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The history of science covers the development of science from ancient times to the present. It encompasses all three major branches of science: natural, social, and formal.

Science's earliest roots can be traced to Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia around 3000 to 1200 BCE. These civilizations' contributions to mathematics, astronomy, and medicine influenced later Greek natural philosophy of classical antiquity, wherein formal attempts were made to provide explanations of events in the physical world based on natural causes. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, knowledge of Greek conceptions of the world deteriorated in Latin-speaking Western Europe during the early centuries (400 to 1000 CE) of the Middle Ages, but continued to thrive in the Greek-speaking Eastern Roman (or Byzantine) Empire. Aided by translations of Greek texts, the Hellenistic worldview was preserved and absorbed into the Arabic-speaking Muslim world during the Islamic Golden Age. The recovery and assimilation of Greek works and Islamic inquiries into Western Europe from the 10th to 13th century revived the learning of natural philosophy in the West.

Natural philosophy was transformed during the Scientific Revolution in 16th- to 17th-century Europe, as new ideas and discoveries departed from previous Greek conceptions and traditions. The New Science that emerged was more mechanistic in its worldview, more integrated with mathematics, and more reliable and open as its knowledge was based on a newly defined scientific method. More "revolutions" in subsequent centuries soon followed. The chemical revolution of the 18th century, for instance, introduced new quantitative methods and measurements for chemistry. In the 19th century, new perspectives regarding the conservation of energy, age of Earth, and evolution came into focus. And in the 20th century, new discoveries in genetics and physics laid the foundations for new subdisciplines such as molecular biology and particle physics. Moreover, industrial and military concerns as well as the increasing complexity of new research endeavors ushered in the era of "big science," particularly after the Second World War. (Full article...)

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Reproduction of frontispiece by Robert Taylor Pritchett from the first Murray illustrated edition, 1890: HMS Beagle in the Straits of Magellan at Monte Sarmiento in Chile.
Reproduction of frontispiece by Robert Taylor Pritchett from the first Murray illustrated edition, 1890: HMS Beagle in the Straits of Magellan at Monte Sarmiento in Chile.

The Voyage of the Beagle is the title most commonly given to the book written by Charles Darwin and published in 1839 as his Journal and Remarks, bringing him considerable fame and respect. This was the third volume of The Narrative of the Voyages of H.M. Ships Adventure and Beagle, the other volumes of which were written or edited by the commanders of the ships. Journal and Remarks covers Darwin's part in the second survey expedition of the ship HMS Beagle. Due to the popularity of Darwin's account, the publisher reissued it later in 1839 as Darwin's Journal of Researches, and the revised second edition published in 1845 used this title. A republication of the book in 1905 introduced the title The Voyage of the "Beagle", by which it is now best known.

Beagle sailed from Plymouth Sound 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—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). The book is a vivid 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 Western Europeans were exploring and charting the whole world. Although Darwin revisited some areas during the expedition, for clarity the chapters of the book are ordered by reference to places and locations rather than by date. (Full article...)
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Wright of Derby, The Orrery.jpg

A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery (sometimes called simply The Orrery) is a painting (oil on canvas, ca. 1766) by Joseph Wright of Derby depicting a public lecture about a model Solar System, with a lamp—in place of the Sun—illuminating the faces of the audience. Wright captures the spirit of the Enlightenment, with knowledge as a force of moral uplift for the audience of commoners under the tutelage of the natural philosopher. Consistent with the astronomical theme, the partially illuminated faces may represent the phases of the Moon, ranging from full (the children) to gibbous (the man standing on the left) to new (the figure seen from behind).

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 according to the controversial Hockney-Falco thesis, the rise of realism in Renaissance art, such as Jan Van Eyck's Arnolfini Portrait (pictured), was largely due to the use of curved mirrors and other optical aids?

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Portrait of Sir Isaac Newton, 1689.jpg
Portrait of Newton at 46 by Godfrey Kneller, 1689

Sir Isaac Newton PRS (25 December 1642 – 20 March 1726/27) was an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, alchemist, theologian, and author (described in his time as a "natural philosopher"), widely recognised as one of the greatest mathematicians and physicists and among the most influential scientists of all time. He was a key figure in the philosophical revolution known as the Enlightenment. His book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy), first published in 1687, established classical mechanics. Newton also made seminal contributions to optics, and shares credit with German mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz for developing infinitesimal calculus.

In the Principia, Newton formulated the laws of motion and universal gravitation that formed the dominant scientific viewpoint for centuries until it was superseded by the theory of relativity. Newton used his mathematical description of gravity to derive Kepler's laws of planetary motion, account for tides, the trajectories of comets, the precession of the equinoxes and other phenomena, eradicating doubt about the Solar System's heliocentricity. He demonstrated that the motion of objects on Earth and celestial bodies could be accounted for by the same principles. Newton's inference that the Earth is an oblate spheroid was later confirmed by the geodetic measurements of Maupertuis, La Condamine, and others, convincing most European scientists of the superiority of Newtonian mechanics over earlier systems. (Full article...)
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