)  |  Existence (150)  |  Importance (106)  |  Kind (27)  |  Normal (11)  |  Person (38)  |  Possibility (70)  |  Precisely (3)  |  Professional (10)  |  Revolutionary (6)  |  Sense (104)  |  Sorry (4)  |  Spirit (52)  |  Victim (2)

Well-established theories collapse under the weight of new facts and observations which cannot be explained, and then accumulate to the point where the once useful theory is clearly obsolete.
[Using Thomas S. Kuhn's theories to frame his argument about the relationship beween science and technology: as new facts continue to accumulate, a new, more accurate paradigm must replace the old one.]
Al Gore
Commencement address at M.I.T. (7 Jun 1996). In obituary, 'Thomas S. Kuhn', The Tech (26 Jun 1996), 9.
Science quotes on:  |  Accumulation (16)  |  Cannot (7)  |  Collapse (8)  |  Explanation (88)  |  Fact (325)  |  New (107)  |  Observation (264)  |  Obsolete (4)  |  Paradigm (10)  |  Theory (353)  |  Usefulness (54)  |  Weight (41)  |  Well-Established (2)


See also:

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Bible
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton