Sunday, January 31, 2010

Who discovered Photosynthesis? A footnote to Kuhn

On Friday at the Free University Brussels I participated in the lively public defense of the dissertation, *From Sunlight to Insight: Jan IngenHousz , the discovery of photosynthesis & science in the light of ecology*, by Geerdt Magiels, a well known science writer and radio commentator in Belgium. According to Magiels Jan Ingenhousz (1730-1799), a good friend of Ben Franklin and Lavoisier, is the largely forgotten discoverer of photosynthesis. Magiels tells the story of the role of the eudiometer as well as the many-sided controversies between Priestley, Senebier, and Ingenhousz in their epistemic, political, and social contexts.
A fact worth knowing is that Ingenhousz discovered photosynthesis (a term only invented a hundred years later) while working with phlogiston theory, but over the course of a decade while continuing to defend his discovery turned himself into a follower of Lavoisier's new chemistry. It turns out that Priestley's response to Lavoisier was a-typical (and related to Priestley's views on the economic basis of science).

1 comment:

  1. Are there any links to the dissertation? Sounds very interesting.