In his comprehensive survey of the work of William Herschel, published in the Annuaire du Bureau des Longitudes for 1842, Dominique Arago argued that the life of the great astronomer ‘had the rare privilege of forming an epoch in an extended branch of astronomy’. Arago also noted, however, that Herschel's ideas were often taken as ‘the conceptions of a madman’, even if they were subsequently accepted. This fact, commented Arago, ‘seems to me one that deserves to appear in the (...)history of science’. From the time Herschel published his first paper in the Philosophical transactions in 1781, he was subjected to the suggestion of lunacy. His patron and friend William Watson, told him that after his claims for the extraordinary power of his telescopes, ‘your prognosis that some would think you fit for Bedlam has been verified’. On learning of Herschel's supremely accurate new micrometer, the astronomer Alexander Aubert exclaimed to Herschel that ‘we would go to Bedlam together’: Aubert wrote to Herschel in January 1782 that he should ‘mind not a few jealous barking puppies: a little time will clear up the matter, and if it lays in my power you would not be sent to Bedlam alone, for I incline much to be of the party’. (shrink)
The didactics of astronomy is a relatively young field with respect to that of other sciences. Historical issues have most often been part of the teaching of astronomy, although that often does not stem from a specific didactics. The teaching of astronomy is often subsumed under that of physics. One can easily consider that, from an educational standpoint, astronomy requires the same mathematical or physical strategies. This approach may be adequate in many cases but cannot stand (...) as a general principle for the teaching of astronomy. This chapter offers in a first part a brief overview of the status of astronomy education research and of the role of the history and philosophy of science (HPS) in astronomy education. In a second part, it attempts to illustrate possible ways to structure the teaching of astronomy around its historical development so as to pursue a quality education and contextualized learning. (shrink)
Relying on an analysis of the case of gravitational lensing, Hacking argues for a "modest antirealism" in astronomy. It is shown here that neither his scientific arguments nor his philosophical doctrines imply an antirealist conclusion. An alternative, realistic interpretation of gravitational lensing, and of the nature and history of astronomy more generally, is suggested.
With over 150 alphabetically arranged entries about key scientists, concepts, discoveries, technological innovations, and learned institutions, the Oxford Guide to Physics and Astronomy traces the history of physics and astronomy from the Renaissance to the present. For students, teachers, historians, scientists, and readers of popular science books such as Galileo's Daughter, this guide deciphers the methods and philosophies of physics and astronomy as well as the historical periods from which they emerged. Meant to serve the lay (...) reader and the professional alike, this book can be turned to for the answer to how scientists learned to measure the speed of light, or consulted for neat, careful summaries of topics as complicated as quantum field theory and as vast as the universe. The entries, each written by a noted scholar and edited by J. L. Heilbron, Professor of History and Vice Chancellor, Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley, reflect the most up-to-date research and discuss the applications of the scientific disciplines to the wider world of religion, law, war, art and literature. No other source on these two branches of science is as informative or as inviting. Thoroughly cross-referenced and accented by dozens of black and white illustrations, the Oxford Guide to Physics and Astronomy is the source to turn to for anyone looking for a quick explanation of alchemy, x-rays and any type of matter or energy in between. (shrink)
This article casts light on the intimate relationship between metaphysics and science in Adam Smith’s thought. Understanding this relationship can help in resolving an enduring dispute or misreading concerning the status and role of natural theology and the ‘invisible hand’ doctrine. In Smith’s scientific realism, ontological issues are necessary prerequisites for scientific inquiry, and metaphysical ideas thus play an organizing and regulatory role. Smith also recognized the importance of scientifically informed metaphysics in science’s historical development. In this sense, for Smith, (...) the metaphysico-scientific link, was a basic criterion of scientific validation by Inference to the Best Explanation. Furthermore, Smith’s comments implicitly suggest that in scientific progress there is a dialectic between metaphysics and science. These themes are illustrated primarily through his writings on the history of astronomy. (shrink)
If one is allowed to speak of progress in historical research, one may note with satisfaction the growing sophistication with which the relationship between science and religion has been examined in recent years. The "warfare" model, the "separation" paradigm, and the "partnership" ideal have been subjected to critical scrutiny and the glaring light of historical evidence. As John Hedley Brooke has so astutely noted, "Serious scholarship in the history of science has revealed so extraordinarily rich and complex a relationship (...) between science and religion in the past that general theses are difficult to sustain. Unfortunately, this more nuanced approach has not been as evident in studies of Islam and science. Though there has been some serious scholarship on the relation between science and religion in Islam, such work has made barely a dent in either the general accounts or the general perceptions of that relationship. These latter continue to be characterized by reductionism, essentialism, apologetics, and barely masked agendas. (shrink)
In the first part of chapter 2 of book II of the Physics Aristotle addresses the issue of the difference between mathematics and physics. In the course of his discussion he says some things about astronomy and the ‘ ‘ more physical branches of mathematics”. In this paper I discuss historical issues concerning the text, translation, and interpretation of the passage, focusing on two cruxes, the first reference to astronomy at 193b25–26 and the reference to the more physical branches at (...) 194a7–8. In section I, I criticize Ross’s interpretation of the passage and point out that his alteration of has no warrant in the Greek manuscripts. In the next three sections I treat three other interpretations, all of which depart from Ross's: in section II that of Simplicius, which I commend; in section III that of Thomas Aquinas, which is importantly influenced by a mistranslation of, and in section IV that of Ibn Rushd, which is based on an Arabic text corresponding to that printed by Ross. In the concluding section of the paper I describe the modern history of the Greek text of our passage and translations of it from the early twelfth century until the appearance of Ross's text in 1936. (shrink)
We discuss the extent to which the visibility of the heavens was a necessary condition for the development of science, with particular reference to the measurement of time. Our conclusion is that while astronomy had significant importance, the growth of most areas of science was more heavily influenced by the accuracy of scientific instruments, and hence by current technology.