Memoir

Thomas S.Kuhn

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

July 18, 1922 - June 17, 1996


Election Year: 1979
Scientific Discipline: Social and Political Sciences
Membership Type: Member

Thomas Samuel Kuhn was a historian, philosopher, and physicist who studied how important scientific discoveries actually happened, given their cultural context and the practical limitations of the time. In his most widely celebrated book, "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions," Kuhn characterized the conditions in which new discoveries lead to paradigm shifts that have wide-reaching effects on the process of science and our understanding of the world.

Kuhn studied physics at Harvard University and completed his undergraduate degree in 1943. While completing his graduate studies in physics at Harvard, he was influenced by the president of the university, who believed that all science courses should be taught with a historical perspective. Kuhn finished his PhD in 1949 and taught at Harvard before accepting a professorship at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1956. He was a professor at UC Berkeley until 1964; then at Princeton University from 1964 until 1979; and finally, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1979 until his retirement.

Kuhn held numerous honorary degrees and memberships in honorary societies, including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and others.

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