How Science Progresses

In the first chapter of his book, Johnson describes three different models of the history of science. First, he discusses the great man theory the concept that science progresses thanks to the individual brilliance or achievement of one man. This model takes into account the achievement of great science historically but missed the “forces greater and smaller than individual humans” (Johnson 46). The second method Johnson discusses is the paradigm shift model which said science progressed within a set of rules and conventions and when data didn’t fit the old paradigm a new one would be made with new rules and conventions. However, this model only accounted for scientific breakthroughs inside the paradigm and failed to address the role of external forces such as changes in technology, religion, or politics played in changing the progress of science. The final model Johnson outlines is the ecosystem theory, a theory that spans across all disciplines of science. The ecosystem theory attempts to explain how science progresses by looking at the big picture and ignores individual achievement.


Johnson uses the coffeehouse example to outline how Priestly discovered Oxygen throughout the book there is a recurring theme of the importance of sharing ideas and discussion to advance science. In the first chapter, the book details the gathering of early thinkers to discuss electricity. The concept is revisited when detailing how Priestly discovered Oxygen. One modern example of this is business conferences, whether you are a physicist or a carpenter conferences amongst others in your trade allows individuals to learn new skills and to share thoughts in ideas with others knowledgeable in their field.



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