History of science

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The history of science is the study of the historical development of human understandings of the natural world. Until the late 20th century the history of science, especially of the physical and biological sciences, was seen as a narrative celebrating the triumph of true theories over false. Science was portrayed as a major dimension of the progress of civilization. In recent decades, postmodern views, especially influenced by Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), the history is seen 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.

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.[1]


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