Chapter 13. Testing and Documentation

Without language, thought is a vague, uncharted nebula. Nothing is distinct before the appearance of language.


James Lind was an 18th-century Scottish physician. While serving in the Navy, he conducted what today might be described as the first clinical trial. By dividing a dozen sick sailors into groups of two and providing a controlled diet and specific treatments, he was able to determine that oranges and lemons were effective for warding off scurvy. We know today that scurvy is a result of vitamin C deficiency, but it would take a century of similar experiments to eventually lead Casimir Funk to coin the term “vitamin” in 1912.

Clinical trials are an application of the experimental step of the scientific method. The Oxford Dictionary describes the scientific method as “a method of procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.” This definition, while accurate, does not capture one of the important outcomes of repeated experimentation, the characterization of phenomena and development of hypotheses that are articulated in clear, unambiguous language. Testing at its best leads to crisp, clear descriptions of the subject being tested that allow subsequent researchers to more clearly communicate.

Software testing finds its roots in this same tradition. It essentially adopts procedures ...

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