Jessica Riskin teaches History at Stanford. Her latest book is The Restless Clock: A History of the Centuries-Long Argument Over What Makes Living Things Tick. (July 2020)


Just Use Your Thinking Pump!

The Scientific Method: An Evolution of Thinking from Darwin to Dewey

by Henry M. Cowles
What is the scientific method, and when, where, and how did it become, as the kids say, a thing? Authoritative definitions of “the scientific method” often state that it consists of a set of procedures including observation, experimentation, and the formation and testing of hypotheses by inductive and deductive reasoning. Such accounts, as a rule, ascribe science’s successes to the application of these procedures ever since the seventeenth century and the work of people such as Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton. But neither Bacon nor Newton nor anyone else in the seventeenth century would have recognized the phrase; moreover, neither would have agreed with current standard definitions.