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Title: Two rival programmes in 19th century classical electrodynamics : action-at-a-distance versus field theories
Author: Fricke, Haworth
ISNI:       0000 0001 3484 4891
Awarding Body: London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
Current Institution: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Date of Award: 1982
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The thesis is a historical case-study in which I.Lakatos's Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes is applied to 19th. Century classical electrodynamics. Two research programmes are appraised. One, the Action-at-a-distance programme, had as its hard core the theory that electromagnetic phenomena were the outcome of sources acting at a distance across empty space on each other. Its rival, the Field programme, had the hard core that electromagnetic phenomena were the outcome of behaviour by the space between the apparent sources. It is argued that the Action-at-a-distance programme was always the superior one of the two. This revision in the standard historical appraisal results from the use of Lakatos's methodology. The Action-at-a-distance programme developed progressively, through the theories of Ampere, Weber, and their successors, to a satisfactory and fairly complete account of the phenomena of electrodynamics. In contrast, the Field programme degenerated as it consisted of a sequence of ad hoc or heuristically ad hoc theories. Faraday, Maxwell, and Helmholtz vigorously criticised the Action-at-a-distance programme. These criticisms were extremely influential and some historians regard them as persuasive today. It is shown that these criticisms are entirely without merit and further that they could easily have been seen to be without merit at the time of their proposal. Finally, many subsidiary theses, advocated by writers in the history and philosophy of the development of classical electrodynamics, are critically assessed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Q Science (General)