Pierre Duhem’s use of the return to the sources as a justification tool


  • Benjamin Le Roux University of Bordeaux
  • Marcin Krasnodębski University of Bordeaux




Pierre Duhem, Scientometrics, History of Statics, Methodology in History of Science, Justification


Les origines de la statique, published in 1905 by physicist and historian of physical theories Pierre Duhem, offers not only a radically new interpretation of the history of statics but also represents a milestone in the methodology of history of science thanks to a particular form of historical reasoning as deployed by the author to justify his hypotheses. This article uses a quantitative analysis of the references contained in the book’s footnotes in order to study the way Duhem validated his assertions. We highlight in particular his relentless will to return to the original texts. This method is one of the reasons why Duhem’s book (and more generally the Duhemian methodology) had such a lasting impact on French epistemology.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Benjamin Le Roux, University of Bordeaux

Phd Student,

University of Bordeaux,

SPH, EA4574, F-33400 Talence, France.

Marcin Krasnodębski, University of Bordeaux

Postdoctoral researcher,

University of Bordeaux,

SPH, EA4574, F-33400 Talence, France.




How to Cite

Le Roux, Benjamin, and Marcin Krasnodębski. 2017. “Pierre Duhem’s Use of the Return to the Sources As a Justification Tool”. Transversal: International Journal for the Historiography of Science, no. 3 (December). https://doi.org/10.24117/2526-2270.2017.i3.04.