"Paradigm Shifts Across the Ages"

Location: Martin Wood Lecture Theatre, Department of Physics

Date: Saturday 8 June 2019

Time: 10:30 - 17:00


The history of physics can be viewed as consisting of major paradigm shifts followed by decades and even centuries working through the consequences of the dominating paradigm. As examples, the Copernican revolution overtook the millennium-old Ptolemaic system of astronomy, and likewise Newton's mechanics replaced the ancient Aristotelian system. More recently, the advent of special relativity and quantum mechanics superceded the classical ideas of time, space and matter. This conference will examine how physics has developed from antiquity to the present day through Kuhn's concept of paradigm shifts.


The programme for the day is below:

MORNING CHAIR: Dr Jim Baggott (author of "Farewell to Reality: How Fairytale Physics Betrays the Search for Scientific Truth")

10.30 am WELCOME

10.40 am Professor Liba Taub (University of Cambridge) - Paradigms in the Eye of the Beholder: Aristotle, Ptolemy and Copernicus [Video]

11.30 am Professor Rob Iliffe (University of Oxford) - Newtonianism: One Paradigm Shift or Many? [Video]

12.20 pm Professor Frank James (The Royal Institution) - Electric Paradigms from Volta to Maxwell [Video]


AFTERNOON CHAIR: Professor Daphne Hampson (University of Oxford)

2.15 pm Dr Stefan Weigert (University of York) - Relativity and Quantum Theory: Under the Spell of Today's Paradigms [Video]

3.05 pm Professor John Preston (University of Reading) - Kuhn's Paradigms and Their Detractors [Video]


4.30 pm SUMMARY OF THE DAY'S PROCEEDINGS - Professor John Heilbron (University of Oxford/University of California, Berkeley) [Video]

There will be a conference dinner at St Cross in the evening following the end of the conference with an
after-dinner talk by Professor Olivier Richon (Royal College of Art) on the paradigm shift in art and the representation of images caused by the invention of the camera.