The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

By Thomas S. Kuhn,

Book cover of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Book description

A good book may have the power to change the way we see the world, but a great book actually becomes part of our daily consciousness, pervading our thinking to the point that we take it for granted, and we forget how provocative and challenging its ideas once were-and still…

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Why read it?

11 authors picked The Structure of Scientific Revolutions as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

When I was a biomedical science graduate student, this book was on my shelf for a couple of years before I read it. I had pulled it out of a classmate’s trash bag when I was helping him move. Later, when I became distressed because my research findings were dismissed as “controversial,” a postdoctoral fellow in my lab told me that what I experienced was actually quite normal for novel scientific findings and I should read this book.

I did, and it changed forever my understanding of science and how scientists often resist accepting from others the very thing they…

If you’ve ever wondered where all this talk of “paradigms” and “paradigm shifts” comes from, this book is the answer. A paradigm, according to Kuhn, is a set of theories and beliefs that guide scientific research by telling us what there is to know and how we can come to know it.

When a paradigm changes, a paradigm shift occurs. Some purveyors of the paranormal claim that their view represents a paradigm shift in our thinking. Kuhn’s book will help you assess whether that is indeed the case.

This book is a must-read for anyone concerned with any form of change.

While focusing on the advancement of science, Kuhn, in his brilliant analysis, brings attention to the distinction between paradigmatic and incremental change. His is the key analysis between disruption and slow progression. In this day and age, when so many corporate leaders are obsessed with being disruptive, we often fail to realize that much of our progress is based on slow and steady incrementalism—one piece built upon another.

Paradigmatic change or total disruption has its benefits and its negative aspects, but it’s an outlier. All too often,…

I first read The Structure of Scientific Revolutions when I was in college many (many) years ago, and it fundamentally changed the way I think about organizational change and innovation. 

Written by a physicist, the book is about the philosophy and history of science and how we make advances in knowledge. Kuhn argues, and provides plenty of examples, of how science isn’t just the slow accumulation of data, but is actually influenced by “paradigms” that help us make sense of the data. Every so often however data emerges that doesn’t fit the paradigm. 

At first this kind of anomalous data…

From Ron's list on simplifying your organization.

This book shows what it takes to create a new science or field of technology.

At the start, no one knows what questions to ask or what experiments to perform. There are only indications that something is wrong with the current view of the field. No one knows what are the right variables and how they should be measured. (Sound familiar? Tell me, what is the software production capacity of your company?)

Over time, an explanatory paradigm appears and we can quantify and create theories on which to base predictions. The period of chaos between the early stages and the…

Perhaps one of the greatest books ever written. Kuhn is one of the most brilliant thinkers in human history, the creator of the word “paradigm.” This book examines how science progresses over time, one worldview replacing another. More significantly, Kuhn argued that defenders of the current paradigm resist any challenge to its tenets to maintain respect and privilege. In short, science is limited by human insecurity and ego. I found this book to be imperative to any understanding of how the world works. 

From Richard's list on reality and destiny.

This classic book is relevant to anyone interested in the brain. Our teachers told us that our knowledge evolves linearly, small discoveries accumulating over time. But Kuhn (1922-94), a theoretical physicist, reviewed the history of discoveries and concluded they happened after “crises.” He defined and popularized many of the terms we still use today. A “paradigm” creates the boundaries within which “normal science” can operate to answer “puzzles.” Normal science does not aim at novelty but at discovering what it expects to discover based on a hypothesis. Any “anomalies” that cannot be resolved with further studies lead to a “crisis”…

This is a brilliant book explaining why scientific thought processes never escape the realm of their paradigm. I’m recommending this book because, if interested in pushing thought, if interested in examining personal belief, if interested in learning how to live without traditional standards, then this book is an eye-opener. Traditional thought, whether religious or secular, rules how we react to what occurs in life, and this book helps shed light on the fact that responses can be structured, but that an unstructured response is something generating original and unique knowledge to live by.

Said to be the best-selling academic book of the Twentieth Century, this is a bit more technical in so far as it deals with the history of science. Kuhn introduced the idea that science isn’t just a collection of facts but undergoes periods of radical cultural change – the most well-known example is the switch from Newton’s to Einstein’s view of the physical world. Kuhn said these ‘paradigm shifts’ involve ‘incommensurability’ – you cannot experience both ways of seeing the world at once and they cannot be translated into one another. It is an enormously influential idea.

From Harry's list on making reality.

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is a philosophical analysis of the history of science that lays bare the elusive nature of progress. Giving us terms like “paradigm shift”— that I love to use—Thomas Kuhn turns the way we think about advancement on its head and shows how unforeseen often vilified discoveries end up being the touchstone for landmark scientific development. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is insightful and impactful far beyond science and philosophy—its groundbreaking revelations will liberate your creativity, enable you to embrace the intellectually unexpected, and teach you how to think.

From Rachel's list on intellectual and creative inspiration.

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