10 Greatest Ideas in the History of Science

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Scientific Revolutions

In his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn argued that science, instead of progressing gradually in small steps as is commonly believed, actually moves forward in awkward leaps and bounds. The reason for this is that established theories are difficult to overturn, and contradictory data is often dismissed as merely anomalous. However, at some point, the evidence against the theory becomes so overwhelming that it is forcefully displaced by a better one in a process that Kuhn refers to as a "paradigm shift." And in science, even the most widely accepted ideas could, someday, be considered yesterday's dogma.

Yet, there are some concepts which are considered so rock solid, that it is difficult to imagine them ever being replaced with something better. What's more, these concepts have fundamentally altered their fields, unifying and illuminating them in a way that no previous theory had done before.

So, what are these ideas? Compiling such a list would be a monumental task, mostly because there are so many good ones to choose from. Thankfully, Oxford chemistry professor Peter Atkins has done just that in his 2003 book Galileo's Finger: The Ten Great Ideas of Science. Dr. Atkins' breadth of scientific knowledge is truly impressive, and his ten choices are excellent. Though this book was written with a popular audience in mind, it can be quite incomprehensible in places, even for people with a background in science. Still, we highly recommend it.

Read on to discover the ten greatest ideas in the history of science.

Source: Galileo's Finger: The Ten Great Ideas of Science by Peter Atkins

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