Interpretation of Johnson’s Models

Interpreting another person’s theories is never an easy task, but most scientific achievement in history has been made through different individuals’ interpretations of other scientists theories, such as Joseph Priestly’s interpretations of The Electricians experiments in the 1760’s and ‘70’s. In his biography of Joseph Priestly, the Invention of Air, Steven Johnson presents three models that organize historical science into more accurate representations of the scientific community. The first model Johnson presents is that of the “great man” model which, contrary to its name, actually revolves around Karl Marx’s idea that no single scientist is to credit for the development of ideas and cultural development (Johnson 47). This idea essentially states that every advancement made in science and technology had the driving force of multiple civilizations and many thinkers and scholars behind it in order for it to come to fruition.

The second theory that Johnson entertains is that of the paradigm shift. The paradigm shift model plays at the idea that from the time of Joseph Priestly, all the way up until the modern age, there have been completely game changing ideas in science that somehow did not start completely new eras in human understanding, such as the Enlightenment and the Renaissance (Johnson 44-45). Johnson cites Watson and Crick’sHowever, I disagree with this particular model, as both of the Industrial Revolutions can be considered “paradigm shifts,” and have great title to accompany them, not to mention the digital revolution that gave way to the Information Age in which we are now living. The third and final model that Johnson presents in his categorization of scientific history is that of the ecosystem theory. This theory is a complex organization of every scientific field and the interconnections found between the field, as well as the divisions of subfields within each individual field. The diagram on page 50 of The Invention of Air is an example of the Bretherton diagram that organizes the systems within the study of the Physical Climate System. Now, I will not even pretend to truly understand the complexities of this system, but I suppose that the jist of it is this: every field of science can be connected through a web of different ideas and studies that all stem from the basic hunger that humans show for knowledge of the natural world.

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