Labeling, Branding or Reality?

The French Invention of “Historical Epistemology” in 1907


  • Jean-François Braunstein Université Paris I – Panthéon Sorbonne



Historical epistemology, Abel Rey, Historiography of Science, Epistemology


The article discusses the creation of the expression and idea of historical epistemology. It problematized the context of the rise of what would be historical epistemology and who would have been the pioneer author in the introduction of the expression, traditionally considered as resulting from Dominique Lecourt’s book, L’Épistémologie historique de Gaston Bachelard (1969). The possible options for affiliating the idea of historical epistemology are explored, and the pertinence of attributing the invention of the neologism to Lecourt or lesser-known names is reassessed. Finally, the French philosopher and historian of science Abel Rey is proposed as a precursor to the use of the expression and the idea of historical epistemology. In his doctoral thesis, Rey explored this expression when reflecting on the history and philosophy of science. In effect, pioneeringly, Rey presented a proposal for historical epistemology almost seventy years before what is conventionally accepted as the beginning of this approach.


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How to Cite

Braunstein, Jean-François. 2022. “Labeling, Branding or Reality? The French Invention of ‘Historical Epistemology’ in 1907”. Transversal: International Journal for the Historiography of Science, no. 13 (November).