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The history of science is the study of the development of science, 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 the English polymath William Whewell in the 19th century. Before that, investigators of nature called themselves "natural philosophers". While observations of the natural world have been described since classical antiquity (for example, by Thales and Aristotle), and the 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 through the 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. 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 within a wider matrix of intellectual, cultural, economic and political trends. These interpretations, however, have met with opposition for they also portray the history of science as an incoherent system of incommensurable paradigms, not leading to any actual scientific progress but only to the illusion that it has occurred. (Full article...)

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Romanticism-Hugo.jpg

19th-century science was greatly influenced by Romanticism (or the Age of Reflection, c. 1800–40), an intellectual movement that originated in Western Europe as a counter-movement to the late-18th-century Enlightenment. Romanticism incorporated many fields of study, including politics, the arts, and the humanities.

In contrast to Enlightenment's mechanistic natural philosophy, European scientists of the Romantic period held that observing nature implied understanding the self and that knowledge of nature "should not be obtained by force". They felt that the Enlightenment had encouraged the abuse of the sciences, and they sought to advance a new way to increase scientific knowledge, one that they felt would be more beneficial not only to mankind but to nature as well. (Full article...)
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The Flammarion woodcut is an enigmatic woodcut by an unknown artist. It is referred to as the "Flammarion woodcut" because its first documented appearance is in page 163 of Camille Flammarion's L'atmosphère: météorologie populaire ("The Atmosphere: Popular Meteorology," Paris, 1888).

The woodcut depicts a man, dressed as a medieval pilgrim and carrying a pilgrim's staff, peering through the sky as if it were a curtain to look at the inner workings of the universe. One of the elements of the cosmic machinery bears a strong resemblance to traditional pictorial representations of the "wheel in the middle of a wheel" described in the visions of the prophet Ezekiel (see Merkabah). The caption in Flammarion's book translates as "A missionary of the Middle Ages tells that he had found the point where the sky and the Earth touched..." The image accompanies a text which reads, in part, "What, then, is this blue sky, which certainly does exist, and which veils from us the stars during the day?" The woodcut is often described as being medieval due to its visual style, its fanciful vision of the world, and to what appears to be a depiction of a flat Earth.

Did you know

...that Einstein's famous letter to FDR about the possibility of an atomic bomb was actually written by Leó Szilárd?

...that geology was transformed in the latter part of the 20th century after widespread acceptance of plate tectonics?

...that the idea of biological evolution dates to the ancient world?

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From the European Magazine (1820) engraving by James Thomson.

Friedrich Christian Accum or Frederick Accum (29 March 1769 – 28 June 1838) was a German chemist, whose most important achievements included advances in the field of gas lighting, efforts to keep processed foods free from dangerous additives, and the promotion of interest in the science of chemistry to the general populace. From 1793 to 1821 Accum lived in London. Following an apprenticeship as an apothecary, he opened his own commercial laboratory enterprise. His business manufactured and sold a variety of chemicals and laboratory equipment. Accum, himself, gave fee-based public lectures in practical chemistry and collaborated with research efforts at numerous other institutes of science.

Intrigued by the work of Frederick Winsor, who had been championing the introduction of gas lighting in London, Accum too, became fascinated by this innovation. At the request of the Gas Light and Coke Company, he carried out many experiments in this novel field of inquiry. After a time of close working association with this company, he became a member of its board of directors in 1812. The company was charged with founding the first gasworks in London to supply gas lighting to both private and public areas. Accum was instrumental in the conception and design of this extremely successful gasworks. (Full article...)
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