The Formation of the Scientific Mind is the work in which Gaston Bachelard first elaborated a theory of knowledge and its development which was to become a key to his thought as a whole - the notion of `the epistemological obstacle' - the unavoidable presence in the mind of a thinking individual of preconceived and misleading ideas derived from the very nature of language, the human imagination and culture.
For Bachelard, the key to proper development of science (and indeed any field) was a sensitivity to the fact that knowledge advances against these `epistemological obstacles'. His demonstration draws extensively from the pre-history of science and alchemy, identifying and illuminating instance after instance of preconceptions which led to aberrant world-views. He systematically codifies the nature and causes of these errors as a framework to encapsulate the psychology of the scientific enterprise, and underlines an unavoidable conclusion; we cannot assume that these obstacles, even in the age of enlightened science, will ever be completely overcome.
This classic work is essential reading for both undergraduates and teachers of science and the philosophy of science.