Pierre Duhem

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Pierre Maurice Marie Duhem (10 June 186114 September 1916) French physicist and philosopher of science. At 11 he entered the College Stanislavs and in 1884 he published his first paper which was on electrochemical cells.

Duhem adopted an instrumentalist view of science. He gave his name to the Quine-Duhem thesis, which holds that for any given set of observations there are an innumerably large number of explanations. Thus empirical evidence cannot force the revision of a theory. He further observed that the failure of a theory to make accurate predictions implies a failure of the theory as a whole, not of a particular part. These views were later adopted by W. V. Quine.

He is also known for much work on the history of science in the Medieval period. This revolved most around the period in Europe from 1200 to the Reformation. This related to his strong Catholic faith which influenced almost every history he wrote. This intense religious devotion, combined with a sometimes disagreeable personality, earned him some enemies and he remains relatively obscure for this to today.


Les théories de la chaleur (1895)

Le mixte et la combinaison chimique. Essai sur l'évolution d'une idée (1902)

L'évolution de la mécanique (1902)

Les origines de la statique (1903)

Sozein ta phainomena. Essai sur la Notion de Théorie physique de Platon à Galilée (1908)

Traité de l'énergétique (1911)

  • STOFFEL (Jean-François), Pierre Duhem et ses doctorands: bibliographie de la littérature primaire et secondaire, Turnhout: Brepols, 1996, 325 p.
  • STOFFEL (Jean-François), Le phénoménalisme problématique de Pierre Duhem, Bruxelles, Académie royale de Belgique, 2002, 391 p.

External Reference

Pierre Maurice Marie Duhem By J J O'Connor and E F Robertson available at http://www-gap.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Duhem.htmlde:Pierre Duhem fr:Pierre Duhem