Scientific modelling with diagrams

Ulrich E Stegmann (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Diagrams can serve as representational models in scientific research, yet important questions remain about how they do so. I address some of these questions with a historical case study, in which diagrams were modified extensively in order to elaborate an early hypothesis of protein synthesis. The diagrams’ modelling role relied mainly on two features: diagrams were modified according to syntactic rules, which temporarily replaced physico-chemical reasoning, and diagram-to-target inferences were based on semantic interpretations. I then explore the lessons for the relative roles of syntax, semantics, external marks, and mental images, for justifying diagram-to-target inferences, and for the “artefactual approach” to scientific models.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date13 May 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 May 2019


  • Representational models
  • Mental images
  • Notation
  • Mechanism
  • Physical models
  • Syntactic symbol manipulation
  • George Gamow
  • Francis Crick
  • Protein synthesis


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