Growth of Discovery

Johnson first mentions the paradigm shift model of the growth of science. This model claims that major scientific discoveries occur that change the public’s entire mindset on the subject. These sudden bursts of progress are said to happen in the isolation of a lab, hardly being affected by the outside world. While this progress hardly occurs with outside influence, the scientific community fostering ideas is a large part of how this is possible. The next model shown was one Priestley endorsed himself: the progressive movement. This model followed the idea that discovery was more linear and that humanity is climbing some metaphorical mountain peak of science. This was a more hopeful view that showed that anyone could contribute to the inevitable growth of science. The third model touched upon was that relating the discovery of science to the ecosystem which it lived within. This explains discoveries as existing because of a specific condition that had led to that point. Johnson explains this by showing diagrams that start as wide as energy flows that end up influencing neurochemistry. 

Johnson describes Joseph Priestley’s discovery of oxygen as a paradigm shift in the world of chemistry. The results he was achieving through suffocating mice defied expectations of the time, and Priestley himself was even aware of how significant his observations were. In chapter 1, Johnson describes a paradigm shift by saying “But over time, anomalies appear inside the paradigm: data that can’t be explained…” which is exactly what happened when Priestley documented a mouse living much longer in the presence of the mint sprig.

One thought on “Growth of Discovery

  1. I agree with your perspective on Priestley’s use of paradigm shift. I thought this part of the book was a little harsh describing the murder of all of these mice. But overall, that is exactly what I believed Priestley to be doing. He was essentially guess-checking himself until he could create a full story of what happened. The most clear example of this is when he first places the sprig of mint under the glass, anticipating that it would die just as the other living things had done, and it did the exact opposite. This moment causes him to drop everything he thought he understood and essentially “start over”.


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