Scientists and philosophers generally agree that the replication of experiments is a key ingredient of good and successful scientific practice. “One-offs” are not significant; experiments must be replicable to be considered valid and important. But the term “replication” has been used in a number of ways, and it is therefore quite difficult to appraise the meaning and significance of replications. I consider how history may help – and has helped – with this task. I propose that: 1) Studies of past scientific episodes in historical context and of recent philosophical contributions to the discussion are heuristic tools for exploring and clarifying the meaning of that concept. 2) The analysis of the development of the methodological imperative of replication sheds light on the significance scientists have attached to it, thereby contributing further to the clarification of the concept. 3) The analysis of the history of philosophical thought about methods and scientific methodology helps understand why philosophers have not paid much attention to the analysis of the concept of replication.
See e.g. R. M. Burian“Comments on the Precarious Relation between History of Science and Philosophy of Science”Perspectives on Science10 (2002) 398–407; L. Laudan “Thoughts on HPS: 20 Years Later” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 20 (1989) 9–13.
J. Bogen“ ‘Two as Good as a Hundred’: Poorly Replicated Evidence in Some Nineteenth-Century Neuroscientific Research”Studies in History and Philosophy of Biology and Biomedical Sciences32 (2001) 491–533512.
See W. Bechtel“Deciding on the Data: Epistemological Problems Surrounding Instruments and Research Techniques in Cell Biology,”PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association(1994) 167–178; K. W. Staley “Robust Evidence and Secure Evidence Claims” Philosophy of Science 71 (2004) 467–88.
P. Findlen“Controlling the experiment: rhetoric, court patronage and the experimental method of Francesco Redi”History of science(1993) 35–64; J. Tribby “Cooking (with) Clio and Cleo: Eloquence and Experiment in Seventeenth-Century Florence.” Journal of the History of Ideas 52 (1991) 417–439.
E.g. M. Trumpler“Verification and Variation: Patterns of Experimentation in Investigations of Galvanism in Germany, 1790–1800”Philosophy of Science64 (1997) S75–S84; S. Culp “Objectivity in Experimental Inquiry: Breaking the Data-Technique Circles” Philosophy of Science 62 (1995) 430–450.