Dr. Cogan Reflection

This course is the first time I have learned about how oxygen or really any element was discovered. I found the story of oxygen to be particularly interesting. Obviously we do not learn about phlogiston in science courses today, because it was determined not to exist. However, I think that story is very important. It’s easy to look back and say that scientists were wrong about phlogiston for so long because they didn’t have the resources, knowledge base, and communication abilities that we have today. But, I think it serves as an important lesson that science is not always perfect and that is why we continue to test and improve different theories. It was also interesting to see the two very different approaches to researching oxygen. Antoine Lavoisier was very meticulous with his measurements. He would observe a process, create a hypothesis, test his idea, and take detailed notes and measurements along the way. Joseph Priestly on the other hand, did more qualitative, than quantitative work. This included seeing how long a mouse could survive in fixed air compared to oxygen and inhaling the mysterious air (oxygen) himself. I also liked our discussion about how we define scientific revolutions and those involved in them. It was interesting to hear the different perspectives on declaring scientists to be geniuses. Today, hard work is valued more than raw intellect and often genius has a negative connotation. The term often conjures images of isolated individuals with no social skills. I enjoyed hearing different points of view on the subject and getting the opportunity to examine my own perspective.

One thought on “Dr. Cogan Reflection

  1. Yes, I was curious if we had uncovered a generational divide on the assignment of importance to either genius or hard work…I’m glad the class has given you exposure to phlogiston for the reasons you state. Thomas Kuhn in his famous would say that scientific revolutions are invisible to us since we accept the current paradigm without fully understanding where it came from.

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