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History of science and technology
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History of science and technology

The history of science and technology (HST) is a field of history which examines how humanity's understanding of science and technology has changed over the millennia, and how this understanding has allowed us to generate new technologies. This field of history also studies the cultural, economic, and political impacts of scientific innovation.

The advent of modern mathematical science is generally believed to have begun or developed in the regions of India, Greece, Persia, Egypt and China. The contributions of other ancient civilizations should also be noted. The development of a.o. the idea of the number zero in India, algebra and algorithm by Persians, the number pi by Egyptians, the Greek philosophy and the Chinese missile and printing inventions has laid the cornerstones for the modern science and technology.

Table of contents
1 Challenge to orthodoxy
2 General History of science and technology
3 By major areas/sub-fields
4 See also

Challenge to orthodoxy

A persistent theme in the history of science and technology has been the poor reception so often given to those who espouse ideas contrary to the prevailing orthodoxy. The story of Galileo has often been taken as a case in point: some natural philosophers and astronomers, especially those in areas closely influenced by religious orthodoxy, were reluctant to "check" their theories by looking through the newly-invented telescope as Galileo did. It is a poor example, however, because within a few years Galileo was one of the most honored scientists in Italy, and held in high regard by the Jesuit astronomers of the Collegium Romanum—who were using telescopes with enthusiasm.

After enough time, even the most unpopular idea can become a new scientific orthodoxy, if it can survive experimental test satisfactorily. For example, the germ theory of disease has become so prevalent that pasteurization and Listerine are household words, even if Louis Pasteur, Ignaz Semmelweis, and Joseph Lister are not so well remembered.

There is a controversy over whether we are more receptive to new scientific paradigms now than in Galileo's time. While some see Galileo's saga as an example of the arrogance of authority, others argue that rejection of new ideas today cannot be directly compared with examples such as Galileo. They claim that theories developed and tested by following the currently accepted principles of scientific investigation closely, as Galileo did, are generally accepted however surprising they may be, whereas ideas that make yet unproven and seemingly unjustified assumptions are termed pseudoscience.

The excess heat observed in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment, which they and some others have attributed to cold fusion, is a challenge to orthodoxy that is not yet fully resolved. The first report, which received extremely intense press coverage, caused many physicists to attempt to reproduce the experiment (a necessary process in science); these first attempts resulted in many complete failures, at least one report of success that was later withdrawn, and no clear and reproducible successes. Since then, the experiment has been repeated by other scientists who have reported various degrees of success. Because of lack of clear confirmation, as well as on theoretical grounds, claims of cold fusion have been rejected as pseudoscience by most mainstream scientists. A rebuttal of the claims by showing faults in the experimental set-up would be more convincing; but, for the original experiment, this is impossible because of the unclear and sometimes inconsistent description of the methods.

General History of science and technology

By major areas/sub-fields

See also:
Timelines of Science and Technology


General essays on scientific revolution and scientific enterprise

Social science


Ancient technological objects

See also