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Grant number: FT-10870-70

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John Rigden
American Institute of Physics (College Park, MD 20740-3841)

The Resolution of Disputes Within the Scientific Community

Study of the controversy between Arthur Compton and William Duane in the 1920s as a case study in the resolution of conflicts in scientific theory. In 1923, Compton, a relatively unknown midwesterner, annouced his interpretation of his experiments in X-rays, which ran counter to prevailing wave theory in physics. Duane, an influential Harvard professor, disagreed strongly, creating a split in the scientific community. However, the split was rapidly resolved and the science community closed ranks behind Compton, who was awarded the Noble Prize in physics in 1927 for his work. Fellow hopes to discover how controversies involving two alternative theories which fit the facts equally well are resolved. Indicates the importance of the human element in physics, since theories are products of human invention, a representation of how scientists want or expect nature to be, often colored by their preconceptions. Fellow previously wrote Style in Teaching: Reshaping the Sterile Image of Physics (submitted to the American Journal of Physics but not yet published) which stesses the devlopmental aspect of science rather than static laws and theories.

Project fields:
History and Philosophy of Science, Technology, and Medicine

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

Total amounts:
$1,500 (approved)
$1,500 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/1970 – 8/31/1970