The Scientists

The Scientists is an interesting read, a once over lightly refresher course on the history of science as told via the personages who made the critical discoveries. The coda explicitly reveals a subtext thesis that the author is quietly arguing.

The Scientists: A History of Science Told Through the Lives of Its Greatest Inventors
Beyond telling the story, Gribbin is quietly attempting to show that Thomas Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions thesis is a result of not paying attention to the details. Gribbin shows that in most instances the "revolutionary" idea was not as revolutionary as it might seem.
 The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Gribbin does a good job of showing that in most cases the ideas were already "out there" in general circulation, ready to be put together. He also argues that had not the person we credit with the discovery made the discovery, other would have made that discovery within a short span of time. At best, a "genius" might simply have made the leap a little earlier than others.

Probably the best known example is the non-scientific one: Leibniz independently invented calculus in parallel with Newton. Gribbin marshals dozens of similar lessen known examples in the history of science. He argues for, in the language of the history of the earth, uniformitarianism in the progress of science and against Kuhnian catastrophism.

For one enamored of paradigm shifts, the book is an excellent wake-up call to be a little careful in seeing revolutions in every new idea. Sometimes an ideas time has simply come.

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