September 4th, 2012 by Hal Grossman
In 1956, a 33-year-old physics professor named Thomas Kuhn failed to get tenure at Harvard University. He found a job at Berkeley and, in 1962, published a short book that has become probably the most often cited work in academia in the 50 years since. One thing that’s remarkable about Kuhn’s book is that it’s not only highly cited by scientists, but also by social scientists and even humanists.
In this excellent overview, John Naughton of Britain’s Open University explains how The Structure of Scientific Revolutions upended the way people think about science and gave birth to a new field of study, the sociology of science. If you’ve ever come across the term “paradigm shift” to describe a revolution in the way that people think about something, you’ve come in contact with Kuhn’s ideas.
The continuing importance of Kuhn’s work is evidenced by the fact that the Hunter libraries own four copies of the book, and that in the Fall 2012 semester it’s assigned reading in three different courses. In fact, almost every CUNY library has the book. There are 50 copies of three editions of the book throughout the CUNY system.