The history of science is the study of the historical development of science and scientific knowledge, including both the natural sciences and social sciences. (The history of the arts and humanities are termed the history of scholarship.) Until the late 20th century, the history of science, especially of the physical and biological sciences, was seen as a narrative of true theories replacing false ones. Science was portrayed as a major dimension of the progress of civilization. Recent historical interpretations, especially those influenced by Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), portray the history of science in terms of competing paradigms or conceptual systems battling for intellectual supremacy in a wider matrix that includes intellectual, cultural, economic and political themes outside pure science. New attention is paid to science outside the context of Western Europe.
According to Kuhn, each new paradigm re-writes the history of its science to present by selection and distortions the former paradigm as its forerunner. The description of the history of economic theory below is a good example.
Science is a body of empirical, theoretical, and practical knowledge about the natural world, produced by researchers making use of scientific methods, which emphasize the observation, explanation, and prediction of real world phenomena by experiment. Given the dual status of science as objective knowledge and as a human construct, good historiography of science draws on the historical methods of both intellectual history and social history.
Tracing the exact origins of modern science is possible through the many important texts which have survived from the classical world. However, the word scientist is relatively recent—first coined by William Whewell in the 19th century. Previously, people investigating nature called themselves natural philosophers.
While empirical investigations of the natural world have been described since classical antiquity (for example, by Thales, Aristotle, and others), and scientific methods have been employed since the Middle Ages (for example, by Ibn al-Haytham, Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī and Roger Bacon), the dawn of modern science is generally traced back to the early modern period, during what is known as the Scientific Revolution that took place in 16th and 17th century Europe.
Scientific methods are considered to be so fundamental to modern science that some—especially philosophers of science and practicing scientists—consider earlier inquiries into nature to be pre-scientific. Traditionally, historians of science have defined science sufficiently broadly to include those inquiries.
Famous quotes containing the words history of, history and/or science:
“The second day of July 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more”
—John Adams (17351826)
“The reverence for the Scriptures is an element of civilization, for thus has the history of the world been preserved, and is preserved.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882)
“In our science and philosophy, even, there is commonly no true and absolute account of things. The spirit of sect and bigotry has planted its hoof amid the stars. You have only to discuss the problem, whether the stars are inhabited or not, in order to discover it.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)