[Portal] History of science

The History of Science Portal

The history of science is the study of the development of science and scientific knowledge, 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.

Selected article

The creation–evolution controversy (also termed the creation vs. evolution debate or the origins debate) is a recurring dispute in the popular arena about the origins of the Earth, humanity, life, and the universe. The debate is most prevalent and visible in certain regions of the United States, where it is often portrayed in the mass media in the broader context of the culture wars or a supposed dispute between religion and science. The main opposing positions are held by those who espouse the validity and superiority of a particular creation myth and those who support naturalistic or scientific accounts provided by astrophysics, geology and biology. Despite the controversy, many people believe that scientific ideas, including biological evolution, need not contradict their personal religious beliefs.

The conflict centers primarily on the defensibility of creationism (especially the forms of creationism derived from fundamentalist or religiously conservative Abrahamic accounts of origins), a view that regards scientific explanations of origins as antithetical to divine creation, and often, more specifically, Creation according to Genesis. The key contention of such creationists is that only a supernatural miracle and not "unguided evolution" can account for origins. This view is overwhelmingly rejected by the scientific community and academia, who point to the strong correspondence of reality with the theory, and how, as in the title of a famous essay by Theodosius Dobzhansky, Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution.

Evolution is often expanded by creationists to include such things as the Big Bang Theory, abiogenesis, and the formation of stars, however, although the word evolution is used as part of several astronomical terms such as stellar evolution, none of these are implied by the term evolution alone. Which specific scientific ideas conflict with their concept of creationism, and would therefore comprise "evolution", can vary from creationist to creationist.

Selected image

Muybridge horse jumping.jpg

This famous sequence of photographs, depicting a horse in motion, was created by Eadweard Muybridge in 1904. His technique involved multiple cameras, linked by an electrical trigger, to capture many images in rapid succession. Muybridge demonstrated this and many other sets of motion photographs to the public using his zoopraxiscope, a precursor of motion pictures.

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.


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

December 1:

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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.

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