Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Scott Consigny


This dissertation offers a series of rhetorical analyses of the seminal papers of the quantum theory. Specifically, it discusses the central role that metaphors play in the invention of new scientific arguments that form the basis of schools of scientific thought. The theory of metaphor that is developed for analysis is situated into the tradition of the rhetoric of the "older" sophists of ancient Greece. Metaphor, or more accurately 'trope,' was a constitutive feature of sophistic beliefs about language and rhetoric. Applied to scientific texts, the sophistic understanding of metaphor illustrates how scientific beliefs can be brought into contrast, leading to conceptual changes in scientific communities. The study applies metaphorical analysis to three different papers from quantum theory. First, it analyzes Max Planck's original 1900 quantum paper, "On the Theory of the Energy Distribution Law of the Normal Spectrum," showing how his use of another metaphor leads to the unexpected emergence of the quantum postulate as a new metaphor. Second, it analyzes Albert Einstein's 1905 light quanta paper, "Concerning a Heuristic Point of View about the Creation and Transformation of Light," showing how new scientific metaphors, like the quantum postulate, urge other scientists to change their perspective and adopt a new understanding of reality. Finally, it analyzes Niels Bohr's 1927 Copenhagen interpretation paper, "The Quantum Postulate and the Recent Development of Atomic Theory," showing how the quantum postulate leads to a new world view for modern physics.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Richard David Johnson



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

179 pages