•  9
    The tragedy of the canon; or, path dependence in the history and philosophy of science
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 89 63-73. 2021.
    We have previously argued that historical cases must be rendered canonical before they can plausibly serve as evidence for philosophical claims, where canonicity is established through a process of negotiation among historians and philosophers of science (Bolinska and Martin, 2020). Here, we extend this proposal by exploring how that negotiation might take place in practice. The working stock of historical examples that philosophers tend to employ has long been established informally, and, as a…Read more
  •  1
    Demystifying Manhattan
    Metascience 1-3. forthcoming.
  •  4
    The University of Chicago was the site of a remarkable ideological alignment after World War II. Its chancellor, Robert Maynard Hutchins, was one of mid-century America’s fiercest critics of science and of the moral stature of scientists. His administration nevertheless forged a détente with Chicago’s physical scientists in the process of establishing the Institutes for Basic Research, which consolidated the personnel and resources the Manhattan Project had brought to campus. Chicago’s left-lean…Read more
  •  3
    In 1934, Edward Uhler Condon, amid supervising graduate students and crafting a research program on atomic spectra, found time to publish an article in the United States Naval Institute Proceedings. “Food and the Theory of Probability” explained, from the standpoint of probability theory, something naval commissarymen had long known: to feed double the number of people, you need not quite double the recipe. “We interpret the effect as due to the statistical fluctuation in the amount of food desi…Read more
  •  4
    Solid state physics, the study of the physical properties of solid matter, was the most populous subfield of Cold War American physics. Despite prolific contributions to consumer and medical technology, such as the transistor and magnetic resonance imaging, it garnered less professional prestige and public attention than nuclear and particle physics. Solid State Insurrection argues that solid state physics was essential to securing the vast social, political, and financial capital Cold War physi…Read more
  •  32
    The contingency/inevitability (C/I) problem consists in questions about the extent to which science is contingent or inevitable, what parts of it are contingent or inevitable, and whether alternative scientific trajectories might be just as successful as the one we have. It is relatively new as a well-delineated object of philosophical inquiry, dating to Ian Hacking’s observation in The Social Construction of What? (1999) that the social construction movement raises questions about contingency a…Read more
  •  9
    The twentieth century enjoys a firm grip on our profession. Well over half the research articles published in this journal since 2000 devote significant attention to the period between the 1890s and the 1990s. Similar trends prevail in other leading publications. But this outpouring of scholarship alone does not create a collective sense of how historians of science should confront the twentieth century as an epoch. The synthetic reflection that established the scientific revolution as a histori…Read more
  •  15
    Why do similar scientific enterprises garner unequal public approbation? High energy physics attracted considerable attention in the late-twentieth-century United States, whereas condensed matter physics – which occupied the greater proportion of US physicists – remained little known to the public, despite its relevance to ubiquitous consumer technologies. This paper supplements existing accounts of this much remarked-upon prestige asymmetry by showing that popular emphasis on the mundane techno…Read more
  •  24
    New Straw for the Old Broom (review)
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 54. 2015.
    Relativity is one of the most overfished streams in the history of science. Albert Einstein has doubtless graced the covers of more monographs than any other scientist—possibly save Charles Darwin—in the decade since the 2005 centenary of his annus mirabilis. I was skeptical that Jimena Canales would be able land new catch from such thoroughly exploited waters. The Physicist and the Philosopher proved that skepticism misplaced. By exploring a decades-long feud that pitted Albert Einstein against…Read more
  •  61
    Is the Contingentist/Inevitabilist Debate a Matter of Degrees?
    Philosophy of Science 80 (5): 919-930. 2013.
    The contingentist/inevitabilist debate contests whether the results of successful science are contingent or inevitable. This article addresses lingering ambiguity in the way contingency is defined in this debate. I argue that contingency in science can be understood as a collection of distinct concepts, distinguished by how they hold science contingent, by what elements of science they hold contingent, and by what those elements are contingent upon. I present a preliminary taxonomy designed to c…Read more
  •  21
    Evaluating Hidden Costs of Technological Change
    Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology 19 (1): 1-25. 2015.
    This paper explores the process by which new technologies supplant or constrain cultural scaffolding processes and the consequences thereof. As elaborated by William Wimsatt and James Griesemer, cultural scaffolds support the acquisition of new capabilities by individuals or organizations. When technologies displace scaffolds, those who previously acquired capabilities from them come to rely upon the new technologies to complete tasks they could once accomplish on their own. Therefore, the would…Read more
  •  24
    Negotiating History: Contingency, Canonicity, and Case Studies
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 80. 2020.
    Objections to the use of historical case studies for philosophical ends fall into two categories. Methodological objections claim that historical accounts and their uses by philosophers are subject to various biases. We argue that these challenges are not special; they also apply to other epistemic practices. Metaphysical objections, on the other hand, claim that historical case studies are intrinsically unsuited to serve as evidence for philosophical claims, even when carefully constructed and …Read more