History of science, feedback welcome

  1. Hi PF members!
    I've recently been working on an image (see attached thumbnail) in which I try to include the most important/influential steps in the history of science. Now, I am very well aware that this is not easy (!) :smile:, and it will always be debatable and not without controversy; history is not easy, dating is not easy, the development of science is not linear and seldom depends on a small group of people. Nevertheless I have tried to follow these rules concerning every step in my image;

    I essentially ignore any early ideas and theories on different matters, even if they were correct, and try to focus on

    a) when an important scientific paradigm/theory can be considered to emerge/mature/become useful/widespread, or
    b) when a hypothesis becomes confirmed,
    c) balancing both macroscopics and microscopics
    d) I've excluded inventions and technological advances (except tools/fire/wheel/language, they are only there as a placeholder for very early science)

    Since the image has 22 placeholders I am forced to make decisions on which things to include/exclude, and this is always hard. Please note that I am aware that I have excluded many things. The image is intended to include the steps which are on the absolute frontline of science at that time, steps which dramatically expand that frontline and contribute greatly to the scientific knowledge. In other words, things that have crucially changed/improved science and/or the worldview.

    I post this here on PF to get input from others, since I know there are lots of people with different knowledge here. What I would like to get feedback on is the following;

    Are there any concepts not present in the image which can be considered important enough to include?

    The criterion for inclusion should be that a concept should be so important that it almost could kick out another concept in the image. I am able to squeeze in a couple of more concepts, depending on when they occurred/where they'll fit in layout-wise (there is currently one empty placeholder). I'm thinking of perhaps e.g. biology/medicine; the image is rather weak in these areas.

    I am interested what people have to say about the image, and I am open for suggestions, so any thoughts?

    n.b. there will probably be some graphical changes made to the image, e.g. nicer background/faded images. The image will later be available as CC or public domain. I also post my compiled timeline below, as help;
    --------------------------------------------------------------
    BCE
    ...... Tools
    400K Fire (ca, evidence of controlled fire, possibly earlier)
    3500 Wheel (ca, earliest depiction of wheels on vehicle)
    3200 Writing (language writing, ancient Sumer)
    1200 Astronomy (ca, early Babylonian star catalogues)
    330 Aristotle (early corpus of science)
    300 Geometry (Euclid's Elements)
    250 Pi (ca, polygon approximation, Archimedes)
    240 Earth is a sphere (Eratosthenes)
    150 Trigonometry (Hipparchus)
    ...
    CE
    ...
    458-498 Zero as a number, decimal place notation (Aryabhata, India)
    ...
    1100 Early mechanics (various islamic/arab scientists)
    ...
    1543 Heliocentrism (Copernicus' Revolutionibus, later Galileo)
    1543 Anatomy (Andreas Vesalius' De humani corporis fabrica)
    1572 Imaginary numbers (rules of, Rafael Bombelli)
    1600 Scientific method (ca, Francis Bacon et al.)
    1600 Electricity and Magnetism (William Gilbert)
    1610 Solar System & Milky Way (Jupiter satellites, Galileo)
    1660 Calculus (ca, Newton, Leibniz)
    1687 (Classical) Mechanics (Principia, Newton)
    1736 e (the base of the natural logarithm, Euler's Mechanica (1736), also Bernoulli earlier, ca 1700)
    1764-1789 Chemistry (modern, Antoine Lavoisier)
    1800 Electrochemistry (Volta, battery et al.)
    1803-1805 Atoms (atomic theory, John Dalton)
    1824 Thermodynamics (Carnot)
    1832 Electrolysis (laws of, Faraday (1832))
    1839 Cells (Cell theory, Schwann, Schleiden)
    1859 Evolution (Charles Darwin, Alfred Wallace)
    1860-1880 Microbiology (Cohn, Pasteur, Koch)
    1866 Genetics (Gregor Mendel)
    1869 Periodic Table (Dmitri Mendeleev)
    1887 Electromagnetism (Maxwell, Hertz)
    1897 Electrons (Thomson)
    1900 Quantum Mechanics (Planck et al.)
    1905 Relativity (Einstein, Special (1905), General (1916), Kennedy–Thorndike experiment (1932))
    1909 Atomic nucleus (Rutherford)
    1911 Radiometric dating, Arthur Holmes' first accurate dating (Rutherford suggestion (1905), Radioactivity (Becquerel, 1896))
    1922-1924 Galaxies (Hubble conclusively discovers galaxies outside Milky Way)
    1929 Expanding Universe (Lemaitre proposes expansion, Big Bang (1927), Hubble confirms expansion (1929))
    1932 Neutrons (James Chadwick)
    1953 DNA (Watson, Crick et al.)
    1964 Cosmic microwave background radiation (Penzias, Wilson)
    1968 Quarks, Standard Model (ca, SLAC, Gell-Mann–Zweig et al.)
    1988 Extrasolar planet(s) (first confirmed, Campbell, Walker, Yang)
    ...
    Now
    ...
    (Protoscience)
    --------------------------------------------------------------
    excluded items e.g. astrology, irrational numbers (Hippasus, 450 BCE, uncertain), alchemy, planets, optics, logarithms (Napier, 1614), strong interaction (1977), electroweak interaction (1983)
    --------------------------------------------------------------
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Feb 22, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Ryan_m_b

    Staff: Mentor

    It seems a bit odd to start a history of science before the scientific method. I'd suggest including the paradigms of discovery before this too.

    Quick specific point: Watson, Crick and Franklin together determined the double helix structure of DNA, they didn't discover it.
     
  4. Thanks Ryan!
    Scientific method; yes, this was actually the absolutely toughest topic for me to consider, since it has evolved over a long period of time. I selected the time of Francis Bacon during the scientific revolution. But maybe it would be better to choose something earlier? I'll ponder on it, and also hope to get more feedback.
    DNA; good spotting, I'll definitely fix that. I suppose you mean Friedrich Miescher 1869? EDIT: new image with moved DNA.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2013
  5. I lost my internet connection while originally making a post here, so I have lost my motivation to retype it all :(

    Basically, Watson, Crick, and Wilkins were awarded the Nobel Prize for their working model of the DNA double helix. They used evidence from people like Rosalind Franklin (who crystalized DNA and diffracted light through it to observe its pattern) to formulate their model. Franklin died before the Nobel Prize was awarded, otherwise she more than likely would have shared a part of the prize, considering Wilkins role in the model was that he helped Franklin with some of her further diffraction experiments.

    I also would recommend that you check out George Sarton. Good luck!
     
  6. Astronuc

    Staff: Mentor

    One might add in Dirac (1928) for his idea that electrons could have positive charge, and Carl D. Anderson, who discovered the positron on August 2, 1932. Basically confirming anti-matter. It would be some time before anti-protons were produced. Dirac alluded to anti-protons in his Nobel lecture (1933). http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1933/dirac-lecture.pdf

    The antiproton was experimentally confirmed in 1955 by University of California, Berkeley physicists Emilio Segrè and Owen Chamberlain, for which they were awarded the 1959 Nobel Prize in Physics. http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1959/
     
  7. Astronuc, thanks! Definitely worthy of inclusion, IMO. How come I forgot that...? :) EDIT: new image.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2013
  8. micromass

    micromass 18,677
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    I don't really see why you consider the number "e" to be very important. Surely it is important, but there are things in mathematics which were far more important and revolutionary. An obvious omission is (for example) the discovery of non-Euclidean geometries and differential geometry.
     
  9. Astronuc

    Staff: Mentor

    I think one would have to have a parallel history of mathematics and perhaps mathematical physics, since they go hand-in-hand.

    Somewhere I remember seeing a timeline chart of developments in mathematics, chemistry and physics, and a similar timeline of human developments separated geographically. It's interesting to see the parallels.
     
  10. Nope,

    3rd century BCE Aristarchus.

    It was just forgotten for a while. Notice that he also had some notion of the galaxy.

     
  11. Thanks for your feedback!
    I agree. I fitted in e since it doesn't take up much space in the image, and also to have at least some sort of representation of exponentiation/logarithms. I definitely considered non-Euclidean geometry, but I could not fit it in the image :frown:.
    Actually I am thinking of making another similar image for mathematics only :smile:. This first image is intended to be more of a general science/physics image, with some basic math concepts included.
    Yes, but for spherical Earth I followed this rule; b) when a hypothesis becomes confirmed. AFAIK Eratosthenes did the first known validation of the hypothesis. Heliocentrism; I chose Copernicus because his publication sparked the subsequent work by others (e.g. Kepler, Galileo) which jointly confirmed the model. I'd prefer choosing a validation year, but I can't decide which one to choose, since there was a number of different observations which together led to the acceptance of heliocentrism.

    Anyway, thanks for feedback, much appreciated! I'm still thinking of how to handle the scientific method, which Ryan mentioned. And I am still pondering here and there, so I am open for continued feedback. E.g. one thing I am considering is replacing neutrons with quantum field theory, perhaps.
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2013
  12. SteamKing

    SteamKing 8,808
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    e, i, pi, 0, 1

    which number is the least important? the most important?
     
  13. Thanks to the feedback here, I've got a new version of my image which I'm more pleased with. I've omitted tools, fire, wheel and went for "early scientific method" (Edwin Smith papyrus). I've squeezed in non-Euclidean geometry since it is an important paradigm shift from previous geometry. I've also squeezed in quantum field theory, while managing to keep neutrons, which I did not want to omit.

    I'm still open for feedback if anyone feels like it (I also post my updated timeline).
    ------------------
    BCE
    3200 Writing (language writing, ancient Sumer)
    1600 Scientific method (Edwin Smith papyrus, ancient Egypt; examination, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis)
    1200 Astronomy (ca, early Babylonian star catalogues)
    330 Aristotle (early corpus of science)
    300 Geometry (Euclid's Elements)
    250 Pi (ca, polygon approximation, Archimedes)
    240 Earth is a sphere (Eratosthenes)
    150 Trigonometry (Hipparchus)
    ...
    CE
    ...
    458-498 Zero as a number, decimal place notation (India, Aryabhata)
    ...
    1100 Early mechanics (ca, various islamic/arab scientists)
    ...
    1543 Heliocentrism (Copernicus' Revolutionibus, later Kepler, Galileo et al)
    1543 Anatomy (Andreas Vesalius' De humani corporis fabrica)
    1572 Imaginary numbers (rules of, Rafael Bombelli)
    1600 Electricity and Magnetism (William Gilbert)
    1610 Solar System & Milky Way (Jupiter satellites, Galileo)
    1660 Calculus (ca, Newton, Leibniz)
    1687 (Classical) Mechanics (Principia, Newton)
    1736 e (the base of the natural logarithm, Euler's Mechanica (1736), also Bernoulli earlier, ca 1700)
    1764-1789 Chemistry (modern, Antoine Lavoisier)
    1800 Electrochemistry (Volta, battery et al.)
    1803-1805 Atoms (atomic theory, John Dalton)
    1823 Non-Euclidean geometry (ca, start of work, Lobachevsky/Bolyai)
    1824 Thermodynamics (Carnot)
    1832 Electrolysis (laws of, Faraday (1832))
    1839 Cells (Cell theory, Schwann, Schleiden)
    1859 Evolution (Charles Darwin, Alfred Wallace)
    1860-1880 Microbiology (Cohn, Pasteur, Koch)
    1866 Genetics (Gregor Mendel)
    1869 Periodic Table (Dmitri Mendeleev)
    1869 DNA (discovery, Friedrich Miescher)
    1887 Electromagnetism (Maxwell, Hertz)
    1897 Electrons (Thomson)
    1900 Quantum Mechanics (Planck et al.)
    1905 Relativity (Einstein, Special (1905), General (1916), Kennedy–Thorndike experiment (1932))
    1909 Atomic nucleus (Rutherford)
    1911 Radiometric dating, Arthur Holmes' first accurate dating (Rutherford suggestion (1905), Radioactivity (Becquerel, 1896))
    1922-1924 Galaxies (Hubble conclusively discovers galaxies outside Milky Way)
    1927 Quantum Field Theory (Dirac works on early quantum electrodynamics)
    1929 Expanding Universe (Lemaitre proposes expansion, Big Bang (1927), Hubble confirms expansion (1929))
    1932 Neutrons (Feb 27, James Chadwick)
    1932 Antimatter (Aug 2, Carl D. Anderson (discovery of positron), suggestion by Dirac (1928))
    1964 Cosmic microwave background radiation (Penzias, Wilson)
    1968 Quarks, Standard Model (ca, SLAC, Gell-Mann–Zweig et al.)
    1988 Extrasolar planet(s) (first confirmed, Campbell, Walker, Yang)
    ...
    Now
    ...
    (Protoscience)
    ----------------------------
    I wouldn't compare them.:smile:

    EDIT: I noticed it says "from prehistorical times..." in the title. Obviously incorrect, since I start with "Writing", so I have to find a more suitable word.
     

    Attached Files:

  14. Least important? 0 - it's nothing, I tell you.

    Most important? i - it's all about me! or maybe 1, because that is me. :biggrin:

    Although, looking at their body mass indices, I'd say pi is the most important to some people. :devil:
     
  15. Not so sure about pi as a separate entry. Perhaps Archimedes might be more fittingly remembered for the method he used to determine pi or his works on hydrostatics and statics.

    Napier (1614) might be a better starting point for logarithms than e. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Napier
     
  16. Thanks NemoReally!
    Neither am I :smile:. It was basically the same thing with pi as with e, I fitted them in partly because they're so common in science/math and since they take up so little space in the image. But I could omit pi and consider it somewhat represented by "geometry".
    Yes, I agree with this too. I will ponder upon Archimedes.
    Definitely. I did consider exactly what you are suggesting, but omitted logarithms because I rather wanted to fit in physics. But now I'm thinking of including logarithms...:smile:

    Thanks for your feedback, I will make further changes, but I must think it through first. And I am open for continued feedback, so I'm thankful for any suggestions.
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2013
  17. epenguin

    epenguin 2,199
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    There are always things that are pretty important that have to be left out. Have you got to the point where for everything you put in you throw something out? You seem to have thrown out double-helix DNA (Watson-Crick). I think that is a mistake, there are things there that though important are indubitably less important. The structure threw strong light on the function but you haven't got anything on the discovery of the function: Miescher is just shrewd suspicion, how about Griffith, Avery, Hershey?

    You haven't got anything for organic chemistry, nor X-rays, nor the atomic/molecular structure of matter Laue, Friedrich, Knipping, Braggs. If this has to all fit on a postcard I guess it's impossible.

    I wouldn't agree that for something to be part of the History of Science it has to have fit into some present-day official formulation of The Scientific Method :bugeye: - take no notice of such exhortations! :biggrin:
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2013
  18. Thanks, epenguin!
    Yes, basically, but I'm not yet finished so I am still open for suggestions. I posted it here to get feedback.
    You make a good point. The function of DNA would probably be a more suitable entry than the discovery. So I think I'll use Griffith, or what do you think?
    Also good points. I think molecules deserves an entry, and I will think about organic chemistry. I'll study up on the history of it, thanks!
    Yes. It's far from a definitive history, it's just a brief history. But I'm thinking of replacing Electrochemistry and Electrolysis with Molecules and Organic Chemistry; the image already has a fair representation of "electrostuff". So I am definitely considering your suggestions, I think they are good, thanks!
     
  19. epenguin

    epenguin 2,199
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    But then the nature of ordinary matter is electrical, second layer of the onion, so that is hard to discard.
     
  20. Now I've done a new version of the image, and I'm starting to get really pleased (I'm still open for feedback though - there's a placeholder line free atm). I had serious problems with deciding on a suitable entry for "Molecules", but finally I decided to go for Amedeo Avogadro (1811). Pi and e is still present, I wonder if anyone will object? :smile: I've also decided to make two final images when I'm done; one small and one large with a complete timeline below the "science knob".

    Changed entries:

    • Anatomy (Andreas Vesalius' De humani corporis fabrica, 1543) got omitted. I needed space, and the entry was pretty dubious anyway.
    • Logarithms added (John Napier, 1614).
    • Solar System - now omitted. It was a really dubious entry - when can the Solar System be considered to have been discovered, really? :confused:
    • Chemistry got merged with Electrochemistry (1764-1800), this made some new space.
    • Molecules added (Amedeo Avogadro, 1811).
    • Organic Chemistry added (Friedrich Wöhler, Wöhler synthesis, 1828).
    • Electrolysis (Faraday, 1832) got omitted. Sorry, Faraday, I needed space.
    • DNA got moved to 1944 (Alfred Hershey, Martha Chase confirms the genetic role of DNA).
    • Atomic structure added (William Bragg(s) discovers diffraction of X-rays by crystals, 1912).
    ----------------------
    New timeline:

    BCE
    3200 Writing (language writing, ancient Sumer)
    1600 Scientific method (Edwin Smith papyrus, ancient Egypt; examination, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis)
    1200 Astronomy (ca, early Babylonian star catalogues)
    330 Aristotle (early corpus of science)
    300 Geometry (Euclid's Elements)
    250 Pi (ca, polygon approximation, Archimedes)
    240 Earth is a sphere (Eratosthenes)
    150 Trigonometry (Hipparchus)
    ...
    CE
    ...
    458-498 Zero as a number, decimal place notation (Aryabhata)
    ...
    1100 Early mechanics (various islamic/arab scientists)
    ...
    1543 Heliocentrism (Nicolaus Copernicus' Revolutionibus, later Galilei)
    1572 Imaginary numbers (rules of, Rafael Bombelli)
    1600 Electricity & Magnetism (William Gilbert)
    1610 Milky Way (Galileo Galilei)
    1614 Logarithms (John Napier)
    1660 Calculus (ca, Isaac Newton, Gottfried Leibniz)
    1687 (Classical) Mechanics (Principia, Isaac Newton)
    1736 e (the base of the natural logarithm, Leonhard Euler's Mechanica (1736))
    1764-1800 Chemistry (Antoine Lavoisier), Electrochemistry (Volta, 1800)
    1803-1805 Atoms (Atomic theory, John Dalton)
    1811 Molecules (start of Molecular theory, Amedeo Avogadro)
    1823 Non-Euclidean geometry (ca, start of work, Nikolai Lobachevsky/János Bolyai)
    1824 Thermodynamics (Nicolas Carnot)
    1828 Organic Chemistry (Friedrich Wöhler, Wöhler synthesis (1828)
    1839 Cells (Cell theory, Theodor Schwann, Matthias Schleiden)
    1859 Evolution (Charles Darwin, Alfred Wallace)
    1860-1880 Microbiology (Ferdinand Cohn, Louis Pasteur, Robert Koch)
    1866 Genetics (Gregor Mendel)
    1869 Periodic Table (Dmitri Mendeleev)
    1887 Electromagnetism (James Maxwell, Heinrich Hertz)
    1897 Electrons (J.J. Thomson)
    1900 Quantum Mechanics (Max Planck et al.)
    1905 Relativity (Albert Einstein, Special (1905), General (1916), Kennedy–Thorndike experiment (1932))
    1909 Atomic nucleus (Ernest Rutherford)
    1911 Radiometric dating, Arthur Holmes' first accurate dating (Rutherford suggestion (1905), Radioactivity (Henri Becquerel, 1896))
    1912 Atomic structure (William Bragg(s) discovers diffraction of X-rays by crystals)
    1922-1924 Galaxies (Edwin Hubble conclusively discovers galaxies outside Milky Way)
    1927 Quantum Field Theory (Paul Dirac works on quantum electrodynamics)
    1929 Expanding Universe (Georges Lemaitre proposes expansion, Big Bang (1927), Hubble confirms expansion (1929))
    1932 Neutrons (Feb 27, James Chadwick)
    1932 Antimatter (Aug 2, Carl D. Anderson (discovery of positron), suggestion by Dirac (1928))
    1944 DNA (Alfred Hershey, Martha Chase confirms the genetic role of DNA)
    1964 Cosmic microwave background radiation (Arno Penzias, Robert Wilson)
    1968 Quarks, Standard Model (ca, SLAC, Murray Gell-Mann, George Zweig et al.)
    1988 Extrasolar planets (Bruce Campbell, G. A. H. Walker, Stephenson Yang)
    ...
    Now
    ...
    (Protoscience)
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Mar 27, 2013
  21. I've continued to work on the timeline/image (small/big version), and I will probably upload a new version today. Some more things have been rearranged; hopefully I'm getting close to the finished version :tongue2:.

    It seems the more I dig myself into the history, the harder it gets. I have to start digging myself out now :biggrin:. There are still some people/fields I'd like to include, but they haven't found their place yet, like Hippocrates and Michael Faraday. Maybe they'll get into this image, I don't know.

    It's been pretty interesting to dig into the history like this. I'd like to say some things I've noticed during my work with this thing; I already knew history isn't easy, but I was nevertheless astonished by the complexity of the history of science I encountered when I dug into the stuff.

    I find the history of physics relatively easy, which is probably partly due to my particular interest in physics. But, gosh, I think the history of chemistry & biology seems really complex, there are so many different things connected to so many different people.

    I also noticed that the history of math does not seem to be as easy as I thought; I noticed this when I looked into logarithms, e and complex numbers - it is almost like a long complex string of knots; one person contributes to a field in one place and ties a knot on the string, another person ties another knot somewhere else, and later, someone else ties the knots together. So it can be quite hard to build a coherent description of the history - which I somewhat fear since I'm thinking of digging into math history later :).

    One other interesting thing which surprised me was the many profoundly important contributions that were made during the 1800s. I find the development of chemistry and biology during this century truly impressive.

    Also, there is one short period which astonishes me in particular: 1896-1912. In 17 (seventeen!) years the world saw the discoveries of the atomic nucleus, subatomic particles, atomic structure, radioactivity, radiometric dating + quantum mechanics (!) + relativity (!). I find this short period simply outstanding! :surprised
     
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