Alan works in the history and philosophy of the physical
sciences and has published on seventeenth-century
physics and chemistry, nineteenth-century chemistry and
history of the
philosophically-oriented research includes symmetry in
physics, the nature of laws in physics and
His current research
challenges some received
wisdoms about the
His main project is
funded by an
ARC Discovery grant and is entitled ‘The
mechanisation of the world view or the emergence of
science as opposed to a world view?’.
focus on less well-researched aspects of the
Scientific Revolution, such as the emergence of chemistry and
hydrostatics is intended to illustrate the idea that
modern science involved the experimental investigation
of intermediate causes (like weight and pressure) rather
than the identification of ultimate causes (like atoms).
on the electromagnetic theory of
was granted .
to Lecturer and
then Senior Lecturer. He moved to the Science faculty
in 1986 as
Director of the
Unit for History and
Philosophy of Science, a position he held until his
retirement in 1999.
Upon retiring Alan became a Visiting Scholar in the
Department of Philosophy
(1999 to 2010) and Visiting Fellow in the
Center for Philosophy
University of Pittsburgh (2003
Alan is currently
Honorary Associate Professor
Unit for History and Philosophy of Science,
University of Sydney.
Alan was elected a Fellow of the
Australian Academy of Humanities in 1997 and in
was awarded a
by the Australian
Government for ‘Services to the Humanities in the area
of History and Philosophy of Science’.
Alan is a foundation member of the
international committee of
an organisation concerned with encouraging integration
of the history of science and the philosophy of science.
What is This Thing Called Science?
Available in nineteen languages,
and now in its fourth
What is This Thing Called Science?
(QUP 2013) has become an internationally
renowned teaching resource
in the history
and philosophy of science.
Each decade Alan Chalmers has
drawn on his experience as a teacher and researcher to
improve and update the text.
The most significant
feature of this new, fourth, edition is the addition of
an extensive postscript, in which Chalmers uses the
results of his recent research into the history of
atomism to illustrate and enliven key themes in the
philosophy of science. Identifying the qualitative
difference between knowledge of atoms as it figures in
contemporary science and metaphysical speculations about
atoms common in philosophy since the time of
proves to be a highly revealing and instructive way to
pinpoint key features of the answer to the question
‘What is this thing called science?'
"Why is a dry-sounding account of the
philosophy of science now in its fourth edition, since
originally appearing in 1976, and unblushingly
proclaimed a classic by Australia's leading academic
publisher? One reason is that this book has been
internationally hailed as the best available outline of
scientific method, that civilisation-defining way of
"Science and all its imperfections"
Sydney Morning Herald
"Successive editions have retained and refined its
clear, engaging and witty discussions of the most
important topics in the field, incorporating the best
new research in the field. This latest edition also adds
a valuable layer of grounding in the history of science,
particularly based on Chalmers' recent extensive
research on the history of atomism."
Professor of History and Philosophy of Science,
Department of History and Philosophy of Science,
University of Cambridge UK
The Scientist's Atom and the Philosopher's
Drawing on the results of his own scholarly
research as well as that of others Alan Chalmers offers
a comprehensive history of theories of
the atom from
Democritus to the twentieth century.
The Scientist's Atom and the Philosopher's Stone: How
Science Succeeded and Philosophy Failed to Gain
Knowledge of Atoms (Springer 2009) is not history for
its own sake. By critically reflecting on the various
versions of atomic theories of the past the author is
able to grapple with the question of what sets
scientific knowledge apart from other kinds of
knowledge, philosophical knowledge in particular.
Chalmers thereby engages historically with issues
concerning the nature and status of scientific knowledge
that were dealt with in a more abstract way in his
Is This Thing Called Science?, a book that has been a
standard text in philosophy of science for three decades
and which is available in nineteen languages.
Speculations about the fundamental structure of
to the seventeenth-century
mechanical philosophers and beyond are construed as
categorically distinct from atomic theories amenable to
experimental investigation and support and as
contributing little to the latter from a historical
point of view. The thesis will provoke historians and
philosophers of science alike and will require a
revision of a range of standard views in the history of
science and philosophy.
The book is key reading for students and scholars
History and Philosophy of Science
and will be
instructive for and provide a challenge to philosophers,
historians and scientists more generally.
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