History and Philosophy in Science Teaching (HIPST)



The HIPST project was created to provide ideas and resources for teaching of History and Philosophy of Science for Teaching.It is funded by the EU and directed from Germany. Seven other countries are involved: Israel, Greece, Portugal, Italy, Hungary, Poland and the UK. It started in February 2008 and will close with international publication in July 2010.


The UK Principal Investigator is Dr John Oversby, Reading University. This web site is a part of the resources for trialling the project in 2009. It focuses on the place of instruments and measurement in scientific development. The contexts are temperature and heat.

Temperature is an early concept in many national science curricula, and extends throughout student learning in schools. Intuitively, the concept of temperature was established early in scientific exploration. Practical measurement came rather later, mainly because of the technological challenges of making glass tubing with uniform bores. Concepts such as absolute temperature came about when scientists extended their investigations well beyond everyday temperatures, especially well below room temperatures.

Heat has proved a more elusive concept than temperature to characterise, which makes it all the more interesting in a project such as HIPST. It is easy to confuse the concepts of temperature and heat. At first, philosophers and scientists thought of heat as a substance. It could be poured in to an object to raise the temperature. Our ideas of heat flow and heat capacity come from this view. An early heat measurement was through melting ice, in the Bunsen Ice Calorimeter (see picture below). Linking temperature and heat at the macroscopic level involved calculating heat change through using ideas such as heat capacity and temperature change.

A Bunsen Ice Calorimeter

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Lavoisier's and Bunsen's Ice Calorimeters
Lavoisier measured the heat change by measuring the mass or volume of ice melted. Bunsen measured the small change in volume when ice melts. Bunsen's instrument gave more accurate results through avoiding systematic error in Lavoisier's instrument, such as water sticking to the ice and the container wall.

Later, when ideas such as particles had been established, the explanation of heat included movement, including vibration of particles in solids and in liquids. This explanation was most successful for thermal energy in gases, expressed in a mathematical way rather than in a conceptual way. Linking advanced mathematical explanations for experts to simplified conceptual explanations for novices is, probably, the greatest challenge in this topic.