The content of science, as well as the meaning of the very idea of science, has continually evolved since the rise of modern science and before. The history of science is concerned with the paths that led to our present knowledge as well as those that were abandoned (thus overlapping with the history of ideas, history of philosophy and intellectual history). The history of science seeks to explain past beliefs—even those now considered erroneous—in their social, cultural and intellectual contexts. It also forms the foundation of the philosophy of science and the sociology of science, as well as the interdisciplinary field of science, technology, and society, and is closely related to the history of technology.
The study of science and technology includes both processes and bodies of knowledge. Scientific processes are the ways scientists investigate and communicate about the natural world. The scientific body of knowledge includes concepts, principles, facts, laws, and theories about the way the world around us works. Technology includes the technological design process and the body of knowledge related to the study of tools and the effect of technology on society. Science is continuously growing with technology today. Thanks to technology scientists have been able to better prove their theories.
Periodization in the historiography of science is usually oriented around the Scientific Revolution that culminated in the work of Isaac Newton. In this scheme, science (or more precisely, natural philosophy) before Copernicus was pre-modern science. European and Islamic science from antiquity to the 16th century was primarily derived from the work of Aristotle and other Greek philosophers (though historians now recognize the significant influence of Chinese knowledge as well); it included alchemy, astrology, and other subjects no longer considered as scientific, as well as the precursors of the modern sciences. Science (still in the form of natural philosophy) from roughly the late 16th century until the early- to mid-19th century was early-modern science; the birth of the experimental method in the 17th and 18th centuries is often considered a central event in the history of science. The 19th century saw the professionalization and secularization of science and the creation of independent scientific disciplines; modern science can denote science since this period (in distinction to early-modern), all science since Newton (in distinction to pre-modern), or simply science as practiced now.
Illustration from Nicholas Steno
's 1667 paper of a Shark head with a tooth and a fossil tooth
The history of paleontology has been an ongoing effort to understand the history of life on Earth by understanding the fossil record left behind by living organisms. Inevitably it has been closely tied to geology and the effort to understand the history of the Earth itself. In the 17th and 18th centuries there was progress made in understanding the nature of fossils and the at the end of the 18th century the work of Georges Cuvier lead to the emergence of paleontology, in association with comparative anatomy, as a scientific discipline. The expanding knowledge of the fossil record also played an increasing role in the development of geology, particularly stratigraphy. The first half of the 19th century saw a rapid increase in knowledge about the past history of life on Earth and the progress towards definition of the geologic time scale. After Charles Darwin published the Origin of Species in 1859, much of the focus of paleontology shifted to understanding evolutionary paths, including human evolution, and evolutionary theory. The last half of the 20th century saw a renewal of interest in mass extinctions and their role in history of life on Earth.
As early as the 6th century BC Xenophanes of Colophon recognized that some fossil shells were remains of shellfish and indicated that what was now dry land was once under the sea. It is also well known that in one of his unpublished notebooks Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) concluded that some fossil sea shells were the remains of shellfish. However in both cases it is clear that the fossils were relatively complete remains of mollusk species that very closely resembled living species and thus were relatively easy to classify.
...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"?
- 1662 - Death of Blaise Pascal, French mathematician, physicist, and philosopher (b. 1623)