Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Boyle and the Pyx

We find the origins of modern science with Robert Boyle. He gave us a literary technology based on public demonstrations with expensive apparatus: the air pump. Elements of Boyle's approach are inherent in an earlier tradition. The Trial of the Pyx has been conducted at least since 1279. A grab sample of coins are collected during the minting process and locked in the Pyx. At regular intervals a sub-sample of these coins are publicly tested by members of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths using pre-established exemplars of quality and standard dimensions. Here we have all the elements of Boyle's science: experts, public performance, abstract standards, and exemplars. We also have some pretty impressive scientific method that well predates Bacon.

Stigler, Stephen M. (1977). Eight centuries of sampling inspection: The trial of the Pyx. Joural of the American Statistical Association. 72(359): 493-500.

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