Thomas Samuel Kuhn (; July 18, 1922 – June 17, 1996) was an American whose 1962 book ' was influential in both academic and popular circles, introducing the term ', which has since become an English-language idiom. Kuhn made several claims concerning the progress of : that scientific fields undergo periodic "paradigm shifts" rather than solely progressing in a linear and continuous way, and that these paradigm shifts open up new approaches to understanding what scientists would never have considered valid before; and that the notion of scientific truth, at any given moment, cannot be established solely by criteria but is defined by a consensus of a . Competing paradigms are frequently ; that is, they are competing and irreconcilable accounts of reality. Thus, our comprehension of science can never rely wholly upon "objectivity" alone. Science must account for perspectives as well, since all objective conclusions are ultimately founded upon the subjective conditioning/worldview of its researchers and participants.


Kuhn was born in , to Samuel L. Kuhn, an industrial engineer, and Minette Stroock Kuhn, both Jewish. From kindergarten through fifth grade, he was educated at Lincoln School, a private in Manhattan, which stressed independent thinking rather than learning facts and subjects. The family then moved 40 miles north to the small town of where, once again, he attended a private progressive school – . It was here that, in sixth through ninth grade, he learned to love mathematics. He left Hessian Hills in 1937. He graduated from in Watertown, Connecticut, in 1940. He obtained his degree in from in 1943, where he also obtained and PhD degrees in physics in 1946 and 1949, respectively, under the supervision of . As he states in the first few pages of the preface to the second edition of ', his three years of total academic freedom as a were crucial in allowing him to switch from physics to the history and philosophy of science. He later taught a course in the history of science at Harvard from 1948 until 1956, at the suggestion of university president . After leaving Harvard, Kuhn taught at the , in both the philosophy department and the history department, being named Professor of the in 1961. Kuhn interviewed and tape recorded Danish physicist the day before Bohr's death. At Berkeley, he wrote and published (in 1962) his best known and most influential work: ''The Structure of Scientific Revolutions''. In 1964, he joined as the M. Taylor Pyne Professor of Philosophy and History of Science. He served as the president of the from 1969 to 1970. In 1979 he joined the (MIT) as the Professor of Philosophy, remaining there until 1991. In 1994 Kuhn was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died in 1996. Thomas Kuhn was married twice, first to Kathryn Muhs with whom he had three children, then to Jehane Barton Burns (Jehane B. Kuhn).

''The Structure of Scientific Revolutions''

''The Structure of Scientific Revolutions'' (''SSR'') was originally printed as an article in the ', published by the of the . In this book, Kuhn argued that science does not progress via a linear accumulation of new knowledge, but undergoes periodic revolutions, also called "s" (although he did not coin the phrase, he did contribute to its increase in popularity), in which the nature of scientific inquiry within a particular field is abruptly transformed. In general, science is broken up into three distinct stages. Prescience, which lacks a central paradigm, comes first. This is followed by "", when scientists attempt to enlarge the central paradigm by "puzzle-solving". Guided by the paradigm, normal science is extremely productive: "when the paradigm is successful, the profession will have solved problems that its members could scarcely have imagined and would never have undertaken without commitment to the paradigm". In regard to experimentation and collection of data with a view toward solving problems through the commitment to a paradigm, Kuhn states: "The operations and measurements that a scientist undertakes in the laboratory are not 'the given' of experience but rather 'the collected with difficulty.' They are not what the scientist sees—at least not before his research is well advanced and his attention focused. Rather, they are concrete indices to the content of more elementary perceptions, and as such they are selected for the close scrutiny of normal research only because they promise opportunity for the fruitful elaboration of an accepted paradigm. Far more clearly than the immediate experience from which they in part derive, operations and measurements are paradigm-determined. Science does not deal in all possible laboratory manipulations. Instead, it selects those relevant to the juxtaposition of a paradigm with the immediate experience that that paradigm has partially determined. As a result, scientists with different paradigms engage in different concrete laboratory manipulations." During the period of normal science, the failure of a result to conform to the paradigm is seen not as refuting the paradigm, but as the mistake of the researcher, contra criterion. As anomalous results build up, science reaches a ''crisis'', at which point a new paradigm, which subsumes the old results along with the anomalous results into one framework, is accepted. This is termed ''revolutionary science''. In ''SSR'', Kuhn also argues that rival paradigms are —that is, it is not possible to understand one paradigm through the conceptual framework and terminology of another rival paradigm. For many critics, for example (', 1982), this thesis seemed to entail that theory choice is fundamentally : if rival theories cannot be directly compared, then one cannot make a rational choice as to which one is better. Whether Kuhn's views had such consequences is the subject of much debate; Kuhn himself denied the accusation of in the third edition of ''SSR'', and sought to clarify his views to avoid further misinterpretation. has quoted Kuhn as saying "I am not a Kuhnian!", referring to the that some philosophers have developed based on his work. ''The Structure of Scientific Revolutions'' is the single most widely cited book in the social sciences. The enormous impact of Kuhn's work can be measured in the changes it brought about in the vocabulary of the philosophy of science: besides "paradigm shift", Kuhn popularized the word "" itself from a term used in certain forms of and the work of to its current broader meaning, coined the term "" to refer to the relatively routine, day-to-day work of scientists working within a paradigm, and was largely responsible for the use of the term "" in the plural, taking place at widely different periods of time and in different disciplines, as opposed to a single in the late Renaissance. The frequent use of the phrase "paradigm shift" has made scientists more aware of and in many cases more receptive to paradigm changes, so that Kuhn's analysis of the evolution of scientific views has by itself influenced that evolution. Kuhn's work has been extensively used in social science; for instance, in the / debate within . Kuhn is credited as a foundational force behind the post- . Kuhn's work has also been used in the Arts and Humanities, such as by Matthew Edward Harris to distinguish between scientific and historical communities (such as political or religious groups): 'political-religious beliefs and opinions are not epistemologically the same as those pertaining to scientific theories'. This is because would-be scientists' worldviews are changed through rigorous training, through the engagement between what Kuhn calls 'exemplars' and the Global Paradigm. Kuhn's notions of paradigms and paradigm shifts have been influential in understanding the history of economic thought, for example the , and in debates in political science. A defense Kuhn gives against the objection that his account of science from ''The Structure of Scientific Revolutions'' results in relativism can be found in an essay by Kuhn called "Objectivity, Value Judgment, and Theory Choice." In this essay, he reiterates five criteria from the penultimate chapter of ''SSR'' that determine (or help determine, more properly) theory choice: # ''Accurate'' – empirically adequate with experimentation and observation # ''Consistent'' – internally consistent, but also externally consistent with other theories # ''Broad Scope'' – a theory's consequences should extend beyond that which it was initially designed to explain # ''Simple'' – the simplest explanation, principally similar to # ''Fruitful'' – a theory should disclose new phenomena or new relationships among phenomena He then goes on to show how, although these criteria admittedly determine theory choice, they are imprecise in practice and relative to individual scientists. According to Kuhn, "When scientists must choose between competing theories, two men fully committed to the same list of criteria for choice may nevertheless reach different conclusions." For this reason, the criteria still are not "objective" in the usual sense of the word because individual scientists reach different conclusions with the same criteria due to valuing one criterion over another or even adding additional criteria for selfish or other subjective reasons. Kuhn then goes on to say, "I am suggesting, of course, that the criteria of choice with which I began function not as rules, which determine choice, but as values, which influence it." Because Kuhn utilizes the history of science in his account of science, his criteria or values for theory choice are often understood as descriptive normative rules (or more properly, values) of theory choice for the scientific community rather than prescriptive normative rules in the usual sense of the word "criteria", although there are many varied interpretations of Kuhn's account of science.

Post-''Structure'' Philosophy

Years after the publication of ''The Structure of Scientific Revolutions'', Kuhn dropped the concept of a paradigm and began to focus on the semantic aspects of scientific theories. In particular, Kuhn focuses on the taxonomic structure of scientific kind terms. As a consequence, a scientific revolution is not defined as a 'change of paradigm' anymore, but rather as a change in the taxonomic structure of the theoretical language of science. Some scholars describe this change as resulting from a 'linguistic turn'. In their book, Andersen, Barker and Chen use some recent theories in cognitive psychology to vindicate Kuhn's mature philosophy. Apart from dropping the concept of a paradigm, Kuhn also began to look at the process of scientific specialisation. In a scientific revolution, a new paradigm (or a new taxonomy) replaces the old one; by contrast, specialisation leads to a proliferation of new specialties and disciplines. This attention to the proliferation of specialties would make Kuhn's model less 'revolutionary' and more 'evolutionary'. Some philosophers claim that Kuhn attempted to describe different kinds of scientific change: revolutions and specialty-creation. Others claim that the process of specialisation is in itself a special case of scientific revolutions. It is also possible to argue that, in Kuhn's model, science evolves ''through'' revolutions.

Polanyi–Kuhn debate

Although they used different terminologies, both Kuhn and believed that scientists' subjective experiences made science a relativized discipline. Polanyi lectured on this topic for decades before Kuhn published ''The Structure of Scientific Revolutions''. Supporters of Polanyi charged Kuhn with plagiarism, as it was known that Kuhn attended several of Polanyi's lectures, and that the two men had debated endlessly over before either had achieved fame. After the charge of plagiarism, Kuhn acknowledged Polanyi in the ''Second'' edition of ''The Structure of Scientific Revolutions''. Despite this intellectual alliance, Polanyi's work was constantly interpreted by others within the framework of Kuhn's paradigm shifts, much to Polanyi's (and Kuhn's) dismay.

Thomas Kuhn Paradigm Shift Award

In honor of his legacy, the "Thomas Kuhn Paradigm Shift Award" is awarded by the to speakers who present original views that are at odds with mainstream scientific understanding. The winner is selected based on the novelty of the viewpoint and its potential impact if it were to be widely accepted.


Kuhn was named a in 1954, and in 1982 was awarded the by the . He also received numerous honorary doctorates.


* Kuhn, T. S. '. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1957. * Kuhn, T. S. The Function of Measurement in Modern Physical Science. ''Isis'', 52 (1961): 161–193. * Kuhn, T. S. '. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962. * Kuhn, T. S. "The Function of Dogma in Scientific Research". pp. 347–69 in A. C. Crombie (ed.). ''Scientific Change'' (Symposium on the History of Science, University of Oxford, July 9–15, 1961). New York and London: Basic Books and Heineman, 1963. * Kuhn, T. S. ''The Essential Tension: Selected Studies in Scientific Tradition and Change''. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1977. * Kuhn, T. S. '. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987. * Kuhn, T. S. ''The Road Since Structure: Philosophical Essays, 1970–1993''. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.


Further reading

* , Peter Barker, and Xiang Chen. ''The Cognitive Structure of Scientific Revolutions'', Cambridge University Press, 2006. * . ''Thomas Kuhn''. Princeton and London: Princeton University Press and Acumen Press, 2000. * . ''Thomas Kuhn: A Philosophical History for Our Times''. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. * Matthew Edward Harris. ''The Notion of Papal Monarchy in the Thirteenth Century: The Idea of Paradigm in Church History.' Lampeter and Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2010. . * ''Reconstructing Scientific Revolutions: Thomas S. Kuhn's Philosophy of Science''. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993. * Jouni-Matti Kuukkanen, ''Meaning Changes: A Study of Thomas Kuhn's Philosophy''. AV Akademikerverlag, 2012. * . '. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018. * , The Myth of the Kuhnian Revolution. ''Sociological Theory'', Vol. 1, (1983), 293–305.

External links

* * James A. Marcum, " ttp://www.iep.utm.edu/kuhn-ts/ Thomas S. Kuhn (1922–1996), ''Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy'' * ttp://tech.mit.edu/V116/N28/kuhn.28n.html Thomas S. Kuhn(obituary, ' p. 9 vol 116 no 28, June 26, 1996)
Review in the New York Review of Books

Color Portrait

History of Twentieth-Century Philosophy of Science
BOOK VI: Kuhn on Revolution and Feyerabend on Anarchy – with free downloads for public use.
Thomas S. Kuhn, post-modernism and materialist dialectics
The Ashtray: The Ultimatum
(Part 1 f 5 parts, a critical view and memoir of Kuhn * Daniel Laskowski Tozzini
"Objetividade e racionalidade na filosofia da ciência de Thomas Kuhn"
* Thomas S. Kuhn Papers, MC 240. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Institute Archives and Special Collections, Cambridge, Massachusetts. * Maurício Cavalcante Rio
"Thomas S. Kuhn e a Construção Social do Conhecimento Científico

Thomas Kuhn on Information Philosopher
* {{DEFAULTSORT:Kuhn, Thomas Samuel 20th-century American Jews