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. Previously, investigators of nature called themselves "natural philosophers". While empirical investigations of the natural world have been described since classical antiquity (for example by Thales and Aristotle), and 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 century through 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. Some 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 in a wider matrix of intellectual, cultural, economic and political trends. These interpretations, however, have met with opposition for they also portray history of science as an incoherent system of incommensurable paradigms, not leading to any scientific progress, but only to the illusion of progress.
A watercolour by ship's artist Conrad Martens painted during the survey of Tierra del Fuego
shows the Beagle
being hailed by native Fuegians.
The Voyage of the Beagle is a title commonly given to the book written by Charles Darwin published in 1839 as his Journal and Remarks, which brought him considerable fame and respect. The title refers to the second survey expedition of the ship HMS Beagle which set out on 27 December 1831 under the command of captain Robert FitzRoy. While the expedition was originally planned to last two years, it lasted almost five—the Beagle did not return until 2 October 1836. Darwin spent most of this time exploring on land (three years and three months on land; 18 months at sea).
Darwin's account of the voyage is a vivid and exciting travel memoir as well as a detailed scientific field journal covering biology, geology and anthropology that demonstrates Darwin's keen powers of observation, written at a time when the West were still discovering and exploring much of the rest of the world. With hindsight, one can find hints of the ideas Darwin would later develop into the theory of evolution.
The late 19th century was a period of increased tension and conflict between science and religion; the relationship is dramatized in this engraving by W. Ridgway (published in 1878) after Daniel Huntington's 1868 painting Philosophy and Christian Art. An attractive young woman attempts to persuade a wizened natural philosopher of the virtue of Christian art (in the form of an adoration scene), while he resolutely points to his book, the pages of which read "SCIENTIA" and "MECHANICA", in answer. In addition to youth and beauty, the young woman has nature itself, seen through the window, on her side. (In the original painting, the landscape is a somewhat wilder Romantic scene, meant to emphasize the power of nature.)
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"?