Scientific progress is responsible for some of the most amazing developments in human history. It has enabled us to cure diseases, increase agricultural yields, and travel quickly and safely across the globe. As such, the opportunity to enable progress in science can be very valuable.
Having studied examples from the history of science, we believe it is possible to describe how early discoveries led to the creation of impressive and sophisticated scientific disciplines. By understanding the methodologies used by the researchers at key points in the past, as well as the social and institutional contexts that enabled them to make progress, we believe it may be possible to help modern researchers make progress in new or stagnating fields.
In this paper, we outline a research program designed to investigate this hypothesis. We describe three important examples from the history of science, identify a phenomenon worth studying, state a specific formulation of our hypothesis, and describe our research methodology.
Recent Research: Early Stage Science
William Gilbert and the Discovery of 'Electricks'
An analysis of William Gilbert’s discovery of static electric attraction and identification of the category of electricks. Our case study aims to understand how knowledge of static electric attraction developed prior to Gilbert and the causes and factors that enabled him to make his discovery.
The Reception of Volta's Electrophorus
An investigation of the distribution and impact of Volta's electrophorus analysing why Volta’s electrophorus advanced consensus in the field despite similar phenomena having previously been demonstrated by two prominent scientists of the time.
The Discovery and Impact of the Leyden Jar
The Leyden jar is widely recognized as among the most important discoveries in the history of electricity. While accounts often present the discovery as a mix of luck and crisis, our case study suggests a more complex picture.
Ørsted and Electromagnetism
An investigation of the discovery of electromagnetism in 1820. We demonstrate that electromagnetism was straightforwardly discoverable by 1802 and investigate why the discovery was overlooked. We also discuss the central role of philosophy in Ørsted’s discovery.