Hasok Chang has been the Hans Rausing Professor of History and Philosophy of Science since 2010. From 2017 to 2020, he holds a Wolfson Research Professorship, granted by the British Academy. Previously, he taught for 15 years at University College London, having received a PhD in philosophy from Stanford University, after an undergraduate degree from the California Institute of Technology.
His research focuses on taking the most obvious items of scientific knowledge and asking how we came to know such things. Usually, such a line of questioning reveals that even the most mundane piece of knowledge was hard won through the most challenging and fascinating investigations and debates, which are now mostly neglected by scientists.
Currently, Professor Chang is working on two main research projects. One is the history of batteries, which were very easy to make once Volta announced his invention in 1800, but – for a long time – very difficult to explain. The other is a new formulation of scientific realism based on a pragmatist conception of knowledge. The two projects are being carried out in tandem, informing and enriching each other.
Professor Chang’s general philosophical outlook is a humanist pluralism concerning science; there are many valid and valuable ways for people to pursue knowledge about nature. Historical and philosophical points of view can open our scientific minds for the benefit of science and society at large.
Plenary Title: Why should scientists care about the history of science?