Michael Matthews and the development of History, Philosophy and Science Teaching: thirty years after ‘the present rapprochement’



The potentialities of the interplay among Science, Science Education, History and Philosophy of Science have been acknowledged since the XIXth century. Nevertheless, the institutionalization of History, Philosophy and Science Teaching (HP&ST) as a modern discipline and research field was only achieved in the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s. In this perspective, it is hard to find someone that has contributed to their field as much as Michael Matthews has been doing for HP&ST. In this paper, I aim to discuss the genesis and development of HP&ST, highlighting the protagonist role that Michael Matthews has been playing for 30 years. The main source for this discussion is Matthews’s recently published autobiography History, Philosophy and Science Teaching: A Personal History and some of his previous works. The central assumption of this text is that a research field is constituted by two important dimensions: its conceptualization (the set of philosophical, theoretical, axiological, methodological conceptions that constitute the field), and its institutionalization (the set of means that allow the concrete implementation and diffusion of research and knowledge). In the case of HP&ST, Michael Matthews has been a central figure in the development of both dimensions. Throughout this paper, I discuss Michael Matthews’s initial philosophical influences, his work to institutionalize HP&ST (creating IHPST, Science & Education, and HPS&ST Newsletter) and his philosophical approach to HP&ST, conceiving it as an important mean to enhance Science Education in the context of a liberal, cultural, and humanistic education. In 2022, we will be celebrating 30 years of Science & Education and, consequently, of Michael Matthews’s seminal paper History, philosophy, and science teaching: The present rapprochement. I hope that this discussion works, firstly, as an invitation for HP&ST researchers to dive into Matthew’s account on the history of the field, which iluminates many of the importat issues and debates of our discipline. Secondly, this paper is intended to be a call to remember and reinforce the original perspectives and reflections that Michael Matthews’s proposed to HP&ST: the appreciation of the Enlightenment tradition, the value and importance of liberal education, the necessity of philosophical rigor, and the conception of HP&ST as an essentially cross-disciplinary research field.


History and Philosophy of Science, History and Philosophy of Mathematics, HP&ST

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.26220/rev.3824

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