Mary B. Hesse
Mary Brenda Hesse
15 October 1924
|Died||2 October 2016 (aged 91)|
|Education||Imperial College, University College London|
|Occupation||Philosopher of Science|
|Employer||University of London, University of Cambridge|
From 1949, she studied at Imperial College London, where she received a bachelor's degree in mathematics in 1945, followed by a PhD in electron microscopy in 1948. She earned a master's degree in 1949 from University College London. Hesse lectured on mathematics at Royal Holloway College from 1947 to 1951, and at the University of Leeds from 1951 to 1955. From 1955 to 1959 she taught philosophy and history of science at the University of London (the subject of her 1949 UCL master's degree). In 1960 she was appointed to a lectureship in the same subject at the University of Cambridge, and in 1968 to a readership. Hesse was a Fellow of Wolfson College from its beginning in 1965, and served as its Vice-President from 1976 to 1980. From 1975 until her early retirement in 1985, she remained at Cambridge as Professor of Philosophy of Science.
Hesse's work has focused on the philosophical interpretation of logic and scientific methods, as well as to the principles of the natural and social sciences. She suggested a scientific methodology based on an analogical modelling approach. She distinguishes those models in formal and material, as well as positive, negative and neutral analog properties.
Models and Analogies in Science
Her publication Models and Analogies in Science is a widely cited and accessible introduction to the topic. Hesse argues, contra Duhem, that models and analogies are integral to understanding scientific practice in general and scientific advancement in particular, especially how the domain of a scientific theory is extended and how theories generate genuinely novel predictions. Examples of such models include the famous billiard ball model of the dynamical theory of gases and models of light based on analogies to sound and water waves.
Hesse thought that, in order help us understand a new system or phenomenon, we will often create an analogical model that compares this new system or phenomenon with a more familiar system or phenomenon. In her book, Hesse makes a distinction between three types of analogues in scientific models:
- Positive analogies,
- Negative analogies, and
- Neutral analogies.
Positive analogies are those features which are known or thought to be shared by both systems, negative analogies are those features which are known or thought to be present in one system but absent in the other, and neutral analogies are those features whose status as positive or negative analogies is uncertain at present.
Neutral analogies are by far the most interesting of the three types of analogies, for they suggest ways to test the limits of our models, guiding the way for scientific advancement. In the late 19th century, for example, the idea that light-waves have a physical medium called the luminiferous ether would have been best thought of as a neutral analogy with water and sound waves. Eventually, due to a null result in the Michelson–Morley and Trouton–Noble experiments, as well as other similar experiments, this analogy came to be accepted as a negative analogy - we now accept that light has no physical medium, unlike sound and water waves. The discovery of this negative analogy led to further advances, including the unification of electromagnetic theory with optics, and the eventual creation of new and more informative models of light.
- (1954) Science and the Human Imagination: Aspects of the History and Logic of Physical Science; London, England: SCM Press
- (1961) Forces and Fields: A Study of Action at a Distance in the History of Physics; London, England: Thomas Nelson and Sons
- (1974) The Structure of Scientific Inference; London, England: Macmillan, and Berkeley, California: University of California Press
- (1986) with Michael A. Arbib, The Construction of Reality; Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press
- (1963) Models and Analogies in Science; London, England: Sheed and Ward (1966 revised ed.; Notre Dame, Indiana: Notre Dame University Press)
- (1980) Revolutions and Reconstructions in the Philosophy of Science; Brighton, England: The Harvester Press, and Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press
Academic papers/book chapters, a selection:
- "Models and Matter" in Quanta and Reality: A Symposium, S. E. Toulmin (ed.), Hutchinson: London 1962, pp. 49-57.
- "Action at a Distance" in The Concept of Matter, E. McMullin (ed.), University of Notre Dame Press: Notre Dame (IN) 1963, pp. 372-39
- "Analogy and Confirmation Theory" Philosophy of Science, vol. 31, no. 4, 1964, pp. 319–327
- "An Inductive Logic of Theories" in Analyses of Theories and Methods of Physics and Psychology, Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol. IV, M. Radner and S. Winokur (eds), University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis 1970, pp. 164–80
- "In Defence of Objectivity", Proceedings of the British Academy, Volume 58, 1974
(Full Annotated Bibliography by Matteo Collodel).
- Hallberg, Margareta (2017-06-01). "Revolutions and Reconstructions in the Philosophy of Science: Mary Hesse (1924–2016)". Journal for General Philosophy of Science. 48 (2): 161–171. doi:10.1007/s10838-017-9364-1. ISSN 1572-8587.
- "Mary Hesse". The Times. 2016-12-31. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 2019-03-19.
- "Professor Mary Hesse (1924–2016) | HPS". www.hps.cam.ac.uk. Retrieved 2019-03-19.
- "Professor Mary Hesse | Wolfson College Cambridge". web.archive.org. 2016-03-06. Retrieved 2019-03-19.
- "Mary Brenda Hesse". The Gifford Lectures. 2014-08-18. Retrieved 2019-03-19.
- "The Construction of Reality". The Gifford Lectures. 2014-08-18. Retrieved 2019-09-16.
- Collodel, Matteo. "Website in Honour of Mary Hesse". Website in Honour of Mary Hesse. Retrieved 2019-09-16.
- Website in Honour of Mary Hesse by Matteo Collodel.
- Models and Meaning Change: A Brief Introduction to the Work of Mary Hesse, (2017) Steven French (Open Access) [the opening to a special issue of works on and by Mary B. Hesse for The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science]
- Hesse, Mary Brenda, 1924-2016 (2018) Nicholas Jardine, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the British Academy, XVII pp. 19–28
- Psillos, Stathis (2016) The Realist Turn in the Philosophy of Science. [Preprint] (includes some discussion of Hesse's work on scientific realism and the history of science)
- Obituary of Mary Hesse in 'Whewell's Gazette' (blog dedicated to the History and Philosophy of Science)
- E-Books by Mary B. Hesse available for loan at Open Library
- Portrait of an Academic [Mary Hesse] by Peter Mennim (Archived by Wayback Machine)