History and Philosophy of Science, Program in.

History and Philosophy of Science, Program in. The two disciplines united in the program are as old as learning itself, although they have emerged as distinct enterprises only in this century. Philosophers since Aristotle have made the epistemological and metaphysical commitments of natural inquiry a major concern of philosophy, and many, ranging from Aristotle and Bacon to Whewell and Comte, have looked to the history of scientific thought for clues about its conceptual structure. From the outset, then, readers of philosophy at Princeton have had some exposure to history and philosophy of science, and the latter remains central to the philosophy curriculum.

Long of interest also to scientists, history of science began to form a special field of history in the 1930s and received its main impetus during the 1950s as the impact of science on modern society increasingly concerned scientists and educators (cf. Princeton's Committee on Science in Human Affairs established in 1962). Taught at Princeton on occasion by scientists before World War II, history of science became a regular offering in 1955-1956 with Charles C. Gillispie's survey course sponsored jointly by History and the Council of the Humanities.

The growing need for historians and philosophers of science led in 1960 to a special graduate program chaired by Gillispie under the auspices of the departments of history and philosophy, and the Council. Expansion planned in 1963 culminated in 1970 with a full staff of five historians and five philosophers. In 1968 the program, by then largely autonomous but still working closely with history and philosophy, increased its lecture offerings and established an undergraduate major.

Since its inception the program has shared the international reputation of its leading faculty. In particular, Gillispie, together with Charles Scribner, Jr. '43, conceived and directed the monumental Dictionary of Scientific Biography (14 vols., N.Y., Scribner's, 1970-76); Carl G. Hempel published fundamental studies on the nature of scientific explanation; and Thomas S. Kuhn, in pursuing and defending the thesis of his Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago, 1962) set the tone for contemporary discussions of the scientific enterprise.

Michael S. Mahoney


From Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion, copyright Princeton University Press (1978).

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