The development of solar-neutrino astronomy: The theoretical-experimental nexus and the social deconstruction and construction of knowledge.

  • Trevor Pinch

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This thesis is a study within the sociology of knowledge. It takes as its focus developments in solar-neutrino astronomy. The empirical material presented is drawn from interviews, correspondence and scientific articles. Solar-neutrino astronomy is still in its infancy, and much of the attention over the period covered (1958-78) is centred upon the activities of one experimental and one theoretical group. The detailed study of the interaction of these two groups in their efforts to get a solar-neutrino detector built and in their efforts to interpret and understand the results produced by this detector forms the core of the thesis. Detailed processes of the social construction of scientific knowledge and, in particular, the roles played by theory and experiment, are outlined. An attempt is made to explain how particular pieces of knowledge became accepted as 'true'. In other words, the social processes whereby consensus emerged over the validity of particular scientific findings are investigated. As well as attempting to show how scientific knowledge gets constructed it is also shown how what is taken to be 'true knowledge' can be deconstructed such that its roots in the social world rather than the natural world can be recovered. The interpretative flexibility at the heart of both experimental results and theoretical predictions in the domain of solar-neutrino astronomy is revealed. It is shown that scientific knowledge is thoroughly socially constituted. In addition to attempting to provide some understanding of the social processes of science, the study presents much rich descriptive material on how this particular area of science developed. Such material may be of interest to historians of science.
Date of Award1982
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath

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