Portal:History of science

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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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Ferrous metallurgy is the metallurgy of iron and its alloys. The earliest surviving prehistoric iron artifacts, from the 4th millennium BC in Egypt, were made from meteoritic iron-nickel. It is not known when or where the smelting of iron from ores began, but by the end of the 2nd millennium BC iron was being produced from iron ores in the region from Greece to India, and sub-Saharan Africa.[page needed] The use of wrought iron (worked iron) was known by the 1st millennium BC, and its spread defined the Iron Age. During the medieval period, smiths in Europe found a way of producing wrought iron from cast iron (in this context known as pig iron) using finery forges. All these processes required charcoal as fuel.

By the 4th century BC southern India had started exporting wootz steel (with a carbon content between pig iron and wrought iron) to ancient China, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. Archaeological evidence of cast iron appears in 5th-century BC China. New methods of producing it by carburizing bars of iron in the cementation process were devised in the 17th century. During the Industrial Revolution, new methods of producing bar iron by substituting coke for charcoal emerged, and these were later applied to produce steel, ushering in a new era of greatly increased use of iron and steel that some contemporaries described as a new "Iron Age". In the late 1850s Henry Bessemer invented a new steelmaking process which involved blowing air through molten pig-iron to burn off carbon, and so producing mild steel. This and other 19th-century and later steel-making processes have displaced wrought iron. Today, wrought iron is no longer produced on a commercial scale, having been displaced by the functionally equivalent mild or low-carbon steel. (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 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 a Mathematician 1680c.jpg
c. 1680 Portrait of a Mathematician by Mary Beale, conjectured to be of Hooke but also conjectured to be of Isaac Barrow.

Robert Hooke FRS (/hʊk/; 18 July 1635 – 3 March 1703) was an English polymath active as a scientist, natural philosopher and architect, who is credited to be one of the first two scientists to discover microorganisms in 1665 using a compound microscope that he built himself, the other scientist being Antoni van Leeuwenhoek in 1674. An impoverished scientific inquirer in young adulthood, he found wealth and esteem by performing over half of the architectural surveys after London's great fire of 1666. Hooke was also a member of the Royal Society and since 1662 was its curator of experiments. Hooke was also Professor of Geometry at Gresham College.

As an assistant to physical scientist Robert Boyle, Hooke built the vacuum pumps used in Boyle's experiments on gas law, and himself conducted experiments. In 1673, Hooke built the earliest Gregorian telescope, and then he observed the rotations of the planets Mars and Jupiter. Hooke's 1665 book Micrographia, in which he coined the term "cell", spurred microscopic investigations. Investigating in optics, specifically light refraction, he inferred a wave theory of light. And his is the first recorded hypothesis of heat expanding matter, air's composition by small particles at larger distances, and heat as energy. (Full article...)
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