The history of the research on peptic ulcer disease (PUD) is characterized by a premature abandonment of the bacterial hypothesis, which subsequently had its comeback, leading to the discovery of Helicobacter pylori the major cause of the disease. In this paper we examine the received view on this case, according to which the primary reason for the abandonment of the bacterial hypothesis of PUD in the mid-twentieth century was a large-scale study by a prominent gastroenterologist Palmer, which suggested no bacteria could be found in the human stomach. To this end, we employ the method of digital textual analysis and study the literature on the etiology of PUD published in the decade prior to Palmers article. Our ﬁndings suggest that the bacterial hypothesis of PUD had already been abandoned before the publication of Palmers paper, which challenges the widely held view that his study played a crucial role in the development of this episode. The paper makes two main contributions to the literature in integrated history and philosophy of science. First, we suggest that the received narrative on this historical episode, commonly used by philosophers, needs to be revised. Second, we introduce the notion of a declining research program and argue for its importance as a unit of socio-epistemic analysis, especially in combination with normative assessments, such as pursuitworthiness of scientiﬁc theories.
Author and article information
] Ruhr University Bochum
] Eindhoven University of Technology
] LMU Munich
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Data availability: The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.