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Thomas Samuel Kuhn
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Thomas Samuel Kuhn

Thomas Samuel Kuhn (July 18 1922-June 17 1996) wrote extensively on the history of science and developed several important notions in the philosophy of science.

Kuhn was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to Samuel L. Kuhn, an industrial engineer, and Annette Stroock. He obtained his bachelor's degree in physics from Harvard University in 1943, his master's in 1946 and Ph.D. in 1949, and taught a course in the history of science there from 1948 until 1956. After leaving Harvard, Kuhn taught at the University of California, Berkeley, being named Professor of the History of Science in 1961. In 1964 he joined Princeton University as the M. Taylor Pyne Professor of Philosophy and History of Science. In 1979 he joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as the Laurence S. Rockefeller Professor of Philosophy, remaining there until 1991.

He is most famous for his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (SSR), in which he presented the idea that science does not evolve gradually toward truth, but instead undergoes periodic revolutions which he calls "paradigm shifts." The enormous impact of Kuhn's work can be measured in the revolution it brought about even in the vocabulary of the history of science: besides "paradigm shifts," Kuhn raised the word "paradigm" itself from a linguists' term to its current broader meaning, coined the term normal science to refer to the relatively routine, day-to-day work of scientists working within a paradigm, and was largely responsible for the use of the term "scientific revolutions" in the plural, as against a single "Scientific Revolution" in the late Renaissance.

Kuhn was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 1954, and in 1982 was awarded the George Sarton Medal in the History of Science. He was also awarded numerous honorary doctorates.

He suffered cancer of the bronchial tubes for the last two years of his life and died Monday 17 June 1996. He was survived by his wife Jehane and his three children, Sarah, Elizabeth and Nathaniel.


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This article is part of The Contemporary Philosophers series
Analytic philosophers:
Simon Blackburn | Ned Block | David Chalmers | Patricia Churchland | Paul Churchland | Donald Davidson | Daniel Dennett | Jerry Fodor | Susan Haack | Jaegwon Kim | Saul Kripke | Thomas Samuel Kuhn | Bryan Magee | Ruth Barcan Marcus | Colin McGinn | Thomas Nagel | Robert Nozick | Alvin Plantinga | Karl Popper | Hilary Putnam | W. V. Quine | John Rawls | Richard Rorty | Roger Scruton | Peter Singer | John Searle | Charles Taylor
Continental philosophers:
Louis Althusser | Giorgio Agamben | Roland Barthes | Jean Baudrillard | Isaiah Berlin | Maurice Blanchot | Pierre Bourdieu | Hélène Cixous | Guy Debord | Gilles Deleuze | Jacques Derrida | Michel Foucault | Hans-Georg Gadamer | Jürgen Habermas | Werner Hamacher | Julia Kristeva | Henri Lefebvre | Claude Lévi-Strauss | Emmanuel Levinas | Jean-François Lyotard | Paul de Man | Jean-Luc Nancy | Antonio Negri | Paul Ricoeur | Michel Serres | Paul Virilio | Slavoj Žižek