The scientific impulse can be said to have existed forever. But only with the written word did there emerge a record of speculations about how and why things happen. Middle Eastern civilizations developed ways to measure and describe (e.g. math and the alphabet); Greek philosophers classified natural objects and studied cause and effect. This is the story of ancient science from Asia to the Mediterranean Basin.
The Science and Discovery series recreates one of history’s most successful journeys—four thousand years of scientific efforts to better understand and control the physical world. Science has often challenged and upset conventional wisdom or accepted practices; this is a story of vested interests and independent thinkers, experiments and theories, change and progress. Aristotle, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Einstein, and many others are featured.
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Alexander von Humboldt and other sparked a centuries-long debate about natural history and geological destiny by discussing what today we call the environment. Some now believe the earth cannot safely accommodate its growing burdens; other say longer life spans and more people are signs of progress. Are humans destroying the earth or building a... Read more »
In the nineteenth century, scientists working with chemistry and magnetism began discovering a rich variety of electrical phenomena. These were to be applied later in inventions such as motors, alternating current, radio, batteries, the telephone, and much more. This is the story of a new branch of science that changed the way the world does... Read more »
Newtonian physics described a regular, clocklike world of forces and reaction; randomness was equated with incomplete knowledge. But scientists in the late twentieth century have found patterns in things formerly thought to be “chaotic”; their theories help explain the unstable, irregular, yet highly structured features of everyday experience.... Read more »
We think of science as a way of discovering certainty in an unpredictable world; experiments are designed to objectivity measure cause and effect. Yet science often produces more new questions than answers, and all scientific theories can change with new and better observations. Scientific philosophers say that “objective” observations actually... Read more »
The scientific impulse can be said to have existed forever. But only with the written word did there emerge a record of speculations about how and why things happen. Middle Eastern civilizations developed ways to measure and describe (e.g. math and the alphabet); Greek philosophers classified natural objects and studied cause and effect. This is... Read more »
Many believe the “Middle Ages” lacked progress, yet during this time algebra was developed, and Islamic scholars preserved and extended Greek thought (which otherwise was lost). Metallurgy (and its speculative counterpart, alchemy) led to a deeper understanding of materials. These advances set the stage for the Renaissance—and a scientific... Read more »
Newton was a natural philosopher (the word “scientist” had not yet been coined) who described a planetary system held together by gravitational forces. His Principia changed science forever; gravity not only explained the orbits of stars, it explained common earthly events as well. Newton established a way of thinking that still shapes our... Read more »
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, scientists went beyond Aristotle’s four elements (Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water) to catalog nature’s many basic elements. New materials and potions stimulated visions of wealth and healing; soon, new theories of atomic structure and combustion laid the foundation for practical applications that... Read more »
The story of the cosmos—its beginning and its changes through time—has been a topic of much speculation and myth. It also has attracted intense attention from scientists. There are many questions about the universe’s size, stability, growth, and its ultimate cause. This presentation also addresses such colorful cosmic topics as red shifts, white... Read more »
Einstein overthrew Newtonian physics but like Newton he still believed that physical events have definite causes. Then Niels Bohr, a Danish physicist, joined others in describing a strange new world of uncertainty and mystery. Quantum mechanics has intrigued and confounded many by joining keen insights with apparent contradictions and... Read more »
Isaac Newton’s world had operated in a fixed, rigid, “absolute” framework of space and time. Yet discoveries about electromagnetism in the late nineteenth century created new and troubling inconsistencies. In 1905, Einstein’s name became synonymous with “genius” when his Special Theory of Relativity challenged old concepts in physics. Hertz,... Read more »
Though medical science began with the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, dissection and the study of the human body was prohibited for religious reasons until the Renaissance. Only in 1628 did William Harvey theorize that blood circulates in the body; germs weren’t discovered until the nineteenth century. Since then, surgery and drugs have... Read more »
As optics improved, man began to see the solar system. Tycho Brahe in Denmark, Nicolaus Copernicus of Poland, Johannes Kepler of Germany, and Italy’s Galileo Galilei all began to see a new relationship between the world and the stars. Their questions, and their non-religious answers, toppled the idea that man—and the Church—are at the center of... Read more »
In 1859, Charles Darwin published a vastly important work: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. For centuries, man had been seen as a created species, distinct from any other animal. Then, Darwin persuasively argued that mankind and other species are descended from common ancestors. His theory of “natural selection,” also... Read more »
While astronomers charted the heavens, geographers and cartographers mapped the earth’s exotic land and seas. Commerce and navigation exploded as mapmakers and bold explorers built on each other’s achievements; in the process, our very concept of the earth changed from a flat surface to a sphere.
The Science and Discovery series recreates one of... Read more »
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