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Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact

4.3 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226253251
ISBN-10: 0226253252
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

'To many scientists, just as to many historians and philosophers of science...facts are things that simply are the case; they are discovered through properly passive observation of natural reality. To such views Fleck replies that facts are invented, not discovered. Moreover, the appearance of scientific facts as discovered things is itself a social construction: a made thing...A work of transparent brilliance: one of the most significant contributions toward a thoroughly sociological account of scientific knowledge.'

About the Author

Robert K. Merton (1910-2003) was University Professor Emeritus at Columbia University, the first George Sarton Professor of the History of Science at the University of Ghent (Belgium), and a leading figure in the sociology of science. Among his classic works in this area are On the Shoulders of Giants and Science, Technology, and Society in 17thCentury England.

Bradley has been a consultant for the Italian Trade Commission, UNIDO and for projects sponsored by the Italian Foreign Ministry.

Thomas S. Kuhn (1922 96) was the Laurence Rockefeller Professor Emeritus of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His books include The Essential Tension; Black-Body Theory and the Quantum Discontinuity, 1894 1912; and The Copernican Revolution.

Thomas S. Kuhn (1922 96) was the Laurence Rockefeller Professor Emeritus of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His books include The Essential Tension; Black-Body Theory and the Quantum Discontinuity, 1894 1912; and The Copernican Revolution.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 222 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press (August 15, 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226253252
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226253251
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #254,138 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I first encountered Fleck's work while I was a doctoral student at NYU. The clarity and orginality of his thoughts completely captivated me. This work is truly one which has changed my life and my way of thinking. Fleck was indeed a pioneer and prophet--I continually re-read "Genesis & Development of A Scientific Fact," each time gaining greater insight and appreciation for its depth and scope. Fleck's monograph is truly an original and groundbreaking tour de force--mandatory reading from a true (but sadly overlooked) genious.
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Format: Paperback
I first read Genesis & Development of A Scientific Fact while I was a graduate student at New York University. While the work was admittedly a challenging one, it was, without doubt, one of the most truly original, thought-changing works I've ever read. Fleck was, in my opinion, a true visionary who forwarded an extremely provactive thesis about the origin of scientific "facts." Fleck's monograph is high on my short list of "must read" intellectual works. Other similar works worth reading include: Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, and Giambattista Vico, The New Science.
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If you thought scientific knowledge was clear, objective, and unbiased, but fortunately became enlightened by your readings of Kuhn, think again!! Rediscovered by Kuhn himself, Fleck exposes in a brief, very-well illustrated monogrpah, how facts -such as the apparently objective Wassermann reaction for syphilis- are constructed, not passively discovered. From medieval magic to modern medicine, the concept of syphilis has been transformed. I urge you to read Fleck's work and evaluate for yourself why he anticipated his time. Enjoy!
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Review of Ludwik Fleck GENESIS AND DEVELOPMENT OF A SCIENTIFIC FACT

For those interested in the history of science—even those interested in other disparate fields such as general historiography, science, medicine, sociology, anthropology, psychology, linguistics, geology, areas of study that strive to be as objective as possible—this book is an absolute requirement for thoughtful reading! The book should be classified as belonging to the field of epistemology; it might also be seen as a contribution to the study of ethno-semantics.

Among the most important features of the book are concepts such as “thought style” (Denkstihl) and “thought collective” (Denkkollektiv) which seem to have socio-psychological implications for the development of concepts that are later recognized as facts. The case study for the entire work is the study of syphilis and the Wassermann reaction that eventually came to anchor the work on syphilis in modern medical archives. But what is a “thought collective”? Kuhn, himself, describes it as follows: “Put briefly, a thought collective seems to function as an individual mind writ large because many people possess it (or are possessed by it).” (p. x). Fleck attempted to understand how a fact began and how it developed under the influence of the styles of thought throughout the history of the fact’s evolution.

I found that reading this book was difficult. There are several reasons for this. First, the very title has something of a “shock” value! Isn’t a fact, a fact? Well, if one reads this book it isn’t so straight forward. But that is what makes this book so significant.

Second, this is an English translation from the original German. One of the translators, Thaddeus J.
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If you are an aspiring medical research scientist and lucky enough to have been directed to, or to have stumbled onto, this book, consider yourself blessed. It is indeed what other reviewers have described as "transformative." And, more. It is, really, a piece of art, derived from the mind of - what I assume to have been - a truly extraordinary man. Just to sit at his feet and listen for awhile will be a joy, despite the work you will need to put into it. And, work it will be. As the book was originally written in a rather convoluted style, and then translated from the German, I suspect you will find it one of the most difficult reads of your career. Nevertheless, I implore you to push on. Your reward will be to become an initiate within a group of philosopher scientists who can say that they have finally begun to understand the true nature of scientific discovery.
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This book is reportedly a classic. It is a translation from German with a forward by Thomas Kuhn, who admits to profiting from reading it before writing his THE STRUCTURE OF SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTIONS. It is difficult, but contains the overall idea that a community of scholars, with similar expertise produce knowledge as we know it, as opposed to singular individuals. For the science philosopher.
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