- Term Papers and Free Essays

History Behind Science

Essay by 24  •  July 18, 2010  •  853 Words (4 Pages)  •  821 Views

Essay Preview: History Behind Science

Report this essay
Page 1 of 4

While empirical investigations of the natural world have been described since antiquity (for example, by Aristotle, Theophrastus and Pliny the Elder), and scientific methods have been employed since the Middle Ages (for example, by Alhazen, Abu Rayhan Biruni and Roger Bacon), the dawn of modern science is generally traced back to the early modern period during what is known as the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries.[5]

The word "science" comes through the Old French, and is derived in turn from the Latin scientia, "knowledge", the nominal form of the verb scire, "to know". The Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root that yields scire is *skei-, meaning to "cut, separate, or discern".[6] Similarly, the Greek word for science is 'επιστήμη', deriving from the verb 'επίσταμαι', 'to know'. From the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment, science or scientia meant any systematic recorded knowledge.[7] Science therefore had the same sort of very broad meaning that philosophy had at that time. In other languages, including French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian, the word corresponding to science also carries this meaning.

Prior to the 1700s, the preferred term for the study of nature was natural philosophy, while English speakers most typically referred to other philosophical disciplines (such as logic, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and aesthetics) as moral philosophy. Today, "moral philosophy" is more-or-less synonymous with "ethics". Far into the 1700s, science and natural philosophy were not quite synonymous, but only became so later with the direct use of what would become known formally as the scientific method. By contrast, the word "science" in English was still used in the 17th century (1600s) to refer to the Aristotelian concept of knowledge which was secure enough to be used as a sure prescription for exactly how to do something. In this differing sense of the two words, the philosopher John Locke wrote disparagingly in 1690 that "natural philosophy [the study of nature] is not capable of being made a science".[8]

Locke was to be proven wrong, however. By the early 1800s, natural philosophy had begun to separate from philosophy, though it often retained a very broad meaning. In many cases, science continued to stand for reliable knowledge about any topic, in the same way it is still used in the broad sense (see the introduction to this article) in modern terms such as library science, political science, and computer science. In the more narrow sense of science, as natural philosophy became linked to an expanding set of well-defined laws (beginning with Galileo's laws, Kepler's laws, and Newton's laws for motion), it became more popular to refer to natural philosophy as natural science. Over the course of the nineteenth century, moreover, there was an increased tendency to associate science with study of the natural world (that is, the non-human world). This move sometimes left the study of human thought and society (what would come to be called social science) in a linguistic limbo by the end of the century and into the next.[9]

Through the 1800s, many English speakers were increasingly differentiating science (i.e., the natural sciences) from all



Download as:   txt (5.3 Kb)   pdf (81.6 Kb)   docx (10.5 Kb)  
Continue for 3 more pages »
Only available on
Citation Generator

(2010, 07). History Behind Science. Retrieved 07, 2010, from

"History Behind Science" 07 2010. 2010. 07 2010 <>.

"History Behind Science.", 07 2010. Web. 07 2010. <>.

"History Behind Science." 07, 2010. Accessed 07, 2010.