The history of science

The history of science is the study of the development of science and scientific knowledge, including both the natural and social sciences (the history of the arts and humanities is termed history of scholarship). Science is a body of empirical, theoretical, and practical knowledge about the natural world, produced by scientists who emphasize the observation, explanation, and prediction of real-world phenomena. Historiography of science, in contrast, studies the methods employed by historians of science.

The English word scientist is relatively recent—first coined by William Whewell in the 19th century. Previously, investigators of nature called themselves "natural philosophers". While empirical investigations of the natural world have been described since classical antiquity (for example, by Thales and 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 in commensurable paradigms, not leading to any actual scientific progress but only to the illusion that it has occurred.

Early cultures
See also: Protoscience and Alchemy
In prehistoric times, knowledge and technique were passed from generation to generation in an oral tradition. For example, the domestication of maize for agriculture has been dated to about 9,000 years ago in southern Mexico, before the development of writing systems.Similarly, archaeological evidence indicates the development of astronomical knowledge in preliterate societies.The development of writing enabled knowledge to be stored and communicated across generations with
much greater fidelity.

Many ancient civilizations systematically collected astronomical observations. Rather than speculate on the material nature of the planets and stars, the ancients charted the relative positions of celestial bodies, often inferring their influence on human society. This demonstrates how ancient investigators generally employed a holistic intuition, assuming the interconnectedness of all things, whereas modern science rejects such conceptual leaps.

Basic facts about human physiology were known in some places, and alchemy was practiced in several civilizations. Considerable observation of macroscopic flora and fauna was also performed.

Ancient Near East
Further information: Babylonian astronomy, Babylonian mathematics, and Babylonian medicine
Clay models of animal livers dating between the nineteenth and eighteenth centuries BCE, found in the royal palace at Mari.The ancient Mesopotamians had no distinction between "rational science" and magic. When a person became ill, doctors prescribed magical formulas to be recited as well as medicinal treatments.The earliest medical prescriptions appear in Sumerian during the Third Dynasty of Ur (c. 2112 BC – c. 2004 BC).

The most extensive Babylonian medical text, however, is the Diagnostic Handbook written by the ummânū, or chief scholar, Esagil-kin-apli of Borsippa,during the reign of the Babylonian king Adad-apla-iddina (1069–1046 BC).In East Semitic cultures, the main medicinal authority was a kind of exorcist-healer known as an āšipu.The profession was generally passed down from father to son and was held in extremely high regard. Of less frequent recourse was another kind of healer known as an asu, who corresponds more closely to a modern physician and treated physical symptoms using primarily folk remedies composed of various herbs, animal products, and minerals, as well as potions, enemas, and ointments or poultices. These physicians, who could be either male or female, also dressed wounds, set limbs, and performed simple surgeries. The ancient Mesopotamians also practiced prophylaxis and took measures to prevent the spread of disease.

The ancient Mesopotamians had extensive knowledge about the chemical properties of clay, sand, metal ore, bitumen, stone, and other natural materials, and applied this knowledge to practical use in manufacturing pottery, faience, glass, soap, metals, lime plaster, and waterproofing. Metallurgy required scientific knowledge about the properties of metals. Nonetheless, the Mesopotamians seem to have had little interest in gathering information about the natural world for the mere sake of gathering information and were far more interested in studying the manner in which the gods had ordered the universe. Biology of non-human organisms was generally only written about in the context of mainstream academic disciplines. Animal physiology was studied extensively for the purpose of divination; the anatomy of the liver, which was seen as an important organ in haruspicy, was studied in particularly intensive detail. Animal behavior was also studied for divinatory purposes. Most information about the training and domestication of animals was probably transmitted orally without being written down, but one text dealing with the training of horses has survived. The Mesopotamian cuneiform tablet Plimpton 322, dating to the eighteenth century BC, records a number of Pythagorean triplets  hinting that the ancient Mesopotamians might have been aware of the Pythagorean theorem over a millennium before Pythagoras.

Mesopotamian clay tablet, 492 BC. Writing allowed the recording of astronomical information.
In Babylonian astronomy, records of the motions of the stars, planets, and the moon are left on thousands of clay tablets created by scribes. Even today, astronomical periods identified by Mesopotamian proto-scientists are still widely used in Western calendars such as the solar year and the lunar month. Using these data they developed arithmetical methods to compute the changing length of daylight in the course of the year and to predict the appearances and disappearances of the
Moon and planets and eclipses of the Sun and Moon. Only a few astronomers' names are known, such as that of Kidinnu, a Chaldean astronomer and mathematician. Kiddinu's value for the solar year is in use for today's calendars. Babylonian astronomy was "the first and highly successful attempt at giving a refined mathematical description of astronomical phenomena." According to the historian A. Aaboe, "all subsequent varieties of scientific astronomy, in the Hellenistic world, in India, in Islam, and in the West—if not indeed all subsequent endeavour in the exact sciences—depend upon Babylonian astronomy in decisive and fundamental ways."

Main articles: Egyptian astronomy, Egyptian mathematics, and Egyptian medicine Ancient Egypt made significant advances in astronomy, mathematics and medicine.Their development of geometry was anecessary outgrowth of surveying to preserve the layout and ownership of farmland, which was flooded annually by the Nileriver. The 3-4-5 right triangle and other rules of geometry were used to build rectilinear structures, and the post and lintel architecture of Egypt. Egypt was also a center of alchemy research for much of the Mediterranean. The Edwin Smith papyrus is one of the first medical documents still extant, and perhaps the earliest document that attempts to describe and analyse the brain: it might be seen as the very beginnings of modern neuroscience. However, while Egyptian medicine had some effective practices, it was often ineffective and sometimes harmful. Medical historians believe that ancient Egyptian pharmacology, for example, was largely ineffective. Nevertheless, it applied the following components to the treatment of disease: examination, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis, which display strong parallels to the basic empirical method of science and, according to G.E.R. Lloyd,played a significant role in the development of this methodology. The Ebers papyrus (c. 1550 BC) also contains evidence of traditional empiricism.

Greco-Roman world
Main article: History of science in classical antiquity

Plato's Academy. 1st century mosaic from Pompei In Classical Antiquity, the inquiry into the workings of the universe took place both in investigations aimed at such practical goals as establishing a reliable calendar or determining how to cure a variety of illnesses and in those abstract investigations known as natural philosophy. The ancient people who are considered the first scientists may have thought of themselves as natural philosophers, as practitioners of a skilled profession (for example, physicians), or as followers of a religious tradition (for example, temple healers).

The earliest Greek philosophers, known as the pre-Socratics,provided competing answers to the question found in the myths of their neighbors: "How did the ordered cosmos in which we live come to be?" The pre-Socratic philosopher Thales (640–546 BC), dubbed the "father of science", was the first to postulate non-supernatural explanations for natural phenomena. For example, that land floats on water and that earthquakes are caused by the agitation of the water upon which the land floats, rather than the god Poseidon.Thales' student Pythagoras of Samos founded the Pythagorean school, which investigated mathematics for its own sake, and was the first to postulate that the Earth is spherical in shape. Leucippus (5th century BC) introduced atomism, the theory that all matter is made of indivisible, imperishable units called atoms.

This was greatly expanded on by his pupil Democritus and later Epicurus.Subsequently, Plato and Aristotle produced the first systematic discussions of natural philosophy, which did much to shape later investigations of nature. Their development of deductive reasoning was of particular importance and usefulness to later scientific inquiry. Plato founded the Platonic Academy in 387 BC, whose motto was "Let none unversed in geometry enter here", and turned out many notable philosophers. Plato's student Aristotle introduced empiricism and the notion that universal truths can be arrived at via observation and induction, thereby laying the foundations of the scientific method.

Aristotle also produced many biological writings that were empirical in nature, focusing on biological causation and the diversity of life. He made countless observations of nature, especially the habits and attributes of plants and animals on Lesbos, classified more than 540 animal species, and dissected at least 50. Aristotle's writings profoundly influenced subsequent Islamic and European scholarship, though they were eventually superseded in the Scientific Revolution.

Archimedes used the method of exhaustion to approximate the value of π.
The important legacy of this period included substantial advances in factual knowledge, especially in anatomy, zoology, botany, mineralogy, geography, mathematics and astronomy; an awareness of the importance of certain scientific problems, especially those related to the problem of change and its causes; and a recognition of the methodological importance of applying mathematics to natural phenomena and of undertaking empirical research. In the Hellenistic age scholars frequently employed the principles developed in earlier Greek thought: the application of mathematics and deliberate empirical research, in their scientific investigations.Thus, clear unbroken lines of influence lead from ancient Greek and Hellenistic philosophers, to medieval Muslim philosophers and scientists, to the European Renaissance and Enlightenment, to the secular sciences of the modern day. Neither reason nor inquiry began with the Ancient Greeks, but the Socratic method did, along with the idea of Forms, great advances in geometry, logic, and the natural sciences. According to Benjamin Farrington, former Professor of Classics at Swansea University:

"Men were weighing for thousands of years before Archimedes worked out the laws of equilibrium; they must have had practical and intuitional knowledge of the principles involved. What Archimedes did was to sort out the theoretical implications of this practical knowledge and present the resulting body of knowledge as a logically coherent system."and again:"With astonishment we find ourselves on the threshold of modern science. Nor should it be supposed that by some trick of tralation the extracts have been given an air of modernity. Far from it. The vocabulary of these writings and their style are the source from which our own vocabulary and style have been derived."

Schematic of the Antikythera mechanism (150–100 BC).The astronomer Aristarchus of Samos was the first known person to propose a heliocentric model of the solar system, while the geographer Eratosthenes accurately calculated the circumference of the Earth. Hipparchus (c. 190 – c. 120 BC) produced the first systematic star catalog. The level of achievement in Hellenistic astronomy and engineering is impressively shown by the Antikythera mechanism (150–100 BC), an analog computer for calculating the position of planets. Technological artifacts of similar complexity did not reappear nti 14th century, when mechanical astronomical clocks appeared in Europe.

In medicine, Hippocrates (c. 460 BC – c. 370 BC) and his followers were the first to describe many diseases and medical conditions and developed the Hippocratic Oath for physicians, still relevant and in use today. Herophilos (335–280 BC) was the first to base his conclusions on dissection of the human body and to describe the nervous system. Galen (129 – c. 200 AD) performed many audacious operations—including brain and eye surgeries— that were not tried again for almost two millennia.

One of the oldest surviving fragments of Euclid's Elements, found at Oxyrhynchus and dated to c. 100 AD.In Hellenistic Egypt, the mathematician Euclid laid down the foundations of mathematical rigor and introduced the concepts of definition, axiom, theorem and proof still in use today in his Elements, considered the most influential textbook ever written. Archimedes, considered one of the greatest mathematicians of all time, is credited with using the method of exhaustion to calculate the area under the arc of a parabola with the summation of an infinite series, and gave a remarkably accurate approximation of Pi. He is also known in physics for laying the foundations of hydrostatics, statics, and the explanation of the principle of the lever.Theophrastus wrote some of the earliest descriptions of plants and animals, establishing the first taxonomy and looking at minerals in terms of their properties such as hardness. Pliny the Elder produced what is one of the largest encyclopedias of the natural world in 77 AD, and must be regarded as the rightful successor to Theophrastus.

 For example, he accurately describes the octahedral shape of the diamond, and proceeds to mention that diamond dust is used by engravers to cut and polish other gems owing to its great hardness. His recognition of the importance of crystal shape is a precursor to modern crystallography, while mention of numerous other minerals presages mineralogy. He also recognises that other minerals have characteristic crystal shapes, but in one example, confuses the crystal habit with the work of lapidaries.He was also the first to recognise that amber was a fossilized resin from pine trees because he had seen samples with trapped insects within them.

Main article: History of science and technology in the Indian subcontinent

Ancient India was an early leader in metallurgy, as evidenced by the wrought-iron Pillar of Delhi.
Mathematics: The earliest traces of mathematical knowledge in the Indian subcontinent appear with the Indus Valley Civilization (c. 4th millennium BC ~ c. 3rd millennium BC). The people of this civilization made bricks whose dimensions were in the proportion 4:2:1, considered favorable for the stability of a brick structure.They also tried to standardize measurement of length to a high degree of accuracy. They designed a ruler—the Mohenjo-daro ruler—whose unit of length (approximately 1.32 inches or 3.4 centimetres) was divided into ten equal parts. Bricks manufactured in ancient Mohenjo-
daro often had dimensions that were integral multiples of this unit of length.

Indian astronomer and mathematician Aryabhata (476–550), in his Aryabhatiya (499) introduced a number of trigonometric functions (including sine, versine, cosine and inverse sine), trigonometric tables, and techniques and algorithms of algebra. In 628 AD, Brahmagupta suggested that gravity was a force of attraction. He also lucidly explained the use of zero as both a placeholder and a decimal digit, along with the Hindu-Arabic numeral system now used universally throughout the world. Arabic translations of the two astronomers' texts were soon available in the Islamic world, introducing what would become Arabic numerals to the Islamic world by the 9th century.During the 14th–16th centuries, the Kerala school of astronomy and mathematics made significant advances in astronomy and especially mathematics, including fields such as trigonometry and analysis. In particular, Madhava of Sangamagrama is considered the "founder of mathematical analysis".


The first textual mention of astronomical concepts comes from the Vedas, religious literature of India. According to Sarma (2008): "One finds in the Rigveda intelligent speculations about the genesis of the universe from nonexistence, the configuration of the universe, the spherical self-supporting earth, and the year of 360 days divided into 12 equal parts of 30 days each with a periodical intercalary month.". The first 12 chapters of the Siddhanta Shiromani, written by Bhāskara in the 12th century, cover topics such as: mean longitudes of the planets; true longitudes of the planets; the three problems of diurnal rotation; syzygies; lunar eclipses; solar eclipses; latitudes of the

planets; risings and settings; the moon's crescent; conjunctions of the planets with each other; conjunctions of the planets with the fixed stars; and the patas of the sun and moon. The 13 chapters of the second part cover the nature of the sphere, as well as significant astronomical and trigonometric calculations based on it.Nilakantha Somayaji's astronomical treatise the Tantrasangraha similar in nature to the Tychonic system proposed by Tycho Brahe had been the most accurate astronomical model until the time of Johannes Kepler in the 17th century.Linguistics: Some of the earliest linguistic activities can be found in Iron Age India (1st millennium BC) with the analysis of Sanskrit for the purpose of the correct recitation and interpretation of Vedic texts. The most notable grammarian of Sanskrit was Pāṇini, whose grammar formulates close to 4,000 rules which together form a compact generative grammar of Sanskrit. Inherent in his analytic approach are the concepts of the phoneme, the morpheme and the root.Medicine:

 Findings from Neolithic graveyards in what is now Pakistan show evidence of proto-dentistry among an early farming culture. Ayurveda is a system of traditional medicine that originated in ancient India before 2500 BC, and is now practiced as a form of alternative medicine in other parts of the world. Its most famous text is the Suśrutasamhitā of Suśruta, which is notable for describing procedures on various forms of surgery, including rhinoplasty, the repair of torn ear lobes, perineal lithotomy, cataract surgery, and several other excisions and other surgical procedures.Metallurgy: The wootz, crucible and stainless steels were invented in India, and were widely exported in Classic Mediterranean world. It was known from Pliny the Elder as ferrum indicum. Indian Wootz steel was held in high regard in Roman Empire, was often considered to be the best. After in Middle Age it was imported in Syria to produce with special techniques the "Damascus steel" by the year 1000.

The Hindus excel in the manufacture of iron, and in the preparations of those ingredients along with which it is fused to obtain that kind of soft iron which is usually styled Indian steel (Hindiah). They also have workshops wherein are forged the most famous sabres in the world.



 From earliest the Chinese used a positional decimal system on counting boards in order to calculate. To express 10, a single rod is placed in the second box from the right. The spoken language uses a similar system to English: e.g. four thousand two hundred seven. No symbol was used for zero. By the 1st century BC, negative numbers and decimal fractions were in use and The Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art included methods for extracting higher order roots by Horner's method and solving linear equations and by Pythagoras' theorem. Cubic equations were solved in the Tang dynasty and solutions of equations of order higher than 3 appeared in print in 1245 AD by Ch'in Chiu-shao. Pascal's triangle for binomial coefficients was described around 1100 by Jia Xian.

Although the first attempts at an axiomatisation of geometry appear in the Mohist canon in 330 BC, Liu Hui developed algebraic methods in geometry in the 3rd century AD and also calculated pi to 5 significant figures. In 480, Zu Chongzhi improved this by discovering the ratio  which remained the most accurate value for 1200 years.


Astronomical observations from China constitute the longest continuous sequence from any civilisation and include records of sunspots (112 records from 364 BC), supernovas (1054), lunar and solar eclipses. By the 12th century, they could reasonably accurately make predictions of eclipses, but the knowledge of this was lost during the Ming dynasty, so that the Jesuit Matteo Ricci gained much favour in 1601 by his predictions. By 635 Chinese astronomers had observed that the tails of comets always point away from the sun.

From antiquity, the Chinese used an equatorial system for describing the skies and a star map from 940 was drawn using a cylindrical (Mercator) projection. The use of an armillary sphere is recorded from the 4th century BC and a sphere permanently mounted in equatorial axis from 52 BC. In 125 AD Zhang Heng used water power to rotate the sphere in real time. This included rings for the meridian and ecliptic. By 1270 they had incorporated the principles of the Arab torquetum.


To better prepare for calamities, Zhang Heng invented a seismometer in 132 CE which provided instant alert to authorities in the capital Luoyang that an earthquake had occurred in a location indicated by a specific cardinal or ordinal direction. Although no tremors could be felt in the capital when Zhang told the court that an earthquake had just occurred in the northwest, a message came soon afterwards that an earthquake had indeed struck 400 km (248 mi) to 500 km (310 mi) northwest of Luoyang (in what is now modern Gansu).[61] Zhang called his device the 'instrument for measuring the seasonal winds and the movements of the Earth' , so-named because he and others thought that earthquakes were most likely caused by the enormous compression of trapped air. See Zhang's seismometer for further details.

There are many notable contributors to the field of Chinese science throughout the ages. One of the best examples would be Shen Kuo (1031–1095), a polymath scientist and statesman who was the first to describe the magnetic-needle compass used for navigation, discovered the concept of true north, improved the design of the astronomical gnomon, armillary sphere, sight tube, and clepsydra, and described the use of drydocks to repair boats. After observing the natural process of the
inundation of silt and the find of marine fossils in the Taihang Mountains (hundreds of miles from the Pacific Ocean), Shen Kuo devised a theory of land formation, or geomorphology. He also adopted a theory of gradual climate change in regions over time, after observing petrified bamboo found underground at Yan'an, Shaanxi province. If not for Shen Kuo's writing, the architectural works of Yu Hao would be little known, along with the inventor of movable type printing, Bi Sheng (990–1051). Shen's contemporary Su Song (1020–1101) was also a brilliant polymath, an astronomer who created a celestial atlas of star maps, wrote a pharmaceutical treatise with related subjects of botany, zoology, mineralogy, and metallurgy, and had erected a large astronomical clocktower in Kaifeng city in 1088. To operate the crowning armillary sphere, his clocktower featured an escapement mechanism and the world's oldest known use of an endless power-transmitting

Post-classical science

In the Middle Ages the classical learning continued in three major linguistic cultures and civilizations: Greek (the Byzantine Empire), Arabic (the Islamic world), and Latin (Western Europe).

Byzantine Empire

Because of the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the intellectual level in the western part of Europe declined in the 400s. In contrast, the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire resisted the barbarian attacks, and preserved and improved the learning.

While the Byzantine Empire still held learning centers such as Constantinople, Alexandria and Antioch, Western Europe's knowledge was concentrated in monasteries until the development of medieval universities in the 12th centuries. The curriculum of monastic schools included the study of the few available ancient texts and of new works on practical subjects like medicine and timekeeping.

In the sixth century in the Byzantine Empire, Isidore of Miletus compiled Archimedes' mathematical works in the Archimedes Palimpsest, where all Archimedes' mathematical contributions were collected and studied.

John Philoponus, another Byzantine scholar, was the first to question Aristotle's teaching of physics, introducing the theory of impetus. The theory of impetus was an auxiliary or secondary theory of Aristotelian dynamics, put forth initially to explain projectile motion against gravity. It is the intellectual precursor to the concepts of inertia, momentum and acceleration in classical mechanics. The works of John Philoponus inspired Galileo Galilei ten centuries later.

The first record of separating conjoined twins took place in the Byzantine Empire in the 900s when the surgeons tried to separate a dead body of a pair of conjoined twins. The result was partly successful as the other twin managed to live for three days. The next recorded case of separating conjoined twins was several centuries later, in 1600s Germany.

During the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, a number of Greek scholars flee to North Italy in which they fueled the era later commonly known as "Renaissance” as they brought with them a great deal of classical learning including an understanding of botany, medicine, and zoology. Byzantium also gave the West important inputs: John Philoponus' criticism of Aristotelian physics, and the works of Dioscorides.

Islamic world

In the Middle East, Greek philosophy was able to find some support under the newly created Arab Empire. With the spread of Islam in the 7th and 8th centuries, a period of Muslim scholarship, known as the Islamic Golden Age, lasted until the 13th century. This scholarship was aided by several factors. The use of a single language, Arabic, allowed communication without need of a translator. Access to Greek texts from the Byzantine Empire, along with Indian sources of learning, provided Muslim scholars a knowledge base to build upon.

Scientific method began developing in the Muslim world, where significant progress in methodology was made, beginning with the experiments of Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) on optics from c. 1000, in his Book of Optics.The most important development of the scientific method was the use of experiments to distinguish between competing scientific theories set within a generally empirical orientation, which began among Muslim scientists. Ibn al-Haytham is also regarded as the father of optics, especially for his empirical proof of the intromission theory of light. Some have also described Ibn al-Haytham as the "first scientist" for his development of the modern scientific method.

In mathematics, the mathematician Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi (c. 780–850) gave his name to the concept of the algorithm, while the term algebra is derived from al-jabr, the beginning of the title of one of his publications. What is now known as Arabic numerals originally came from India, but Muslim mathematicians made several key refinements to the number system, such as the introduction of decimal point notation.

In astronomy, Al-Battani (c. 858–929) improved the measurements of Hipparchus, preserved in the translation of Ptolemy's Hè Megalè Syntaxis (The great treatise) translated as Almagest. Al-Battani also improved the precision of the measurement of the precession of the Earth's axis. The corrections made to the geocentric model by al-Battani, Ibn al-Haytham, Averroes and the Maragha astronomers such as Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, Mo'ayyeduddin Urdi and Ibn al-Shatir are similar to Copernican heliocentric model. Heliocentric theories may have also been discussed by several other Muslim astronomers such as Ja'far ibn Muhammad Abu Ma'shar al-Balkhi,Abu-Rayhan Biruni, Abu Said al-Sijzi,[84] Qutb al-Din al-Shirazi, and Najm al-Din al-Qazwini al-Katibi.

Muslim chemists and alchemists played an important role in the foundation of modern chemistry. Scholars such as Will Durant[86] and Fielding H. Garrison considered Muslim chemists to be the founders of chemistry. In particular, Jabir ibn Hayyan (c. 721–815) is "considered by many to be the father of chemistry". The works of Arabic scientists influenced Roger Bacon (who introduced the empirical method to Europe, strongly influenced by his reading of Persian writers), and later Isaac Newton. The scholar Al-Razi contributed to chemistry and medicine.

Ibn Sina (Avicenna, c. 980–1037) is regarded as the most influential philosopher of Islam. He pioneered the science of experimental medicine and was the first physician to conduct clinical trials. His two most notable works in medicine are the Kitab al-shifa? ("Book of Healing") and The Canon of Medicine, both of which were used as standard medicinal texts in both the Muslim world and in Europe well into the 17th century. Amongst his many contributions are the discovery of the contagious nature of infectious diseases, and the introduction of clinical pharmacology.

Scientists from the Islamic world include al-Farabi (polymath), Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi (pioneer of surgery), Abu Rayhan al-Biruni (pioneer of Indology, geodesy and anthropology), Nasir al-Din al-Tusi (polymath), and Ibn Khaldun (forerunner of social sciences such as demography, cultural history, historiography, philosophy of history and sociology), among many others.

Islamic science began its decline in the 12th or 13th century, before the Renaissance in Europe, and due in part to the 11th–13th century Mongol conquests, during which libraries, observatories, hospitals and universities were destroyed. The end of the Islamic Golden Age is marked by the destruction of the intellectual center of Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid caliphate in 1258.

Western Europe

By the eleventh century, most of Europe had become Christian; stronger monarchies emerged; borders were restored; technological developments and agricultural innovations were made, increasing the food supply and population. Classical Greek texts were translated from Arabic and Greek into Latin, stimulating scientific discussion in Western Europe.

An intellectual revitalization of Western Europe started with the birth of medieval universities in the 12th century. Contact with the Byzantine Empire, and with the Islamic world during the Reconquista and the Crusades, allowed Latin Europe access to scientific Greek and Arabic texts, including the works of Aristotle, Ptolemy, Isidore of Miletus, John Philoponus, Jabir ibn Hayyan, al-Khwarizmi, Alhazen, Avicenna, and Averroes. European scholars had access to the translation programs of Raymond of Toledo, who sponsored the 12th century Toledo School of Translators from Arabic to Latin. Later translators like Michael Scotus would learn Arabic in order to study these texts directly. The European universities aided materially in the translation and propagation of these texts and started a new infrastructure which was needed for scientific communities. In fact, European university put many works about the natural world and the study of nature at the center of its curriculum, with the result that the "medieval university laid far greater emphasis on science than does its modern counterpart and descendent."

In classical antiquity, Greek and Roman taboos had meant that dissection was usually banned, but in the Middle Ages medical teachers and students at Bologna began to open human bodies, and Mondino de Luzzi (c. 1275–1326) produced the ?rst known anatomy textbook based on human dissection.

As a result of the Pax Mongolica, Europeans, such as Marco Polo, began to venture further and further east. This led to the increased awareness of Indian and even Chinese culture and civilization within the European tradition. Technological advances were also made, such as the early flight of Eilmer of Malmesbury (who had studied Mathematics in 11th century England), and the metallurgical achievements of the Cistercian blast furnace at Laskill.

At the beginning of the 13th century, there were reasonably accurate Latin translations of the main works of almost all the intellectually crucial ancient authors, allowing a sound transfer of scientific ideas via both the universities and the monasteries. By then, the natural philosophy in these texts began to be extended by scholastics such as Robert Grosseteste, Roger Bacon, Albertus Magnus and Duns Scotus. Precursors of the modern scientific method, influenced by earlier contributions of the Islamic world, can be seen already in Grosseteste's emphasis on mathematics as a way to understand nature, and in the empirical approach admired by Bacon, particularly in his Opus Majus. Pierre Duhem's thesis is that Stephen Tempier - the Bishop of Paris - Condemnation of 1277 led to the study of medieval science as a serious discipline, "but no one in the field any longer endorses his view that modern science started in 1277". However, many scholars agree with Duhem's view that the Middle Ages saw important scientific developments.

The first half of the 14th century saw much important scientific work, largely within the framework of scholastic commentaries on Aristotle's scientific writings. William of Ockham emphasised the principle of parsimony: natural philosophers should not postulate unnecessary entities, so that motion is not a distinct thing but is only the moving object and an intermediary "sensible species" is not needed to transmit an image of an object to the eye.Scholars such as Jean Buridan and Nicole Oresme started to reinterpret elements of Aristotle's mechanics. In particular, Buridan developed the theory that impetus was the cause of the motion of projectiles, which was a first step towards the modern concept of inertia. The Oxford Calculators began to mathematically analyze the kinematics of motion, making this analysis without considering the causes of motion.

In 1348, the Black Death and other disasters sealed a sudden end to philosophic and scientific development. Yet, the rediscovery of ancient texts was stimulated by the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, when many Byzantine scholars sought refuge in the West. Meanwhile, the introduction of printing was to have great effect on European society. The facilitated dissemination of the printed word democratized learning and allowed ideas such as algebra to propagate more rapidly. These developments paved the way for the Scientific Revolution, where scientific inquiry, halted at the start of the Black Death, resumed.

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