AskDefine | Define exemplar

Dictionary Definition

exemplar n : something to be imitated; "an exemplar of success"; "a model of clarity"; "he is the very model of a modern major general" [syn: example, model, good example]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. Something fit to be imitated; see ideal and model.
  2. Something typical or representative of a class; see example.
  3. A pattern after which others should be made; see archetype.
  4. A well known usage of a scientific theory.
  5. A handwritten manuscript used by a scribe to make a handwritten copy; the original copy of what gets multiply reproduced in a copy machine.



Webster's 1913 dictionary



Extensive Definition

"Exemplars" directs here. For the superpowered comic book team, see Exemplars (comics).
Exemplar, in the sense developed by philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn, is a well known usage of a scientific theory.
According to Kuhn, scientific practice alternates between periods of normal science and extraordinary/revolutionary science. During periods of normalcy, scientists tend to subscribe to a large body of interconnecting knowledge, methods, and assumptions which make up the reigning paradigm (see paradigm shift for more information on Kuhn's model). Normal science presents a series of "puzzles" that are solved as scientists explore their field. The solution to some of these puzzles become well known and are the exemplars of the field.
Kuhn introduced the concept of exemplar in a postscript to the second edition of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1970). He noted that
[b]ecause the term [paradigm] has assumed a life of its own ... I shall here substitute ‘exemplars.’ By it I mean, initially, the concrete problem-solutions that students encounter from the start of their scientific education, whether in laboratories, on examinations, or at the ends of chapters in science texts. ... All physicists, for example, begin by learning the same exemplars: problems such as the inclined plane, the conical pendulum, and Keplerian orbits; instruments such as the vernier, the calorimeter, and the Wheatstone bridge.
Those who study a scientific discipline are expected to know its exemplars. There is no fixed set of exemplars, but for a physicist today it would certainly include such things as the harmonic oscillator from mechanics and the hydrogen atom from quantum mechanics. For a biologist today the set includes the population variations of the European peppered moth (Biston betularia) and the convergent evolution of wings. They should also be familiar with ideas which have been discredited or otherwise proven false.


  • The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
exemplar in French: Exemplars
exemplar in Lithuanian: Egzempliorius

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Geistesgeschichte, Hegelian idea, Kantian idea, Platonic form, Platonic idea, archetype, beau ideal, case, case in point, classic, complex idea, demonstration, emblem, eternal object, eternal universal, example, exemplification, explanation, exponent, formal cause, good example, highest category, history of ideas, ideal, idealism, ideate, ideatum, idee-force, illustration, innate idea, instance, man of men, masterpiece, masterwork, mirror, model, nonpareil, noosphere, noumenon, object lesson, paradigm, paragon, pattern, pattern of perfection, percept, prototype, quintessence, regulative first principle, relevant instance, representative, shining example, simple idea, soul, standard, subsistent form, symbol, the Absolute, the Absolute Idea, the Self-determined, the realized ideal, transcendent idea, transcendent nonempirical concept, transcendent universal, type, typical example, universal, universal concept, universal essence, very model
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