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2. Topics: History and Epistemology of Science at Summer School [Prof. Kragh, Denmark]

Start Date:
25. June 2015, 09:45
Finish date:
25. June 2015, 10:30
MESHS - Espace Baïetto



Methodology of History of Science as Exemplified by the Recent History of Cosmology


Abstract Course

History of science is a subject dealt with by a variety of authors, including not only professional historians of science but also practicing scientists, philosophers of science, general historians, journalists and writers of popular history. Although there is no single “correct” way to describe and analyze an episode or theme from the history of science, there are some ways that are better than others. In particular, when scientists act as (amateur) historians they often present a too narrow and stream-lined, and sometimes distorted picture of past science. The art of writing history of science evidently depends on the intended audience and should not be restricted to so-called scholarly history aimed primarily at other historians of science. The history of modern cosmology, meaning essentially cosmology in the twentieth century, is a case well suited to discuss the historiographical problems which historians of science need to address. Cosmology is a field with a broad public appeal and also one that invites philosophical and even theological reflections. Among other things, I want to discuss how and to which extent these wider issues should be part of history of cosmology. Another problem of a quite general historiographical nature that the case illustrates is the selection-priority problem, namely, the question of how to decide which events were important and which events were not. Finally I would like to use the case to say a few things about the danger but also the advantage of so-called presentist history of science.



  • H. Kragh, “Remarks on the historiography and philosophy of modern cosmology,” Danish Yearbook of Philosophy 32 (1997), 65-86.
  • H. Kragh, ”On modern cosmology and its place in science education.” Science & Education 20 (2011), 343-357. 
  • H. Kragh, Masters of the Universe: Conversations with Cosmologists of the Past. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.