Empirical evidence

Science requires and relies on empirical evidence.

Empirical evidence is frequently created through experimentation which is certainly one of the major methodological approaches in science. However, experimentation is not only relevant for producing scientific knowledge but may also play an important role in communicating this knowledge. Of course, there are others means to produce empirical evidence in the sciences: observations may also play a crucial role as well as the systematic collection and subsequent analysis of data.

Stories where this aspect plays an important role are:

  • The Dutch physician Christiaan Eijkman is trying to cure people from a strange illness. Beri-Beri was known in the Dutch colonies for a long time, but researchers were unable to identify the cause for the disease. The history of finally understanding cause and effect of Beri-Beri is far from being straightforward.
    Simplex non veri sigillum
  • Irene Joliot-Curie and her husband Frederic missed at least twice the chance to report a new discovery, which, when reported by their adversaries, won those a Nobel Prize. In 1935, their accurate observation skills finally earned them a Nobel Prize of their own, when they presented how man was able to generate new radioactive elements.
    Joliot-Curie and artificial radioactivity
  • Looking at the results of his chemical experiments, John Dalton notices that he has produced both, answers and (new) questions. He wonders, whether there is something like a superior principle...
    Dalton and the Atoms
  • The formulation of the mechanical equivalent of heat was instrumental in defining the first law of thermodynamics, which describes the conservation of energy. Two stories, which stress different aspects of the scientific work, will provide insight into Joule's set of experiments by which he determined the ratio of heat and mechanical work.
    Joule and Energy
  • What is the nature of heat – is it a substance or infinitesimal movement of matter? Among others, the Bavarian War Minister Benjamin Thompson, later known as Count Rumford, found an answer by analysing the drilling process for manufacturing cannons.
    Rumford and calorics
  • In 1778, a strange line pattern in the grass leads Martin, Andreas and Michael to a talk of Georg Christoph Lichtenberg. He describes the geneation of these patterns in his laboratory in Goettingen and why these patterns form at all.
    Lichtenberg and the electrophorus
  • Meet Marie Curie on her way from a promising student, who was born and raised in difficult times, to one of the most renowned female natural scientists in the 20th century. Learn especially her lifetime achievement, i.e. to verify the existence of yet unknown radioactive elements.
    Discoverer of two radioactive elements: Marie Skłodowska-Curie
  • Can something like a NOTHING really BE in existence? This story tells you about the german mayor von Guericke and his losing game to prove the existence of the vacuum.
    Guericke and vacuum
  • What would be a suitable model to describe the likeness of an atom? Rutherford's experimental findings were in contradiction to the theories represented by his PhD thesis advisor J.J.Thompson. Sitting over Christmas dinner 1911 he has an idea...
    Ernest’s Nuclear Atom
  • Maria Sibylla Merian started to observe caterpillar cocoons and make drawings of those at the age of 13. Nineteen years later, she published her first book in which she layed out the principle of metamorphosis and illustrated it with a lot of her drawings. You'll find ideas on how Sibylla's idea make drawings of caterpillars and butterflies may have emerged in
    Sibylla and the cocoons