SEEDS OF DISCOVERY by W. I. B. Beveridge


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Following an earlier study, The Art of Scientific Investigation (rev. 1957), Beveridge here provides a kind of primer for the general reader on what science and scientists are all about. A biologist who has worked on animal diseases at laboratories in Australia, England, France, and the US, Beveridge chooses many of his examples from the medical and biological fields. He describes the ""Eureka"" effect, chance, and serendipity (accompanied by sagacity) in scientific discovery, citing diverse examples--from observation of the association between cataracts in newborns with rubella infection of the mother; to Penzias' and Wilson's unexpected discovery of background microwave radiation in the universe, considered evidence for the original Big Bang. On the whole, Beveridge's approach is eclectic. He is fond of quoting Monod, Koestler, Eccles, Medawar. He stoutly defends a ""systems"" approach as a necessary corrective and complement to the reductionism so often criticized in science. Beveridge himself prefers to remain somewhat intuitive and unspecific in describing the ""scientific method."" He criticizes Popper for avoiding all discussion of scientific discovery in favor of a ""hypothetico-deductive"" approach which emphasizes falsification of hypotheses--too negative an approach for Beveridge. In his attempt to characterize modes of thinking in science, he goes so far as to list criteria for creative leaders: intellectual curiosity, enthusiasm, independence of mind, etc. And, concerned about the abuse of terms like ""basic"" and ""applied,"" he provides definitions for variants on these as well: problem-oriented research, goal-oriented, developmental. He worries even more about pseudoscience, dishonesty, and antiscientific attitudes--charging society itself with the ultimate responsibility for dealing with ethical issues. A sensible, essentially optimistic viewpoint, embodied in a book whose level of writing and many examples are well suited to a lay or student audience.

Pub Date: May 18th, 1981
ISBN: 0393335852
Publisher: Norton