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Science and Technology in the Global Cold War$
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Naomi Oreskes and John Krige

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780262027953

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262027953.001.0001

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When Structure Met Sputnik:

When Structure Met Sputnik:

On the Cold War Origins of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

(p.370) (p.371) 12 When Structure Met Sputnik
Science and Technology in the Global Cold War

George Reisch

The MIT Press

This chapter examines two moments in the development of Thomas Kuhn’s theory of science that debuted in 1962’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions: when Kuhn spoke in Berkeley about the meaning and implications of the Sputnik crisis in late 1957 and four years later, when his new theory of “paradigms” and “normal science” collided with the post-Sputnik American movement for liberal reforms in science education. It examines that liberal consensus promoted by Kuhn’s mentor, James Bryant Conant, as well as figures like H. Bentley Glass, the geneticist who directed the B.S.C.S. reforms in biology education. Reading “The Function of Dogma in Scientific Research” in England in 1961, Kuhn’s counterintuitive claims that dogmatism and intellectual conformity were healthy, productive, and conducive to scientific revolutions led Glass to challenge Kuhn and persuade him to abandon the crucial term he had come to England to defend: dogma. The chapter concludes with an examination of Conant’s reactions to Structure and argues that Conant, like Glass, recognized the text as a reaction to his liberal conception of science--one with important, and possibly unfortunate and dangerous, geopolitical implications.

Keywords:   Thomas Kuhn, James Bryant Conant, H. Bentley Glass, Sputnik, paradigm, scientific revolution, dogma, ideology, Weltanschaaung, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

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