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Natural science is a
branch The branches and leaves of a tree. A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany as a ramus) is a woody structural member connected to but not part of the central trunk of a tree (or sometimes a shrub). Large branches are kn ...
of
science Science (from the Latin word ''scientia'', meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe."... modern science is a discovery as w ...
concerned with the description, prediction, and understanding of
natural phenomena Nature, in the broadest sense, is the natural, physical, material world or universe. "Nature" can refer to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general. The study of nature is a large, if not the only, part of science. Al ...
, based on
empirical evidence Empirical evidence is the information received by means of the senses, particularly by observation and documentation of patterns and behavior through experimentation. The term comes from the Greek word for experience, ἐμπειρία (''empeir ...
from
observation Observation is the active acquisition of information from a primary source. In living beings, observation employs the senses. In science, observation can also involve the perception and recording of data via the use of scientific instruments. The ...
and
experimentation An experiment is a procedure carried out to support, refute, or validate a hypothesis. Experiments provide insight into cause-and-effect by demonstrating what outcome occurs when a particular factor is manipulated. Experiments vary greatly in ...
. Mechanisms such as
peer review Peer review is the evaluation of work by one or more people with similar competencies as the producers of the work (peers). It functions as a form of self-regulation by qualified members of a profession within the relevant field. Peer review m ...
and repeatability of findings are used to try to ensure the validity of scientific advances. Natural science can be divided into two main branches:
life science Life is a characteristic that distinguishes physical entities that have biological processes, such as signaling and self-sustaining processes, from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased (they have died), or because the ...
and
physical science Physical science is a branch of natural science that studies non-living systems, in contrast to life science. It in turn has many branches, each referred to as a "physical science", together called the "physical sciences". Definition Physica ...
. Life science is alternatively known as
biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their physical structure, chemical processes, molecular interactions, physiological mechanisms, development and evolution.Based on definition from: Despite the c ...
, and physical science is subdivided into branches:
physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , is the natural science that studies matter, its motion and behavior through space and time, and the related ent ...
,
chemistry Chemistry is the scientific discipline involved with elements and compounds composed of atoms, molecules and ions: their composition, structure, properties, behavior and the changes they undergo during a reaction with other substances. In the ...
,
Earth science Earth science or geoscience includes all fields of natural science related to planet Earth. This is a branch of science dealing with the physical and chemical constitution of Earth and its atmosphere. Earth science can be considered to be a branc ...
, and
astronomy Astronomy (from el, ἀστρονομία, literally meaning the science that studies the laws of the stars) is a natural science that studies celestial objects and phenomena. It uses mathematics, physics, and chemistry in order to explain t ...
. These branches of natural science may be further divided into more specialized branches (also known as fields). As empirical sciences, natural sciences use tools from the
formal science Formal science is a branch of science studying formal language disciplines concerned with formal systems, such as logic, mathematics, statistics, theoretical computer science, artificial intelligence, information theory, game theory, systems theor ...
s, such as mathematics and logic, converting information about nature into measurements which can be explained as clear statements of the "
laws of nature Law is a system of rules created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior,Robertson, ''Crimes against humanity'', 90. with its precise definition a matter of longstanding debate. It has been variously descr ...
". Modern natural science succeeded more classical approaches to
natural philosophy#REDIRECT Natural philosophy#REDIRECT Natural philosophy {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{R from other capitalisation ...
, usually traced to
Taoists Taoism (), or Daoism (), is a philosophical tradition of Chinese origin which emphasizes living in harmony with the ''Tao'' (, or ''Dao''). In Taosim the ''Tao'' is the source, pattern and substance of everything that exists. Taoism teaches ab ...
traditions in Asia and in the Occident to
ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of antiquity ( AD 600). This era was immediately followed by the Early Middle ...
.
Galileo Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de' Galilei (; 15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642) was an Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer, sometimes described as a polymath, from Pisa. Galileo has been called the "father of observational astr ...

Galileo
, Descartes,
Bacon Bacon is a type of salt-cured pork made from various cuts, typically from the pork belly or from the less fatty back cuts. It is eaten on its own, as a side dish (particularly in breakfasts), or used as a minor ingredient to flavour dishes (e. ...

Bacon
, and
Newton Newton most commonly refers to: * Isaac Newton (1642–1726/1727), English scientist * Newton (unit), SI unit of force named after Isaac Newton Newton may also refer to: Arts and entertainment * ''Newton'' (film), a 2017 Indian film * Newton (ban ...

Newton
debated the benefits of using approaches which were more
mathematical Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), structure (algebra), space (geometry), and change (analysis). It has no generally accepted definition. Mathematicians seek and use patterns to formulate ...
and more experimental in a methodical way. Still, philosophical perspectives,
conjecture In mathematics, a conjecture is a conclusion or a proposition which is suspected to be true due to preliminary supporting evidence, but for which no proof or disproof has yet been found. Some conjectures, such as the Riemann hypothesis (still a c ...
s, and
presupposition In the branch of linguistics known as pragmatics, a presupposition (or PSP) is an implicit assumption about the world or background belief relating to an utterance whose truth is taken for granted in discourse. Examples of presuppositions include: ...
s, often overlooked, remain necessary in natural science. Systematic data collection, including
discovery scienceDiscovery science is a scientific methodology. Discovery Science may also refer to: TV channels *Discovery Science (European TV channel) *Discovery Science (Asian TV channel) *Discovery Science (Canadian TV channel) *Discovery Science (Indian TV ch ...
, succeeded
natural history Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organisms, including animals, fungi, and plants, in their natural environment, leaning more towards observational than experimental methods of study. A person who studies natural history is calle ...
, which emerged in the 16th century by describing and classifying plants, animals, minerals, and so on. Today, "natural history" suggests observational descriptions aimed at popular audiences.


Criteria

Philosophers of science have suggested a number of criteria, including
Karl Popper Sir Karl Raimund Popper (28 July 1902 – 17 September 1994) was an Austrian-British philosopher, academic and social commentator. One of the 20th century's most influential philosophers of science, Popper is known for his rejection of the cla ...

Karl Popper
's controversial
falsifiability In the philosophy of science, a theory is falsifiable if it is contradicted by ''possible observations''—i.e., by any observations that can be described in the language of the theory, which must have a conventional empirical interpretation. Th ...
criterion, to help them differentiate scientific endeavors from non-scientific ones. Validity,
accuracy In a set of measurements, accuracy is closeness of the measurements to a specific value, while precision is the closeness of the measurements to each other. ''Accuracy'' has two definitions: # More commonly, it is a description of ''systematic err ...
, and
quality control Quality control (QC) is a process by which entities review the quality of all factors involved in production. ISO 9000 defines quality control as "A part of quality management focused on fulfilling quality requirements". This approach places e ...

quality control
, such as
peer review Peer review is the evaluation of work by one or more people with similar competencies as the producers of the work (peers). It functions as a form of self-regulation by qualified members of a profession within the relevant field. Peer review m ...
and repeatability of findings, are amongst the most respected criteria in today's global scientific community. In natural science, impossibility assertions come to be widely accepted as overwhelmingly probable rather than considered proved to the point of being unchallengeable. The basis for this strong acceptance is a combination of extensive evidence of something not occurring, combined with an underlying theory, very successful in making predictions, whose assumptions lead logically to the conclusion that something is impossible. While an impossibility assertion in natural science can never be absolutely proved, it could be refuted by the observation of a single counterexample. Such a counterexample would require that the assumptions underlying the theory that implied the impossibility be re-examined.


Branches of natural science


Biology

This field encompasses a diverse set of disciplines that examines phenomena related to living organisms. The scale of study can range from sub-component
biophysics uses protein domain dynamics on nanoscales to walk along a microtubule. Biophysics is an interdisciplinary science that applies approaches and methods traditionally used in physics to study biological phenomena. Biophysics covers all scales of bio ...
up to complex ecologies. Biology is concerned with the characteristics,
classification Classification is a process related to categorization, the process in which ideas and objects are recognized, differentiated and understood. See Classification (general theory) It may also refer to: Business, organizations, and economics * Clas ...
and
behaviors Behavior (American English) or behaviour (British English; see spelling differences) is the actions and mannerisms made by individuals, organisms, systems or artificial entities in conjunction with themselves or their environment, which include ...
of
organism In biology, an organism (from Greek: ὀργανισμός, ''organismos'') is any individual contiguous system that embodies the properties of life. It is a synonym for "life form". Organisms are classified by taxonomy into groups such as ...
s, as well as how
species In biology, a species is the basic unit of classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest group of organisms in which any two individuals of the appropriate sexe ...
were formed and their interactions with each other and the environment. The biological fields of
botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a branch of biology. A botanist, plant scientist or phytologist is a scientist who specialises in this field. The term "botany" comes from the Ancient Greek wo ...

botany
,
zoology Zoology ()The pronunciation of zoology as is typically regarded as nonstandard, though it is not uncommon. is the branch of biology that studies the animal kingdom, including the structure, embryology, evolution, classification, habits, and dis ...
, and
medicine Medicine is the art, science, and practice of caring for a patient and managing the diagnosis, prognosis, prevention, treatment or palliation of their injury or disease. Medicine encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain ...
date back to early periods of civilization, while
microbiology Microbiology (from Greek , ''mīkros'', "small"; , ''bios'', "life"; and , ''-logia'') is the scientific study of microorganisms, those being unicellular (single cell), multicellular (cell colony), or acellular (lacking cells). Microbiology encompa ...
was introduced in the 17th century with the invention of the microscope. However, it was not until the 19th century that biology became a unified science. Once scientists discovered commonalities between all living things, it was decided they were best studied as a whole. Some key developments in biology were the discovery of
genetics Genetics is a branch of biology concerned with the study of genes, genetic variation, and heredity in organisms.Hartl D, Jones E (2005) Though heredity had been observed for millennia, Gregor Mendel, Moravian scientist and Augustinian friar w ...
;
evolution Evolution is change in the heritable characteristics of biological populations over successive generations. These characteristics are the expressions of genes that are passed on from parent to offspring during reproduction. Different character ...

evolution
through
natural selection Natural selection is the differential survival and reproduction of individuals due to differences in phenotype. It is a key mechanism of evolution, the change in the heritable traits characteristic of a population over generations. Charles ...
; the
germ theory of disease#REDIRECT Germ theory of disease#REDIRECT Germ theory of disease#REDIRECT Germ theory of disease {{R from other capitalisation ... {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{R from other capitalisation ...
and the application of the techniques of
chemistry Chemistry is the scientific discipline involved with elements and compounds composed of atoms, molecules and ions: their composition, structure, properties, behavior and the changes they undergo during a reaction with other substances. In the ...
and
physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , is the natural science that studies matter, its motion and behavior through space and time, and the related ent ...
at the level of the
cell Cell most often refers to: * Cell (biology), the functional basic unit of life Cell may also refer to: Closed spaces * Monastic cell, a small room, hut, or cave in which a monk or religious recluse lives * Prison cell, a room used to hold peopl ...
or
organic molecule , CH4; is among the simplest organic compounds. In chemistry, organic compounds are generally any chemical compounds that contain carbon-hydrogen bonds. Due to carbon's ability to catenate (form chains with other carbon atoms), millions of organi ...
. Modern biology is divided into subdisciplines by the type of organism and by the scale being studied.
Molecular biology#REDIRECT Molecular biology#REDIRECT Molecular biology {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ...
is the study of the fundamental chemistry of life, while
cellular biology Cell biology (also cellular biology or cytology) is a branch of biology studying the structure and function of the cell, also known as the basic unit of life. Cell biology encompasses both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells and can be divided into ...
is the examination of the cell; the basic building block of all life. At a higher level,
anatomy Anatomy (Greek ''anatomē'', 'dissection') is the branch of biology concerned with the study of the structure of organisms and their parts. Anatomy is a branch of natural science which deals with the structural organization of living things. It ...
and
physiology Physiology (; ) is the scientific study of functions and mechanisms in a living system. As a sub-discipline of biology, physiology focuses on how organisms, organ systems, individual organs, cells, and biomolecules carry out the chemical and phys ...
look at the internal structures, and their functions, of an organism, while
ecology Ecology (from el, οἶκος, "house" and el, -λογία, label=none, "study of") is the study of the relationships between living organisms, including humans, and their physical environment. Topics of interest include the biodiversity, distr ...
looks at how various organisms interrelate.


Earth science

Earth science (also known as geoscience), is an all-embracing term for the sciences related to the planet
Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbor life. About 29% of Earth's surface is land consisting of continents and islands. The remaining 71% is covered with water, mostly by oceans, seas, gulfs, an ...
, including
geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λoγία, ''-logia'', ("study of", "discourse")) is an Earth science concerned with the solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which they change over t ...
,
geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Earth and planets. The first person to use the word γεωγραφ ...
,
geophysics Geophysics () is a subject of natural science concerned with the physical processes and physical properties of the Earth and its surrounding space environment, and the use of quantitative methods for their analysis. The term ''geophysics'' somet ...
,
geochemistry Geochemistry is the science that uses the tools and principles of chemistry to explain the mechanisms behind major geological systems such as the Earth's crust and its oceans. The realm of geochemistry extends beyond the Earth, encompassing the en ...
,
climatology Climatology (from Greek , ''klima'', "place, zone"; and , ''-logia'') or climate science is the scientific study of climate, scientifically defined as weather conditions averaged over a period of time. This modern field of study is regarded as a ...
,
glaciology Lateral moraine on a glacier joining the Gorner Glacier, Zermatt, Swiss Alps. The moraine is the high bank of debris in the top left hand quarter of the image. Glaciology (from Latin: ''glacies'', "frost, ice", and Ancient Greek: λόγος ...
,
hydrology Hydrology (from Greek: ὕδωρ, "hýdōr" meaning "water" and λόγος, "lógos" meaning "study") is the scientific study of the movement, distribution, and management of water on Earth and other planets, including the water cycle, water reso ...
,
meteorology Meteorology is a branch of the atmospheric sciences which includes atmospheric chemistry and atmospheric physics, with a major focus on weather forecasting. The study of meteorology dates back millennia, though significant progress in meteorolo ...
, and
oceanography Oceanography (compound of the Greek words ὠκεανός meaning "ocean" and γράφω meaning "write"), also known as oceanology, is the study of the physical and biological aspects of the ocean. It is an important Earth science, which covers ...
. Although
mining Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the Earth, usually from an ore body, lode, vein, seam, reef, or placer deposit. These deposits form a mineralized commodity that is of economic interest to the min ...
and
precious stones A gemstone (also called a gem, fine gem, jewel, precious stone, or semi-precious stone) is a piece of mineral crystal which, in cut and polished form, is used to make jewelry or other adornments. However, certain rocks (such as lapis lazuli and o ...
have been human interests throughout the history of civilization, the development of the related sciences of
economic geology Economic geology is concerned with earth materials that can be used for economic and/or industrial purposes. These materials include precious and base metals, nonmetallic minerals and construction-grade stone. Economic geology is a subdiscipline ...
and
mineralogy Mineralogy is a subject of geology specializing in the scientific study of the chemistry, crystal structure, and physical (including optical) properties of minerals and mineralized artifacts. Specific studies within mineralogy include the processes ...

mineralogy
did not occur until the 18th century. The study of the earth, particularly
palaeontology Paleontology, also spelled palaeontology or palæontology (), is the scientific study of life that existed prior to, and sometimes including, the start of the Holocene Epoch (roughly 11,700 years before present). It includes the study of fossils ...
, blossomed in the 19th century. The growth of other disciplines, such as
geophysics Geophysics () is a subject of natural science concerned with the physical processes and physical properties of the Earth and its surrounding space environment, and the use of quantitative methods for their analysis. The term ''geophysics'' somet ...
, in the 20th century, led to the development of the theory of
plate tectonics upright=1.35, Diagram of the internal layering of Earth showing the lithosphere above the asthenosphere (not to scale) Plate tectonics (from the la, label=Late Latin, tectonicus, from the grc, τεκτονικός, lit=pertaining to building) is a ...
in the 1960s, which has had a similar effect on the Earth sciences as the theory of evolution had on biology. Earth sciences today are closely linked to
petroleum Petroleum (), also known as crude oil and oil, is a naturally occurring, yellowish-black liquid found in geological formations beneath the Earth's surface. It is commonly refined into various types of fuels. Components of petroleum are separate ...
and
mineral resource , Malaysia is an example of undisturbed natural resource. Waterfalls provide spring water for humans, animals and plants for survival and also habitat for marine organisms. The water current can be used to turn turbines for hydroelectric generati ...
s,
climate Climate is the long-term average of weather, typically averaged over a period of 30 years. More rigorously, it is the mean and variability of meteorological variables over a time spanning from months to millions of years. Some of the meteorologic ...
research and to
environmental assessment Environmental assessment (EA) is the assessment of the environmental consequences of a plan, policy, program, or actual projects prior to the decision to move forward with the proposed action. In this context, the term "environmental impact assess ...
and remediation.


Atmospheric sciences

Although sometimes considered in conjunction with the earth sciences, due to the independent development of its concepts, techniques and practices and also the fact of it having a wide range of sub-disciplines under its wing,
atmospheric science Atmospheric science is the study of the Earth's atmosphere and its various inner-working physical processes. Meteorology includes atmospheric chemistry and atmospheric physics with a major focus on weather forecasting. Climatology is the study of ...
is also considered a separate branch of natural science. This field studies the characteristics of different layers of the atmosphere from ground level to the edge of the space. The timescale of the study also varies from days to centuries. Sometimes the field also includes the study of climatic patterns on planets other than earth.


Oceanography

The serious study of oceans began in the early to mid-20th century. As a field of natural science, it is relatively young but stand-alone programs offer specializations in the subject. Though some controversies remain as to the categorization of the field under earth sciences, interdisciplinary sciences or as a separate field in its own right, most modern workers in the field agree that it has matured to a state that it has its own paradigms and practices. As such a big family of related studies spanning every aspect of the oceans is now classified under this field.


Chemistry

Constituting the scientific study of matter at the
atom An atom is the smallest unit of ordinary matter that forms a chemical element. Every solid, liquid, gas, and plasma is composed of neutral or ionized atoms. Atoms are extremely small, typically around 100 picometers across. They are so sma ...

atom
ic and
molecular A scanning tunneling microscopy image of pentacene molecules, which consist of linear chains of five carbon rings. A molecule is an electrically neutral group of two or more atoms held together by chemical bonds. Molecules are distinguished ...
scale, chemistry deals primarily with collections of atoms, such as
gas Gas is one of the four fundamental states of matter (the others being solid, liquid, and plasma). A pure gas may be made up of individual atoms (e.g. a noble gas like neon), elemental molecules made from one type of atom (e.g. oxygen), or compo ...
es, molecules,
crystal A crystal or crystalline solid is a solid material whose constituents (such as atoms, molecules, or ions) are arranged in a highly ordered microscopic structure, forming a crystal lattice that extends in all directions. In addition, macrosco ...
s, and
metal A metal (from Greek μέταλλον ''métallon'', "mine, quarry, metal") is a material that, when freshly prepared, polished, or fractured, shows a lustrous appearance, and conducts electricity and heat relatively well. Metals are typically ...
s. The composition, statistical properties, transformations and reactions of these materials are studied. Chemistry also involves understanding the properties and interactions of individual atoms and molecules for use in larger-scale applications. Most chemical processes can be studied directly in a laboratory, using a series of (often well-tested) techniques for manipulating materials, as well as an understanding of the underlying processes. Chemistry is often called "
the central science Chemistry is often called the central science because of its role in connecting the physical sciences, which include chemistry, with the life sciences and applied sciences such as medicine and engineering. The nature of this relationship is one of ...
" because of its role in connecting the other natural sciences. Early experiments in chemistry had their roots in the system of
Alchemy Depiction of Ouroboros from the alchemical treatise ''Aurora consurgens'' (15th century), Zentralbibliothek Zürich, Switzerland Alchemy (from Arabic: ''al-kīmiyā''; from Ancient Greek: ''khumeía'') is an ancient branch of natura ...
, a set of beliefs combining mysticism with physical experiments. The science of chemistry began to develop with the work of
Robert Boyle Robert Boyle (; 25 January 1627 – 31 December 1691) was an Anglo-Irish natural philosopher, chemist, physicist, and inventor. Boyle is largely regarded today as the first modern chemist, and therefore one of the founders of modern chemi ...

Robert Boyle
, the discoverer of gas, and
Antoine Lavoisier Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier ( , ,; 26 August 17438 May 1794),
CNRS (
, who developed the theory of the
Conservation of mass In physics and chemistry, the law of conservation of mass or principle of mass conservation states that for any system closed to all transfers of matter and energy, the mass of the system must remain constant over time, as the system's mass canno ...
. The
discovery of the chemical elements The discovery of the 118 chemical elements known to exist as of 2021 is presented in chronological order. The elements are listed generally in the order in which each was first defined as the pure element, as the exact date of discovery of most elem ...
and
atomic theory Atomic theory is the scientific theory that matter is composed of particles called atoms. Atomic theory traces its origins to an ancient philosophical tradition known as atomism. According to this idea, if one were to take a lump of matter and ...
began to systematize this science, and researchers developed a fundamental understanding of
states of matter#REDIRECT state of matter {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ...
,
ion An ion () is a particle, atom or molecule with a net electrical charge. The charge of the electron is considered negative by convention. The negative charge of an ion is equal and opposite to charged proton(s) considered positive by convent ...
s,
chemical bond A chemical bond is a lasting attraction between atoms, ions or molecules that enables the formation of chemical compounds. The bond may result from the electrostatic force of attraction between oppositely charged ions as in ionic bonds or throug ...
s and
chemical reaction A chemical reaction is a process that leads to the chemical transformation of one set of chemical substances to another. Classically, chemical reactions encompass changes that only involve the positions of electrons in the forming and breaking of ...
s. The success of this science led to a complementary
chemical industry The chemical industry comprises the companies that produce industrial chemicals. Central to the modern world economy, it converts raw materials (oil, natural gas, air, water, metals, and minerals) into more than 70,000 different products. The plas ...
that now plays a significant role in the world economy.


Physics

Physics embodies the study of the fundamental constituents of the
universe The universe ( la, universus) is all of space and time and their contents, including planets, stars, galaxies, and all other forms of matter and energy. The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological description of the development of the un ...
, the forces and interactions they exert on one another, and the results produced by these interactions. In general, physics is regarded as the fundamental science, because all other natural sciences use and obey the principles and laws set down by the field. Physics relies heavily on
mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), structure (algebra), space (geometry), and change (analysis). It has no generally accepted definition. Mathematicians seek and use patterns to formulate ...
as the logical framework for formulation and quantification of principles. The study of the principles of the universe has a long history and largely derives from direct observation and experimentation. The formulation of theories about the governing laws of the universe has been central to the study of physics from very early on, with
philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, knowledge, values, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was proba ...
gradually yielding to systematic, quantitative experimental testing and observation as the source of verification. Key historical developments in physics include
Isaac Newton Sir Isaac Newton (25 December 1642 – 20 March 1726/27) was an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, theologian, and author (described in his time as a "natural philosopher") who is widely recognised as one of the greatest math ...

Isaac Newton
's theory of universal gravitation and
classical mechanics#REDIRECT Classical mechanics#REDIRECT Classical mechanics {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{R from other capitalisation ...
, an understanding of
electricity Electricity is the set of physical phenomena associated with the presence and motion of matter that has a property of electric charge. Electricity is related to magnetism, both being part of the phenomenon of electromagnetism, as described by ...

electricity
and its relation to
magnetism Magnetism is a class of physical phenomena that are mediated by magnetic fields. Electric currents and the magnetic moments of elementary particles give rise to a magnetic field, which acts on other currents and magnetic moments. Magnetism is one ...

magnetism
,
Einstein Albert Einstein ( ; ; 14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955) was a German-born theoretical physicist, widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest physicists of all time. Einstein is known for developing the theory of relativity, but he also ma ...
's theories of special and
general relativity General relativity, also known as the general theory of relativity, is the geometric theory of gravitation published by Albert Einstein in 1915 and is the current description of gravitation in modern physics. General relativity generalizes spec ...
, the development of
thermodynamics Thermodynamics is a branch of physics that deals with heat, work, and temperature, and their relation to energy, radiation, and physical properties of matter. The behavior of these quantities is governed by the four laws of thermodynamics which ...
, and the
quantum mechanical Quantum mechanics is a fundamental theory in physics that provides a description of the physical properties of nature at the scale of atoms and subatomic particles. It is the foundation of all quantum physics including quantum chemistry, quant ...
model of atomic and subatomic physics. The field of physics is extremely broad, and can include such diverse studies as
quantum mechanics Quantum mechanics is a fundamental theory in physics that provides a description of the physical properties of nature at the scale of atoms and subatomic particles. It is the foundation of all quantum physics including quantum chemistry, quant ...
and
theoretical physics#REDIRECT Theoretical physics#REDIRECT Theoretical physics {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ...
,
applied physics Applied physics is the application of physics to solve scientific or engineering problems. It is usually considered to be a bridge or a connection between physics and engineering. "Applied" is distinguished from "pure" by a subtle combination ...
and
optics Optics is the branch of physics that studies the behaviour and properties of light, including its interactions with matter and the construction of instruments that use or detect it. Optics usually describes the behaviour of visible, ultraviolet, a ...
. Modern physics is becoming increasingly specialized, where researchers tend to focus on a particular area rather than being "universalists" like
Isaac Newton Sir Isaac Newton (25 December 1642 – 20 March 1726/27) was an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, theologian, and author (described in his time as a "natural philosopher") who is widely recognised as one of the greatest math ...

Isaac Newton
,
Albert Einstein Albert Einstein ( ; ; 14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955) was a German-born theoretical physicist, widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest physicists of all time. Einstein is known for developing the theory of relativity, but he also ma ...
and
Lev Landau Lev may refer to: Common uses *Bulgarian lev, the currency of Bulgaria *an abbreviation for Leviticus, the third book of the Hebrew Bible and the Torah People and fictional characters *Lev (given name) *Lev (surname) LEV *Laborious Extra-Orbital ...
, who worked in multiple areas.


Astronomy

Astronomy is a natural science that studies celestial objects and phenomena. Objects of interest include planets, moons, stars, nebulae, galaxies and comets. Astronomy is the study of everything in the universe beyond Earth's atmosphere. That includes objects we can see with our naked eyes. Astronomy is one of the oldest sciences. Astronomers of early civilizations performed methodical observations of the night sky, and astronomical artifacts have been found from much earlier periods. There are two types of astronomy, observational astronomy and theoretical astronomy. Observational astronomy is focused on acquiring and analyzing data, mainly using basic principles of physics while Theoretical astronomy is oriented towards the development of computer or analytical models to describe astronomical objects and phenomena. This discipline is the science of
celestial objects In astronomy, an astronomical object or celestial object is a naturally occurring physical entity, association, or structure that exists in the observable universe. In astronomy, the terms ''object'' and ''body'' are often used interchangeably ...
and
phenomena A phenomenon (; plural phenomena) is an observable fact or event. The term came into its modern philosophical usage through Immanuel Kant, who contrasted it with the noumenon, which ''cannot'' be directly observed. Kant was heavily influenced by ...
that originate outside the
Earth's atmosphere File:Atmosphere gas proportions.svg, Composition of Earth's atmosphere by volume, excluding water vapor. Lower pie represents trace gases that together compose about 0.043391% of the atmosphere (0.04402961% at April 2019 concentration ). Numbe ...
. It is concerned with the evolution,
physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , is the natural science that studies matter, its motion and behavior through space and time, and the related ent ...
,
chemistry Chemistry is the scientific discipline involved with elements and compounds composed of atoms, molecules and ions: their composition, structure, properties, behavior and the changes they undergo during a reaction with other substances. In the ...
,
meteorology Meteorology is a branch of the atmospheric sciences which includes atmospheric chemistry and atmospheric physics, with a major focus on weather forecasting. The study of meteorology dates back millennia, though significant progress in meteorolo ...
, and
motion 300px, Motion involves a change in position In physics, motion is the phenomenon in which an object changes its position over time. Motion is mathematically described in terms of displacement, distance, velocity, acceleration, speed, and time. The ...
of celestial objects, as well as the formation and development of the universe. Astronomy includes the examination, study and modeling of stars, planets, comets. Most of the information used by astronomers is gathered by remote observation, although some laboratory reproduction of celestial phenomena has been performed (such as the molecular chemistry of the
interstellar medium In astronomy, the interstellar medium (ISM) is the matter and radiation that exist in the space between the star systems in a galaxy. This matter includes gas in ionic, atomic, and molecular form, as well as dust and cosmic rays. It fills interstel ...
). While the origins of the study of celestial features and phenomena can be traced back to antiquity, the scientific methodology of this field began to develop in the middle of the 17th century. A key factor was
Galileo Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de' Galilei (; 15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642) was an Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer, sometimes described as a polymath, from Pisa. Galileo has been called the "father of observational astr ...

Galileo
's introduction of the telescope to examine the night sky in more detail. The mathematical treatment of astronomy began with
Newton Newton most commonly refers to: * Isaac Newton (1642–1726/1727), English scientist * Newton (unit), SI unit of force named after Isaac Newton Newton may also refer to: Arts and entertainment * ''Newton'' (film), a 2017 Indian film * Newton (ban ...

Newton
's development of
celestial mechanics#REDIRECT celestial mechanics#REDIRECT celestial mechanics {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ...
and the laws of
gravitation Gravity (), or gravitation, is a natural phenomenon by which all things with mass or energy—including planets, stars, galaxies, and even light—are brought toward (or ''gravitate'' toward) one another. On Earth, gravity gives weight to p ...
, although it was triggered by earlier work of astronomers such as
Kepler Johannes Kepler (; ; 27 December 1571 – 15 November 1630) was a German astronomer, mathematician, and astrologer. He is a key figure in the 17th-century scientific revolution, best known for his laws of planetary motion, and his books ''Astro ...

Kepler
. By the 19th century, astronomy had developed into a formal science, with the introduction of instruments such as the
spectroscope An optical spectrometer (spectrophotometer, spectrograph or spectroscope) is an instrument used to measure properties of light over a specific portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, typically used in spectroscopic analysis to identify mater ...
and
photography Photography is the art, application, and practice of creating durable images by recording light, either electronically by means of an image sensor, or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film. It is employed in ...
, along with much-improved telescopes and the creation of professional observatories.


Interdisciplinary studies

The distinctions between the natural science disciplines are not always sharp, and they share a number of cross-discipline fields. Physics plays a significant role in the other natural sciences, as represented by
astrophysics Astrophysics is a science that employs the methods and principles of physics in the study of astronomical objects and phenomena. Among the subjects studied are the Sun, other stars, galaxies, extrasolar planets, the interstellar medium and the cos ...
,
geophysics Geophysics () is a subject of natural science concerned with the physical processes and physical properties of the Earth and its surrounding space environment, and the use of quantitative methods for their analysis. The term ''geophysics'' somet ...
,
chemical physics Chemical physics is a subdiscipline of chemistry and physics that investigates physicochemical phenomena using techniques from atomic and molecular physics and condensed matter physics; it is the branch of physics that studies chemical processes ...
and
biophysics uses protein domain dynamics on nanoscales to walk along a microtubule. Biophysics is an interdisciplinary science that applies approaches and methods traditionally used in physics to study biological phenomena. Biophysics covers all scales of bio ...
. Likewise chemistry is represented by such fields as
biochemistry Biochemistry or biological chemistry, is the study of chemical processes within and relating to living organisms. A sub-discipline of both chemistry and biology, biochemistry may be divided into three fields: structural biology, enzymology and ...
,
chemical biology Chemical biology is a scientific discipline spanning the fields of chemistry and biology. The discipline involves the application of chemical techniques, analysis, and often small molecules produced through synthetic chemistry, to the study and man ...
,
geochemistry Geochemistry is the science that uses the tools and principles of chemistry to explain the mechanisms behind major geological systems such as the Earth's crust and its oceans. The realm of geochemistry extends beyond the Earth, encompassing the en ...
and
astrochemistry Astrochemistry is the study of the abundance and reactions of molecules in the Universe, and their interaction with radiation. The discipline is an overlap of astronomy and chemistry. The word "astrochemistry" may be applied to both the Solar Syste ...
. A particular example of a scientific discipline that draws upon multiple natural sciences is
environmental science Environmental science is an interdisciplinary academic field that integrates physical, biological and information sciences (including ecology, biology, physics, chemistry, plant science, zoology, mineralogy, oceanography, limnology, soil scienc ...
. This field studies the interactions of physical, chemical, geological, and biological components of the environment, with particular regard to the effect of human activities and the impact on
biodiversity Biodiversity is the biological variety and variability of life on Earth. Biodiversity is a measure of variation at the genetic, species, and ecosystem level. Terrestrial biodiversity is usually greater near the equator, which is the result of th ...
and
sustainability Sustainability is the capacity to endure in a relatively ongoing way across various domains of life. In the 21st century, it refers generally to the capacity for Earth's biosphere and human civilization to co-exist. It is also defined as the ...
. This science also draws upon expertise from other fields such as economics, law, and social sciences. A comparable discipline is
oceanography Oceanography (compound of the Greek words ὠκεανός meaning "ocean" and γράφω meaning "write"), also known as oceanology, is the study of the physical and biological aspects of the ocean. It is an important Earth science, which covers ...
, as it draws upon a similar breadth of scientific disciplines. Oceanography is sub-categorized into more specialized cross-disciplines, such as
physical oceanography Physical oceanography is the study of physical conditions and physical processes within the ocean, especially the motions and physical properties of ocean waters. Physical oceanography is one of several sub-domains into which oceanography is divid ...
and
marine biology Marine biology is the scientific study of the biology of marine life, organisms in the sea. Given that in biology many phyla, families and genera have some species that live in the sea and others that live on land, marine biology classifies spe ...
. As the
marine ecosystem Marine ecosystems are the largest of Earth's aquatic ecosystems and are distinguished by waters that have a high salt content. These systems contrast with freshwater ecosystems, which have a lower salt content. Marine waters cover more than 70% of ...
is very large and diverse, marine biology is further divided into many subfields, including specializations in particular
species In biology, a species is the basic unit of classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest group of organisms in which any two individuals of the appropriate sexe ...
. There is also a subset of cross-disciplinary fields which, by the nature of the problems that they address, have strong currents that run counter to specialization. Put another way: In some fields of integrative application, specialists in more than one field are a key part of the most dialog. Such integrative fields, for example, include
nanoscience Nanotechnology, also shortened to nanotech, is the use of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale for industrial purposes. The earliest, widespread description of nanotechnology referred to the particular technological goal of pr ...
,
astrobiology Astrobiology, formerly known as exobiology, is an interdisciplinary scientific field concerned with the origins, early evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe. Astrobiology considers the question of whether extraterrestrial ...
, and
complex system A complex system is a system composed of many components which may interact with each other. Examples of complex systems are Earth's global climate, organisms, the human brain, infrastructure such as power grid, transportation or communication sys ...
informatics Informatics is the study of computational systems, especially those for data storage and retrieval. According to ACM ''Europe and'' ''Informatics Europe'' informatics is synonym for computer science and computing as a profession, in which the cent ...
.


Materials science

Materials science is a relatively new, interdisciplinary field which deals with the study of
matter In classical physics and general chemistry, matter is any substance that has mass and takes up space by having volume. All everyday objects that can be touched are ultimately composed of atoms, which are made up of interacting subatomic particl ...
and its properties; as well as the discovery and design of new materials. Originally developed through the field of
metallurgy Metallurgy is a domain of materials science and engineering that studies the physical and chemical behavior of metallic elements, their inter-metallic compounds, and their mixtures, which are called alloys. Metallurgy encompasses both the science ...
, the study of the properties of materials and solids has now expanded into all materials. The field covers the chemistry, physics and engineering applications of materials including metals, ceramics, artificial polymers, and many others. The core of the field deals with relating structure of material with it properties. It is at the forefront of research in science and engineering. It is an important part of
forensic engineering Forensic engineering has been defined as ''"the investigation of failures - ranging from serviceability to catastrophic - which may lead to legal activity, including both civil and criminal".'' It includes the investigation of materials, products ...
(the investigation of materials, products, structures or components that fail or do not operate or function as intended, causing personal injury or damage to property) and
failure analysisFailure analysis is the process of collecting and analyzing data to determine the cause of a failure, often with the goal of determining corrective actions or liability. According to Bloch and Geitner, machinery failures reveal a reaction chain of ca ...
, the latter being the key to understanding, for example, the cause of various aviation accidents. Many of the most pressing scientific problems that are faced today are due to the limitations of the materials that are available and, as a result, breakthroughs in this field are likely to have a significant impact on the future of technology. The basis of materials science involves studying the structure of materials, and relating them to their
properties Property (''latin: Res Privata'') in the abstract is what belongs to or with something, whether as an attribute or as a component of said thing. In the context of this article, it is one or more components (rather than attributes), whether physic ...
. Once a materials scientist knows about this structure-property correlation, they can then go on to study the relative performance of a material in a certain application. The major determinants of the structure of a material and thus of its properties are its constituent chemical elements and the way in which it has been processed into its final form. These characteristics, taken together and related through the laws of
thermodynamics Thermodynamics is a branch of physics that deals with heat, work, and temperature, and their relation to energy, radiation, and physical properties of matter. The behavior of these quantities is governed by the four laws of thermodynamics which ...
and kinetics, govern a material's
microstructure Microstructure is the very small scale structure of a material, defined as the structure of a prepared surface of material as revealed by an optical microscope above 25× magnification. The microstructure of a material (such as metals, polymers, ...
, and thus its properties.


History

Some scholars trace the origins of natural science as far back as pre-literate human societies, where understanding the natural world was necessary for survival. People observed and built up knowledge about the behavior of animals and the usefulness of plants as food and medicine, which was passed down from generation to generation. These primitive understandings gave way to more formalized inquiry around 3500 to 3000 BC in the
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن '; grc, Μεσοποταμία; Classical Syriac: ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ Ārām''-Nahrīn'' or ܒܝܬ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ ''Bēṯ Nahrīn'') is a historical region of Western Asia situated withi ...
n and
Ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a civilization of ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River, situated in the place that is now the country Egypt. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced ar ...
ian cultures, which produced the first known written evidence of
natural philosophy#REDIRECT Natural philosophy#REDIRECT Natural philosophy {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{R from other capitalisation ...
, the precursor of natural science. While the writings show an interest in astronomy, mathematics and other aspects of the physical world, the ultimate aim of inquiry about nature's workings was in all cases religious or mythological, not scientific. A tradition of scientific inquiry also emerged in
Ancient China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC), during the king Wu Ding's reign, who was mentioned as the twenty-first Shang king by the same. Ancient histo ...
, where
Taoist Taoism (), or Daoism (), is a philosophical tradition of Chinese origin which emphasizes living in harmony with the ''Tao'' (, or ''Dao''). In Taosim the ''Tao'' is the source, pattern and substance of everything that exists. Taoism teaches ab ...
alchemists Depiction of Ouroboros from the alchemical treatise ''Aurora consurgens'' (15th century), Zentralbibliothek Zürich, Switzerland Alchemy (from Arabic: ''al-kīmiyā''; from Ancient Greek: ''khumeía'') is an ancient branch of natura ...
and philosophers experimented with elixirs to extend life and cure ailments. They focused on the
yin and yang In Ancient Chinese philosophy, yin and yang ( and ; zh, t= ''yīnyáng'' pronounced , lit. "bright-black", "positive-negative") is a concept of dualism, describing how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, int ...

yin and yang
, or contrasting elements in nature; the yin was associated with femininity and coldness, while yang was associated with masculinity and warmth. The five phases – fire, earth, metal, wood and water – described a cycle of transformations in nature. Water turned into wood, which turned into fire when it burned. The ashes left by fire were earth. Using these principles, Chinese philosophers and doctors explored human anatomy, characterizing organs as predominantly yin or yang and understood the relationship between the pulse, the heart and the flow of blood in the body centuries before it became accepted in the West. Little evidence survives of how
Ancient India#REDIRECT History of India#REDIRECT History of India {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{R from other capitalisation ...

Ancient Indian cultures around the
Indus River#REDIRECT Indus River {{Redirect category shell, {{R from move {{R from miscapitalisation {{R unprintworthy ...

Indus River
understood nature, but some of their perspectives may be reflected in the
Vedas upright=1.2, The Vedas are ancient Sanskrit texts of Hinduism. Above: A page from the ''Atharvaveda''. The Vedas (; Sanskrit: ', "knowledge") are a large body of religious texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the te ...
, a set of sacred
Hindu Hindus () are persons who regard themselves as culturally, ethnically, or religiously adhering to aspects of Hinduism.Jeffery D. Long (2007), A Vision for Hinduism, IB Tauris, , pages 35–37 Historically, the term has also been used as a ge ...
texts. They reveal a conception of the universe as ever-expanding and constantly being recycled and reformed. Surgeons in the
Ayurvedic Ayurveda () is an alternative medicine system with historical roots in the Indian subcontinent. The theory and practice of Ayurveda is pseudoscientific. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) characterises the practice of modern medicine by Ayurv ...
tradition saw health and illness as a combination of three humors:
wind Wind is the flow of gases on a large scale. On the surface of the Earth, wind consists of the bulk movement of air. Winds are commonly classified by their spatial scale, their speed, the types of forces that cause them, the regions in which they ...
,
bile Bile (from latin ''bilis''), or gall, is a dark-green-to-yellowish-brown fluid produced by the liver of most vertebrates that aids the digestion of lipids in the small intestine. In humans, bile is produced continuously by the liver (liver bile) ...
and
phlegm Phlegm (; , ''phlégma'', "inflammation", "humour caused by heat") is mucus produced by the respiratory system, excluding that produced by the nasal passages. It often refers to respiratory mucus expelled by coughing, otherwise known as sputum. Phl ...
. A healthy life was the result of a balance among these humors. In Ayurvedic thought, the body consisted of five elements: earth, water, fire, wind and empty space. Ayurvedic surgeons performed complex surgeries and developed a detailed understanding of human anatomy.
Pre-Socratic Pre-Socratic philosophy is ancient Greek philosophy before Socrates and schools contemporary to Socrates that were not influenced by him. The inquiries of these early philosophers spanned the workings of the natural world as well as human society, ...
philosophers in
Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: Mycenaean Greek (), Dark Ages (), the Archaic period ...
culture brought natural philosophy a step closer to direct inquiry about cause and effect in nature between 600 and 400 BC, although an element of magic and mythology remained. Natural phenomena such as earthquakes and eclipses were explained increasingly in the context of nature itself instead of being attributed to angry gods.
Thales of Miletus Thales of Miletus ( ; el, Θαλῆς (ὁ Μιλήσιος), ''Thalēs''; ) was a Greek mathematician, astronomer and pre-Socratic philosopher from Miletus in Ionia, Asia Minor. He was one of the Seven Sages of Greece. Many, most notably Aristot ...

Thales of Miletus
, an early philosopher who lived from 625 to 546 BC, explained earthquakes by theorizing that the world floated on water and that water was the fundamental element in nature. In the 5th century BC,
Leucippus Leucippus (; el, Λεύκιππος, ''Leúkippos''; fl. 5th century BCE) is reported in some ancient sources to have been a philosopher who was the earliest Greek to develop the theory of atomism—the idea that everything is composed entirely of ...
was an early exponent of
atomism Atomism (from Greek , ''atomon'', i.e. "uncuttable, indivisible") is a natural philosophy proposing that the physical world is composed of fundamental indivisible components known as atoms. References to the concept of atomism and its atoms appea ...
, the idea that the world is made up of fundamental indivisible particles.
Pythagoras Pythagoras of Samos, or simply ; in Ionian Greek ( 570 – c. 495 BC) was an ancient Ionian Greek philosopher and the eponymous founder of Pythagoreanism. His political and religious teachings were well known in Magna Graecia and influenced ...
applied Greek innovations in mathematics to astronomy, and suggested that the earth was
spherical of a sphere A sphere (from Greek language, Greek —, "globe, ball") is a geometrical object in three-dimensional space that is the surface of a ball (viz., analogous to the circular objects in two dimensions, where a "circle" circumscribes its " ...
.


Aristotelian natural philosophy (400 BC–1100 AD)

Later
Socratic
Socratic
and
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, Πλάτων ''Plátōn'', in Classical Attic; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought and the Academy, the ...

Plato
nic thought focused on ethics, morals and art and did not attempt an investigation of the physical world; Plato criticized pre-Socratic thinkers as materialists and anti-religionists.
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher and polymath during the Classical period in Ancient Greece. Taught by Plato, he was the founder of the Lyceum, the Peripatetic schoo ...

Aristotle
, however, a student of Plato who lived from 384 to 322 BC, paid closer attention to the natural world in his philosophy. In his ''
History of Animals ''History of Animals'' ( grc-gre, Τῶν περὶ τὰ ζῷα ἱστοριῶν, ''Ton peri ta zoia historion'', "Inquiries on Animals"; la, Historia Animalium, "History of Animals") is one of the major texts on biology by the ancient Greek p ...
'', he described the inner workings of 110 species, including the
stingray Stingrays are a group of sea rays, which are cartilaginous fish related to sharks. They are classified in the suborder Myliobatoidei of the order Myliobatiformes and consist of eight families: Hexatrygonidae (sixgill stingray), Plesiobatidae (de ...

stingray
,
catfish Catfish (or catfishes; order Siluriformes or Nematognathi) are a diverse group of ray-finned fish. Named for their prominent barbels, which resemble a cat's whiskers, catfish range in size and behavior from the three largest species alive, th ...
and
bee Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants, known for their role in pollination and, in the case of the best-known bee species, the western honey bee, for producing honey. Bees are a monophyletic lineage within the superfamily ...
. He investigated chick embryos by breaking open eggs and observing them at various stages of development. Aristotle's works were influential through the 16th century, and he is considered to be the father of biology for his pioneering work in that science. He also presented philosophies about physics, nature, and astronomy using
inductive reasoning Inductive reasoning is a method of reasoning in which the premises are viewed as supplying ''some'' evidence, but not full assurance, of the truth of the conclusion. It is also described as a method where one's experiences and observations, incl ...
in his works ''
Physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , is the natural science that studies matter, its motion and behavior through space and time, and the related ent ...
'' and ''
Meteorology Meteorology is a branch of the atmospheric sciences which includes atmospheric chemistry and atmospheric physics, with a major focus on weather forecasting. The study of meteorology dates back millennia, though significant progress in meteorolo ...
''. While Aristotle considered natural philosophy more seriously than his predecessors, he approached it as a theoretical branch of science. Still, inspired by his work,
Ancient Roman In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman civilization from the founding of the Italian city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, encompassing the Roman Kingdom (753 BC–509 BC), Rom ...
philosophers of the early 1st century AD, including
Lucretius Titus Lucretius Carus ( , ; 99 – c. 55 BC) was a Roman poet and philosopher. His only known work is the philosophical poem ''De rerum natura'', a didactic work about the tenets and philosophy of Epicureanism, and which usually is translat ...
,
Seneca Seneca may refer to: People and language *Seneca (name), a list of people with either the given name or surname *Seneca the Elder, a Roman rhetorician, writer and father of the stoic philosopher Seneca the Younger *Seneca the Younger, a Roman Stoi ...
and
Pliny the Elder Gaius Plinius Secundus (AD 23/2479), called Pliny the Elder (), was a Roman author, a naturalist and natural philosopher, a naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and a friend of emperor Vespasian. He wrote the encyclopedic ''Natural ...

Pliny the Elder
, wrote treatises that dealt with the rules of the natural world in varying degrees of depth. Many
Ancient Roman In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman civilization from the founding of the Italian city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, encompassing the Roman Kingdom (753 BC–509 BC), Rom ...
Neoplatonists Neoplatonism is a strand of Platonic philosophy that emerged in the second century AD against the background of Hellenistic philosophy and religion. The term does not encapsulate a set of ideas as much as it encapsulates a chain of thinkers which ...
of the 3rd to the 6th centuries also adapted Aristotle's teachings on the physical world to a philosophy that emphasized spiritualism. Early
medieval In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted from the 5th to the late 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and transitioned into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages i ...
philosophers including
Macrobius Macrobius, fully Macrobius Ambrosius Theodosius, also known as Theodosius (fl. 400 AD), was a Roman provincial who lived during the early fifth century, during Late Antiquity, the period of time corresponding to the late Roman Empire to the early M ...
,
Calcidius Calcidius (or Chalcidius) was a 4th-century philosopher (and possibly a Christian) who translated the first part (to 53c) of Plato's ''Timaeus'' from Greek into Latin around the year 321 and provided with it an extensive commentary. This was likely ...
and
Martianus Capella Martianus Minneus Felix Capella (fl. c. 410–420) was a Latin prose writer of Late Antiquity, one of the earliest developers of the system of the seven liberal arts that structured early medieval education. His single encyclopedic work, ''De ...
also examined the physical world, largely from a cosmological and
cosmographical Cosmography is the science that maps the general features of the cosmos or universe, describing both heaven and Earth (but without encroaching on geography or astronomy). The 14th-century work Aja'ib al-makhluqat wa-ghara'ib al-mawjudat'' by Pe ...

cosmographical
perspective, putting forth theories on the arrangement of celestial bodies and the heavens, which were posited as being composed of aether. Aristotle's works on natural philosophy continued to be translated and studied amid the rise of the
Byzantine Empire The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople. It surviv ...
and
Abbasid Caliphate The Abbasid Caliphate ( or ar, اَلْخِلَافَةُ ٱلْعَبَّاسِيَّةُ, ') was the third caliphate to succeed the Islamic prophet Muhammad. It was founded by a dynasty descended from Muhammad's uncle, Abbas ibn Abdul-Muttal ...
. In the Byzantine Empire
John Philoponus John Philoponus (; ; c. 490 – c. 570), also known as John the Grammarian or John of Alexandria, was a Byzantine Alexandrian philologist, Aristotelian commentator and Christian theologian, author of a considerable number of philosophical treatises ...
, an Alexandrian Aristotelian commentator and Christian theologian, was the first who questioned Aristotle's teaching of physics. Unlike Aristotle who based his physics on verbal argument, Philoponus instead relied on observation, and argued for observation rather than resorting into verbal argument. He introduced 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 was introduced by John Philoponus in the 6th century, and elaborated by Nur ad-Din al-Bitruji ...

theory of impetus
. John Philoponus' criticism of Aristotelian principles of physics served as inspiration for Galileo Galilei during the
Scientific Revolution The Scientific Revolution was a series of events that marked the emergence of modern science during the early modern period, when developments in mathematics, physics, astronomy, biology (including human anatomy) and chemistry transformed the vi ...
. A revival in mathematics and science took place during the time of the
Abbasid Caliphate The Abbasid Caliphate ( or ar, اَلْخِلَافَةُ ٱلْعَبَّاسِيَّةُ, ') was the third caliphate to succeed the Islamic prophet Muhammad. It was founded by a dynasty descended from Muhammad's uncle, Abbas ibn Abdul-Muttal ...
from the 9th century onward, when Muslim scholars expanded upon Greek and
India India (Hindi: ), officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the second-most populous country, the seventh-largest country by land area, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Oce ...

India
n natural philosophy. The words ''
alcohol upright=0.8, The bond angle between a hydroxyl group (-OH) and a chain of carbon atoms (R) In chemistry, alcohol is an organic compound that carries at least one hydroxyl functional group (−OH) bound to a saturated carbon atom. The term alcoh ...

alcohol
'', ''
algebra Algebra (from ar, الجبر, lit=reunion of broken parts, bonesetting, translit=al-jabr) is one of the broad areas of mathematics, together with number theory, geometry and analysis. In its most general form, algebra is the study of mathematical ...
'' and ''
zenith The zenith is an imaginary point directly "above" a particular location, on the imaginary celestial sphere. "Above" means in the vertical direction (plumb line) opposite to the gravity direction at that location (nadir). The zenith is the "highe ...
'' all have
Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language that first emerged in the 1st to 4th centuries CE.Semitic languages: an international handbook / edited by Stefan Weninger; in collaboration with Geoffrey Khan, Michael P. Streck, Janet C. E.Wats ...
roots.


Medieval natural philosophy (1100–1600)

Aristotle's works and other Greek natural philosophy did not reach the West until about the middle of the 12th century, when works were translated from
Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece, a country in Southern Europe: *Greeks, an ethnic group *Greek language, a branch of the Indo-European language family **Proto-Greek language, the assumed last common ancestor of ...
and Arabic into
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became the dominant language ...
. The development of European civilization later in the Middle Ages brought with it further advances in natural philosophy. European inventions such as the
horseshoe , and are nailed to the underside of the hoof A horseshoe is a fabricated product, normally made of metal, although sometimes made partially or wholly of modern synthetic materials, designed to protect a horse hoof from wear. Shoes are attached ...

horseshoe
,
horse collar A horse collar is a part of a horse harness that is used to distribute the load around a horse's neck and shoulders when pulling a wagon or plough. The collar often supports and pads a pair of curved metal or wooden pieces, called hames, to which ...
and
crop rotation Crop rotation is the practice of growing a series of different types of crops in the same area across a sequence of growing seasons. It reduces reliance on one set of nutrients, pest and weed pressure, and the probability of developing resistant ...
allowed for rapid population growth, eventually giving way to urbanization and the foundation of schools connected to monasteries and cathedrals in modern-day
France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a country primarily located in Western Europe, consisting of metropolitan France and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of Fr ...
and
England England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west and Scotland to its north. The Irish Sea lies northwest of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. England is separated from continent ...
. Aided by the schools, an approach to Christian
theology Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine and, more broadly, of religious belief. It is taught as an academic discipline, typically in universities and seminaries. It occupies itself with the unique content of analyzing the supe ...
developed that sought to answer questions about nature and other subjects using logic. This approach, however, was seen by some detractors as
heresy Heresy is any belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs or customs, in particular the accepted beliefs of a church or religious organization. The term is usually used in reference to violations of important religi ...
. By the 12th century, Western European scholars and philosophers came into contact with a body of knowledge of which they had previously been ignorant: a large corpus of works in Greek and Arabic that were preserved by Islamic scholars. Through translation into Latin, Western Europe was introduced to Aristotle and his natural philosophy. These works were taught at new universities in
Paris Paris () is the capital and most populous city of France, with an estimated population of 2,175,601 residents as of 2018, in an area of more than . Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, co ...
and
Oxford Oxford () is a city in England. It is the county town and only city of Oxfordshire. In 2017, its population was estimated at 152,450. It is northwest of London, southeast of Birmingham, and northeast of Bristol. The city is home to the Univ ...

Oxford
by the early 13th century, although the practice was frowned upon by the Catholic church. A 1210 decree from the
Synod A synod () is a council of a church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. The word ''synod'' comes from the meaning "assembly" or "meeting" and is analogous with the Latin word meaning "council". Origi ...
of Paris ordered that "no lectures are to be held in Paris either publicly or privately using Aristotle's books on natural philosophy or the commentaries, and we forbid all this under pain of excommunication." In the late Middle Ages,
Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (disambiguation), the name of several ...
philosopher
Dominicus GundissalinusDominicus Gundissalinus, also known as Domingo Gundisalvi or Gundisalvo ( 1115 – post 1190), was a philosopher and translator of Arabic to Medieval Latin active in Toledo. Among his translations, Gundissalinus worked on Avicenna's ''Liber de philos ...
translated a treatise by the earlier Persian scholar
Al-Farabi Abu Nasr Al-Farabi (; '; known in the West as Alpharabius; c. 872 – between 14 December, 950 and 12 January, 951)PDF version was a renowned early Islamic philosopher and jurist who wrote in the fields of political philosophy, metaphysics, ethics ...

Al-Farabi
called ''On the Sciences'' into Latin, calling the study of the mechanics of nature ''scientia naturalis'', or natural science. Gundissalinus also proposed his own classification of the natural sciences in his 1150 work ''On the Division of Philosophy''. This was the first detailed classification of the sciences based on Greek and Arab philosophy to reach Western Europe. Gundissalinus defined natural science as "the science considering only things unabstracted and with motion," as opposed to mathematics and sciences that rely on mathematics. Following Al-Farabi, he then separated the sciences into eight parts, including physics, cosmology, meteorology, minerals science and plant and animal science. Later philosophers made their own classifications of the natural sciences.
Robert Kilwardby Robert Kilwardby (c. 1215 – 11 September 1279) was an Archbishop of Canterbury in England and a cardinal. Kilwardby was the first member of a mendicant order to attain a high ecclesiastical office in the English Church. Life Kilwardby stud ...
wrote ''On the Order of the Sciences'' in the 13th century that classed medicine as a mechanical science, along with agriculture, hunting and theater while defining natural science as the science that deals with bodies in motion.
Roger Bacon Roger Bacon (; la, Rogerus or ', also '' Rogerus''; ), also known by the scholastic accolade ''Doctor Mirabilis'', was a medieval English philosopher and Franciscan friar who placed considerable emphasis on the study of nature through empiricis ...
, an English friar and philosopher, wrote that natural science dealt with "a principle of motion and rest, as in the parts of the elements of fire, air, earth and water, and in all inanimate things made from them." These sciences also covered plants, animals and celestial bodies. Later in the 13th century, a Catholic priest and theologian
Thomas Aquinas Thomas Aquinas (; it, Tommaso d'Aquino, lit=Thomas of Aquino; 1225 – 7 March 1274) was an Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, Catholic priest, and Doctor of the Church. An immensely influential philosopher, theologian, and jurist in the tra ...
defined natural science as dealing with "mobile beings" and "things which depend on a matter not only for their existence but also for their definition." There was wide agreement among scholars in medieval times that natural science was about bodies in motion, although there was division about the inclusion of fields including medicine, music and perspective. Philosophers pondered questions including the existence of a vacuum, whether motion could produce heat, the colors of rainbows, the motion of the earth, whether elemental chemicals exist and where in the atmosphere rain is formed. In the centuries up through the end of the Middle Ages, natural science was often mingled with philosophies about magic and the occult. Natural philosophy appeared in a wide range of forms, from treatises to encyclopedias to commentaries on Aristotle. The interaction between natural philosophy and
Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. It is the world's largest religion, with about 2.4 billion followers. Its adherents, known as Christians, make up a majority of the populati ...
was complex during this period; some early theologians, including
Tatian Tatian of Adiabene, or Tatian the Syrian or Tatian the Assyrian, (; la, Tatianus; grc, Τατιανός; syc, ܛܛܝܢܘܣ; c. 120 – c. 180 AD) was an Assyrian Christian writer and theologian of the 2nd century. Tatian's most influential work is ...
and
Eusebius Eusebius of Caesarea (; grc-gre, Εὐσέβιος τῆς Καισαρείας, ''Eusébios tés Kaisareías''; AD 260/265 – 339/340), also known as Eusebius Pamphili (from the grc-gre, Εὐσέβιος τοῦ Παμϕίλου), wa ...

Eusebius
, considered natural philosophy an outcropping of pagan Greek science and were suspicious of it. Although some later Christian philosophers, including Aquinas, came to see natural science as a means of interpreting scripture, this suspicion persisted until the 12th and 13th centuries. The
Condemnation of 1277 Condemnation may refer to: * Damnation, the antithesis of salvation * The act of eminent domain which refers to the power of a government to take private property for public use * "Condemnation" (song), a 1993 song by Depeche Mode * ''Condemnation ...
, which forbade setting philosophy on a level equal with theology and the debate of religious constructs in a scientific context, showed the persistence with which Catholic leaders resisted the development of natural philosophy even from a theological perspective. Aquinas and
Albertus Magnus Albertus Magnus (c. 1200 – November 15, 1280), also known as Saint Albert the Great or Albert of Cologne, was a German Catholic Dominican friar, philosopher and bishop. Later canonised as a Catholic saint, he was known during his lifetime a ...
, another Catholic theologian of the era, sought to distance theology from science in their works. "I don't see what one's interpretation of Aristotle has to do with the teaching of the faith," he wrote in 1271.


Newton and the scientific revolution (1600–1800)

By the 16th and 17th centuries, natural philosophy underwent an evolution beyond commentary on Aristotle as more early Greek philosophy was uncovered and translated. The invention of the printing press in the 15th century, the invention of the microscope and telescope, and the
Protestant Reformation The Reformation (alternatively named the Protestant Reformation or the European Reformation) was a major movement within Western Christianity in 16th-century Europe that posed a religious and political challenge to the Catholic Church and in p ...
fundamentally altered the social context in which scientific inquiry evolved in the West.
Christopher Columbus Christopher Columbus * lij, Cristoffa C(or)ombo * es, Cristóbal Colón * pt, Cristóvão Colombo * ca, Cristòfor (or Cristòfol) Colom * la, Christophorus Columbus (; born between 25 August and 31 October 1451, died 20 May 1506) was an I ...

Christopher Columbus
's discovery of a new world changed perceptions about the physical makeup of the world, while observations by
Copernicus Nicolaus Copernicus (; pl, Mikołaj Kopernik; german: link=no, Niclas Koppernigk, modern: ''Nikolaus Kopernikus''; 19 February 1473 – 24 May 1543) was a Renaissance-era mathematician, astronomer, and Catholic canon who formulated a mo ...

Copernicus
, Tyco Brahe and
Galileo Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de' Galilei (; 15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642) was an Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer, sometimes described as a polymath, from Pisa. Galileo has been called the "father of observational astr ...
brought a more accurate picture of the solar system as
heliocentric Heliocentrism is the astronomical model in which the Earth and planets revolve around the Sun at the center of the Universe. Historically, heliocentrism was opposed to geocentrism, which placed the Earth at the center. The notion that the Earth r ...

heliocentric
and proved many of Aristotle's theories about the heavenly bodies false. A number of 17th-century philosophers, including
Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes ( ; sometimes known as Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury; 5 April 1588 – 4 December 1679) was an English philosopher, considered to be one of the founders of modern political philosophy. Hobbes is best known for his 1651 book ''Levi ...
,
John Locke John Locke (; 29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704) was an English philosopher and physician, widely regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers and commonly known as the "Father of Liberalism". Considered one of th ...

John Locke
and
Francis Bacon Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban, (; 22 January 1561 – 9 April 1626), also known as Lord Verulam, was an English philosopher and statesman who served as Attorney General and as Lord Chancellor of England. His works are seen as developing ...

Francis Bacon
made a break from the past by rejecting Aristotle and his medieval followers outright, calling their approach to natural philosophy as superficial. The titles of Galileo's work ''Two New Sciences'' and
Johannes Kepler Johannes Kepler (; ; 27 December 1571 – 15 November 1630) was a German astronomer, mathematician, and astrologer. He is a key figure in the 17th-century scientific revolution, best known for his laws of planetary motion, and his books ''Astro ...

Johannes Kepler
's ''New Astronomy'' underscored the atmosphere of change that took hold in the 17th century as Aristotle was dismissed in favor of novel methods of inquiry into the natural world. Bacon was instrumental in popularizing this change; he argued that people should use the
arts The arts refers to the theory, human application and physical expression of creativity found in human cultures and societies through skills and imagination in order to produce objects, environments and experiences. Major constituents of th ...
and sciences to gain dominion over nature. To achieve this, he wrote that "human life
ustUST or Ust may refer to: Organizations * UST (company), American digital technology company *Equatorial Guinea Workers' Union * Union of Trade Unions of Chad (Union des Syndicats du Tchad) * United States Television Manufacturing Corp. * UST Growlin ...
be endowed with new discoveries and powers." He defined natural philosophy as "the knowledge of Causes and secret motions of things; and enlarging the bounds of Human Empire, to the effecting of all things possible." Bacon proposed that scientific inquiry be supported by the state and fed by the collaborative research of scientists, a vision that was unprecedented in its scope, ambition and form at the time. Natural philosophers came to view nature increasingly as a mechanism that could be taken apart and understood, much like a complex clock. Natural philosophers including
Isaac Newton Sir Isaac Newton (25 December 1642 – 20 March 1726/27) was an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, theologian, and author (described in his time as a "natural philosopher") who is widely recognised as one of the greatest math ...

Isaac Newton
,
Evangelista Torricelli Evangelista Torricelli ( , also , ; 15 October 160825 October 1647) was an Italian physicist and mathematician, and a student of Galileo. He is best known for his invention of the barometer, but is also known for his advances in optics and work on ...
and
Francesco Redi Francesco Redi (18 February 1626 – 1 March 1697) was an Italian physician, naturalist, biologist and poet. He is referred to as the "founder of experimental biology", and as the "father of modern parasitology". He was the first person to challen ...

Francesco Redi
conducted experiments focusing on the flow of water, measuring
atmospheric pressure Atmospheric pressure, also known as barometric pressure (after the barometer), is the pressure within the atmosphere of Earth. The standard atmosphere (symbol: atm) is a unit of pressure defined as , which is equivalent to 760mm Hg, 29.9212inchesH ...
using a
barometer A barometer is a scientific instrument that is used to measure air pressure in a certain environment. Pressure tendency can forecast short term changes in the weather. Many measurements of air pressure are used within surface weather analysis to ...
and disproving
spontaneous generation Spontaneous generation is a body of thought on the ordinary formation of living organisms without descent from similar organisms. The theory of spontaneous generation held that living creatures could arise from nonliving matter and that such process ...
. Scientific societies and scientific journals emerged and were spread widely through the printing press, touching off the
scientific revolution The Scientific Revolution was a series of events that marked the emergence of modern science during the early modern period, when developments in mathematics, physics, astronomy, biology (including human anatomy) and chemistry transformed the vi ...
. Newton in 1687 published his ''The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy'', or ''Principia Mathematica'', which set the groundwork for physical laws that remained current until the 19th century. Some modern scholars, including Andrew Cunningham, Perry Williams and
Floris Cohen Hendrik Floris Cohen (born Haarlem, Netherlands July 1, 1946) is a historian of science. Life Cohen studied history at the University of Leiden, receiving a Ph.D. in 1974. He is a professor in the Comparative History of Science at the University ...
, argue that natural philosophy is not properly called a science, and that genuine scientific inquiry began only with the scientific revolution. According to Cohen, "the emancipation of science from an overarching entity called 'natural philosophy' is one defining characteristic of the Scientific Revolution." Other historians of science, including
Edward Grant Edward Grant (April 6, 1926 – June 21, 2020) was an American historian of medieval science. He was named a Distinguished Professor in 1983. Other honors include the 1992 George Sarton Medal, for "a lifetime scholarly achievement" as an historian ...
, contend that the scientific revolution that blossomed in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries occurred when principles learned in the exact sciences of optics, mechanics and astronomy began to be applied to questions raised by natural philosophy. Grant argues that Newton attempted to expose the mathematical basis of nature – the immutable rules it obeyed – and in doing so joined natural philosophy and mathematics for the first time, producing an early work of modern physics. The scientific revolution, which began to take hold in the 17th century, represented a sharp break from Aristotelian modes of inquiry. One of its principal advances was the use of the
scientific method The scientific method is an empirical method of acquiring knowledge that has characterized the development of science since at least the 17th century. It involves careful observation, applying rigorous skepticism about what is observed, given t ...
to investigate nature. Data was collected and repeatable measurements made in
experiment An experiment is a procedure carried out to support, refute, or validate a hypothesis. Experiments provide insight into cause-and-effect by demonstrating what outcome occurs when a particular factor is manipulated. Experiments vary greatly in ...
s. Scientists then formed
hypotheses A hypothesis (plural hypotheses) is a proposed explanation for a phenomenon. For a hypothesis to be a scientific hypothesis, the scientific method requires that one can test it. Scientists generally base scientific hypotheses on previous obser ...
to explain the results of these experiments. The hypothesis was then tested using the principle of
falsifiability In the philosophy of science, a theory is falsifiable if it is contradicted by ''possible observations''—i.e., by any observations that can be described in the language of the theory, which must have a conventional empirical interpretation. Th ...
to prove or disprove its accuracy. The natural sciences continued to be called natural philosophy, but the adoption of the scientific method took science beyond the realm of philosophical conjecture and introduced a more structured way of examining nature. Newton, an English mathematician, and physicist, was the seminal figure in the scientific revolution. Drawing on advances made in astronomy by Copernicus, Brahe, and Kepler, Newton derived the universal law of gravitation and
laws of motionIn physics, a number of noted theories of the motion of objects have developed. Among the best known are: * Classical mechanics ** Newton's laws of motion ** Euler's laws of motion ** Cauchy's equations of motion ** Kepler's laws of planetary motion ...
. These laws applied both on earth and in outer space, uniting two spheres of the physical world previously thought to function independently of each other, according to separate physical rules. Newton, for example, showed that the
tide (U.S.), low tide occurs roughly at moonrise and high tide with a high Moon, corresponding to the simple gravity model of two tidal bulges; at most places however, the Moon and tides have a phase shift. Tides are the rise and fall of sea level ...
s were caused by the gravitational pull of the
moon The Moon is Earth's only proper natural satellite. At one-quarter the diameter of Earth (comparable to the width of Australia), it is the largest natural satellite in the Solar System relative to the size of its planet, and the fifth largest ...

moon
. Another of Newton's advances was to make mathematics a powerful explanatory tool for natural phenomena. While natural philosophers had long used mathematics as a means of measurement and analysis, its principles were not used as a means of understanding cause and effect in nature until Newton. In the 18th century and 19th century, scientists including
Charles-Augustin de Coulomb Charles-Augustin de Coulomb (; ; 14 June 1736 – 23 August 1806) was a French military engineer and physicist. He is best known as the eponymous discoverer of what is now called Coulomb's law, the description of the electrostatic force of attract ...
,
Alessandro Volta Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta (, ; 18 February 1745 – 5 March 1827) was an Italian physicist, chemist, and pioneer of electricity and power who is credited as the inventor of the electric battery and the discoverer of methane. ...
, and
Michael Faraday Michael Faraday (; 22 September 1791 – 25 August 1867) was an English scientist who contributed to the study of electromagnetism and electrochemistry. His main discoveries include the principles underlying electromagnetic induction, ...

Michael Faraday
built upon Newtonian mechanics by exploring
electromagnetism Electromagnetism is a branch of physics involving the study of the electromagnetic force, a type of physical interaction that occurs between electrically charged particles. The electromagnetic force is carried by electromagnetic fields composed ...

electromagnetism
, or the interplay of forces with positive and negative charges on electrically charged particles. Faraday proposed that forces in nature operated in "
fields FIELDS heads into space in August 2018 as part of the ''Parker Solar Probe'' FIELDS is a science instrument on the ''Parker Solar Probe'' (PSP), designed to measure magnetic fields in the solar corona during its mission to study the Sun. It is o ...
" that filled space. The idea of fields contrasted with the Newtonian construct of gravitation as simply "action at a distance", or the attraction of objects with nothing in the space between them to intervene.
James Clerk Maxwell James Clerk Maxwell (13 June 1831 – 5 November 1879) was a Scottish scientist in the field of mathematical physics. His most notable achievement was to formulate the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation, bringing together for ...

James Clerk Maxwell
in the 19th century unified these discoveries in a coherent theory of electrodynamics. Using mathematical equations and experimentation, Maxwell discovered that space was filled with charged particles that could act upon themselves and each other and that they were a medium for the transmission of charged waves. Significant advances in chemistry also took place during the scientific revolution.
Antoine Lavoisier Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier ( , ,; 26 August 17438 May 1794),
CNRS (
, a French chemist, refuted the
phlogiston theory The phlogiston theory is a superseded scientific theory that postulated the existence of a fire-like element called phlogiston () contained within combustible bodies and released during combustion. The name comes from the Ancient Greek φλογισ ...
, which posited that things burned by releasing "phlogiston" into the air.
Joseph Priestley Joseph Priestley (; 24 March 1733 – 6 February 1804) was an English chemist, natural philosopher, separatist theologian, grammarian, multi-subject educator, and liberal political theorist who published over 150 works. He has historically ...
had discovered
oxygen Oxygen is the chemical element with the symbol O and atomic number 8. It is a member of the chalcogen group in the periodic table, a highly reactive nonmetal, and an oxidizing agent that readily forms oxides with most elements as well a ...
in the 18th century, but Lavoisier discovered that
combustion Combustion, or burning, is a high-temperature exothermic redox chemical reaction between a fuel (the reductant) and an oxidant, usually atmospheric oxygen, that produces oxidized, often gaseous products, in a mixture termed as smoke. Combustion ...
was the result of
oxidation (mild reducing agent) are added to powdered potassium permanganate (strong oxidizing agent), a violent redox reaction accompanied by self-ignition starts. Redox (reduction–oxidation, pronunciation: or ) is a type of chemical reaction in whi ...

oxidation
. He also constructed a table of 33 elements and invented modern chemical nomenclature. Formal biological science remained in its infancy in the 18th century, when the focus lay upon the classification and categorization of natural life. This growth in
natural history Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organisms, including animals, fungi, and plants, in their natural environment, leaning more towards observational than experimental methods of study. A person who studies natural history is calle ...
was led by
Carl Linnaeus Carl Linnaeus (; 23 May 1707 – 10 January 1778), also known after his ennoblement as Carl von LinnéBlunt (2004), p. 171. (), was a Swedish botanist, zoologist, taxonomist, and physician who formalised binomial nomenclature, the modern sys ...
, whose 1735
taxonomy Taxonomy (general) is the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, including the principles that underlie such classification. The term may also refer to a specific classification scheme. Originally used only about biological ...
of the natural world is still in use. Linnaeus in the 1750s introduced
scientific names In taxonomy, binomial nomenclature ("two-term naming system"), also called nomenclature ("two-name naming system") or binary nomenclature, is a formal system of naming species of living things by giving each a name composed of two parts, both ...
for all his species.


19th-century developments (1800–1900)

By the 19th century, the study of science had come into the purview of professionals and institutions. In so doing, it gradually acquired the more modern name of ''natural science.'' The term ''scientist'' was coined by
William Whewell Rev Dr William Whewell DD ( ; 24 May 17946 March 1866) was an English polymath, scientist, Anglican priest, philosopher, theologian, and historian of science. He was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. In his time as a student there, he achi ...

William Whewell
in an 1834 review of
Mary Somerville Mary Somer (née Fairfax, formerly Greig; 26 December 1780 – 29 November 1872) was a Scottish scientist, writer, and polymath. She studied mathematics and astronomy, and was nominated to be jointly the first female member of the Royal Astrono ...
's ''On the Connexion of the Sciences''. But the word did not enter general use until nearly the end of the same century.


Modern natural science (1900–present)

According to a famous 1923 textbook, ''Thermodynamics and the Free Energy of Chemical Substances'', by the American chemist
Gilbert N. Lewis Gilbert Newton Lewis (October 23, 1875 – March 23, 1946) or (October 25, 1875 – March 23, 1946) was an American physical chemist and a Dean of the College of Chemistry at University of California, Berkeley. Lewis was best known for his discov ...
and the American physical chemist
Merle RandallMerle Randall (January 29, 1888 – March 17, 1950) was an American physical chemist famous for his work with Gilbert N. Lewis, over a period of 25 years, in measuring reaction heat of chemical compounds and determining their corresponding free energ ...
, the natural sciences contain three great branches:
Aside from the logical and mathematical sciences, there are three great branches of ''natural science'' which stand apart by reason of the variety of far reaching deductions drawn from a small number of primary postulates — they are
mechanics Mechanics (Greek: ) is the area of physics concerned with the motions of physical objects, more specifically the relationships among force, matter, and motion. Forces applied to objects result in displacements, or changes of an object's positio ...
, electrodynamics, and
thermodynamics Thermodynamics is a branch of physics that deals with heat, work, and temperature, and their relation to energy, radiation, and physical properties of matter. The behavior of these quantities is governed by the four laws of thermodynamics which ...
.
Today, natural sciences are more commonly divided into life sciences, such as botany and zoology; and physical sciences, which include physics, chemistry, astronomy, and Earth sciences.


See also

*
Empiricism In philosophy, empiricism is a theory that states that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience. It is one of several views of epistemology, along with rationalism and skepticism. Empiricism emphasizes the role of empirical e ...
*
Branches of science The branches of science, also referred to as sciences, "scientific fields", or "scientific disciplines," are commonly divided into three major groups: *Formal sciences: the study of formal systems, such as those under the branches of logic an ...
* List of academic disciplines and sub-disciplines *
Natural Sciences (Cambridge) The Natural Sciences Tripos (NST) is the framework within which most of the science at the University of Cambridge is taught. The tripos includes a wide range of Natural Sciences from physics, astronomy, and geoscience, to chemistry and biology, wh ...
, for the
Tripos TRIPOS (''TRIvial Portable Operating System'') is a computer operating system. Development started in 1976 at the Computer Laboratory of Cambridge University and it was headed by Dr. Martin Richards. The first version appeared in January 1978 and i ...
at the University of Cambridge
Nature of Science


References


Bibliography

* * * * * *


Further reading


Defining Natural Sciences
Ledoux, S. F., 2002: Defining Natural Sciences, ''Behaviorology Today'', 5(1), 34–36. *
The History of Recent Science and Technology

Natural Sciences
Contains updated information on research in the Natural Sciences including biology, geography and the applied life and earth sciences.
Reviews of Books About Natural Science
This site contains over 50 previously published reviews of books about natural science, plus selected essays on timely topics in natural science.
Scientific Grant Awards Database
Contains details of over 2,000,000 scientific research projects conducted over the past 25 years.
E!Science
Up-to-date science news aggregator from major sources including universities. {{Authority control Branches of science