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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.


Selected article

Kuhn used the duck-rabbit optical illusion to demonstrate the way in which a paradigm shift could cause one to see the same information in an entirely different way.

Paradigm shift is the term first used by Thomas Kuhn in his 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions to describe the process and result of a change in basic assumptions within the ruling theory of science. A scientific revolution occurs, according to Kuhn, when scientists encounter anomalies which cannot be explained by the universally accepted paradigm within which scientific progress has thereto been made. The paradigm, in Kuhn's view, is not simply the current theory, but the entire worldview in which it exists, and all of the implications which come with it. There are anomalies for all paradigms, Kuhn maintained, that are brushed away as acceptable levels of error, or simply ignored and not dealt with (a principal argument Kuhn uses to reject Karl Popper's model of falsifiability as the key force involved in scientific change). Rather, according to Kuhn, anomalies have various levels of significance to the practitioners of science at the time. To put it in the context of early 20th century physics, some scientists found the problems with calculating Mercury's perihelion more troubling than the Michelson-Morley experiment results, and some the other way around. Kuhn's model of scientific change differs here, and in many places, from that of the logical positivists in that it puts an enhanced emphasis on the individual humans involved as scientists, rather than abstracting science into a purely logical or philosophical venture.


Selected picture

Woman teaching geometry.jpg

In this detail from an early 14th century copy of Euclid's Elements, a woman is shown teaching geometry. It is a detail of a scene in the bowl of the letter 'P'; the woman, with a set-square and dividers, uses a compass to measure distances on a diagram. In her left hand she holds a square, an implement for testing or drawing right angles. She is watched by a group of students. In images from the Middle Ages, it is unusual to see women represented as teachers, in particular when the students appear to be monks. She may be the personification of Geometry.


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

July 28:
  • 2000 - Death of Abraham Pais, Dutch-born American physicist and historian (b. 1918)

Related portals




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:

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


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