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Thomas Kuhn

An American historian, physicist, and one of the most influential people being a philosopher of
science, Thomas Kuhn became famous for his book published in 1962 called The Structure of
Scientific Revolutions. This book became a highly influential work in academic as well as other
circles because of his claims about scientific knowledge and its progress which undergoes what is
called the paradigm shift. His work in that particular book has even made an impact to the study of
the English language which made him an even more influential man of science

Personal Life and Academic Background of Thomas


Kuhn
On July 18, 1922, Thomas Kuhn was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to his mother Minette Stroock Kuhn,
and his father who was an industrial engineer named Samuel L. Kuhn. His awareness for physics
and mathematics began after he graduated from The Taft School in 1940. In 1943, he was already
able to attain his B.S. Degree in Physics after attending Harvard University and he graduated
summa cum laude. From the same university, he obtained both his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees for
physics in the years 1946 and 1949.
According to him and as stated on the preface to The Structure of Scientific Revolutions second
edition, the three years of academic freedom that he experienced as one of the Harvard Junior
Fellows were key to his being able to switch from physics towards the history and philosophy of
science.

He was married twice, and had three children with Kathryn Muhs who was his first wife. He later
married Jehane Barton Burns or Jehane R. Kuhn. In 1994, he was diagnosed with lung cancer, and
he died 2 years later in 1996.

Careers
After graduating from Harvard University, he spent his years there in doing research about radar
during the war years. He was elected as a member of the Society of Fellows at Harvard, a
prestigious society of the University. Up until 1956, Thomas Kuhn taught science classes of
humanities undergraduates which were part of the curriculum for General Education in Science. This
paved way to his being able to study more historical cases in detail. He then had a fascination for
Aristotles works which made him understand more about philosophy while having his knowledge for
science remain undistorted.
Because of that experience, he concentrated on the history of science. After some time, he was then
appointed as the assistant professor for the history of science as well as general education. In this
time of his career, his work was focused on the early history concerning thermodynamics as well as
the 18thcentury theory on matter. His first book was published in 1957 when he turned his focus to
the history of astronomy, and his book was called The Copernican Revolution.
In 1956, Kuhn moved to the University of California at Berkeley to take a teaching post for the history
of science under the philosophy department. In 1961, he then became one of the full time professors
there. It was his years in the University of California that developed his interest for the philosophy of
science. A year later, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions was published.
The main idea behind this publication was that the development of science has a driving force which
is what Kuhn called as paradigms. These paradigms supple the puzzles which scientists are to solve
as well as provide the tools which are needed to solve the problem. Scientific crises arise when the
paradigm loses its ability to solve puzzles which are particularly worrying, and these are called the
anomalies.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is also referred to as the SSR and in his work, Kuhn argued
that paradigms happen to be incommensurablewhich means it is not possible for one to
understand a paradigm by understanding another rival paradigms conceptual framework. His work
had many critics, and especially about a paradigms being incommensurable, David Stove thought of
this as irrational. According to him, if one cannot make comparisons between rival paradigms, how is
one to know which one is better? Because of the interpretation, Kuhn denied that his work had any
relativism behind it in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions third edition for clarification on his
views and to avoid other misinterpretations.

Apart from being influential and controversial in science-related fields, SSR had an enormous impact
on linguistic aspects as well. In Kuhns own words in the postscript of SSRs second edition, he said
that the most novel and least understood aspect of this book. Other terms coined with the rise of
his book involved normal science which referred the daily work of scientists. Scientific revolutions
referred to work which took place in different periods and encompassing several disciplines.
The work of Thomas Kuhn is truly influential in several fields including language, science, social
science, and even made a presence in the debate about International Relations.

Honors and Awards


Because of his significant contribution and influence in several fields of study, Kuhn received several
numerous honorary doctorates and he is credited as the foundational force who brought to life the
post-Mertonian Sociology of Scientific Knowledge.
During his teaching career, notable positions he held included being the M. Taylor Pyne Professor of
Philosophy and History of Science in Princeton University back in 1964. It was in 1979 when he
became the Massachusetts Institute of Technologys Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of
Philosophy. In 1954 Thomas Kuhn was named as a Guggenheim Fellow. The History of Science
Society awarded him the George Sarton Medal in 1982.
Because of his legacy which brought to life awareness about the paradigm shift, the American
Chemical Society awards the Thomas Kuhn Paradigm Shift Award to different speakers who are
able to present new and original views which are not considered as part of the mainstream kind of
scientific understanding. The winning candidate gets the award depending on how novel the
viewpoint he or she present is. The potential impact of the said viewpoint and if it can be widely
accepted is also taken into consideration. This is to honor the same legacy that the paradigm shift
idea of Thomas Kuhn brought to the people of today.