The Roles of Mathematics in the History of Science

The Mathematization Thesis


  • Ciro Ferreira University of São Paulo
  • Cibelle Silva University of São Paulo



Historiography of Science, Scientific Revolution, mathematization of physics, Koyré, Dijksterhuis, Burtt


In this paper, we present an analysis of the evolution of the history of science as a discipline focusing on the role of the mathematization of nature as a historiographical perspective. Our study is centered in the mathematization thesis, which considers the rise of a mathematical approach of nature in the 17th century as being the most relevant event for scientific development. We begin discussing Edmund Husserl whose work, despite being mainly philosophical, is relevant for having affected the emergence of the narrative of the mathematization of nature and due to its influence on Alexandre Koyré. Next, we explore Koyré, Dijksterhuis, and Burtt’s works, the historians from the 20th century responsible for the elaboration of the main narratives about the Scientific Revolution that put the mathematization of science as the protagonist of the new science. Then, we examine the reframing of the mathematization thesis with the narrative of two traditions developed by Thomas S. Kuhn and Richard Westfall, in which the mathematization of nature shares space with other developments taken as equally relevant. We conclude presenting contemporary critical perspectives on the mathematization thesis and its capacity for synthesizing scientific development.


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How to Cite

Ferreira, Ciro, and Cibelle Silva. 2020. “The Roles of Mathematics in the History of Science: The Mathematization Thesis”. Transversal: International Journal for the Historiography of Science, no. 8 (June).



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