History of Science

Chapter 2: History of Science

Humans have always pursued science, but science as a discipline started many centuries ago, but the historic science societies began during the age of enlightenment. It was essentially practiced by individual scientists who belonged to scholarly scientific groupings specializing in the discipline of science. Modern classroom science involves an instructor and a group of students taking instructions, usually in a laboratory where experiments are conducted.

In historic science the individual scientist was independent, and worked on their own. Such individuals doubled as philosophers and scholars in their scientific field. The historic science societies were guided by a set of ethics, and members who violate were condemned by the societies. But since scientists were respectable members of society and were called fathers or mothers of their science discoveries, they mostly conducted themselves in high decorum, for example Darwin, Newton, Marie Curie, Pierre, and so on. By contrast, modern scientists specialize in a narrow field of science.

The earliest scientists, such as Aristotle who is regarded as the father of science, were really philosophers and their scientific methods were theoretical notions with no experimental proof. Aristotle’s contribution was in classification of matter, which he grouped into five states: air, fire, water, heavenly substance and solid earth, views that survived many centuries. Later historic scientists like Galileo and Descartes started inquiry by experiment to prove their scientific notions. Later scientists, like Newton, established a well-defined methodology in scientific inquiry involving an idea for investigation, formulating a hypothesis, conducting an experiment to test the hypothesis, recording and analyzing the results, drawing a conclusion about the hypothesis that could be either to accept or reject the hypothesis, and publishing the outcome. This methodology is one of the most enduring legacies from historic scientists, but there are other unconventional approaches in use today.

Scientists had to be eloquent communicators to defend their discoveries to the society members and the public, for example, in defense of Darwin, Galton tried to prove that hereditary cells came from the surface of body cells, but found the theory false. Darwin adamantly upheld his earlier position, even though he had directly participated in the experiment. Religion shaped belief and acceptance of scientific discoveries, whereby many people were illiterate and therefore inclined to believe teachings more than science, even when presented with evidence. If science discovery contradicted doctrine then it was a sacrilege, for example Galileo, Copernicus and Descartes were at some point forced to recant their discoveries or else face excommunication. By contract, the oriental scientists, like Muslims and Chinese had a more tolerant view of science.

Chapter 3: Nature of Science and Conceptual Understanding

Science has evolved through development of concepts, known as conceptual changes. Such changes have to be commensurate, that is, two theories are compared with each other using similar standards, for similar outcomes. In the concept of heat and temperature, the historic made no differentiation between heat energy and thermal energy. It was modern scientists which referred to thermal energy as being the internal energy of an object, while heat energy was thermal energy that is transferred from a warmer surface to a cooler surface from one object to another.  

Many scholarly views held by historic scientists have evolved as more knowledge is acquired, and new narrow branches of science have emerged in contrast to historic science that operated in a broad field of study. Some concepts in historic science have changed radically, but even if they were wrong, the ideas served to emphasize the efforts of the early scientists. Similarly, modern students may express an incorrect idea and the tutors tend to correct them without first probing the students’ preconceptions. Modern science deliberately overlook the inaccuracies of earlier scientists, maybe in order to give students confidence that they too can make discoveries. Paradigm existed in the historic science for example, Ptolemy calculated the relative positions of the planets, Maxwell expressed electromagnetism in mathematical terms, and Darwin found about natural selection. In modern science paradigm predictions or theories are confirmed by facts, for example quantum theory by Einstein predicted behavior of electrons, and this was confirmed by quantum physicists and inventors of lasers, nuclear power, and diodes. 

Chance discoveries were common in earlier science, for example when Newton discovered the law of gravity from the falling of an apple and Pasteur discovered penicillin by accident. Dalton was not even a chemist, but his paradigm that all matter is made up of atoms and chemical reaction involves atoms, became the basis of atomic science. Science classroom and historic societies have a number of features in common, for example, in preconceptions. 

Modern classroom science has existed for more than 200 years. Schools, colleges and universities are populated with learners being instructed by the tutor. Some of the features of classroom science are use of laboratories to reinforce theory teaching and using methodology. Science books are not infallible, and textbooks have been known to records inaccurate facts, for example, that the human body contained 4 chromosomes, although it was discovered later that they really were 46 chromosomes. This was a case of incommensurability, in which knowledge was incorrect. There is the dispute in astronomy about the status of Pluto, whether it is a planet or not based on the definition of a planet.

In conclusion, one notes that scientific laws were developed over many years before they were accepted as standard scientific laws, by which scientific knowledge is measured. Modern classroom science has refined these laws, by testing them again and again. For example Newton’s law of gravity has been shown to be true and consistent over the years. Therefore classroom science is a natural and logical extension of historic science societies.

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