Eric Scerri speaking in the UK

ERIC SCERRI (Department of Chemistry, UCLA) lecturing on his new book

A Tale of Seven Scientists and a New Philosophy of Science


September 2nd

University College, London. Plenary Speaker at Graduate Conference in Philosophy of Science

16.00 – 17.00 pm

September 5th

Mini-workshop on history and philosophy of chemistry

University of Bristol, Department of Philosophy, 1.15 pm.!msg/fa.philos-l/-j-E5N8PoCY/ksm85N55BAAJ

followed by Geoffrey Blumenthal (Bristol) speaking on the Chemical Revolution

September 8th, University of Cambridge,

Department of History and Philosophy of Science,

4.00 pm Seminar Room 1.

A Tale of Seven Scientists and a New Philosophy of Science

Eric Scerri


In A Tale of Seven Scientists, Eric Scerri presents a new philosophy of science in the grand tradition that has recently been deemed impossible. Scerri believes that science develops as a holistic entity, which is fundamentally unified even though the individuals making up the body scientific are frequently in competition among each other. He draws inspiration from a conviction that the world is essentially unified in the way that has been described by both Western and Eastern philosophers.

Paradoxically, Scerri makes his case by considering in great detail the work of seven virtually unknown chemists and physicists who were among the founders of modern atomic theory. He sees these individuals as missing links in the view that science progresses as a whole rather than through the contributions of a few outstanding personalities. Scerri believes that scientific advances take place when individual scientists propose an idea that is then picked up and modified by others. For example the English physicist John Nicholson proposed that angular momentum of electrons should be quantized. This idea was one of a few key ingredients in the work of Niels Bohr one of the fathers of modern atomic physics.

Scerri likens this process to evolutionary developments in the natural world and random mutations. Those mutations that are beneficial to any particular living entity are propagated while those that are not are eliminated. Scerri claims that science is similarly conducting evolutionary trials, which gradually further the overall progress of the body-scientific. The process occurs of it's own accord, and is later seen as the result of a series of abrupt discoveries by particularly gifted individuals. But this picture is the result of neglecting all the intermediate partial steps that are taken by countless unknown scientists. Similarly Scerri wants to speak of a unified body-scientific which he calls Sci-Gaia by analogy with James Lovelock's Gaia or the notion of a self-regulating earth.

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