The nineteenth century was a formative period for electromagnetism and electrodynamics. Hans Christian Orsted’s groundbreaking discovery of the interaction between electricity and magnetism in 1820 inspired a wave of research, led to the science of electrodynamics, and resulted in the development of electromagnetic theory. Remarkably, in response, Andre-Marie Ampere and Michael Faraday developed two incompatible, competing theories. Although their approaches and conceptual frameworks were fundamentally different, together their work launched a technological revolution—laying the foundation for our modern scientific understanding of electricity—and one of the most important debates in physics, between electrodynamic action-at-a-distance and field theories.
In this foundational study, Friedrich Steinle compares the influential work of Ampere and Faraday to reveal the prominent role of exploratory experimentation in the development of science. While this exploratory phase was responsible for decisive conceptual innovations, it has yet to be examined in such great detail. Focusing on Ampere’s and Faraday’s research practices, reconstructed from previously unknown archival materials, including laboratory notes, diaries, letters, and interactions with instrument makers, this book considers both the historic and epistemological basis of exploratory experimentation and its importance to scientific development.
It is both Steinle's and his translator, Alex Levine's credit that the complex weave of historical narrative with philosophical reflection is achieved to the degree that Exploratory Experiments an serve as both an introductory text to those relatively unfamiliar with this well-known episode in the history of science as well as a fascinating and challenging account for experts. . . . Steinle's book is important because it demonstrates the importance of historical investigation as a means of making visible a very poorly understood but fundamentally important kind of experimental work.
It is high time that Friedrich Steinle's original study, which introduces, develops, and defends the concept of exploratory experimentation, becomes available to an English-speaking audience. This book is a powerful illustration of how history of science can be a valuable resource for philosophical thought.
This is an extraordinary book, destined to be a classic in several disciplines. Steinle is one of the pioneers responsible for introducing the concept of exploratory experimentation into the philosophy of science.
English readers can now appreciate Steinle's philosophical and historical insights as well as a wealth of freshly uncovered archival material thanks to an excellent translation by Alex Levine.
. . . an impeccable, overdue English translation. . . Exploratory Experiments displays a tenacious commitment to understanding Ampere and Faraday's investigative practice, guided impressively by a harmonious blend of historical integrity and philosophical sensibility, not to mention archival ingenuity.
Friedrich Steinle is professor of history of science at the Technical University of Berlin and president of the German Society for History of Science, Medicine, and Technology.
Alex Levine is professor of philosophy at the University of South Florida and editor of the journal Perspectives on Science. He is coauthor of From Man to Ape and Darwinistas He has published translations from German, French, and Spanish, including Paul Hoyningen-Huene’s Reconstructing Scientific Revolutions and Formal Logic: A Philosophical Approach.learn more
Alex Levine is professor of philosophy at the University of South Florida and editor of the journal Perspectives on Science. He is coauthor of From Man to Ape and Darwinistas! He has published translations from German, French, and Spanish, including Paul Hoyningen-Huene’s Reconstructing Scientific Revolutions and Formal Logic: A Philosophical Approach.learn more