Talk:Thomas Kuhn

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Some article and talk content moved[edit]

I shifted a lot of text - the bit that was just about the book - from this entry to The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. So I've shifted the Talk: text from here to Talk: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions too. - David Gerard 22:14, Jan 19, 2004 (UTC)

Cover Picture[edit]

I do not understand why Wikipedia article on Kuhn shows the book of Alexander Bird (with Kuhn's photo on it) instead of Kuhn's photo alone? Such an approach is, first of all, highly biased towards one (for some philosophers, not very convincing) interpretation of Kuhn. Second, it promotes this very interpretation as the "standard" one - again highly unreflected approach. Thirdly, I am very surprised that this issue hasn't been brought up before :-/ RenuRenu (talk) 00:05, 25 October 2008 (UTC)Renu

—Preceding unsigned comment added by RenuRenu (talkcontribs) 21:42, 24 October 2008 (UTC) 

Normal science[edit]

Currently this article links to normal science, but this in turn is a redirect right back to here. This should be fixed. Either an actual article on normal science should be started, or the link here should be removed and the term sufficiently explained in this article. -- Timwi 19:56, 6 Feb 2004 (UTC)

Good call. I've replaced the redirect with a stub. If no one else gets around to writing the article in the next month or so, I'll dig out my copy of Kuhn and try to write something useful. -- Jmabel 23:43, 6 Feb 2004 (UTC)
Thanks! :-) — Timwi 20:56, 25 Feb 2004 (UTC)


I imagine that the recently added material about family, added anonymously without citation, is probably true, but I'd be a lot more comfortable if it were verified by a registered user. -- Jmabel | Talk 21:05, Mar 13, 2005 (UTC)

I suggest deletion. That sort of thing belongs in an obituary, not an encyclopaedia article. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Paulromney (talkcontribs) 11:00, 31 January 2007 (UTC).
...But fortunately in their greater wisdom, the stewards of Wikipedia do not harbor such discriminatory prejudice against unregistered users.
Meanwhile this article has almost nothing about the man named Khun other than his CV and work. Compare to say; Albert Einstein. ...see men, not gods.
-- (talk) 17:29, 22 December 2011 (UTC)Doug Bashford
There is no problem with adding material about his life; it just needs to be sourced from a written biography or newspapers or interviews. That anonymous user added it all without citing a single source. --Alatari (talk) 20:40, 23 December 2011 (UTC)
Perhaps I'm wrong but I think wiki policy suggests that "without citation [but] is probably true," is not sufficient for grounds for removal, nor its consideration. However this is not true should it be reasonably challenged. I am certain that is true for the lead section. I'm also certain about that greater wisdom of the founders and stewards of Wikipedia.
-- (talk) 03:24, 2 April 2014 (UTC)Doug Bashford


Recent change noted: The phrase "scientific revolutions", previously linked to "scientific revolution" (which was wrong: that's specifically the Copernican Revolution), is now linked to "paradigm shift", which also fails to discuss the term, but probably should. -- Jmabel | Talk 15:50, Apr 27, 2005 (UTC)

Hanson influence?[edit]

The article currently makes it sound like Norris Hanson was a huge and major influence on Kuhn's work. My skimming through the footnotes of Structure though doesn't turn him up once. In the preface, Kuhn explicitly lists only the following people as his intellectual influences for the book (his lists a few other people for helping him edit drafts, including Feyerabend, but I don't think that's likely the same thing meant here):

So, I guess what I'm asking is -- are there grounds for highlighting Hanson above all these others? Is this an actor attribution or an analyst one? I think this should be made more clear if we're talking about his philosophical influences. --Fastfission 19:05, 26 Jun 2005 (UTC)

I found a reference to Hanson on page 113 of the 3rd edn: "N.R. Hanson, in particular, has used gestalt demonstrations to elaborate some of the same consequences of scientific belief that concern me here." But that's all he says on that page.. --Fastfission 19:29, 26 Jun 2005 (UTC)

The two most consistently mentioned influences, through The Essential Tension and The Road Since Structure, are Ludwik Fleck and Jean Piaget. --JTBurman 23:20, 17 January 2006 (UTC)

I believe that (Norwood Russell) Hanson's influence is in Kuhn's use of the idea of gestalt switch as a basis for incommensurability. I found Hanson referenced in Structure of Scientific Revolutions (SSR) on page 113, and found two references to Hanson in Kuhn's Road Since Structure, Pp 34 and 293. And I found eight references in the index to Essential Tension including a footnote (P. 167) indicating personal correspondence between Hanson and Kuhn apparently before publication of SSR. But I think Hanson was an early influence. Kuhn revised his ideas over the years, including such central ideas as paradigm and incommensurability, because academic philosophers were not satisfied with gestalt switch and demanded a philosophy of language. In the 1980's Kuhn attempted to formulate (and reformulate and re-reformulate) such a linguistic analysis. But in my view never succeeded, and I know of no one who wrote that he had succeeded. So, one may reasonably ask: Which Kuhn? Thickey3 01:17, 9 May 2007 (UTC)Thomas J. Hickey

Problematic addition[edit]

This recent addition seems to me to be well-intentioned, but based on a poor reading of Kuhn. I read him mostly over 25 years ago, so I am not the best one to address this. I'm going to drop a note at Template:PhilosophyTasks. -- Jmabel | Talk 23:58, 26 October 2005 (UTC)

  • I agree. It's a reading of Kuhn which speaks less about what he said than what about some people interpretted him to be saying. --Fastfission 05:09, 27 October 2005 (UTC)

I think the passage:

"While compelling, Kuhn's theory has an inherent flaw, for if it is in fact taken as "true," it is merely a product of its paradigm and nothing more, therefore rendering it meaningless as anything more than "just" a theory (the problem of reflexivity). Also, taking the theory as true would imply that truth exists in the universe, an idea against which Kuhn argued."

is terrible and should be deleted. The main theory of one of the most influential philosophers of the last 50 years refuted in two sentences? I don't think so. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 27 Oct 2005

OK, I've cut that, and also the rest of the addition. For the record, here is the rest of it. There may be something worth salvaging.
[Begin cut material]
Kuhn also stressed the importance of incommensurability among paradigms, meaning that science from one paradigm cannot have a greater or lesser truth-value than science from another. The act of science to Kuhn was no more than problem solving within a paradigm, and each successive paradigm led not to more verisimilitude ("truth-likeness"), but instead merely perpetuated the field of science. According to Kuhn, theories in in the next paradigm, whether it begins in five years or five-hundred years, will be no more truth-like than the theories we have now; they will, in fact, be incommensurable.
These ideas of a lack of an absolute truth to be gathered from the world via empirical observations spurred the thoughts of many postmodern deconstructionists, even though Kuhn himself never associated himself with that branch of philosophy.
[End cut material]
As I understand it, this is a mix of ideas actually found in Kuhn (incommensurability, epistemological rejection of a provable Truth), unfounded extrapolation (the implication that change of paradigm cannot represent progress), and a suggestive but insubstantial remark (yes, there is probably a partial temperamental relationship to the deconstructionalists, but less than to Wittgenstein in his Philosophical Investigations, R.G. Collingwood in his The Idea of History; if we want to go to Continental Philosophy for our comparison, Michel Foucault, especially in the era of The Order of Things, is probably closer to the point than the deconstructionists, although I think Foucault had a more pessimistic view of the possibility, or at least the likelihood, of progress.)
Again, this engages material that probably belongs in the article, but it belongs there better expressed and with appropriate citation, as views of scholars, not of the "narrator". As I said, it's 25 years since I read much of Kuhn, so I'm probably not the one to write it. -- Jmabel | Talk 07:45, 28 October 2005 (UTC)

Peer Review[edit]

I have added this section as per the tasks note at PhilosophyTasks. --JTBurman 23:27, 17 January 2006 (UTC)


In the autobiographical interview conducted in 1995, and published in The Road Since Structure (2000), Kuhn describes his "philosophical problematic" as focussing on incommensurability: that, in short, is why there are punctuations in paradigm change. Yet there is no mention of it here. Incommensurability is required before this article can be considered complete. --JTBurman 23:27, 17 January 2006 (UTC)

I completely agree. From a historical perspective, the philosophy laid out in SSR was considered quite radical because of the inter-related concepts of incommensurability and "world change". While the exact meaning of these terms as Kuhn uses them is subject to some debate, this article might better establish the relevance and importance of SSR by incorporating a brief description of these controversial concepts. I will perform an edit ASAP. BFD1 16:18, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

Kuhn and physical geography[edit]

How did Kuhn's ideas post 1970s relate to the quantitative revolution in physical geography? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21 Jan 2006

"Paradigm Shift"[edit]

Could someone please point me to a passage in SSR where Kuhn uses the phrase "paradigm shift"? BFD1 13:50, 30 June 2006 (UTC)

The closest I can find is "paradigm-induced gestalt shift" (p. 120, 3rd ed.). He frequently mentions perceptual shifts and paradigm changes, and gradually equates the latter with the former, but I couldn't find the actual phrase in a quick skim.--ragesoss 14:47, 30 June 2006 (UTC)
Thank you very much! This is a minor annoyance of mine; the phrase is frequently attributed to Kuhn but I have yet to see an actual instance of him using it. I suspect he never does -- the whole idea behind the resolution of a period of extraordinary science is that the new paradigm replaces the old (and often incommensurable) one. The idea that the old paradigm shifts over a bit to the right to become the new paradigm is contradicted by the incommensurability thesis. Paradigm change, yes. Gestalt switch, yes. Shift of perception, yes. But "paradigm shift" tends too much towards the connotation of cumulativity and linear progression that Kuhn sought to deny. BFD1 15:15, 30 June 2006 (UTC)
p150, 1996 3rd edition paperback - " group or the other must experience the conversion that we have been calling a paradigm shift". --ajn (talk) 15:19, 30 June 2006 (UTC)
Oh, snap. Thanks! BFD1 15:25, 30 June 2006 (UTC)
As you say, it does seem a bit of an odd phrase, implying something quite different from Kuhn's actual theory. In context, it's about scientists with different paradigms not being able to even communicate until one group has converted, because they live in different worlds (i.e. the "incommensurability of competing paradigms"). --ajn (talk) 15:42, 30 June 2006 (UTC)
Yes, "paradigm shift" seems to describe what happens to the individual scientist (i.e., she experiences a paradigm shift) rather than what happens at a disciplinary level (e.g. Einsteinian paradigm replacing the Newtonian paradigm). Out of sensitivity to this distinction we might consider changing the article. The "periodic revolutions" which science goes through are not "paradigm shifts", as the article claims. Thoughts? BFD1 15:54, 30 June 2006 (UTC)
Maybe not. I just read the article on Paradigm_shift. BFD1 16:00, 30 June 2006 (UTC)
It does both depending on how people use it. Kuhn was not very exacting in his use of terms or his explanation of them, hence the famous "he uses a million definitions of 'paradigm' and none of them are consistent" claim. I think he would probably say that it happens first at an individual level with individual "converts" (I saw one way, now I see another) but after they gain traction the full "shift" on the community level is less dramatic (textbooks said one thing, now they say another). But that's just my speculation. In any case, whether or not such an activity is actually a description of change in science, or only a heuristic for thinking about scientific change, is still rather contentious... --Fastfission 20:13, 30 June 2006 (UTC)


I removed the following paragraph from the "Structure of Scientific Revolutions" section of this article:

In France, Kuhn's conception of science has been related to Michel Foucault (with Kuhn's paradigm corresponding to Foucault's episteme) and Louis Althusser, although both are more concerned by the historical conditions of possibility of the scientific discourse. (Foucault, in fact, was most directly influenced by Bachelard, who had developed independently a view of the history of scientific change similar to Kuhn's.) Thus, they do not consider science as isolated from society as they argue that Kuhn does. In contrast to Kuhn, Althusser's conception of science is that it is cumulative, even though this cumulativity is discontinuous (see his concept of "epistemological break") whereas Kuhn considers various paradigms as incommensurable.

I did so because this article is about Kuhn, not SSR, and to include the above in what should be a brief sketch of Kuhn's life and accomplishments assigns undue significance. I think it belongs in the Structure of Scientific Revolutions article. BFD1 19:39, 17 July 2006 (UTC)

Not so revolutionary[edit]

Shouldn't the piece mention that Kuhn's idea of scientific revolutions is far from being accepted by many working scientists? (Including me!) There is at least as much evidence that science progresses by evolution, not revolution, except for "the" scientific revolution of the 17th century.

Charlie T 20 August 2006

  • I think a section on published responses by scientists to The Structure of Scientific Revolutions would be a great addition to the book article. There have been a lot of people who have criticized Kuhn's views on the basis that you can't see the discrete changes he claims exist when you look at the historical record closely. --Fastfission 15:41, 20 August 2006 (UTC)
Of course, there are/will be people who disagree with Kuhn and say that they don't see history in his way. But to put this into the article would be to point out another person's view, and not to point out anything about Kuhn (analogous to inserting a "Conservative" section into the "Liberal" article). Catch my meaning?--Heyitspeter 19:47, 8 July 2007 (UTC)
  • In the interest of NPOV, documented criticisms of Kuhn's position should be included, e.g. Primack in "The View from the Center of the Universe" (Riverhead 2006), as similar criticisms are in other articles. D A Patriarche, BSc (talk) (talk) 05:45, 27 November 2014 (UTC)

give me a break. scientists all over will want to dispute his terms because they want to believe that what they're doing is not a matter of revolution but a matter of accretion. they want to believe that they are tending towards the truth. Kuhn's major contribution was to tell these people that they were only speaking to one frame of mind, and they were only seeking the truth so long as they were seeking their frame of mind. give it up. Kuhn's contribution is just so easy. Your field might be interesting and you might think that it seeks the metaphysical imperatives that denote the truth, but Kuhn wants to argue that it is not so easy. this coming from someone trained in science in the academy. at any rate, this is opinion, and has nothing to do with the biography of the person. if you disagree with kuhn's ideas without citation, then you need to take it somewhere else. probably among other scientists who believe they and they only have access to the truth regardless of any other interceding context. but hey, who has ever lived their life not believing this at one point or time? however, the main point is, this is criticism, or maybe opinion, not anything to do with wiki. peace.

-justin —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:22, 1 April 2008 (UTC)


The "Kuhn hates Muslims" stuff really has to go. Agent Cooper 16:54, 9 June 2007 (UTC)

Odd request for citation[edit]

This edit asks for citation that The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is Kuhn's best known and most influential work. This is like asking for citation that George Washington is best known for being a general and president, or that Lizzie Borden is best known for killing her parents. - Jmabel | Talk 22:52, 9 November 2007 (UTC)

  • Presumably The entry on Kuhn in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy should cite adequately for this. It refers to SSR as "one of the most cited academic books of all time". - Jmabel | Talk 22:56, 9 November 2007 (UTC)
  • Oh, and Britannica's article on him simply begins "American historian of science noted for The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962)" - Jmabel | Talk 22:58, 9 November 2007 (UTC)

I'm the guy who requested the citation. I never had any doubt that that SSR is Kuhn's best-known work, but I still think it would be a good idea to cite sources regarding the relative importance of his books and essays. After all, if it's true that one of his books is obviously more important than the others, then there should be no shortage of references supporting that fact. The sources above look great. - Sushi Tax 22:36, 10 November 2007 (UTC)

I'm of the opinion if someone uses ranking words such as 'best', 'worst' and 'most' they need to cite sources for these claims. Although getting sales figures can be problematic (Bookscan is expensive) and measuring the importance of a fact by sheer number of references in literature and on the web is something for when humans have digitized all known works and an AI has been evolved to be able to number all the references to an item. Until then I've been using Google hits, Alexa numbers and other sources. Alatari (talk) 12:18, 19 November 2007 (UTC)

Scientific Relativism[edit]

The section of this article directed towards to Polanyi-Kuhn debate says that both individuals' work made science "relativistic". Kuhn himself objected to the idea that science is relativistic and widely refuted claims that his writing indicated it to be so. This is particularly evident in the 1969 post-script to SSR, which is now included in standard editions of the book. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:41, 23 September 2008 (UTC)

So where is Polanyi ?[edit]

The article currently claims in the alleged 'Polanyi-Kuhn Debate' section:

“In response to these critics, Kuhn cited Polanyi in the second edition of "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,…"

But there seems to be no reference to Polanyi in the second edition of TSSR, nor indeed in the first.

Thus I flag the claim for provision of a quotation citing Polanyi. --Logicus (talk) 15:49, 10 January 2009 (UTC)

New Biography?[edit]

Anyone knows what happened to the new biography "Reluctant Revolutionary: The Life and Ideas of Thomas S. Kuhn" by Keay Davidson that was supposed to come out 2005 (four years ago)?

This was referenced at

I also noticed that "The Death of Truth: Thomas S. Kuhn and the Evolution of Ideas" from the same author - most probably the same book (?), supposedly published by Oxford University Press, USA (February 28, 2006) - compare - never became available.

Any ideas? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:01, 8 June 2009 (UTC)

Not true that Kuhn interviewed Bohr the day before he died?[edit]

This article says "Kuhn interviewed and taped Danish physicist Niels Bohr the day before Bohr's death. The recording contains the last words of Niels Bohr caught on tape.[citation needed]."

This claim that the interview occurred the day before Bohr died is not consistent with other sources.

The AIP website ( that presents the transcript of the interview says the interview was given on 31 October 1962.

Bohr's date of death according to Wikipedia ( is given as 18 November 1962. (talk) 13:24, 11 November 2009 (UTC)

What reason do you have to believe that this wasn't the last interview? People don't do interviews that often, especially when they're on their deathbed...--Heyitspeter (talk) 18:10, 11 November 2009 (UTC)

Article move[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: page moved per consensus, redirects fixed. ukexpat (talk) 17:22, 9 April 2010 (UTC)

Just to redate this for when it was actually listed. The discussion is stale, but in my opinion still valid. Vegaswikian (talk) 22:38, 4 April 2010 (UTC)

Thomas Samuel KuhnThomas Kuhn — I propose that this article is moved (i.e. named changed) to just Thomas Kuhn. He is refered to as Kuhn, T. S. Kuhn and Thomas Kuhn, but not by his full name. Of course his full name would still appear in the first sentence in bold as per usual. I will make the move within a few days if not contested --Tom dl (talk) 06:08, 2 December 2009 (UTC)

  • There is a redirect, so it doesn't much matter. Just remember that if you do the move, clean up the other redirects so we don't get double redirects. - Jmabel | Talk 07:08, 2 December 2009 (UTC)
    • No title question much matters; but we should get them right all the same. It is not useful to have readers wonder if they are reading the right article. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 03:12, 5 April 2010 (UTC)

I support the proposal, as Thomas Kuhn is the commonly-used name; I believe there are bots that automatically sort the double redirects.  Skomorokh  12:53, 6 December 2009 (UTC)

The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

the introduction[edit]

The words of the introduction are very strongly positive and biased relative to people that think about science in general.

Most scietists have never heard of Thomas Kuhn, his work, or his ideas.

Because of his great obscurity in the scientific world, neither a sufficient criticism nor rebuttal has been made. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:18, 19 August 2010 (UTC)

Kuhn's work is required reading of many Physics Bachelor programs --Alatari (talk) 20:34, 23 December 2011 (UTC)


William Whitlow commentary on Kuhn[edit]

Added an external link of interest on Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

36hourblock (talk) 20:03, 1 November 2011 (UTC)

Yes, agreed it is an interesting link. Please note that I reverted your first attempt to add it as I got a circular link to the Kuhn article and thought (wrongly) that it was vandalism. I've re-added it. Sunray (talk) 20:17, 1 November 2011 (UTC)

My thanks for the restoration. 36hourblock (talk) 21:53, 2 November 2011 (UTC)

Relativism under the heading "Polanyi-Kuhn debate"[edit]

I am a little confused by the assertion that "Kuhn [...] believed that scientists' subjective experiences made science a relativistic discipline", against the preceding section's assertion that "Kuhn himself denied the accusation of relativism in the third edition of SSR". I don't know enough about Kuhn to clear up the apparent contradiction (or maybe there is no contradiction and I just fail reading comprehension :) ). — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:45, 26 April 2012 (UTC) The anon user was me, btw. Jobriath (talk) 13:48, 26 April 2012 (UTC)

Article move again?[edit]

The form of his name which he used on his publications was Thomas S. Kuhn, so that would seem to be a better article title. SamuelTheGhost (talk) 17:54, 10 October 2012 (UTC)

I disagree. One of our most popular articles is Barack Obama. Observe that Barack Hussein Obama II redirects to it, not the other way around. • Jesse V.(talk) 20:41, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
If Barack Obama was publishing books under the style "Barack Hussein Obama II" your comparison would be relevant to what I'm suggesting. And if not, not. SamuelTheGhost (talk) 21:34, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
OK. Vijay Pande publishes papers as Vijay S. Pande, which you'll notice redirects to Vijay Pande. Anyway, for this article, Thomas Kuhn is his common name, so it follows that Thomas S. Kuhn is a redirect. Either way they'll arrive to the article. I found Mos:names#Pseudonyms.2C_stage names and common names on the subject. • Jesse V.(talk) 23:06, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
  • I think you can assume that we all understand how redirection works
  • WP:COMMONNAME is the more relevant policy, but inconclusive in this case
  • The example of Vijay Pande is certainly similar, but not identical and not binding; to have Vijay S. Pande as his article name would certainly not be wrong
  • In the case of Kuhn, he is primarily known for his books, and they consistently use the style Thomas S. Kuhn. People citing his books often, perhaps usually, follow suit. It's fairly finely balanced, but I find his form preferable. SamuelTheGhost (talk) 13:30, 11 October 2012 (UTC)
Using Google, "Thomas Kuhn" returns "about 1,670,000 results" while "Thomas S. Kuhn" returns "about 377,000 results". Thus "Thomas Kuhn" is his more common name, so the article currently has the proper title. • Jesse V.(talk) 14:37, 11 October 2012 (UTC)

I must Overvalue Kuhn?[edit]

I often say that Kuhn and Popper were to Science what Einstein was to Physics. My impression is that they were revolutionary in theoretical scientific thinking, and by now; changed our way of looking at the world. Yet when I read the lead section I want to yawn. Do I over-value them? They are merely theory spinners or "claim"-makers who deeply influenced some scientists back in the sixties? (...Kinda Tim Leary?) So Kuhn's ideas really didn't change anything !?

Also, since the Wikipedia:Manual of Style (lead section) says the lead should be self-contained, while technically correct, doesn't it appear to over-value subjectiveness? Yet I see no solution.
-- (talk) 04:28, 2 April 2014 (UTC)Doug Bashford

I agree with comment on Kuhn v. Popper in the debate. where is the criticism of Kuhnian philosophy in this article. Where is the discussion of subjective v. objective science. Some areas of science are arguably not capable of being subjected to rigorous scientific classification; physics/physical chemistry certainly are, however, areas that rely on statistical time series and panel comparisons such as macroeconomics and climate change are doomed to end up in endless opinion debate, for one reason they rely on incomplete data, incomplete model specifications (almost by definition) and incomplete analysis for the preceding reasons.Danleywolfe (talk) 17:13, 8 May 2014 (UTC)

Editing Religion Section of The Infobox[edit]

Hi, In the article it says: "Kuhn was an agnostic." but in the Infobox at the right it says he's a Judaist. Could you at least just add the fact that he was agnostic in his adultery times. I don't edit the articles because I'm not registered and don't know if I edit them, admins will get angry because of me. Thanks! — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:41, 11 July 2014 (UTC)

Request for Comments[edit]

There is an RfC on the question of using "Religion: None" vs. "Religion: None (atheist)" in the infobox on this and other similar pages.

The RfC is at Template talk:Infobox person#RfC: Religion infobox entries for individuals that have no religion.

Please help us determine consensus on this issue. --Guy Macon (talk) 05:36, 23 April 2015 (UTC)