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Portal:History of science

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The History of Science Portal

The History of science is the study of the development of science and scientific knowledge, including both the natural and social sciences. (The history of the arts and humanities is termed history of scholarship.) Science is a body of empirical, theoretical, and practical knowledge about the natural world, produced by scientists who emphasize the observation, explanation, and prediction of real world phenomena. Historiography of science, in contrast, studies the methods employed by historians of science.

The English word scientist is relatively recent—first coined by William Whewell in the 19th century. Previously, investigators of nature called themselves "natural philosophers". While empirical investigations of the natural world have been described since classical antiquity (for example by Thales and Aristotle), and scientific method has been employed since the Middle Ages (for example, by Ibn al-Haytham and Roger Bacon), modern science began to develop in the early modern period, and in particular in the scientific revolution of 16th- and 17th-century Europe. Traditionally, historians of science have defined science sufficiently broadly to include those earlier inquiries.

From the 18th century through late 20th century, the history of science, especially of the physical and biological sciences, was often presented as a progressive accumulation of knowledge, in which true theories replaced false beliefs. Some more recent historical interpretations, such as those of Thomas Kuhn, tend to portray the history of science in terms of competing paradigms or conceptual systems in a wider matrix of intellectual, cultural, economic and political trends. These interpretations, however, have met with opposition for they also portray history of science as an incoherent system of incommensurable paradigms, not leading to any scientific progress, but only to the illusion of progress.

Selected article

The Einstein–Szilárd letter was a letter sent to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in August 1939 signed by Albert Einstein but largely written by Leó Szilárd in consultation with fellow Hungarian physicists Edward Teller and Eugene Wigner. The letter advised Roosevelt that Nazi Germany might be conducting research into the possibility of using nuclear fission to create atomic bombs, and suggested that the United States should begin researching the possibility itself.

The letter has often been seen as the origins of the Manhattan Project, the successful wartime nuclear weapons project which produced the bombs which were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, though the path from the letter to the bombings is considerably longer than just this.

Selected image

Daniel Huntington Philosophy and Christian Art.jpg

The late 19th century was a period of increased tension and conflict between science and religion; the relationship is dramatized in this engraving by W. Ridgway (published in 1878) after Daniel Huntington's 1868 painting Philosophy and Christian Art. An attractive young woman attempts to persuade a wizened natural philosopher of the virtue of Christian art (in the form of an adoration scene), while he resolutely points to his book, the pages of which read "SCIENTIA" and "MECHANICA", in answer. In addition to youth and beauty, the young woman has nature itself, seen through the window, on her side. (In the original painting, the landscape is a somewhat wilder Romantic scene, meant to emphasize the power of nature.)

Selected inventor

Vannevar Bush

Vannevar Bush (March 11, 1890 – June 30, 1974) was an American engineer and science administrator, known for his work on analog computing, his political role in the development of the atomic bomb, and the idea of the memex—seen as a pioneering concept for the World Wide Web. A leading figure in the development of the military-industrial complex and the military funding of science in the United States, Bush was a prominent policymaker and public intellectual ("the patron saint of American science") during World War II and the ensuing Cold War. Through his public career, Bush was a proponent of democratic technocracy and of the centrality of technological innovation and entrepreneurship for both economic and geopolitical security.

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Did you know

...that the travel narrative The Malay Archipelago, by biologist Alfred Russel Wallace, was used by the novelist Joseph Conrad as a source for his novel Lord Jim?

...that the seventeenth century philosophers René Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, and Gottfried Leibniz, along with their Empiricist contemporary Thomas Hobbes all formulated definitions of conatus, an innate inclination of a thing to continue to exist and enhance itself?

...that the history of biochemistry spans approximately 400 years, but the word "biochemistry" in the modern sense was first proposed only in 1903, by German chemist Carl Neuberg?

...that the Great Comet of 1577 was viewed by people all over Europe, including famous Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe and the six year old Johannes Kepler?

...that the Society for Social Studies of Science (often abbreviated as 4S) is, as its website claims, "the oldest and largest scholarly association devoted to understanding science and technology"?


...Archive

Selected anniversaries


November 14:
  • 1863 – Birth of Leo Hendrik Baekeland, Flemish-American chemist and inventor of the first synthetic plastic, Bakelite (d. 1944)

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Things you can do

Help out by participating in the History of Science Wikiproject (which also coordinates the histories of medicine, technology and philosophy of science) or join the discussion.

Open task for the history of science

History of Science collaboration of the month: Wikipedia:WikiProject History of Science/Collaboration of the Month/current

Science collaboration of the month:

→ Here are some Open Tasks :

Searchtool.svg The History of Science Collaboration is On the Origin of Species.

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