In my philosophy of science class yesterday, we talked about Semmelweis and his efforts to figure out how to cut the rates of childbed fever in Vienna General Hospital in the 1840s. Before we dug into the details, I mentioned that Semmelweis is a historical figure who easily makes the Top Ten list of Great Moments in Scientific Reasoning. (At the very least, Semmelweis is discussed in no fewer than three of the readings, by three separate authors, assigned for the course.)
But this raises the question: what else belongs on the Top Ten list of Great Moments in Scientific Reasoning?
Given that such a list is the kind of thing you’d want to use to convey something about good patterns of scientific reasoning to folks who might not be good at recognizing them on their own, good candidates for inclusion ought to be clear enough that nonscientists can understand the inferential strategies on display.
My hunch is that the contenders for this list span many scientific disciplines — indeed, that each scientific field has at least one historical example of scientific reasoning its practitioners would put on this list.
So, who should join Semmelweis at the head table?