30

By way of throat-clearing, what is Occam's razor? John Baez has a useful essay giving the history and some examples. William of Ockham's original formulation was Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily. In other words, don't assume the existence of something unless there is good evidence for it. Again quoting Baez, "In physics we use the razor to ...


17

In a word, yes, but only interpreting "western" broadly. The tradition of precise and systematic astronomical observations comes from ancient Babylonians, i.e. from Mesopotamia, and even Alexandria, where many scientists worked during Hellenistic times, is in the middle east. John Philoponus (c. 490 – 570) working there wrote things like "but this [view of ...


17

NO. See at least : William Gilbert with De Magnete, Magneticisque Corporibus, et de Magno Magnete Tellure (1600) Galileo Galilei with e.g. the Sidereus Nuncius (1610) William Harvey with Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus (1628) René Descartes with Discours de la méthode. Pour bien conduire sa raison, et chercher la vérité dans ...


11

As user njuffa has commented, my original answer was not strictly to the letter of the OP. Here are some other examples : Fermi's 1933 paper on the weak interaction. Gell-Mann's 1953 paper on the classification of elementary particles. Higgs' 1964 paper introducing the Higgs Boson/Field - described as unimaginative by the publisher. Ernst's 1966 paper on ...


11

Probably the most famous conflict that satisfies your requirements is the conflict between "Ptolemy system" and "Copernic system", though few people understand this even today:-) This conflict became so famous because of the intrusion of a non-scientific authority, that is catholic church. From the point of view of astronomy, there are two aspects: a) the ...


11

In the 1960s the mathematical structure of Turing degrees was conjectured to be rather simple and homogeneous. This was consistent with what was known at the time. It later turned out that the opposite is true in a sense: the Turing degrees are as complicated as can be. Details in Ambos-Spies and Fejer, History of degree theory.


11

It is a strange idea that scientific laws can be only expressed with algebraic means. The Greek did discover several scientific laws. The oldest one is attributed to Pythagoras himself: it relates the length of the string to its pitch. This seems to be the oldest scientific law ever discovered. More laws were discovered in Hellenistic times: the law of ...


10

Quite a famous example from modern physics deals with the inherent randomness of quantum theory. In the early years of quantum mechanics when the formulation in terms of wave functions was developed, the question of interpretation arose. Copenhagen interpretation, developed mainly by Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg became the most accepted of all the ...


10

A person's life and behavior are always shaped by a number of factors, not (in general) just one. I think it highly unlikely that any one of the three points you bring up is responsible for Grothendieck's success. At the same time, all of them may have contributed to his life. The point that I find singular about Alexander Grothendieck is his overarching ...


9

Usually Francis Bacon (1561-1626) is credited with "articulating the scientific method" in general, and not only "first in Europe", but just the first.


8

There were several layers of craft technology now partly superseded by pdflatex and friends. There were author's instructions for marking up manuscripts with type font indications, there were technical typists adept at using special math symbol shapes with their modified typewriters, there were Monotype operators who ran typesetting machines from the marked ...


7

Every scientific theory has some counter-examples or "discrepancies". But, in general, a "good" theory will not be rejected until a "better" new theory is available. "Little" discrepancies, like that involving Mercury's orbit were far less relevant that "big" successes like the correct prediction of the existence of a previously unseen planet; see ...


7

Euclid wrote an Optica (300 BC) — surely “Visual rays proceed in a straight line indefinitely” ranks with the best physical laws. So did Ptolemy (160 AD), and Hero wrote a Catoptrica (50 AD). Aristotle knew the principle of virtual work. Jim Holt’s physics don’t seem to fare much better than his math.


7

Hooke was not close (as far as we can judge from his surviving work) to what Newton accomplished. Yes, he conjectured the inverse square law. He understood correctly some simple qualitative features of the motion under this law. He probably performed some simple experiments suggesting these features. And he proposed to Newton to prove that the inverse square ...


6

To the contrary, Young's point was to disprove the then dominant Newton's corpuscular theory of light by demonstrating light's wave properties, see How did Young perform his double slit experiment? The first "quantum" version of the experiment, with emission-absorption events creating a dotted pattern on the back screen, was performed by Taylor in 1909, ...


6

First, the prediction of Neptune was a big win for science in the eyes of the general public. It was not exactly spotless though, especially in the eyes of the scientists. Here is from Kelley's How was Neptune Discovered?: "The world was excited by the find, for never before had mathematics predicted a natural object. This confidence in the results was ...


5

As mentioned in his obituary, Leigh Van Valen's evolutionary law (1973), referred to more commonly as the Red Queen Hypothesis, has been repeatedly rejected. So much in fact that he decided to create his own journal (Evolutionary Theory) to publish it. For those not familiar with it, the 'Red Queen Hypothesis' is an evolutionary model driven by ...


5

Another famous controversy was about the age of the Earth. It was found long ago that the temperature in the very deep mines increases with depth. Using the model that the Earth evolved from a hot state when the rocks were melted, and was cooling down ever since, one could estimate the age from the known temperature of melting of the rocks and the current ...


5

Of course, the exact definition of the scientific method is open to discussion (and the scientific method may be very different in different sciences, compare chemistry, astronomy, geology and mathematics, for example). The earliest account that I know of an experimental discovery is physics is credited to Pythagoras. According to the legend, he once ...


5

The standard book about Newton's life is Never at Rest by Richard Westfall. On my opinion it is a very good book, it covers his life in great detail, and gives a general overview of his activities (not only in physics) but in astronomy, history, theology, alchemy, and as the Mint administrator. On physics, the latest English translation of Principia by Cohen ...


5

Astronomers had to deal with experimental errors to parametrize their geometric models at least as early as Hipparchus, and possibly earlier. There are some techniques and ad hoc methods that can be seen in hindsight as dealing with them in Ptolemy's Almagest, he discusses interpolation, for example. Ptolemy's "massaging" of Hipparchus's data even became a ...


4

You could argue that there are two big issues that have been argued: Tobacco and lung cancer: This is really a sad one. For years, the tobacco companies insisted that there wasn't a connection between tobacco and all the medical issue smokers began to have. There were some good early papers that found links, but they didn't gain much support until warnings ...


4

This is too near a miss to my criteria not to mention it for completeness. In the early years of molecular genetics, it was only known that the genetic code used an alphabet of four different bases and encoded twenty amino acids. This sprouted several hypotheses on the design of the code, which were all able to explain what was experimentally known at that ...


4

Let me also add to the list the long conflict between the wave theory and corpuscular theory of light. First serious corpuscular theory was due to Newton (correct me if I am wrong here), it was published in his Opticks. Huygens and Hooke were developing wave theory. Soon after the publication of Principia Newton become an absolute authority, first in England ...


4

"The way to understand a mathematical problem is to express it in the mathematical world natural to it -that is, in the topos natural to it. Each topos has a natural cohomology, simply taking the category of abelian groups in that topos as the category of sheaves. The cohomology of that topos may solve the problem. In outline: 1) Find the natural world for ...


4

This citation, form Grothendieck himself, to me shows a little bit why, a part from him being exceptionally gifted, his approach to problems was radically different. He describes the process of solving a math problem as that of opening a nut: *The ... analogy that came to my mind is of immersing the nut in some softening liquid, and why not simply water? ...


4

Other bodies also do not obey Kepler's laws strictly. Only approximately. The most well-known exception is the Moon, not Mercury. The reasons of this were clear to Newton and to his readers. Kepler's laws describe the motion of TWO bodies. When a third (or more) bodies are taken into account, it is difficult to compute from the law of gravitation and the ...


4

Bayesian inference seeks to believe in that which has a high conditional probability as computed with Bayes's theorem. The problem with using $P\left( A|B\right)=P\left( B|A\right)\frac{P\left( A\right)}{P\left( B\right)}$ to compute the LHS is that, although the first factor on the RHS is often known, at least one of the RHS's other probabilities usually ...


4

My theoretical physics papers and thesis were written by hand, then typed on an IBM "golf ball" typewriter. The golf ball was so called because the type head was about the same size as a golf ball. The type heads were interchangeable with different fonts and symbols. Corrections were made using tippex. 40 years later, I'm still amazed at the skill of the ...


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