history of science is the study of the development of
science, including both the
social sciences (the history of the arts and humanities is termed
history of scholarship). Science is a body of
knowledge about the
natural world, produced by scientists who emphasize the observation,
explanation, and prediction of real-world
Historiography of science, in contrast, studies the methods employed by historians of science.
The English word scientist is relatively recent, first coined by the English
William Whewell in the 19th century. Before that, investigators of nature called themselves "
natural philosophers". While
observations of the natural world have been described since
classical antiquity (for example, by
Aristotle), and the
scientific method has been employed since the
Middle Ages (for example, by
Ibn al-Haytham and
Roger Bacon), modern science began to develop in the
early modern period, and in particular in the
scientific revolution of 16th- and 17th-century Europe. Traditionally, historians of science have defined science sufficiently broadly to include those earlier inquiries.
From the 18th through the late 20th century, the history of science, especially of the physical and biological sciences, was often presented as a progressive accumulation of knowledge, in which true theories replaced false beliefs. More recent historical interpretations, such as those of
Thomas Kuhn, tend to portray the history of science in terms of competing paradigms or conceptual systems within a wider matrix of intellectual, cultural, economic and political trends. These interpretations, however, have met with opposition for they also portray the history of science as an incoherent system of incommensurable paradigms, not leading to any actual scientific progress but only to the illusion that it has occurred. (