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Trust in NumbersThe Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life$
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Theodore M. Porter

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691208411

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691208411.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM PRINCETON SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.princeton.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Princeton University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in PRSO for personal use.date: 28 June 2022

A World of Artifice

A World of Artifice

(p.11) Chapter One A World of Artifice
Trust in Numbers

Theodore M. Porter

Princeton University Press

This chapter discusses how measurement activities were central in forming some of the most basic ideas of the physical sciences. It should be observed that this infatuation with measuring led to the neutralization of concepts as well as their creation. Temperature had less human meaning after the experimental physicists laid hold of it. In the natural sciences, Ernst Mach's positivism was especially influential among experimenters. The resonance of the positivist mania for quantification with vast social ambitions for science is exemplified best of all by the career of Karl Pearson. From the early 1890s until his death more than forty years later, Pearson harnessed his prodigious talents to the development of a statistical method and its application to biological and social questions. The chapter then considers the standardization of measurements.

Keywords:   measurement, physical sciences, natural sciences, positivism, experimenters, quantification, Karl Pearson, standardization

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