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Posted by on Sep 1, 2017 in Tell Me Why |

How Did Science Begin?

How Did Science Begin?

Science began with the wish of some prehistoric man to find out about the workings of the world about him. But the first recorded scientific discoveries are those of the ancient Babylonians who observed the positions of the sun, moon and planets. The ancient Egyptians invented simple arithmetic and geometry around 4,000 B.C., and acquired a considerable knowledge of engineering, medicine and anatomy.

From about 600 B.C., the Greeks made great progress in philosophy and geometry, where intellectual effort only was required. But they achieved little advance in practical science, except for the discoveries of Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), who founded the study of biology. Archimedes (287-212 B.C.) discovered many simple principles of physics and Ptolemy (about A.D.140) made advances in astronomy.

Under Rome progress slowed down. Then the barbarians overran Europe and for almost 1,000 years-from 300-1100-science was kept alive first in Byzantium and then, from about 700, by the Arabs. From the 15th century, practical experiments in science began in earnest. Galileo (1564-1642) carried out physical measurements and laboratory experiments. Francis Bacon (1561-1626) and René Descartes (1596-1650) pioneered the new scientific philosophy.

Science in a broad sense existed before the modern era and in many historical civilizations. Modern science is distinct in its approach and successful in its results, so it now defines what science is in the strictest sense of the term.

Science in its original sense was a word for a type of knowledge rather than a specialized word for the pursuit of such knowledge. In particular, it was the type of knowledge which people can communicate to each other and share. For example, knowledge about the working of natural things was gathered long before recorded history and led to the development of complex abstract thought. This is shown by the construction of complex calendars, techniques for making poisonous plants edible, and buildings such as the Pyramids. However, no consistent conscientious distinction was made between knowledge of such things, which are true in every community, and other types of communal knowledge, such as mythologies and legal systems.


Science (from Latin scientia, meaning “knowledge”) is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe. Contemporary science is typically subdivided into the natural sciences, which study the material universe; the social sciences, which study people and societies; and the formal sciences, which study logic and mathematics. The formal sciences are often excluded as they do not depend on empirical observations. Disciplines which use science, like engineering and medicine, may also be considered to be applied sciences.

From classical antiquity through the 19th century, science as a type of knowledge was more closely linked to philosophy than it is now, and in the Western world the term “natural philosophy” once encompassed fields of study that are today associated with science, such as astronomy, medicine, and physics. However, during the Islamic Golden Age foundations for the scientific method were laid by Ibn al-Haytham in his Book of Optics. While the classification of the material world by the ancient Indians and Greeks into air, earth, fire and water was more philosophical, medieval Middle Easterns used practical and experimental observation to classify materials.

laboratory experiments

In the 17th and 18th centuries, scientists increasingly sought to formulate knowledge in terms of physical laws. Over the course of the 19th century, the word “science” became increasingly associated with the scientific method itself as a disciplined way to study the natural world. It was during this time that scientific disciplines such as biology, chemistry, and physics reached their modern shapes. That same time period also included the origin of the terms “scientist” and “scientific community”, the founding of scientific institutions, and the increasing significance of their interactions with society and other aspects of culture.

Content for this question contributed by Cindy Wimble, resident of Omaha, Douglas County, Nebraska, USA