In Steven Johnson’s, The Invention of Air, he explains three fundamental methods in which history plays itself out in science. The “great man” version of history credits historical change solely to the advancements made by important people of a given time period. Then there’s the paradigm shift, which is characterized by a scientific knowledge as we know it being rewritten as anomalies occur that stretch beyond what’s known, and a “paradigm shift” occurs when a new set of knowledge replaces the old ideas. Lastly, there’s the ecosystem theory, which proposes a broad, multidisciplinary approach to scientific research. Given the methods and how Johnson told Priestley’s journey, I believe that the paradigm shift provides the best explanation. Using a childhood memory of Priestley trapping spiders in jars, the idea that a living thing in an airtight space would die is accepted, and now that idea is being challenged in search of an anomaly by replacing an animal with a plant. This concept can come into play whenever we’re experimenting with something in a familiar setting. If we ever want to make a slight adjustment to what we already know to see if it’ll make a difference, we may not be doing what Priestley is on the same scale, but we are using the same frame of mind.
In looking at all of the different methods in the history of science, it seemed as though Johnson wrote through the lenses of all three of them. This gave the reader a view into what it was like to learn about historical and scientific events through different lenses, and all of them had their pro’s and cons in my opinion. I feel that the most helpful viewpoint was the paradigm shift because it seemed the most concrete and data driven.