The Continuity of Scientific Discovery and Its Communication: The Example of Michael Faraday

Alan Gross


This paper documents the cognitive strategies that led to Faraday’s first significant scientific discovery. For Faraday, discovery is essentially a matter seeing as, of substituting for the eye all possess the eye of analysis all scientists must develop. In the process of making his first significant discovery, Faraday learns to dismiss the magnetic attractions and repulsions he and others had observed; by means of systematic variations in his experimental set-up, he learns to see these motions as circular: it is the first indication that an electro-magnetic field exists. In communicating his discoveries, Faraday, of course, takes into consideration his various audiences’ varying needs and their differences in scientific competence; but whatever his audience, Faraday learns to convey what it feels like to do science, to shift from seeing to seeing as, from sight to insight.

Full Text: