Portal:History of science

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The history of science is the study of the development of science, 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. Before that, investigators of nature called themselves "natural philosophers". While observations of the natural world have been described since classical antiquity (for example, by Thales and Aristotle), and the 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 through the 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. 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 within a wider matrix of intellectual, cultural, economic and political trends. These interpretations, however, have met with opposition for they also portray the history of science as an incoherent system of incommensurable paradigms, not leading to any actual scientific progress but only to the illusion that it has occurred.

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Ploughing with a yoke of horned cattle in Ancient Egypt. Painting from the burial chamber of Sennedjem, c. 1200 BC.

The history of agriculture records the domestication of plants and animals and the development and dissemination of techniques for raising them productively. Agriculture began independently in different parts of the globe, and included a diverse range of taxa. At least eleven separate regions of the Old and New World were involved as independent centers of origin.

Wild grains were collected and eaten from at least 105,000 years ago. However, domestication did not occur until much later. Starting from around 9500 BC, the eight Neolithic founder crops – emmer wheat, einkorn wheat, hulled barley, peas, lentils, bitter vetch, chick peas, and flax – were cultivated in the Levant. Rye may have been cultivated earlier, but this remains controversial. Rice was domesticated in China by 6200 BC with earliest known cultivation from 5700 BC, followed by mung, soy and azuki beans. Pigs were domesticated in Mesopotamia around 11,000 BC, followed by sheep between 11,000 BC and 9000 BC. Cattle were domesticated from the wild aurochs in the areas of modern Turkey and Pakistan around 8500 BC. Sugarcane and some root vegetables were domesticated in New Guinea around 7000 BC. Sorghum was domesticated in the Sahel region of Africa by 3000 BC. In the Andes of South America, the potato was domesticated between 8000 BC and 5000 BC, along with beans, coca, llamas, alpacas, and guinea pigs. Bananas were cultivated and hybridized in the same period in Papua New Guinea. In Mesoamerica, wild teosinte was domesticated to maize by 4000 BC. Cotton was domesticated in Peru by 3600 BC. Camels were domesticated late, perhaps around 3000 BC. Read more...
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Erasmus Darwin Temple of Nature.jpg

The frontispiece to Erasmus Darwin's evolution-themed poem The Temple of Nature shows a goddess pulling back the veil from nature (in the person of Artemis). Allegory and metaphor have often played an important role in the history of biology.

Did you know

...that the word scientist was coined in 1833 by philosopher and historian of science William Whewell?

...that biogeography has its roots in investigations of the story of Noah's Ark?

...that the idea of the "Scientific Revolution" dates only to 1939, with the work of Alexandre Koyré?

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George Kistiakowsky

George Bogdanovich Kistiakowsky (November 18, 1900 – December 7, 1982) (Ukrainian: Георгій Богданович Кістяківський, Russian: Георгий Богданович Кистяковский) was a Ukrainian-American physical chemistry professor at Harvard who participated in the Manhattan Project and later served as President Dwight D. Eisenhower's Science Advisor.

Born in Kiev in the old Russian Empire, into "an old Ukrainian Cossack family which was part of the intellectual elite in pre-revolutionary Russia", Kistiakowsky fled his homeland during the Russian Civil War. He made his way to Germany, where he earned his PhD in physical chemistry under the supervision of Max Bodenstein at the University of Berlin. He emigrated to the United States in 1926, where he joined the faculty of Harvard University in 1930, and became a citizen in 1933. Read more...
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