Portal:History of science

The History of Science Portal

The history of science covers the development of science from ancient times to the present. It encompasses all three major branches of science: natural, social, and formal. Protoscience, early sciences, and natural philosophies such as alchemy and astrology during the Bronze Age, Iron Age, classical antiquity, and the Middle Ages declined during the early modern period after the establishment of formal disciplines of science in the Age of Enlightenment.

Science's earliest roots can be traced to Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia around 3000 to 1200 BCE. These civilizations' contributions to mathematics, astronomy, and medicine influenced later Greek natural philosophy of classical antiquity, wherein formal attempts were made to provide explanations of events in the physical world based on natural causes. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, knowledge of Greek conceptions of the world deteriorated in Latin-speaking Western Europe during the early centuries (400 to 1000 CE) of the Middle Ages, but continued to thrive in the Greek-speaking Byzantine Empire. Aided by translations of Greek texts, the Hellenistic worldview was preserved and absorbed into the Arabic-speaking Muslim world during the Islamic Golden Age. The recovery and assimilation of Greek works and Islamic inquiries into Western Europe from the 10th to 13th century revived the learning of natural philosophy in the West. Traditions of early science were also developed in ancient India and separately in ancient China, the Chinese model having influenced Vietnam, Korea and Japan before Western exploration. Among the Pre-Columbian peoples of Mesoamerica, the Zapotec civilization established their first known traditions of astronomy and mathematics for producing calendars, followed by other civilizations such as the Maya.

Natural philosophy was transformed during the Scientific Revolution in 16th- to 17th-century Europe, as new ideas and discoveries departed from previous Greek conceptions and traditions. The New Science that emerged was more mechanistic in its worldview, more integrated with mathematics, and more reliable and open as its knowledge was based on a newly defined scientific method. More "revolutions" in subsequent centuries soon followed. The chemical revolution of the 18th century, for instance, introduced new quantitative methods and measurements for chemistry. In the 19th century, new perspectives regarding the conservation of energy, age of Earth, and evolution came into focus. And in the 20th century, new discoveries in genetics and physics laid the foundations for new sub disciplines such as molecular biology and particle physics. Moreover, industrial and military concerns as well as the increasing complexity of new research endeavors ushered in the era of "big science," particularly after World War II. (Full article...)

Duria Antiquior – A more Ancient Dorset is a watercolor painted in 1830 by the geologist Henry De la Beche based on fossils found by Mary Anning. The late 18th and early 19th century was a time of rapid and dramatic changes in ideas about the history of life on earth.

The history of paleontology traces the history of the effort to understand the history of life on Earth by studying the fossil record left behind by living organisms. Since it is concerned with understanding living organisms of the past, paleontology can be considered to be a field of biology, but its historical development has been closely tied to geology and the effort to understand the history of Earth itself.

In ancient times, Xenophanes (570–480 BC), Herodotus (484–425 BC), Eratosthenes (276–194 BC), and Strabo (64 BC–24 AD) wrote about fossils of marine organisms, indicating that land was once under water. The ancient Chinese considered them to be dragon bones and documented them as such. During the Middle Ages, fossils were discussed by Persian naturalist Ibn Sina (known as Avicenna in Europe) in The Book of Healing (1027), which proposed a theory of petrifying fluids that Albert of Saxony would elaborate on in the 14th century. The Chinese naturalist Shen Kuo (1031–1095) would propose a theory of climate change based on evidence from petrified bamboo. (Full article...)
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This iconographic French tapestry from the early 16th century depicts the muse Astronomia consulting with an astronomer, possibly Ptolemy. The tapestry resides in the Röhsska Konstslöjdmuseet, but its origins are unknown.

Did you know

...that in the history of paleontology, very few naturalists before the 17th century recognized fossils as the remains of living organisms?

...that on January 17, 2007, the Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved to "5 minutes from midnight" in part because of global climate change?

...that in 1835, Caroline Herschel and Mary Fairfax Somerville became the first women scientists to be elected to the Royal Astronomical Society?

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Luther Burbank (March 7, 1849 – April 11, 1926) was an American botanist, horticulturist and pioneer in agricultural science. He developed more than 800 strains and varieties of plants over his 55-year career. Burbank's developments included those of fruits, flowers, grains, grasses, and vegetables. He developed (but did not create) a spineless cactus (useful for cattle-feed) and the plumcot.

Burbank's most successful strains and varieties included the Shasta daisy, the fire poppy (note possible confusion with the California wildflower, Papaver californicum, which is also called a fire poppy), the "July Elberta" peach, the "Santa Rosa" plum, the "Flaming Gold" nectarine, the "Wickson" plum (named after the agronomist Edward J. Wickson), the freestone peach, and the white blackberry. A natural genetic variant of the Burbank potato with russet-colored skin later became known as the russet Burbank potato. This large, brown-skinned, white-fleshed potato has become the world's predominant potato in food processing. The Russet Burbank potato was in fact invented to help with the devastating situation in Ireland following the Great Famine. This particular potato variety was created by Burbank to help "revive the country's leading crop" as it is slightly late blight-resistant. Late blight is a disease that spread and destroyed potatoes all across Europe, but caused extreme chaos in Ireland due to the high dependency on potatoes as a crop by the Irish. (Full article...)
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