Franklin, Allan (David) 1938-

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FRANKLIN, Allan (David) 1938-


Born August 1, 1938, in Brooklyn, NY; son of Charles (in real estate) and Helen (a homemaker; maiden name, Cohen) Franklin; married Cynthia Betts (a homemaker), March 12, 1994. Education: Columbia College, A.B., 1959; Cornell University, Ph.D., 1965.


Home—1911 Mariposa, Boulder, CO 80302. Office—Department of Physics, UCB 390, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0390. E-mail—[email protected].


Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, research associate, 1965-66, instructor, 1966-67; University of Colorado, Boulder, assistant professor, 1967-73, associate professor, 1973-82, professor of physics, 1982—. Visiting professor and lecturer at various institutions, including City University of New York, 1974-75; University of Campinas, Brazil, 1982; and University of London, 1982-92.


American Physical Society (chairman, forum on history of physics), History of Science Society, Philosophy of Science Association (executive board).


Center for Philosophy of Science senior research fellow, University of Pittsburgh, 1986; Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology, senior resident fellow, 1994, 1999; Miegunyah Distinguished Fellow, University of Melbourne, 2000; American Physical Society centennial speaker.


The Principle of Inertia in the Middle Ages, Colorado Associated University Press (Boulder, CO), 1976.

The Neglect of Experiment, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1986.

Experiment, Right or Wrong, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1990.

The Rise and Fall of the Fifth Force: Discovery, Pursuit, and Justification in Modern Physics, American Institute of Physics (New York, NY), 1993.

Can That Be Right? Essays on Experiment, Evidence, and Science, Kluwer Academic Publishers (Boston, MA), 1999.

Are There Really Neutrinos? An Evidential History, Perseus Books (Cambridge, MA), 2000.

Selectivity and Discord: Two Problems of Experiment, University of Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 2002.

No Easy Answers: Science and the Pursuit of Knowledge, University of Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 2005.

Also contributor to numerous academic journals, including Physical Review, American Journal of Physics, and Journal of the History of Ideas.


As Isis contributor Michael Riordan explained, "Few scholars have written more about experimentation than Allan Franklin, who has been analyzing its role in physics for more than two decades." Riordan asserted that though "social constructivists" feel that "scientific knowledge is socially conditioned," Franklin claims that "experiments can and do yield valid, objective knowledge about nature."

In The Neglect of Experiment, Franklin disputes the conception that science is primarily theory-driven rather than experiment-driven. After laying out the views of such theorists as Thomas Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend, and Willard Quine, Franklin describes and defends the role that experiments have played in confirming various hypotheses. In the American Historical Review, Robert Kargon stated that "Franklin does more in this fine book.… He challenges historians and philosophers to examine real and not 'mythical' experiments, and, above all, he prescribes a new agenda for the philosophy of science." According to Kargon, "This new agenda calls for philosophical appraisal of what scientists actually do."

Franklin modified his position somewhat in Experiment, Right or Wrong. Still, his primary purpose in the book is to defend science from the charge that it acts unreasonably in accepting certain theories and discarding others. Franklin looks at experimental evidence that was ultimately rejected after a theory it seemed to support was found to be false. For Franklin, scientists have by and large rejected experimental evidence, not because it did not fit a preconceived theory but because competing evidence proved stronger or the results had to be reinterpreted in light of a better theory.

The Rise and Fall of the Fifth Force: Discovery, Pursuit, and Justification in Modern Physics explores a particularly interesting example of physicists reacting to an experiment that seemed to overthrow an established scientific paradigm. In January of 1986, a group of physicists announced that they had discovered a fifth force in nature, slightly weaker than gravity but also affected by interacting masses. This came as quite a shock to the scientific community and seemed at first to overturn a number of assumptions of Newtonian physics. Scientists undertook a number of experiments hoping to confirm or refute the novel hypothesis, until, as Allan Franklin's book chronicles, the preponderance of the evidence gradually turned against the theory in the early 1990s. "What makes this book unique," observed Science reviewer George T. Gillies, "is the way it opens windows on the methods by which scientific inquiry proceeds by introducing the reader to historical analysis techniques."

In Selectivity and Discord: Two Problems of Experiment, Franklin acknowledges that biases do indeed slip in when it comes to weighing and evaluating data, but he argues that experiment and empirical research still underlie true science. Once again using a series of case studies, Franklin probes the actual justifications for accepting or rejecting certain data, claiming that these decisions are in practice based on reasonable, rational, and scientifically valid criteria. Riordan notes that Franklin attempts to understand the "ambiguities that must be resolved if scientific knowledge is to be trusted."



American Historical Review, June, 1990, Robert Kargon, review of The Neglect of Experiment, p. 778.

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, March, 1994, J. E. Tiles, review of Experiment, Right or Wrong, p. 341.

Isis, September, 2003, Michael Riordan, review of Selectivity and Discord: Two Problems of Experiment, p. 565.

Science, May 13, 1994, George T. Gillies, review of The Rise and Fall of the Fifth Force: Discovery, Pursuit, and Justification in Modern Physics, p. 1001.


Allan Franklin Home Page, (June 10, 2004).

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Franklin, Allan (David) 1938-

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