Portal:History of science

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The History of Science Portal

An 18th-century Persian astrolabe

The content of science, as well as the meaning of the very idea of science, has continually evolved since the rise of modern science and before. The history of science is concerned with the paths that led to our present knowledge as well as those that were abandoned (thus overlapping with the history of ideas, history of philosophy and intellectual history). The history of science seeks to explain past beliefs—even those now considered erroneous—in their social, cultural and intellectual contexts. It also forms the foundation of the philosophy of science and the sociology of science, as well as the interdisciplinary field of science, technology, and society, and is closely related to the history of technology.

The study of science and technology includes both processes and bodies of knowledge. Scientific processes are the ways scientists investigate and communicate about the natural world. The scientific body of knowledge includes concepts, principles, facts, laws, and theories about the way the world around us works. Technology includes the technological design process and the body of knowledge related to the study of tools and the effect of technology on society. Science is continuously growing with technology today. Thanks to technology scientists have been able to better prove their theories.

Periodization in the historiography of science is usually oriented around the Scientific Revolution that culminated in the work of Isaac Newton. In this scheme, science (or more precisely, natural philosophy) before Copernicus was pre-modern science. European and Islamic science from antiquity to the 16th century was primarily derived from the work of Aristotle and other Greek philosophers (though historians now recognize the significant influence of Chinese knowledge as well); it included alchemy, astrology, and other subjects no longer considered as scientific, as well as the precursors of the modern sciences. Science (still in the form of natural philosophy) from roughly the late 16th century until the early- to mid-19th century was early-modern science; the birth of the experimental method in the 17th and 18th centuries is often considered a central event in the history of science. The 19th century saw the professionalization and secularization of science and the creation of independent scientific disciplines; modern science can denote science since this period (in distinction to early-modern), all science since Newton (in distinction to pre-modern), or simply science as practiced now.

More about History of Science...

Selected article

Table of the Animal Kingdom, from Carolus Linnaeus's 1735 Systema Naturae

The history of biology traces man's understanding of the living world from the earliest recorded history to modern times. Though the concept of biology as a single coherent field of knowledge only arose in the 19th century, the biological sciences emerged from traditions of medicine and natural history reaching back to the ancient Greeks (particularly Galen and Aristotle, respectively).

During the Renaissance and Age of Discovery, renewed interest in empiricism as well as the rapidly increasing number of known organisms led to significant developments in biological thought; Vesalius inaugurated the rise of experimentation and careful observation in physiology, and a series of naturalists culminating with Linnaeus and Buffon began to create a conceptual framework for analyzing the diversity of life and the fossil record, as well as the development and behavior of plants and animals. The growing importance of natural theology—partly a response to the rise of mechanical philosophy—was also an important impetus for the growth of natural history (though it also further entrenched the argument from design).

In the 18th century many fields of science—including botany, zoology, and geology—began to professionalize, forming the precursors of scientific disciplines in the modern sense (though the process would not be complete until the late 1800s). Lavoisier and other physical scientists began to connect the animate and inanimate worlds through the techniques and theory of physics and chemistry. Into the 19th century, explorer-naturalists such as Alexander von Humboldt tried to elucidate the interactions between organisms and their environment, and the ways these relationships depend on geography—creating the foundations for biogeography, ecology and ethology. Many naturalists began to reject essentialism and seriously consider the possibilities of extinction and the mutability of species. These developments, as well as the results of new fields such as embryology and paleontology, were synthesized in Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. The end of the 19th century saw debates over spontaneous generation and the rise of the germ theory of disease and the fields of cytology, bacteriology and physiological chemistry, though the problem of inheritance was still a mystery.


Selected picture

An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump by Joseph Wright of Derby, 1768.jpg

An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump is a 1768 oil-on-canvas painting by Joseph Wright of Derby which depicts a recreation of one of Robert Boyle's air pump experiments. It shows the reactions of a group of onlookers to an experiment performed by a natural philosopher in which a bird is deprived of oxygen. Scientific curiosity overcomes concern for the bird. The central figure looks out of the picture as if inviting the viewers participation in the outcome.


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.



Overview In early cultures | In classical antiquity |In the Middle Ages | In the Renaissance | The Scientific Revolution | Scientific method | Modern science
Historiography Historians | Sociology of Scientific Knowledge (SSK) | Science Studies | Science and Technology Studies
Physics Natural philosophy | Astronomy | Aristotelian physics | Optics | Electricity | Classical mechanics | Timeline of thermodynamics | Special relativity | General relativity | Quantum field theory | Materials science
Biology Natural history | Ecology | Biochemistry | Genetics | Molecular biology | Evolutionary biology | Model organisms | Great chain of being
Chemistry Alchemy | Atomism | Chemical revolution | Atomic theory | Electrochemistry | Periodic system
Earth science Geology | Geography | Paleontology | Age of the Earth | Volcanology
Technology Ancient Rome | Middle Ages | Industrial Revolution | Second Industrial Revolution | Agricultural science | Computer science | Biotechnology
Medicine Prehistoric medicine | Ancient Egypt | Ancient Greece | India | China | Middle Ages | Islam | Anatomy | Germ theory | Wound care
Scientific culture Royal Society | Académie des Sciences | Nobel Prize | National Academy of Sciences | Scientific publication | Science wars | Women in science | Romanticism in science
Funding of science Patronage | Science policy | Military funding of science | Research and development
Science and religion Relationship between religion and science | Conflict thesis | Merton thesis | Galileo affair | Scopes Trial | Islamic science | Creation–evolution controversy
Big Science Manhattan Project | Soviet nuclear program | Military–industrial complex | Human Genome Project | Space program | High-energy physics
Related fields Philosophy of Science | History of Mathematics | History of Ideas | History of Medicine | History of Technology

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"?



Selected anniversaries

April 23:
  • 1901 - Birth of E.B. Ford, British ecological geneticist (d. 1988)

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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

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


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