Hélène Metzger on Precursors: A Historian and Philosopher of Science Confronts Her Evil Demon

Chimisso, Cristina and Jardine, Nicholas (2021). Hélène Metzger on Precursors: A Historian and Philosopher of Science Confronts Her Evil Demon. HOPOS: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science, 11(2) (Early access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/715155

Abstract

The historian and philosopher of science Hélène Metzger (1889–1944) delivered “Le rôle des précurseurs dans l’évolution de la science” in 1939 as a lecture of the Institut d’Histoire des Sciences et Techniques of the University of Paris, later published in their journal Thalès. In this talk, Metzger not only attacks the notion of “precursor” and a history of science focused on “great men” and their discoveries, but also makes a strong case for the philosophical value of the history of science. We here offer a translation of this witty and subtle essay in the historiography of science, followed by our commentary.

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