Talk:History of science

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This article continues to be anti-European[edit]

Years ago I came on here and got involved in this discussion, bringing up the fact that this article had a very pro-Muslim, Indian, and Chinese bias on the topic. Now I have come back and I see the problem has been improved but there is still a lot of work to be done.

As someone else already mentioned, science in itself is mostly a European achievement, and Wikipedia seems to be the only "Encyclopedia" that gets this wrong. I have read all sorts of books on the history of science, and they all somehow miss these achievements that your article claims that China came up with before the West did. One very good book on the topic is "Human Accomplishment" by Charles Murray. He draws his information from sources from all over the world, and still comes to the conclusion, backed up by plenty of data which he provides, that the West has dominated not just in science but in other areas as well. Any book that tries to claim otherwise (and there are few in number), usually has a pro-Asian bias to begin with. I have yet to read a book strictly on the history of science that DOES NOT devote most of it's attention to Europe and there is a reason for that.

Also , as someone else mentioned, we need to distinguish between what is real science and what is NOT real science. I would like to list some specific quotes from the article that are downright irresponsibly lacking in facts:

"By the 12th century, they could reasonably accurately make predictions of eclipses, but the knowledge of this was lost during the Ming dynasty, so that the Jesuit Matteo Ricci gained much favour in 1601 by his predictions.[41]"

This is strictly a hypothesis based on an excuse. If the evidence isn't there, then it didn't happen.

"From antiquity, the Chinese used an equatorial system for describing the skies and a star map from 940 was drawn using a cylindrical (Mercator) projection."

Nope, the first Mercator map was invented by Mercator, a European, just as the history books say.

"The use of an armillary sphere is recorded from the 4th century BC and a sphere permanently mounted in equatorial axis from 52 BC."

There is no evidence of anybody knowing that the Earth was round other than the Greeks and then later Europeans after the Renaissance.

"To operate the crowning armillary sphere, his clocktower featured an escapement mechanism and the world's oldest known use of an endless power-transmitting chain drive." What type of power?

"The Jesuit China missions of the 16th and 17th centuries 'learned to appreciate the scientific achievements of this ancient culture and made them known in Europe. Through their correspondence European scientists first learned about the Chinese science and culture.'[46] "

This is an example of your bias. You say nothing of all the things that the Chinese in turn learned from Europeans at the same time. And what exactly did China have that could really be called "science" as opposed to practical technology? Is there a historical source that actually lists all these scientific discoveries that Europe supposedly learned from China?

"Western academic thought on the history of Chinese technology and science was galvanized by the work of Joseph Needham and the Needham Research Institute. Among the technological accomplishments of China were, according to the British scholar Needham, early seismological detectors (Zhang Heng in the 2nd century), the water-powered celestial globe (Zhang Heng), matches, the independent invention of the decimal system, dry docks, sliding calipers, the double-action piston pump, cast iron, the blast furnace, the iron plough, the multi-tube seed drill, the wheelbarrow, the suspension bridge, the winnowing machine, the rotary fan, the parachute, natural gas as fuel, the raised-relief map, the propeller, the crossbow, and a solid fuel rocket, the multistage rocket, the horse collar, along with contributions in logic, astronomy, medicine, and other fields."

I've noticed that Needham's name comes up over and over on this topic as if he is the only one who says these things. Even Charles Murray in "Human Accomplishment" researched Needham's work, but STILL came to the conclusion that 95% of science has come out of Europe. As for the inventions you list, some of these are legitimate, others are not, some have obscure origins, and finally others were actually much cruder and primitive than what we are to believe they actually were.

"However, cultural factors prevented these Chinese achievements from developing into what we might call 'modern science'. According to Needham, it may have been the religious and philosophical framework of Chinese intellectuals which made them unable to accept the ideas of laws of nature"

Perhaps because there never was real science in China to begin with.

"This led to an early scientific method being developed in the Muslim world, where significant progress in methodology was made, beginning with the experiments of Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) on optics from circa 1000, in his Book of Optics."

But it wasn't enough to constitute a scientific method, which is why , for centuries, up until the politically correct period, Muslims have never been given credit for it.

"In mathematics, the Persian mathematician Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi gave his name to the concept of the algorithm, while the term algebra is derived from al-jabr, the beginning of the title of one of his publications. What is now known as Arabic numerals originally came from India, but Muslim mathematicians did make several refinements to the number system, such as the introduction of decimal point notation. Sabian mathematician Al-Battani (850-929) contributed to astronomy and mathematics, while Persian scholar Al-Razi contributed to chemistry and medicine. "

No mention of all the influences from Greek math?

"Heliocentric theories may have also been discussed by several other Muslim astronomers such as Ja'far ibn Muhammad Abu Ma'shar al-Balkhi,[60] Abu-Rayhan Biruni, Abu Said al-Sijzi,[61] Qutb al-Din al-Shirazi, and Najm al-Dīn al-Qazwīnī al-Kātibī.[62]" You say "may have", which is the key phrase here. What is this based on? This is where falsehoods get turned into facts, completely fabricating history.

"Muslim chemists and alchemists played an important role in the foundation of modern chemistry."

Even though just about every book on the history of Chemistry spends very little time talking about Islamic achievements.

"As well as this, Europeans began to venture further and further east (most notably, perhaps, Marco Polo) as a result of the Pax Mongolica. This led to the increased influence of Indian and even Chinese science on the European tradition."

While it is true that Europe became reaquainted with Greek science through arabic texts, as well as Persian, Indian, and Greek math, it is factually irresponsible to say that Europe learned SCIENCE from China and India at this time. What science are we talking about and how come it hasn't been mentioned in the average history book? Read the book "MARCO POLO" by Michael Yamashita. In it, Marco Polo describes India as quite backwards, and while he was impressed with China, the book says nothing about him learning any so-called "science" from there.

"The first half of the 14th century saw much important scientific work being done, largely within the framework of scholastic commentaries on Aristotle's scientific writings.[88]"

This proves my point. It is funny that certain biased history books want to claim that Europe during the Renaissance learned science from the Middle East, India, and China, yet in books on the actual history of science in particular, it is only Greek names that get mentioned when listing specific scientists that Europe learned from. Why is this? — Preceding unsigned comment added by 99.127.153.183 (talk) 02:37, 16 November 2011 (UTC)

I agree with you. This article about science doesn't seem to distinguish between science (started in Europe) and technology (ancient China, Egypt, etc). Wikipedia has a tendency to be overly politically correct in some areas. It also is specifically anti-Christian. Lehasa (talk) 14:57, 7 August 2017 (UTC)
I don't quite think the situation is so dramatic, i.e. that the article is "anti-European". If you look at the very large modern science section, it goes into great detail about advances that mostly took place in Europe. That said, there is a lot of crap and puffery in the article (the stuff about the Pax Mongolica for one), and the India, China, and Islamic sections are written from a fan's point of view. If you feel the article needs work, the way to do it is to be WP:BOLD (and get an account) and edit the article accordingly. Complaining on the talkpage is unlikely to achieve anything. As a rule of thumb, any unsourced claim is fair game for removal. By the way, do not indent your paragraphs, otherwise wikipedia treats them as quotes and it makes your talkpage posts very difficult to read. Athenean (talk) 03:21, 16 November 2011 (UTC)
If there is work to be done, the only way is to get an account and get the work done. That's how things are done. :-) Gun Powder Ma (talk) 12:27, 16 November 2011 (UTC)
I'm afraid I cannot agree with all the point of your rant. I am not an expert on China, so I will omit comment on those points, but I know quite a bit about the Arab scientific history:
>> "The use of an armillary sphere is recorded from the 4th century BC and a sphere permanently mounted in equatorial axis from 52 BC."
> There is no evidence of anybody knowing that the Earth was round other than the Greeks and then later Europeans after the Renaissance.
The Arabs, who were very familiar with the Greek pre-sciences were very well aware that the earth was round. Abu Rayhan Biruni improved Eratosthenes estimate for the circumference of the earth using pure trigonometry (that the Greeks didn't have) and better observations than were available to the Greeks.
>> "To operate the crowning armillary sphere, his clocktower featured an escapement mechanism and the world's oldest known use of an endless power-transmitting chain drive."
> What type of power?
At the time, water power (from flowing rivers) would have been the only continuous readily available power source. And BTW, this was heavily exploited by the late Roman periods through the time of the Arabic empire and beyond. I am unaware of the degree to which the Chinese may have learned this from the Arabs or simply developed it on their own.
>> "However, cultural factors prevented these Chinese achievements from developing into what we might call 'modern science'. According to Needham, it may have been the religious and philosophical framework of Chinese intellectuals which made them unable to accept the ideas of laws of nature"
> Perhaps because there never was real science in China to begin with.
No, absolutely not. The Chinese had at least some rudimentary science. We know this because their scholars had been invited to exchange their knowledge at Islamic centers such as the observatory at Maragheh, which they exploited.
>> "This led to an early scientific method being developed in the Muslim world, where significant progress in methodology was made, beginning with the experiments of Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) on optics from circa 1000, in his Book of Optics."
> But it wasn't enough to constitute a scientific method, which is why, for centuries, up until the politically correct period, Muslims have never been given credit for it.
You're dead wrong. Any plain reading of Alhazen and Avicenna shows that the Arabs invented the scientific method, and it can be attributed to absolutely nobody else. This has nothing to do with political correctness. Tracing the history of this shows quite clearly that the first Europeans espousing anything similar to "the scientific method" in the early days had clearly read Alhazen at least (and probably Avicenna as well).
>> "In mathematics, the Persian mathematician Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi gave his name to the concept of the algorithm, while the term algebra is derived from al-jabr, the beginning of the title of one of his publications. What is now known as Arabic numerals originally came from India, but Muslim mathematicians did make several refinements to the number system, such as the introduction of decimal point notation. Sabian mathematician Al-Battani (850-929) contributed to astronomy and mathematics, while Persian scholar Al-Razi contributed to chemistry and medicine. "
> No mention of all the influences from Greek math?
Of course the Greek math had an influence, but that's in the main article already. But you are shifting the goal posts. All science is built on the work of people before them. Nobody in their right mind is claiming that science came ex nihilo (except maybe you). Even the Greeks were highly influenced by the Babylonians/Chaldeans and the Egyptians before them.
As to the specific topic of algebra, the Greek influence is actually quite indirect. Diophantus probably influenced the Indians who in turn influenced al-Khwarizmi. The first concept of an algorithm, obviously comes from Euclid's gcd algorithm at the very latest. But the reason why we use the name "algorithm" (named for Al-Khwarizmi) is that he gave so many of them, and used that as the basis for practicing all of number based mathematics from arithmetic until algebra. His unifying principles of algebra and arithmetic is unique to him, and is in no way indebted to the Greeks (though it is fair to say he owes at least something to the Indians).
>> "Heliocentric theories may have also been discussed by several other Muslim astronomers such as Ja'far ibn Muhammad Abu Ma'shar al-Balkhi,[60] Abu-Rayhan Biruni, Abu Said al-Sijzi,[61] Qutb al-Din al-Shirazi, and Najm al-Dīn al-Qazwīnī al-Kātibī.[62]"
> You say "may have", which is the key phrase here. What is this based on? This is where falsehoods get turned into facts, completely fabricating history.
I have not gone over the complete history of what is being referred to above, however it is well known that the Indians, posed a heliocentric theory of the universe and that Muslim scholars addressed the issue by arguing against it. The correct way to view this is to realize that the topic was well known to them and analyzed, but that they didn't have sufficient evidence or mathematical models to come to the right conclusion. (Which is fair -- not even Copernicus had this; only with Galileo and Kepler did heliocentrism start to become the reasonable explanation.)
>> "Muslim chemists and alchemists played an important role in the foundation of modern chemistry."
> Even though just about every book on the history of Chemistry spends very little time talking about Islamic achievements.
Every book? You have a library with every book in it? Anyhow, this is complete nonsense. The Arabs were critical to the discovery that matter was preserved, in a number of special cases, that one could not "transmute" metals from one form into another, the isolation of alcohol, the descriptions of acids versus alkalais and so on.
I have not done a deep dive into this yet myself, however on the surface, it looks to me as if **both** Alchemy and Chemistry came out of the Arabic tradition. And the Europeans, like idiots, gravitated towards the Alchemy version of the science first, ignoring the Arab discoveries until the 18th century.
> It is funny that certain biased history books want to claim that Europe during the Renaissance learned science from the Middle East, India, and China, yet in books on the actual history of science in particular, it is only Greek names that get mentioned when listing specific scientists that Europe learned from. Why is this?
Perhaps because you didn't realize the Alhazen, Avicenna, and, Al-Khwarizmi, are not Greek names? Qed (talk) 21:14, 24 July 2014 (UTC)

They are few names and none of them is a modern scientist. The religious precepts prevented the use of the 1455 Gutenberg movable type printing until 1729 for Constantinople and 1794 for Egypt. The religious scholars of the university al-Azhar, however, destroyed the printing machine and threw the pieces in the port of Abu Qir in Alexandria. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 217.133.5.107 (talk) 07:36, 17 May 2015 (UTC)

I think Isaac Newton got it right when he wrote about being able to see further because he was 'standing on the shoulders of giants' In other words what he achieved was built upon the work of all those who had gone before him. And those who had gone before were a vast collection from all over the world. There is no question for example that the Islamic world had made (and also preserved) some remarkable scientific discoveries. But it was only Europeans who eventually developed the systematic 'scientific method' of enquiry which made modern science possible. There may be a danger in bending over backwards trying not to give offence to other continents. Cassandra. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 79.74.35.207 (talk) 10:42, 16 November 2017 (UTC)

I disagree, this article claims to be about the "History of Science" that should include its total history from all over the world, it's irrelevant what form of science dominates the world today as that does not change what form of science was present throughout the rest of history. You can't and shouldn't change history based on what happened in the future. You can change perspective and opinion of that past, however those things are subjective there are many that argue that modern science is progress and there are many who argue that it is not. It depends what your values are what your view on that is, and those kinds of opinions have no place in wikipedia. Including everything here is much more neutral a retelling of history than not including it. — Preceding unsigned comment added by BerthaLJorkinS (talkcontribs) 17:59, 9 December 2017 (UTC)

China and India[edit]

I think the China and India sections are still a little too long. This has been a problem for a while and I may work on it myself. The China section is much worse than the India section. There are certain sentences that are repetitive, and I am not sure if a few of the claims in both are even true (especially for China). As a new editor, I would also like to ask why, if most science came out of Europe after 1500 AD, why are the sections on the Renaissance, and on Europe post 1500 AD, some of the shortest in the entire article? As far as the section on Europe in the Middle Ages, I am removing the following sentence in the paragraph about Marco Polo..."This led to the increased influence of Indian and even Chinese science on the European tradition". I haven't seen any evidence for this claim, ever, that Marco Polo brought back "science" from India and China. India contributed some mathematical knowledge by other means during other periods, and perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Marco Polo learned about a couple Chinese inventions, but I have never read anywhere about him learning actual "science" from those two civilizations that Europe wouldn't have already had anyways by that time. Therefore, I reworded the sentence to something more plausible Pierceunique (talk) 04:08, 5 February 2015 (UTC)

"Existence of science"[edit]

I'm encountering the following claim in a few history of science articles:

"Robert Briffault, in The Making of Humanity, asserts that the very existence of science, as it is understood in the modern sense, is rooted in the scientific thought and knowledge that emerged in Islamic civilizations during this time."[1]
  1. ^ Robert Briffault (1928). The Making of Humanity, pp. 190–202. G. Allen & Unwin Ltd.

The source is here, and it does seem to support this general idea (though perhaps the terms are hyperbolic). Could I have some advice in assessing a) the reliability of this source and b) if it is reliable, the proper context to place it in? I could take this to RSN as well but I thought it might be useful to ask here first, especially for part B. Thanks, Sunrise (talk) 06:51, 13 February 2015 (UTC)


Religions and scientists[edit]

Why are Arabic and Persian scientists identified by their religion while European scientists by their nationality or ethinicity? perhaps there should be one standard and so-called "European" scientists should be referred to as Christian scientists.. Mrdthree (talk) 09:06, 11 March 2015 (UTC)

"Lost page" of the "Wealth of Nations"[edit]

I'm working through articles containing "the to", often a sign of a badly-worded sentence. There's one here in the "Economics" section, which was added in this 2011 edit. The sentence, and perhaps the paragraph, needs rewriting by someone who understands the subject. If the source is really a "lost page" then how is this important enough to be mentioned in this overview article? -- John of Reading (talk) 08:07, 1 July 2015 (UTC)

The giants Kepler, Galilei, Newton passed over with just a couple of words[edit]

Einstein gets a couple of lines. Many of the greats are not even mentioned. Turing, Oppenheimer, von Neumann, Becquerel, Hertz, Pauli, Watt, Joule, Mach, Volta, Gauss, Linnaeus, Fleming, the Curies, von Helmholtz, von Braun, Roentgen... to name a few. While there are pages long essays on China, India and Islamic countries, full of myth, falsehood, exaggeration; deliberate, politically motivated story telling. I'm not going to assume good faith. This is a deliberately bad article and there have been clear motives in making it an article of false information, undue weight, political narrative building, anti-learning and entirely unencyclopedic.

This the history of science? How the scientific process and method were born and developed and practised? The wiki-project is beyond help. The state of this article after 14 years. The social construction of knowledge by ideological advocates. This is sick. A kid who reads this article and takes it seriously. What a false view of history and science will he get. What a false view of the world he lives in. And to think there are writers here on wikipedia, deliberately dishonest to want just that. 188.67.176.203 (talk) 14:40, 7 July 2015 (UTC)

Any claims the the article contains "falsehood" should be accompanied by detailed proof. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 176.24.21.188 (talk) 15:22, 7 November 2015 (UTC)
As you point out, this article shows a strong bias towards extreme political correctness. Science was started by white men. Maybe this is sad and unfortunate, but it is true. Why? Because science started in Europe and Europe was white at the time. Why men? Because Europe was also patriarchal (as was the rest of the world at that time) and so women were simply not allowed to go to university, write technical books, etc. The truth about the history of science should not be changed just because people don't like certain aspects of it.
The same goes for Christianity. The Christian worldview, the Christian understanding of God, was essential for science to being. It was one of the three or four necessary components for the scientific revolution. However, with rabid anti-Christian sentiment in today's society, there is no way that this will ever make it into Wikipedia. Lehasa (talk) 15:02, 7 August 2017 (UTC)

I think the Christian understanding of God was detrimental to science and European civilization in general. Christians' obsession with a mythological figure did not help them advance. Dimadick (talk) 17:03, 1 September 2017 (UTC)

You think that, but if you go and look for evidence (positive and negative evidence) you'll find the opposite of what you think. Check your biases. This obsession with "a mythological figure" gave rise to most of the early universities and hospitals and spread literacy around the world. Freedom of slaves also. I don't think you've investigated for yourself the positive benefits of Christianity. The media just highlights the negative ones, but you should have a look for yourself - you'll be pleasantly surprised. Lehasa (talk) 17:30, 1 September 2017 (UTC)

Discovery[edit]

The "discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus" is mentioned. I am not sure what this has to do with science. Anyway, his arrival was the third, after those of the American Indians and the Vikings. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 176.24.21.188 (talk) 15:17, 7 November 2015 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

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"Science in the periphery"[edit]

An editor has now twice inserted a top-level section - a whole chapter - on what seems to be a very minor topic. I reverted this once as undue and now bring it to other editors' attention for their opinion. Chiswick Chap (talk) 15:21, 6 December 2017 (UTC)

I am that editor. As the cited article in question
Twidale, C.R. (2009). ""Obscure" references: a cautionary tale". Studia Geologica Salmanticensi. 45 (1): 59–89. 
explains the contributions to science from lesser known societies far from the centers of higher learning in Europe are less known but still important to the development of science. The section needs rather than being remove an expansion. The article cannot stay with the development in a handful of European countries but need to incorporate the history of the "periphery". Lappspira (talk) 15:59, 6 December 2017 (UTC)


I don't think that it is a minor topic, but equally, I don't think it should be a top-level chapter. It seems to me that the story given in the text as it stands is part of the story of modern science, so maybe it should be a subsection there. — Charles Stewart (talk) 16:02, 6 December 2017 (UTC)
Maybe a small subsection, with more citations. I'm not terribly convinced, for the simple reason that major scientists like Linnaeus and von Baer were quite able to work in places far from Paris, Bologna, Berlin, Amsterdam, and London, and people don't really feel the need to talk about whether their workplaces were peripheral. Chiswick Chap (talk) 19:06, 6 December 2017 (UTC)
Because they're white and we live in a world governed by systemic racism so it's valuable to ensure we include those people? Feel free to add references to Linnaeus and von Baer if you want.. — Preceding unsigned comment added by BerthaLJorkinS (talkcontribs) 17:39, 9 December 2017 (UTC)


To the editors with interest of the history of science[edit]

I have provided some text in Carl Sagan's page with academic sources on Carl Sagan's misconceptions about the history of science in Middle Ages, and his belief in the "Conflict thesis" which is utterly refuted by the historians of science.

However, I fear that there are some with no knowledge about the history of science, who probably will not grasp that Sagan did indeed hold some popular misconception (Dark Ages Myth, Hyapatia-myth, Library of Alexandria-myth and especially the Conflict Thesis he believed in)

Here it is:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Carl_Sagan#Criticism_section_again

Perhaps you all should attend the discussion and clarifying the issue. — Preceding unsigned comment added by En historiker (talkcontribs) 22:40, 30 December 2017 (UTC)