Key events in science history

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Key events in science history

Post by Lance Kennedy » Sun Oct 01, 2017 8:27 pm

Something that has puzzled me for a long time is the hiatus in scientific progress that took place after that ancient Greeks and up until about 500 years ago. Almost 2000 years of very little progress. Why? I have to consider this a tragedy, since humanity might have reached the stars by now. So I am looking at key events in the history of science and society.

The two things that I think may be responsible for the hiatus are the philosophy of logic and the Christian church. Although one writer I read says that it was the Roman Empire actively destroying knowledge. I do not think I believe that. Here is my time line of what I see as key events. The dates represent when the people involved were active, not birth or death dates.

1. Aristotle. 320 BC. The great Greek thinker. I am of two minds about this guy. He carried out and wrote about, good empirical studies, and made many discoveries. But he was also a great advocate of logic and promoted the idea that all things can be discovered by the process of logic. If he had, instead, promoted the idea that all things can be discovered by empirical studies, humanity may have got a lot further.

2. Archimedes. 220 BC. The first truly great mathematician. Setting the stage for the Muslim mathematicians.

3. Arabic numerals. Invented around the 7th century AD.

4. Algebra. Early 9th century. Muslim scholars.

5. 12th century. Arabic numerals adopted in Europe.

6. Marco Polo. 1300 AD. Not a scientist or mathematician, but he brought new ideas to Europe, including the first printing techniques.

7. Gutenberg. 1455 AD. Moveable type and the first printed books. Publishing made knowledge widely available, and was a catalyst for major growth in knowledge.

8. Leonardo da Vinci. 1490. Great engineer. Leonardo also did some of the first empirical scientific studies. For example, he was the first to declare fossils as the remains of ancient animals.

9. Jerome Cardano. 1500. The first modern great mathematician. Laws of probability.

10. Copernicus. 1540. The solar centric system.

11. Galileo. 1600. The first true modern scientist, using solid empirical studies.

12. Francis Bacon. 1620. Wrote up the scientific method for the first time, emphasizing the importance of empiricism.

13. Isaac Newton. 1690.

14. The rest. After Newton science was like a giant snowball rolling downhill. Unstoppable.

You may have different ideas of what was key. There are many great scientists and thinkers, and my short list skips so many. However, at this point, I see those events as crucial. What are your ideas .?

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Re: Key events in science history

Post by xouper » Sun Oct 01, 2017 8:57 pm

Lance Kennedy wrote:2. Archimedes. 220 BC. The first truly great mathematician. Setting the stage for the Muslim mathematicians.
Definitely a great mathematician — but maybe not the first — he came within an inch of inventing calculus and the theory of limits.

Off the top of my head, I would add Euclid, 300 BC, as the first great mathematician. So called "father of geometry and number theory" and inventor of the axiomatic method. Euclid's book "the Elements" is one of the most important books in mathematics. And he was a scientist in optics and mechanics.

Pythagoras, 500 BC, might also be in the running for title of first great mathematician, although there is some dispute about whether he should be credited as having originated all the mathematics he did. His science and mathematics had a significant influence on Plato.

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Re: Key events in science history

Post by Poodle » Sun Oct 01, 2017 9:08 pm

9a. Martin Luther, 1521. Told the Diet of Worms he would NOT recant, thus beginning the weakening of the RC church's powers of intellectual censorship.

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Re: Key events in science history

Post by Lance Kennedy » Sun Oct 01, 2017 9:25 pm

Do you agree with me that the two reasons for the hiatus was too great a reverence for Greek logic, and the repression of the Christian church ?
Last edited by Lance Kennedy on Sun Oct 01, 2017 10:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Key events in science history

Post by Poodle » Sun Oct 01, 2017 9:33 pm

Ah - reverance. Took me a while.
And yes - I think I would agree, Lance.

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Re: Key events in science history

Post by Lance Kennedy » Sun Oct 01, 2017 10:03 pm

Sorry about that Poodle.
As I told Bobbo, I am the world champion at typos, and have to proof read twice. Slipped up on that one though.

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Re: Key events in science history

Post by xouper » Sun Oct 01, 2017 10:07 pm

Lance Kennedy wrote:Sorry about that Poodle.
As I told Bobbo, I am the world champion at typos, and have to proof read twice. Slipped up on that one though.
Typos should be forgivable on this forum.

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Re: Key events in science history

Post by Gord » Sun Oct 01, 2017 11:22 pm

I'm currently reading The Geographical Lore of the Time of the Crusades -- A Study in the History of Medieval Science and Tradition in Western Europe by John Kirtland Wright (1965), and it talks about the way scientific progress was stymied during the period. Basically, you had authorities whose views of the world were accepted, and new evidence that contradicted those views was either ignored or reformed to fit with those views.

For instance, during the 12th century the works of the Greek philosophers was reintroduced to the West from the Moslem world. The writings of Aristotle and Plato were accepted on the authorities of the writers. One of the things that was accepted was that the torrid zone near the equator was uninhabitable due to the excessive heat of the Sun, even though the same Western scholars who accepted that were aware of people living at or near the equator. Meanwhile, Moslems went about their own business, happily travelling and living at or near the equator, either unaware of or bemused by the Western scholars insistence that nobody could do either one, exploring and trading (and slaving, if I remember correctly) along the African coast in the Southern Hemisphere.

There was also the belief that the Earth was divided into four quarters by two oceans: The first stretched around the Earth at the equator, and the second stretched from pole to pole (the Atlantic would have been a part of that second ocean). With this premise in mind, people would argue whether or not the other three quarters were populated. They used logic to "prove" their positions rather than accepting eyewitness evidence that countered their beliefs. See for instance this brief article: https://badexplanations.com/2016/02/06/ ... tipodeans/
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Re: Key events in science history

Post by Lance Kennedy » Sun Oct 01, 2017 11:42 pm

So reverence for the Greek position was part of it.

Would your book, Gord, have named the church as one of the authorities whose view should not be questioned ?

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Re: Key events in science history

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Sun Oct 01, 2017 11:52 pm

Identifying Greek Logic as an inhibition to adoption of Science is a very insightful notion. It has nicely balanced pros and cons about it.....with the balance tipping into the con?..........unless one takes a "long view" into its resurgence during the Renaissance.

I don't have the knowledge, but I wonder why Chinese and Egyptian "Science" did not flourish more than it did? Certainly not because of Greek Logic........so what else was going on? Control by a strong central governmental authority who wasn't all that interested for various reasons comes to mind........ for whatever it might be worth.

I don't agree with any short list of the greats that doesn't include Einstein. He literally changed space and time.

.............and from memory.......you didn't include a personal favorite of mine: Darwin.

This all flow from what I was taught in High School: Copernicus, Darwin, and Freud as defining what it was to be human:

Copernicus: we aren't the center of the Universe

Darwin: we aren't unique in the Living world

Freud: we aren't even in control of our own conscious thoughts.

I love Darwin because I don't think he was a "genius" as so many on the list are. He was smart....but he just had an inquiring mind and he LOOKED at what was in his own back yard. We can all do this......more than we do.

Freud: a bit passe these days....but thats what I was taught/told. Also an encouragement to "look" more deeply at things.

Checking the crosspost Lance just made.........what about religion? Very much a "strong central authority with its own desire to impose its own value system"..........but I'll never stand in the way of bashing religion.
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Re: Key events in science history

Post by Lance Kennedy » Mon Oct 02, 2017 12:02 am

Bobbo

I chose to end my list at Newton, because I think that progress after Newton was inevitable. I agree that Einstein was an amazing genius. But it is also interesting to note that, before he published his special theory of relativity, there were already others working towards the same conclusion. If Einstein had not done it, someone else would have. After all, it came out of the results of the Michealson Morley experiment, and scientists everywhere knew about that.

With Darwin, it is ditto, only more so. The theory of evolution by natural selection was a joint declaration with Alfred Wallace who had come up with it independently. These are great scientists, but others would have done the work if they had not.

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Re: Key events in science history

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Mon Oct 02, 2017 12:14 am

Lance: wouldn't every event on the list be discovered by someone.... eventually? With the atronomers and math guys only rediscovering what several others had earlier discovered and written down? Damn...those guys who burned the Library at Alexandria. Progress is inevitable so to say? So to me the most interesting question really is why the stall? why not earlier??? why not in China and Egypt????? analyzing both sides of the equation.
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Re: Key events in science history

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Mon Oct 02, 2017 12:18 am

.........and while I'm not a fan-boi..... I did spend a few days on google trying to figure out why e=mc2 and became informed about all the people working with "what is light" but I didn't get the impression they were even considering the space/time relationships. That insight is unique: looking underneath what we can all see. Not "obvious" either as is the position of Earth to the Sun or self proving mathematical theorums and such.

Give it up for Einstein.
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Re: Key events in science history

Post by Lance Kennedy » Mon Oct 02, 2017 12:57 am

Bobbo

Your statement about everything being discovered by someone eventually is true today. But it was not true for the hiatus.

Progress was at an absolute crawl between Archimedes and Galileo. Both those guys were amazing discoverers of wonderful new things. But what happened in between ? There was a little progress by Muslims between the 7th and 9th centuries AD. But almost no science till Galileo. A period of 1800 years. Imagine what humanity might have accomplished if empirical scientific studies had been ongoing during that time.

No, I do not know why Egypt and China never developed a viable science. The Muslims had a scientific method, but let it fall. Why ? I do not know. Perhaps it was their religion that suppressed it.

If I had to name a single reason why western science eventually took off, I would suggest it was the new ideas from Marco Polo which led to moveable type and the printing of books. Once books were cheap and widespread, knowledge could build on itself at a fast pace.

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Re: Key events in science history

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Mon Oct 02, 2017 1:06 am

Once again, per usual Lance: Thats what I said.

Pro Tip: look up the definition of inevitable. edit: ha, ha........if there is no gap or hiatus then it already happened or it won't at all===> and Einstein is starting to fidget in his grave. Why the hate?????
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Re: Key events in science history

Post by Lance Kennedy » Mon Oct 02, 2017 1:15 am

What hate ?

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Re: Key events in science history

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Mon Oct 02, 2017 2:03 am

against Einstein.

.................................you know.............................

a joke. Stay crispy.
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Re: Key events in science history

Post by Gawdzilla Sama » Mon Oct 02, 2017 4:22 pm

Poodle wrote:9a. Martin Luther, 1521. Told the Diet of Worms he would NOT recant, thus beginning the weakening of the RC church's powers of intellectual censorship.
Weren't the Lutherans even more strict when it came to anything that smacked of "heresy"?
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Re: Key events in science history

Post by Poodle » Mon Oct 02, 2017 8:52 pm

They may well have been stricter when it came to their religion, Gawd, but Luther himself rejected scholasticism in favour of direct observation, and rejected astrology in favour of astronomy. That's a pretty revolutionary state of mind considering what had gone before.

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Re: Key events in science history

Post by OlegTheBatty » Mon Oct 02, 2017 9:23 pm

The so-called hiatus (non-Christian civilizations continued to make advances) may also have been partly due to the Greeks picking the low hanging fruit. More advanced knowledge required more work.

For example, James Watt did not invent a steam engine, the principle had been known since at least Roman times. Metallurgy was not up to the task of making practical use of it until Watt's time.
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Re: Key events in science history

Post by Matthew Ellard » Tue Oct 03, 2017 12:17 am

OlegTheBatty wrote:For example, James Watt did not invent a steam engine, the principle had been known since at least Roman times. Metallurgy was not up to the task of making practical use of it until Watt's time.
That makes sense to me.

Aren't we simply talking about the start of the Renaissance? Isn't the rebirth of modern science just a subset of the Renaissance?

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Re: Key events in science history

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Tue Oct 03, 2017 1:05 am

Its always supremely interesting to see how technology intermeshes with theory to make advancements. The Romans or Greeks may have had that brass steam ball that would spin because of escaping steam.....an engine or sorts...but the had brass, copper, iron....water...coal.... seems to me they had all they needed if they had the Ideas to go with it. I would not short James Watt so completely.... but it does seem to me IIRC that be did "only" improve on the state of steam engines that was present at the time...science always building on its forerunners: except for Einstein and his space time insights. That seems entirely original and a genius stroke.........but how close did the forerunners get to that idea?
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Re: Key events in science history

Post by Lance Kennedy » Tue Oct 03, 2017 1:13 am

As I said, Bobbo, Einstein was continuing in theory the work started by Michaelson and Morley. That is not hating Einstein. It is just pointing out a fact. You could easily make a case for any and every bit of science to be merely a continuation of the work of others.

But there is still that hiatus. True the Muslims did some good work towards the end of the first millennium, but mostly that did not transfer to Europe. The real scientific growth happened over the last 500 years in Europe. For 1800 years before that, almost nothing happened in science.

We could date that hiatus as beginning with the murder of Archimedes, by a Roman soldier. But Rome was not really antagonistic to innovation. Nor did anything happen after it fell. Was it Christianity ?

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Re: Key events in science history

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Tue Oct 03, 2017 1:22 am

IIRC Michaelson Morley was about the speed of light and how it appeared to be the same even though rotating that device of theirs should have shown some difference. XXXXXXXX Just had a thought about tech and theory....I'm thinking M&M were "merely" tech guys simply trying to measure the speed of light or more precisely show that there was "ether" that light moved thru. I don't think they were in a cannon balls projectory of anything close to what Einstein was working on. Its like saying everyone who took cell phone pictures of the last eclipse were "working on" the gravitational lens theory of Einstein. aka: NO they weren't.

Let the hate fest continue until you admit Einstein was unique.
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Re: Key events in science history

Post by Lance Kennedy » Tue Oct 03, 2017 2:02 am

Michelson and Morley were not "just techs." They were very well educated and very smart dudes. Einstein was a genius, of course, and his thinking was stratospheric. But not quite unique. There are numerous people in history who are in his league. Da Vinci. Archimedes. Newton. Roger Penrose. Stephen Hawking. It is also true that several other scientists were working on the same route that Einstein took to special relativity. Sure, Einstein was special. But not unique.

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Re: Key events in science history

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Tue Oct 03, 2017 6:49 am

Mere repetition Lance. ADVANCE your position: who was working on special relativity at the time or 2000 years earlier?

Who?
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Re: Key events in science history

Post by Gord » Tue Oct 03, 2017 8:38 am

Lance Kennedy wrote:Would your book, Gord, have named the church as one of the authorities whose view should not be questioned ?
A little bit. Mostly, though, it's Scripture itself rather than the Church. Different people had different interpretations of Scripture, and used those interpretations as support for their "logic" regarding whether or not people living in other quarters of the world existed, had souls, or were without original sin.

Anything with "authority" was given higher stature than the idea of going somewhere and looking for evidence. After all, evidence can be misleading. It's better to believe that the Earth is warmed by the stars (which they did believe) because it was written by some authority figure(s) than to try to experiment or to calculate whether it could be true. Do you know why they call them the "dog days of summer"? It's because that's the time when the star Sirius appears to rise just before the Sun. That means it's in the sky, unseen, during the daytime. They didn't think it was a coincidence that the same time of year was (so they thought) the hottest time of the year. They thought it was the heat from Sirius combining with the heat from the Sun.
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Re: Key events in science history

Post by Lance Kennedy » Tue Oct 03, 2017 8:49 am

A bit of northern chauvinism there.

Here in the southern and better hemisphere, Sirius rises after the sun sets in summer. Sirius is prominent most of the night during the warm months. But according to the local native peoples, the Maori, the most important celestial feature is the pleiades, which they call Matariki, which is first seen early July in the early morning, thus marking the best time to plant winter crops.

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Re: Key events in science history

Post by KevinLevites » Tue Oct 03, 2017 10:43 am

I think science stalled for 1800 years because of one reason: it was dangerous to ask questions.

People in positions of power don't like it when people ask questions.

One question leads to another...and another...and so on until someone takes notice that the emperor wears no clothes, and then, of course, everything goes to hell.

An inqusitive mind is always a threat to the powers that be.

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Re: Key events in science history

Post by Gawdzilla Sama » Tue Oct 03, 2017 11:23 am

OlegTheBatty wrote:The so-called hiatus (non-Christian civilizations continued to make advances) may also have been partly due to the Greeks picking the low hanging fruit. More advanced knowledge required more work.

For example, James Watt did not invent a steam engine, the principle had been known since at least Roman times. Metallurgy was not up to the task of making practical use of it until Watt's time.
The Romans has reciprocating steam engines? :?
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Re: Key events in science history

Post by Gawdzilla Sama » Tue Oct 03, 2017 11:23 am

KevinLevites wrote:I think science stalled for 1800 years because of one reason: it was dangerous to ask questions.

People in positions of power don't like it when people ask questions.

One question leads to another...and another...and so on until someone takes notice that the emperor wears no clothes, and then, of course, everything goes to hell.

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Re: Key events in science history

Post by Lance Kennedy » Tue Oct 03, 2017 6:51 pm

Kevin

Could you be more specific about who it was in authority who opposed those who asked questions.

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Re: Key events in science history

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Tue Oct 03, 2017 9:13 pm

So Lance: given your habit of arguing as long as the other will respond, is your non-response to M&M being no where near Einstein your admission that Einstein IS UNIQUE and belongs on any short list of true Geniuses? Defined as: not in any relevant sense reworking or extending the work of others but rather coming up with whole new ideas on their own?

Seems to me Isaac Newton falls into that category. Most others: just low hanging fruit....eg: looking through a telescope and simply reporting what you see does not take that much genius.

Science today is complex enough.... hard to see a sole actor separating himself from the pack. Would the first to author a valid Unified Theory fit this bill BECAUSE Einstein himself could not do it, or would such finalization stand on the shoulders of Einstein?
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Re: Key events in science history

Post by Lance Kennedy » Tue Oct 03, 2017 9:35 pm

Bobbo

I am not sure what is driving you on this. Einstein was a genius, sure. He was not unique because humanity always gets a few geniuses. Why does this seem to matter so much to you?

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Re: Key events in science history

Post by Poodle » Tue Oct 03, 2017 9:38 pm

Just for your info, bobbo - Michelson and Morley were trying to establish the existence (or not) of the ether, not the speed of light or, actually, anything to do with light. It was simply a convenient thing to send around a loop in two opposing directions. They disproved the ether's existence and so freed other researchers to explore their own ideas further. Clever blokes, certainly, but not on a par with Einstein or anywhere near. Just my opinion, of course.
Anyway, Lance's subject really is the hiatus, which was long over before M, M. or even E were around.

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Re: Key events in science history

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Tue Oct 03, 2017 9:39 pm

Lance: you crack me up. So stiff. Driving is a two way street: why do you deny Einstein his due? There have been two or three Geniuses as we might define known in history...so none of them are unique...... and Einstein doesn't even make your long list????

...............and you avoid the direct question to you.

How driving is that?

ANSWER THE QUESTION.............or put Einstein on the List.
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Re: Key events in science history

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Tue Oct 03, 2017 9:41 pm

Poodle: I said ether.........and light was totally involved as in "What is light traveling through? And light was used to investigate the issue. Certainly, light was involved.

Lance made a list of Genius Scientists and left Einstein off of it. TOTALLY relevant. Who is on and off the list actually defines what we mean by Genius. Just as Lance demonstrates by fumbling around with the subject.
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Re: Key events in science history

Post by Lance Kennedy » Tue Oct 03, 2017 9:46 pm

Bobbo

I did not make a list of genius scientists. I made a list of key events in the history of science. Get the difference. I did not leave Einstein off. I just ended the list with Newton because I considered that the advance of science was inevitable by then.

I am not denying Einstein was a genius. He was a major genius. I am just saying he was not unique because the world always has geniuses.

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Re: Key events in science history

Post by Poodle » Tue Oct 03, 2017 9:56 pm

bobbo_the_Pragmatist wrote:Poodle: I said ether.........and light was totally involved as in "What is light traveling through? And light was used to investigate the issue. Certainly, light was involved.

Lance made a list of Genius Scientists and left Einstein off of it. TOTALLY relevant. Who is on and off the list actually defines what we mean by Genius. Just as Lance demonstrates by fumbling around with the subject.
No, no, no. Tsk tsk! Light was convenient. If they could have worked out a method of sending a couple of old boots round the loop, they would have got the same result.

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Re: Key events in science history

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Tue Oct 03, 2017 9:58 pm

Ha, ha........what a HORRIBLE quibble.... that does not stand up to the shortest review.

But I'll play along: why is The postulation/discovery of Special Relativity not on your list?

AND AGAIN: who else but Einstein was working on it?
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