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The Engines of Our IngenuityAn Engineer Looks at Technology and Culture$
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John H. Lienhard

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780195135831

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195135831.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 24 July 2021

Science Marries into the Family

Science Marries into the Family

(p.70) 5 Science Marries into the Family
The Engines of Our Ingenuity

John H. Lienhard

Oxford University Press

The old Latin word scientia was not much used to designate ordered knowledge until recent times. Galileo would not have called himself a scientist, nor would Newton or Leibniz. Even two hundred years ago Lavoisier still called himself a natural philosopher. Yet each of those people contributed to the radical change that turned natural philosophers into today’s scientists. The change was complex. Roughly speaking, it could be called the evolution of the scientific method. It began during the 1480s, when the new printed books first included accurate illustrations of an observed world. Until then, first Christians and then Moslems had adhered to the Platonist idea that truth is to be reached by deduction far more than by observation. Throughout the sixteenth century the new observational sciences of botany, anatomy, descriptive geometry, geography, and ethnography all took form. In a series of bold steps the new media of print and illustration wrenched a world still shaped around Platonist thinking. Then, in the early sixteen hundreds, Galileo Galilei and Francis Bacon in particular codified the changes that had been afoot. Galileo did more than anyone to establish the methods of the new science, and Francis Bacon framed its philosophical stance. In 1620 Bacon wrote down the new view of nature in unmistakable terms in his Novum Organum. He directly contradicted the Platonists’ belief that truth is to be found in the human mind when he said, “That which nature may produce or bear should be discovered, not imagined or invented.” For over a century, a new breed of scientists had been learning how to take better account of empirical fact than medieval scientists had done. Now Bacon told us flatly that this was the only proper way to practice science. After 1600 Europe gained two new tools of inquiry, both of which led away from medieval thinking. The shift to observational science was certainly strengthened by new kinds of measuring instruments. Clock making was a technology that had led to a new precision in mechanisms. The seventeenth century gave us the telescope, the thermometer, the vacuum pump, and the microscope.

Keywords:   atomic theory, balloons, caloric, hydrogen balloons, mathematics, objectivity, pendulums, radio telescopes

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