Writing a Pedagogical History of Mathematical Physics

in Masters of Theory

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2003 | ISBN: 9780226873749
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226873763 | DOI:
Writing a Pedagogical History of Mathematical Physics

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Cambridge University for many years during the Victorian era was one of Europe's foremost training grounds in mathematical physics. From the cosmic sciences of celestial mechanics, thermodynamics, and electromagnetism to the humbler dynamics of the billiard ball, the boomerang, and the bicycle, the mathematics academics at Cambridge considered themselves the mathematical masters of every known phenomenon of the physical universe. This study aims to deepen the understanding of the nature and historical origins of that expertise by exploring it from the perspective of pedagogy or training. The subject of scientific education has received considerable attention from historians over recent years, yet few studies have made any sustained attempt to use the educational process as a means of investigating scientific knowledge. Little attempt has been made to provide a historiography of the rise of modern mathematical physics in terms of the formation and interaction of communities of trained practitioners. This failure to explore the relationship between learning and knowing is surprising, moreover, as it is now several decades since philosophers of science such as Thomas Kuhn and Michel Foucault drew attention to the importance of training both in the production of knowing individuals and in the formation of the scientific disciplines.

Keywords: scientific; Cambridge university; mathematical physics; historical origins; learning

Chapter.  19326 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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