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How the Great Scientists Reasoned - 1st Edition - ISBN: 9780123984982, 9780123985040

How the Great Scientists Reasoned

1st Edition

The Scientific Method in Action

Author: Gary Tibbetts
Paperback ISBN: 9780323282673
Hardcover ISBN: 9780123984982
eBook ISBN: 9780123985040
Imprint: Elsevier
Published Date: 1st October 2012
Page Count: 176
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The scientific method is one of the most basic and essential concepts across the sciences, ensuring that investigations are carried out with precision and thoroughness. The scientific method is typically taught as a step-by-step approach, but real examples from history are not always given. This book teaches the basic modes of scientific thought, not by philosophical generalizations, but by illustrating in detail how great scientists from across the sciences solved problems using scientific reason. Examples include Christopher Columbus, Joseph Priestly, Antoine Lavoisier, Michael Faraday, Wilhelm Röntgen, Max Planck, Albert Einstein, and Niels Bohr. Written by a successful research physicist who has engaged in many studies and years of research, all in the attempt to extract the secrets of nature, this book captures the excitement and joy of research. The process of scientific discovery is as delightfully absorbing, as complex, and as profoundly human as falling in love. It can be a roller coaster ride of despairing valleys and exhilarating highs. This book sketches the powerful reasoning that led to many different discoveries, but also celebrates the "ah-ha moments" experienced by each scientist, letting readers share the thrilling instant when each scientist reached the critical revelation in his research.

Key Features

  • Places the scientific method in context using historical examples
  • Suitable for both scientists and non-scientists looking to better understand scientific reasoning
  • Written in an engaging style with clear illustrations and referencing


Appropriate for students and researchers from all disciplines who want to learn more about historical scientific reasoning.

Table of Contents



1. Introduction: Humanity’s Urge to Understand

2. Elements of Scientific Thinking: Skepticism, Careful Reasoning, and Exhaustive Evaluation Are All Vital

2.1 Science Is Universal

2.2 Maintaining a Critical Attitude

2.3 Reasoning

2.4 Evaluating Scientific Hypotheses

2.5 Science at the Frontier



3. Christopher Columbus and the Discovery of the “Indies”: It Can Be Disastrous to Stubbornly Refuse to Recognize That You Have Falsified Your Own Hypothesis



4. Antoine Lavoisier and Joseph Priestley Both Test the Befuddling Phlogiston Theory: Junking a Confusing Hypothesis May Be Necessary to Clear the Way for New and Productive Science



5. Michael Faraday Discovers Electromagnetic Induction but Fails to Unify Electromagnetism and Gravitation: It Is Usually Productive to Simplify and Consolidate Your Hypotheses



6. Wilhelm Röntgen Intended to Study Cathode Rays but Ended Up Discovering X-Rays: Listen Carefully When Mother Nature Whispers in Your Ear—She May Be Leading You to a Nobel Prize



7. Max Planck, the First Superhero of Quantum Theory, Saves the Universe from the Ultraviolet Catastrophe: Assemble Two Flawed Hypotheses About a Key Phenomenon into a Model That Fits Experiment Exactly and People Will Listen to You Even if You Must Revolutionize Physics



8. Albert Einstein Attacks the Problem “Are Atoms Real?” from Every Angle: Solving a Centuries-Old Riddle in Seven Different Ways Can Finally Resolve It



9. Niels Bohr Models the Hydrogen Atom as a Quantized System with Compelling Exactness, but His Later Career Proves that Collaboration and Developing New Talent Can Become More Significant than the Groundbreaking Research of Any Individual



10. Conclusions, Status of Science, and Lessons for Our Time

10.1 Conclusions from Our Biographies

10.2 What Thought Processes Lead to Innovation?

10.3 Is the Scientist an Outsider?

10.4 The Status of the Modern Scientific Enterprise

10.5 Lessons for Our Time

10.6 Can the Scientific Method Be Applied to Public Policy?

10.7 Why So Little Interest in Science?

10.8 Knowledge Is Never Complete



No. of pages:
© Elsevier 2012
1st October 2012
Paperback ISBN:
Hardcover ISBN:
eBook ISBN:

About the Author

Gary Tibbetts

Affiliations and Expertise

Physics Department, General Motors Research Laboratories (Retired), Warren, Michigan, USA


"…physicist Tibbetts (General Motors) humanizes the methods of several scientists, using an easy-to-read style that includes enough detail to satisfy the casual and the professional reader alike…Even readers who are familiar with many of these stories will gain new insights into the thought processes of some of the great scientists."--Choice, July 2013

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