These five volumes in the new Groundbreaking Scientific Experiments, Inventions
and Discoveries through the Ages series, describes key inventions and
discoveries at the beginning of the scientific revolution. Entries cover
concepts in astronomy, biology, geology, chemistry, mathematics, and physical
sciences and inventions of tools--such as the telescope or barometer--that
helped scientists measure and test their hypotheses. Developments in the
seventeenth century are discussed in context, including their origins, usually
from ancient Greek science, and in light of modern theories. Cross-references
are represented within entries by all capital letters. There is a glossary at
the end of the work, and glossary terms are highlighted the first time they are
used in an entry. Bibliographies are included, and a complete list of
bibliographic references is found at the end of each book.
material contained in five volumes in this series of historical groundbreaking
experiments, inventions and discoveries encompasses many centuries from the
prehistoric period up to the 20th century. Topics are explored from the time of
prehistoric humans, the age of classical Greek and Roman science, the Christian
era, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance period from the years 1350 to 1600, the
beginnings of modern science of the 17th century, and great experiments,
inventions, and discoveries of the 18th and 19th centuries. This historical
approach to science by Greenwood Press is intended to provide students with the
materials needed to examine science as a specialized discipline. The authors
present the topics for each historical period alphabetically and include
information about the women and men responsible for specific experiments,
inventions, and discoveries.
concentrate on the physical and life sciences and follow the same historical
format that describes the scientific developments of that period, In addition to
the science of each historical period, the authors explore the implications of
how historical groundbreaking experiments, inventions and discoveries influenced
the thoughts and theories of future scientists and how these developments
affected peoples' lives.
progress through the volumes, it will become obvious that the nature of science
is cumulative. In other words, scientists of one historical period draw upon and
add to the ideas and theories of earlier periods. This is evident in contrast to
the recent irrationalist philosophy of the history and philosophy of science
that views science, not as a unique, self-correcting human empirical inductive
activity, but as just another social or cultural activity where scientific
knowledge is conjectural, scientific laws are contrived, scientific theories
are all false, scientific facts are fickle, and scientific truths are relative.
These volumes belie postmodern deconstructionist assertions that no scientific
idea has greater validity than any other idea and that all "truths" are a matter
example, in 1992 the plurality opinion by three jurists of the US. Supreme Court
in Planned Parenthood v. Case restated the "right" to abortion by stating: "at
the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of
meaning of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." This is a remarkable
deconstructionist statement, not because it supports the right to abortion, but
because the Court supports the relativistic premise that anyone's concept of the
universe is whatever that person wants it to be, and not what the universe
actually is based on: what science has determined by experimentation, the use of
statistical probabilities, and empirical inductive logic.
deconstructionist statement, not because it supports the right to abortion, but
because the Court supports the relativistic premise that anyone's concept of the
universe is whatever that person wants it to be, and not what the universe
actually is based on: what science has determined by experimentation, the use of
statistical probabilities, and empirical inductive logic.
scientists develop factual knowledge as to the nature of nature they understand
that "rational assurance is not the same thing as perfect certainty." By
applying statistical probability to new factual data this knowledge provides the
basis for building scientific hypotheses, theories and laws over time. Thus,
scientific knowledge becomes self-correcting as well as cumulative.
addition, this series refutes the claim that each historical theory is based on
a false paradigm (a methodological framework) that is discarded and later is
just superseded by a new, more recent theory also based on a false paradigm.
Scientific knowledge is the sequential nature that revises, adds to and builds
on old ideas and theories as new theories are developed based on new knowledge.
is a prime example of how science progressed over the centuries. Lives of people
who lived in the prehistorical period were geared to the movement of the sun,
moon and stars. Cultures in all countries developed many rituals based on
observations of how nature affected the flow of life, including the female
menstrual cycle and people's migrations to follow food supplies or adaptations
to survive harsh winters. Later, after the discovery of agriculture around 8000
to 9000 B.C.E., people learned to relate climate and weather, the phases of the
moon and the periodicity of the sun's apparent motion in relation to the Earth,
because these astronomical phenomena seemed to determine the fate of their
invention of bronze by alloying first arsenic and later tin with copper occurred
about 3000 B.C.E. Much later, after discovering how to use the iron found in
celestial meteorites, and still later, in 1000 B.C.E. when people learned how to
smelt iron from ore, civilization entered the Iron Age. The people of the
Tigris-Euphrates region invented the first calendar based on the phases of the
moon and seasons in about 2800 B.C.E. During the ancient and classical Greek
and Roman periods (about 700 B.C.E. to A.D. 100) mythical gods were devised to
explain what was viewed in the heavens or to justify their behavior. Myths based
on astronomy, such as the sun and planet gods as well as Gaia the Earth mother,
were part of their religions and affected their way of life. This period was the
beginning of the philosophical thoughts of Aristotle and others concerning
astronomy and nature in general that predated modern science. In about 235
B.C.E. the Greeks first proposed a heliocentric relationship of the sun and
planets. Ancient people in Asia, Egypt and India invented fantastic structures
to assist the unaided eye in viewing the positions and motions of the moon,
stars and sun. These instruments were the forerunners of the modern telescopes
and other devices that make modern astronomical discoveries possible. Ancient
astrology was based on the belief that the positions of bodies in the heavens
controlled one's life. Astrology is still confused with the science of astronomy
and is still not based on any reliable astronomical data.
ancients knew that a dewdrop on a leaf seemed to magnify the leaf's surface.
This led to the invention of a glass bead that could be used as a magnifying
glass. In 1590 Zacharias Janssen, an eyeglass maker, discovered that two convex
lenses, one at each end of a tube, increased the magnification. In 1608 Hans
Lippershey's assistant turned the instrument end-to-end and discovered that
distant objects appeared closer; thus the telescope was discovered. The
telescope has been used for both navigation and astronomical observations since
the 17th century. The invention of new instruments, such as the microscope and
the telescope, led to further discoveries such as of the cell by Robert Hooke
and the four moons of Jupiter by Galileo, who made this important astronomical
discovery that revolutionized astronomy with a telescope of his own design and
construction. These inventions and discoveries enabled the expansion of
astronomy from an ancient "eyeball" science to an ever-expanding series of
experiments and discoveries leading to many new theories about the universe.
Others invented and improved astronomical instruments, such as the reflecting
telescope combined with photography, the spectroscope, and Earth-orbiting
astronomical instruments that resulted in the discovery of new planets and
galaxies as well as new theories related to astronomy and the universe in the
20th century. The age of "enlightenment" through the 18th and 19th centuries
culminated in an explosion of new knowledge of the universe that continued
through the 20th and into the 21st centuries. Scientific laws, theories, and
facts we now know about astronomy and the universe are grounded in the
experiments, discoveries and inventions of the past centuries, just as they are
in all areas of science.
in the series Groundbreaking Experiments, Inventions and Discoveries, are
written in easy-to-understand language with a minimum of scientific jargon. They
are appropriate references for middle and senior high school audiences as well
as for the college-level non-science major and for the general public interested
in the development and progression of science over the ages.
Quick perusal of the pages gives a good schema of the major developments of
science in western Europe and North America especially.
Quick perusal of the pages gives a good schema of the major developments of science in western Europe and North America especially.
Groundbreaking Scientific Experiments, Inventions, and Discoveries of the
Ancient World by Robert E. Krebs, Carolyn A. Krebs
(Greenwood Press) This reference work describes the trial-and-error experiments,
discoveries, and inventions of early humans who lived before recorded history to
the Middle Ages. Krebs travels through the ancient periods of
Groundbreaking Scientific Experiments, Inventions, and Discoveries Middle Ages
and the Renaissance by Robert E. Krebs (Greenwood Press) This
reference work describes the trial-and-error experiments, discoveries, and
inventions of during the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance. Krebs notes in
alphabetical listings Arab inventions and conservation of classical Greek and
Roman knowledge, scholastic experimental science and theory in Christian era,
and the revivial of classical knowledge and stimulations to experimental science
and naturalism. The volume provides students with the link between science and
history, while revealing information about the development of scientific
perspectives. Each entry provides where, when, and by whom the discovery or
invention was made or the experiment was carried out.
Groundbreaking Scientific Experiments, Inventions, and Discoveries of the 17th
Century by Michael Windelspecht (
Groundbreaking Scientific Experiments, Inventions, and Discoveries of the 18th
Century by Jonathan Shectman (Greenwood Press) In
over 60 alphabetical entries, Shectman examines at the tremendous scientific
discoveries, inventions, and inquiries of the period. Familiar topics such as
the steam engine and hot air balloon are covered, along with lesser-known topics
such as the Watt copy press and
Near the end of the eighteenth century, James Watt (1736-1819) wrote that "the very existence of Britain as a nation seems to me, in great measure, to depend upon her exertions in science...." When he wrote this, Watt was already a legendary figure in England. His steam engines powered nearly every factory in nearly every industry, surpassing all forms of energy that the world had ever seen. His name was, in the minds of scientists and commoners alike, very nearly synonymous with the industrial revolution. Many people even thought that the steam engine might one day carry them all the way to the moon.
By the end of the century, scientific research and its practical applications had become two sides of a golden coin. Science could not only remake the world, it could very well carry ordinary people to the far-flung reaches of their imagination. However, unity of science and practical application was a relatively new concept during the late eighteenth century.
In ancient Greece, Archimedes (ca. 287-212 B.C.) used principles of geometry to build ingenious war machines that effectively repelled invading Roman armies. Centuries later, Plutarch (ca. 46-120) admonished his predecessor for using mathematics for meekly practical purposes. Even the greatest of Archimedes' contemporaries never conceived of science in the enlightenment terms of practical application. In fact, a cornerstone of ancient philosophy was the distinction between knowledge and usefulness.
A millennium and a half later, Renaissance scholar Francis Bacon (1561-1626) began the arduous task of conceptually removing "philosophy" and science from the ivory tower and placing it at the service of ordinary people. The seventeenth century "age of genius" began delineating applied science for collective benefit, but individual reactions of philosopher-scientists varied wildly. In the heavily chronicled life of Isaac Newton (1642-1727), only a single laugh is officially recorded. Newton lent a copy of Euclid's Elements to a friend. After perusal, Newton's friend asked him about the useful benefits of such a study, thereby eliciting the historic chortle.
At end of the seventeenth century, few scientists could have imagined the world at the end of the following century. Conceptually, the world was a different place. Scientifically, the world was changing faster than it ever had before. Rarely, these events came together on a single day. On November 20, 1783, a crowd of 400,000 Parisians gathered to witness the first human flight in a hot air balloon. Most scholars believe that the crowd's scientists, royalty and ordinary people all 400,000 of them-made up the largest human gathering to that point in history.
Just 10 days later, a smaller crowd gathered for the first launch of a hydrogen (lighter than air) balloon, which carried a human passenger to a height of 9,000 feet. On seeing the ascent, a spectator somehow failed to see the practical aspects of the new invention, turned to the man next to him, and asked what good the new invention was. The man next to him was Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), minister to France from the newly formed United States. To this man's question, Franklin replied, "What good is a newborn baby?"
Franklin's hapless spectator represents an unwitting eighteenth-century counterpart to Newton's Euclid-reading friend from a century earlier. Franklin himself represents a conceptual shift on a level the world had never before witnessed, a link between empirical science and technical application in the person of the scientist. Franklin (or one of his contemporary colleagues) might have laughed at the spectator's absurd question, but never at its being asked. The very spirit of the century-its urgent, flourishing ethos impatiently straining against its own temporal yoke required and even demanded an answer.
That this answer came in the form of Franklin's cheerful question is emblematic of the optimistic spirit of the times. Science must and will have a purpose. Science will make things better, easier, more efficient. Science will improve the lives of ordinary people. Science will do something. In the easy, scientific optimism of the late eighteenth century, one can almost hear the words of seventeenth-century mathematician Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), like a scientific prophet from a former era: `Joy, Joy, Joy, Tears of Joy."
When Franklin began his study of electricity, there existed no practical use for the substance. In a famous letter, Franklin apologized for this fact. (He later made amends when he invented the lightning rod, which is still in use today) Franklin wrote that he was "Chagrin'd a little that We have hitherto been able to discover Nothing in the Way of Use to Mankind" from his many early electrical experiments. Similarly, when German mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) invented his binary system of numbers, eighteenth-century scientists and mathematicians accepted it as rationally sound. However, they paid no further attention because it offered no practical use. (It was entirely abdicated when binary numbers formed the basis of modern computing in the 1940s.) The point is that, without practical application, scientific knowledge was not enough. The eighteenth century opened all forms of esoteric scientific practice to public scrutiny.
In the space of little more than a century, science was completely transformed. In the same space, the world also was completely transformed. It took few more than 100 years to journey from Newton's time-honored laugh (a laugh heard since antiquity) to Franklin's easy optimism about the practice of science. At this point, a question presents itself: "How did this happen?" Or, more urgently, "How did it happen so quickly?"
In a very literal sense, these questions form the basis of this book. Each entry represents a groundbreaking experiment, invention or discovery on the road from science-in-transition of the seventeenth century "age of genius" to science-as-benefit of the eighteenth-century "age of reason" (and beyond). The seventeenth century claimed the very scientific precepts that the eighteenth century demonstrated through observation, experiment, and analysis; calculation, invention, and application; technique, classification, and nomenclature; and, especially, widespread dissemination, for eighteenth-century scientists realized their work would be nothing, if not readily available to as many people as possible.
For example, the Franklin heating stove would have made its inventor one of the wealthiest men in America. Instead of patenting it, Franklin printed its plans-along with (and this is key) an easily accessible, scientific explanation of thermal energy. A decade earlier, Pierre Fauchard (1678-1761) began founding modern dentistry with publication of Le Chirurgien Dentiste in 1728. Previously, dental knowledge was the closely guarded, esoteric knowledge of barber-surgeons and tooth-drawers. After Fauchard's publication, dentists began publishing their findings and freely sharing information for the benefit of their patients and fellow practitioners.
At the eighteenth century's end, mathematician and surveyor Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) published impeccably precise information--complete with his scientific calculations--in his excellent Farmer's Almanac. During this period, scientists Denis Diderot (1713-1784) and Jean D'Alembert (1717-1783) began publishing the first modern (17-volume) encyclopedia. Never before had such a diversity of scientific topics appeared in one single compilation. Diderot and D'Alembert's Encyclopedie became emblematic of the free exchange of ideas that began taking place among scientists of the eighteenth century. For this reason, the eighteenth century is called not only the "age of reason," but also the "age of the encyclopedia."
So how did this revolution in applied science happen so quickly? One straightforward answer is that the age of reason had one more permutation: the age of revolution-French, American, chemical, industrial, and so forth. In other words, this answer says that the same century birthed democracy and also applied science quite literally from the same general milieu. A tougher answer says that it happened a little at a time, through the hard work of experimenters, inventors and discoverers engaged in a process much larger than their personal subjectivities and ending far beyond their own historical moments.
The eighteenth century opened with just such a revolutionary theory. In 1700, Georg Ernst Stahl (1660-1734) proposed the phlogiston theory of substances. This theory explained combustion, calcification (or oxidation), and animal respiration. It stated that these processes release the hypothetical substance phlogiston from an object to the surrounding air. Phlogiston was the first reasonable, rational theory of substances. It explained both everyday events (such as a burning candle) and scientific phenomena (such as calcification experiments). In terms of practical uses for both, phlogiston was wildly successful.
Virtually all discoveries of pneumatic chemistry were made by scientists subscribing to the theory of phlogiston. Discoveries of every one of the first independent gases to be identified carbon dioxide, nitrogen, hydrogen, chlorine, and especially oxygen-were a direct result of scientists consciously conducting phlogiston experiments. Because of pneumatic discoveries, scientists realized the compound nature of water. For the first time, scientists had unshackled chemistry from the ancient four-element theory of Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), which had led them astray for nearly two millennia. Now, scientists quit trying to discover how many elements existed (be it 4, 8, or 177) and began trying to discover as many as they could. Science was quickly becoming free of the ancient, backward practice of adapting conclusions to fit abstract theories.
Indeed, phlogiston was so practically successful that it paved the way for its own replacement by a better theory. In the 1780s, the founder of modern oxygen chemistry, Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794), began paying close attention to the concept of mass in quantitative chemical reactions. In many reactions, he found that reactants gained weight. If phlogiston was escaping, he wondered how this could be. Because phlogiston had led to the discovery of the first distinct gases, Lavoisier began to suspect that something from the air was joining with an object during combustion. When Lavoisier discovered that something was, in fact, joining with an object and found that that something was oxygen-the phlogiston theory self-destructed. It had served its practical use. Lavoisier also drew up a seminal list of elements and compounds, and created a rational system of chemical nomenclature. The basic transformation of chemistry took place during the space of a few frenetic years in the 1770s and 1780s. In fact, the chemical revolution could be said to be conceptually completed with Lavoisier's publication of the magnificently important book Traite Elementaire de Chimie in 1789. Since Lavoisier's day, scientists have adopted his oxygen theory of chemistry most succinctly laid out in Traite-with near universality.
Phlogiston was certainly not the basis of all scientific research, but it was fruitful in many different areas. Henry Cavendish (1731-1810) was one of the last scientists to subscribe to phlogiston. This theory led him to the discovery that hydrogen is an independent gas. Cavendish quickly discovered that hydrogen was only about one-fifth the density of ordinary air. Fellow chemist Joseph Black (1728-1799) began experimenting with the uses of this gas, when he captured hydrogen in a small bag, which began to "float." Several yeas later, French chemist Jacques Alexandre Cesar Charles (1746-1823) began a series of fruitful inquires with the gas. These trials led to the formulation of Charles's law, which states that a gas expands by the same fraction of its original volume as its temperature rises. In turn, this law led to Charles's understanding of gas density and to his successful hydrogen balloon launch (the one on December 1, 1783).
During this period, Joseph Black was also conducting a series of inquiries into latent heat. Black noticed that an "extra" amount of heat was required to turn ice into water and to turn boiling water into steam. Black shared his scientific findings with his friend, James Watt. Watt had noted a similar finding in his work with outdated steam engines. He found that he needed a tremendous amount of fuel just to heat and reheat the engine's single chamber, which was cooled to create every power stroke. Out of the fruitful conversations between Black and Watt came Watt's most important innovation, the separate condenser. Watt realized that, in effect, he had to overcome latent heat for each and every power stroke. Once he took latent heat out of the picture (with the separate condenser), he could run his steam engines on about a quarter of the fuel. Later, dependable steam engines were adapted for the first self-propelled vessels in history, which were river-navigating steamboats. Eventually, steamboats ushered in a new, heralded age of modern transportation.
In biology, a new age was dawning, too. Stephen Hales (1677-1761), the founder of pneumatic chemistry, began a new study of plant physiology. In doing so, he ushered in a methodological shift in scientific practice so familiar it seems almost like "common sense" today. Since Aristotle, philosophers had studied plant physiology by projecting the features of animals onto plants. This practice was called the analogist approach because it draws comparisons between plants and animals. For example, many early enlightenment scientists thought that sap "circulated" similarly to blood in animals. Even today, one hears residual analogist phrases like the "heart" of wood and the "veins" of a leaf.
Hales not only rejected earlier findings. He also rejected this method. In earlier experiments, Hales had become the first person to measure blood pressure, when he did so on a horse. One day Hales was working with a "bleeding" grapevine when he suddenly realized he needed a similarly rigorous empirical approach to studying plant physiology. In a number of experiments to measure the "force" of sap in plants, Hales essentially replaced the analogist tradition with a new method of rational experimentation, decisive analysis and functional equilibrium. For this reason, Hales gets credit for founding the field of plant physiology. He also gets credit for founding many modern methods of scientific analysis.
Astronomy is often called the oldest science. It is also a field in which dedicated amateurs have made many of the most important discoveries. During the eighteenth century, an English sailor-turned-astronomer, Thomas Wright (1711-1786), spent many nights staring. up at the Milky Way. He first suggested that the Milky Way is a slablike distribution of stars. This important discovery eventually led twentieth-century astronomers to one of that century's watershed discoveries: the classification of the Milky Way as a spiral galaxy.
A few years after Wright, Edmond Halley (1656-1742) demonstrated that comets follow a predictable orbit. Throughout the Middle Ages and well into the eighteenth century, the mere sighting of a comet routinely caused public panic and end-of-the-world scenarios. Halley demonstrated that, far from harbingers of earthly demise, the motion of comets is just as predictable as ' that of more conventional stellar objects. During the same decade, astronomer William Herschel (1738-1822) became the first person to discover a planet since the dawn of recorded history, when he realized that Uranus was indeed a planet (rather than a comet).
Throughout the history of astronomy, one sees time and again that astronomy is not just for professional astronomers. The practice of celestial navigation made amateur astronomers out of ancient sailors, who often had no formal education. When the age of exploration dawned in Europe, practical need propelled the need for astronomy to new and unforeseen levels. More than any other science, astronomy caught the attention (and funding) of Europe's royal governments. Even before the age of eighteenth-century scientific practice, astronomy had become a living practice of applied science on the high seas. Overwhelming need for practical instruments led to the revolutionary navigation inventions of the eighteenth century, navigational quadrants (strictly speaking, octants and sextants). Instruments for optically "lowering" a celestial body to the horizon for purposes of navigation were invented independently by John Hadley (1682-1744) in England and Thomas Godfrey (1704-1749) in the United States. In today's age of Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites, instruments like those of Hadley and Godfrey are still routinely found aboard vessels of varying sizes.
Not all eighteenth-century work followed the specific model of applied science. Pierre-Louis de Maupertuis (1698-1759) stumbled onto the principle of least action while trying to discern the scientific basis for the existence of a deity. An Enlightenment thinker to the core, Maupertuis thought he had found it with an eighteenth-century version of Ockham's razor. Voltaire (1694-1778) had a good laugh at the whole notion. Nonetheless, the principle of least action, stated broadly, is the idea that nature is thrifty in all its actions. This principle explains water running downhill as well as a ray of light "bending" when it enters water. The principle of least action turned out to be one of the most important generalizations in the history of science. This generalization was not specific to work done during the eighteenth century but continues in importance-along with many of the century's experiments, inventions, and discoveries.
In similar context, another of the eighteenth (and nineteenth) century's greatest chemists, Humphry Davy (1778-1829), wrote that "science, like that nature to which it belongs, is neither limited by time nor by space. It belongs to the world, and is of no country...." Along with Count Benjamin Thompson Rumford (1753-1814), Davy made one of the century's final discoveries: that heat was synonymous neither with the substance phlogiston nor with the so-called heat fluid, caloric. Rumford and Davy made the lasting discovery during 1798 and 1799 that heat is a form of energy. At the end of the century, applied science had come so far since 1700 and the advent of phlogiston.
And here, at the eighteenth century's end, is Watt's statement of Britain's debt to science, from the beginning of this introduction. When he made the statement, Britain was on the threshold of a period of unprecedented growth. It had lost its crown colonial jewel and had lost recent political capital to the new French republic, but Britain was still the most technologically advanced country in the world. It stood on the threshold of unprecedented empire and unequaled riches, but Watt does not mention military prowess or economic supremacy. Science, he says, is the key to Britain's greatness-Watt hangs Britain's "very survival as a nation" on the single peg of applied science. At the end of the eighteenth century, this contested practice (of one nation and many, of all nations and none) had come so far since Plutarch's scold and Newton's laugh.
Groundbreaking Scientific Experiments, Inventions, and Discoveries of the 19th
Century by Michael
Windelspecht (Greenwood Press) The 19th century is known as the modern era of
science. Many of the ideas, theories, and inventions developed during this time
are used everyday in today's society. Windelspecht investigates the century's
tremendous discoveries, inventions, and inquiries in more than 60 alphabetical
entries. This reference presents familiar subjects, such as the telephone and
elevator, as well as those less frequently studied, such as the spectroscope and
Pasteur's development of the germ theory.
The importance of the 19th century to the history of science and technology is
best represented by the names that are frequently assigned to this period. In
mathematics this is commonly called the "Golden Age of Mathematics." Many
historians consider the 19`h century, especially the latter half, to be the
start of the modern era of science, because many of our current ideas and
theories of the natural world were initiated during this time. Just as the
scientific community experienced a Scientific Revolution in the 17th century,
the 19th century is frequently referred to as the center of the Industrial
Revolution, when technology and inventions forever changed society. Each of
these instances signify that important events occurred during the period, but in
reality the 19' century is actually a culmination of almost two centuries of
work by scientists and mathematicians.
Scientific Revolution of the 17th century forever changed the way in which
scientists view the natural and physical world. In the place of the method of
the ancient Greeks, which involved observation followed primarily by
philosophical discussion, arose a method of experimentation and validation that
persists to this day. The science of the 17th century also introduced the
formation of scientific societies and journals in which scientists presented
their ideas and results to be critiqued by their peers. During the 17th century
mathematics, astronomy and the physical sciences flourished, and names like
Newton, Kepler and Galileo dominated the century. This is not to say that
important advances were not made in the biological and chemical sciences, but in
many cases these were still descriptive. During the 18`h century chemistry as a
science was finally separated from the study of alchemy by the action of
scientists such as Lavoisier. Also during this time the naturalists, the early
name given to biologists, began to study the structure of the natural world and
to question the processes by which it functioned and changed over time.
In the 19th
century these ideas and practices culminated in some of the most important
theories in the history of science. The biological sciences became an important
force in the study of the natural world during the 19`h century. Previously the
study of living creatures had been primarily descriptive as naturalists
collected samples and attempted to establish order to the natural world in the
same manner as the chemists and physicists did in their fields. Early
naturalists recognized that organisms changed over time but lacked an
explanation for what was causing the process. Mechanisms of change had to be
developed by early evolutionary theorists to account for the relatively rapid
changes in organisms on an Earth that was very young according to biblical
scholars. However, advances in the study of geology, most notably by Charles
Lyell, forever changed the concept of geological time and established the
framework for one of the more important theories of the 19"' century. In 1859
Charles Darwin published his ideas on how organisms change over time in The
Origin of Species. This landmark publication revolutionized the study of the
biological sciences and established one of the greatest controversies of the
modern age, the question over divine creation or common descent as the process
of human evolution.
century was also a time for new ideas in the study of medicine. Preventive
medicine, a major component of modern healthcare systems, originated in the
1800s as a result of the development of vaccines and the realization that
diseases may be caused by microscopic organisms. The work of Louis Pasteur
ensured that generations of humans would be protected from the natural microbe
content of food supplies from his simple experiments with a process that is now
called pasteurization. Other advances, such as the discovery of synthetic dyes,
were the beginning of the modern practice of studying diseases using
technology. Another development in the study of medicine was the invention of
specialized instruments, which advanced the specialization of physicians into
diverse areas of medical practice in the 20th century.
influence of the scientific advances of the 19th century on modern science and
society cannot be underestimated. The term science itself is a 19th century
creation, first used in 1851 by the English philosopher William Whewell. The
word is derived from the Latin word scientia ("knowing"), and it accurately
reflects what the goal of 19th century scientific studies was. The scientists of
the 19th century were dedicated not only to describing the natural world but
also to knowing how it functioned and was structured. To do this scientists and
inventors participated in more extensive research and professional
organizations, and also developed research laboratories dedicated to the solving
of specific problems. The most famous of these is probably the one Thomas Edison
founded at Menlo Park, New Jersey. At this site Edison applied scientific
principles to the development of many inventions, including the incandescent
light bulb, and established some of the principles of modern electric power,
which in turn shaped the structure of 20th century society.
relationship between scientific studies and technological advances was
recognized and firmly established in the 19th century. In many cases this was a
reciprocal arrangement: inventors sometimes provided the instruments for
advanced scientific studies, and in other cases the scientists providing the
basic science that fostered the ideas of the inventors. An invention or
discovery frequently resulted in a cascade of events. For example, the study of
steam engines led to investigations into the study of thermodynamics, which in
turn disproved many of the existing concepts regarding heat. The design of
improved steam engines not only powered the Industrial Revolution, but also
enabled the western expansion of the United States, which interested inventors
in designing a means of communicating across greater distances. The invention of
the telegraph and telephone soon followed.
important aspect of the 19th century was the decentralization of the scientific
community For most of the history of science, isolated hotspots of scientific
inquiry have existed. Early in the history of science scientists congregated for
study and support in small areas of ancient Greece and Alexandria, Egypt, for
example. Areas of study existed in China, the Arab world, and India even before
the fall of the Roman Empire. During the Scientific Revolution the majority of
the scientific advances occurred in Europe. By the 19' century, though, the
study of science became more global. Europe continued to play a major role, as
it had for several centuries, but scientific communities were developing in the
United States and Russia. The accomplishments of Russian and American scientists
would dominate much of the science of the early 20th century. This was the
beginning of a trend that continues to this day, and scientific and
technological advances occur on every continent of the globe. Of course
decentralization could also inhibit the exchange of information, but by the late
19`h century inventions such as the telegraph and telephone, as well as
improvements in means of transportation such as the steam engine and internal
combustion engine, would ensure that the scientists of the 20th century could
easily be in contact with colleagues across the world. The modern Internet,
originally constructed for military use, is an extension of these technologies
and has become an importance avenue by which the scientific community
communicates its findings in the electronic world.
is designed as a reference volume for anyone interested in obtaining an
overview of the advances in mathematics, science and technology during the 19th
century. The topics in this volume were chosen from a historical perspective
because of their influence on the development of science, mathematics and
technology. By no means is this a comprehensive compilation of all of the
accomplishments during this time frame. Entries were chosen not only because of
their influence, but also to indicate the wide array of accomplishments during
this century. In each case, though, the work of these investigators eventually
led to scientific, mathematical or technological breakthroughs that shaped the
course of science, and often society, in the following centuries. Each entry
provides a brief history of the topic, which in some cases dates from the time
of the ancient Greeks but in others goes back only a few decades. This allows
the reader to more fully understand the climate of the times and thus appreciate
the methodology by which the scientists and inventors approached their
discoveries. Because many advances of the 19th century were built on the
achievements of many disciplines, each entry is cross-referenced to other topics
in the book that may provide additional insight on related events that occurred
during this time. Each entry contains descriptions of experiments, discoveries,
and inventions and how the specific achievement influenced the science and
culture of the times. Although, described from the perspective of 19th century
science and culture, some of these creations were so revolutionary that their
potential influence on science and society were not completely recognized during
the time frame of the 19th century. However, all of the chosen items made
important contributions to the development of modern science and society in the
20th and 21st centuries.
is targeted for the general science audience and I have tried to use common
language to describe many of the scientific and mathematical discoveries. For
areas that require a deeper understanding of technical and scientific
terminology, a Glossary appears at the end of the book. Each entry contained in
the Glossary is highlighted in boldface type when it is first used in the text.
Also included for each entry is a bibliography of reference materials that
direct the reader to sources of additional information, and a complete
Bibliography is included. An index of subjects and names used within the work
allow readers to quickly access desired information from the century covered by
this book. The timeline at the front of the book helps to illustrate other
advances that were occurring during the century. These reference materials make
this volume attractive for secondary school libraries as well as for
undergraduate students in colleges and universities, where students may be
seeking general information about a specific experiment or discovery. In
addition, community libraries that wish to possess a general reference volume
on the 19th century, as well as anyone with an interest in science history, will
find this work a useful addition to their collection.
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