When we sit in a science class we are learning the process of scientific thought. Research, theories, and facts are all interspersed in science education. Classes start to add information about plants, animals, and human adaptation. Science education also begins to branch out into chemistry, marine biology, and forensics. At some point we begin to understand that science concerns everything that is in the environment. You cannot spend one minute outside without noticing something to do with science. Even indoor environments have chemicals, animals, and plants. So when exactly did the formal study of “science” begin?
The definition of science is explained as the study of the physical and natural world. This study is aimed at understanding the composition and activity of these things. This study, however, is also defined as taking place in a specific way. Scientific knowledge is gathered by observing and carrying out experiments to test ideas. Once a hypothesis is made, the experiment helps to prove or negate the concept.
Science is unique in that it is a practice that is ever-changing. A scientific theory can be disproved years after it has been widely accepted. Things like math and grammar are constants, while science is allowed to change to fall in line with new evidence. It is the methods that stay the same in science, not the information. It is common for parents to realize that their children are learning different scientific “facts” than they learned in school.
Science Comes Naturally
It is difficult to pinpoint a definite beginning of formal scientific study. Technically, humans have been curious about their environment from the very beginning of humanity itself. Ancient civilizations depended heavily on their knowledge of the environment to survive. They knew about various plants for food and medicine, possibly experimenting to find out about them. Past cultures were also very aware of the need for rain, and the rhythms of night and day. Some students say they are not good at science, but they are usually referring to the math applications and formal theories. Most kids are naturally very curious about the world around them and learn about it easily outside of a classroom.
A Few Important People
Scientific thought is considered to have begun with the ancient Greeks. Great thinkers of this time period, however, were more into philosophical and mathematical thought. The scientific method did not come around until Dante’s time period during the late Middle Ages. As far as the early “scientists”, information on this goes back to c.460-375 BC. Hippocrates was then followed by Aristotle. These are important figures, as they introduced the world to the expansion of thought and ideas. Roger Bacon, during the 13th century brought the more formal way scientific meaning into play. This may not have been consistent effort, at first, yet the ideas persisted. Bacon is known for his philosophic thinking, however he focused widely on the study of nature. He used the empirical way of thinking to expand his knowledge, leaving future generations to further develop this idea. Empirical thinking involves the idea that all knowledge is available from the world around us through our senses. When you think about how scientific research is conducted, Bacon really wasn’t that far off. Experimentations is key in this from of thought.
The 17th and 18th centuries brought fast advancements in how people learned and carried out scientific thought. This time was known as the Scientific Revolution. This onset of fast moving changes in the realms of math, biology, and astronomy, as well as many others. An early publication (1543) of Nicolaus Copernicus is thought to have initiated the Scientific Revolution. His book, De Revolution Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres), marks the formal beginning of the Scientific Revolution.
By the end of the 18th century, individuals in the science community began to organize certain ways of thinking and coming up with some formal ways to deal with the issues of nature. This is the time when some philosophical thought may have been pushed out of more formal scientific way of doing things. The early part of the Scientific Revolution was called the Scientific Renaissance. This early part of the era brought a rejuvenation of much of the information of centuries earlier. Galileo published his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. This introduction pretty much ended the early part of this era and moved it into a more advanced state.
By 1687, Isaac Newton entered the picture and published his Principia. This brought with it many ideas that we are familiar with in the modern scientific world, such as universal gravitation, and the laws of motion. Late in the 18th century, the Scientific Revolution came to an end.
The official experimentation process of the scientific method took some time to accept. It was introduced in the 17th century and some people had a hard time accepting it, as it went against the familiar Aristotelian ideals of deduction. Aristotle’s method focused on achieving a further understanding of facts already known, while the scientific method is more of an inductive technique. Observations with the possibility of changing some ideas along the way was a very different concept. Over time, however, it was encouraged to use the two methods together to form better conclusions.
The history of science has been given a loose timeline beginning with early philosophical thought. Many great thinkers added to the publications and methods that make up today’s modern scientific understanding. Science is all about progression and coming to a better understanding of the world around us. This curiosity has brought many ideas and concepts to the forefront over the years.