Evolution Is a Tree, Not a Straight Line

If you go by editorial cartoons and T-shirts, you might have the impression that evolution proceeds as an orderly march toward a preordained finish line. But that’s not right at all. Introduction Evolution doesn’t follow a preordained, straight path. Yet images abound that suggest otherwise. From museum displays to editorial cartoons, evolution is depicted as[…]

Spiritualism, Religion, and Mathematics in the Victorian Period

Many were conflicted between their desire to believe and their want of rigorous intellectual explanation, and material proof for their belief. By Sylvia Nickerson Late nineteenth-century British culture was somewhat preoccupied with the presence of ghosts. Conjuring spirits at séances was a popular pastime, with the exploits of some spiritualists, such as the medium Henry[…]

H.G. Wells and the Uncertainties of Progress

In addition to the numerous pioneering works of science fiction by which he made his name, H. G. Wells also published a steady stream of non-fiction meditations, mainly focused on themes salient to his stories: the effects of technology, human folly, and the idea of progress. As Peter J. Bowler explores, for Wells the notion[…]

The “Souls” of Magnets in the 17th Century

Lodestones are dull, lumpy, and slate-gray, but their “magnetic intelligence” made them fabulously expensive. Magnets have souls. At least, that was the leading scientific explanation for magnetism circa 1600, as laid out in the highly influential De Magnete. Its author, William Gilbert, experimented with lodestones, lumps of magnetite that, after being struck by lightning, turn into natural magnets.[…]

Victorian Biological Research in Western Equatorial Africa

By midcentury, Victorian natural historians seemed hungry for information from formerly inaccessible regions of Africa. With a groan that had something terribly human in it and yet was full of brutishness, he fell forward on his face. The body shook convulsively for a few minutes, the limbs moved about in a struggling way, and then[…]

Charles Darwin and the Voyage of the ‘Beagle’

Darwin to understand the convergence of disparate scales of geological and human history. The event now known as “the voyage of the Beagle” comprises Charles Darwin’s circumnavigation as ship’s naturalist on the second of three surveying voyages by H.M.S. Beagle; the writings published as his first book, the Journal of Researches; and the genesis of his theory[…]

Between “Bildung” and “Wissenschaft”: The 19th-Century German Ideal of Scientific Education

Without a doubt, the most influential concept in German university history is that of the “unity of teaching and research”. Abstract Prior to the 19th century, poetry, rhetoric, historiography and moral philosophy were considered particularly valuable to humane education, as they transmitted knowledge of beauty, goodness and truth. These so-called “fine sciences” (“schöne Wissenschaften”) were[…]

Early Scientific Exploration in Latin America

The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries saw a growth in the inland exploration of Latin America. Introduction The desire of travelers, mainly European scientists, artists, and writers, was not to settle new frontiers. Many of these regions were colonized, or, in some cases, had even become independent from European imperial powers. Rather, the goal of these[…]

Robert Hooke: The ‘English Leonardo’ Who Was a 17th-Century Scientific Superstar

Born on July 18, 1635, this polymath broke ground in fields ranging from pneumatics, microscopy, mechanics and astronomy to civil engineering and architecture. Introduction Considering his accomplishments, it’s a surprise that Robert Hooke isn’t more renowned. As a physician, I especially esteem him as the person who identified biology’s most essential unit, the cell. Like Leonardo[…]

Francis Bacon and the Scientific Revolution

Sir Francis Bacon developed a method for philosophers to use in weighing the truthfulness of knowledge. How Do We Know That Something Is True? The word science comes from the latin root scientia, meaning knowledge. But where does the knowledge that makes up science come from? How do you ever really know that something is true? For instance,[…]

Printing the Body: Anatomical Illustration in the Early Modern Period

For over 500 years, scientific and artistic collaborations have enhanced and promoted medical knowledge. Introduction From the early modern period, as perceptions of the internal and external workings of the body developed, the methods of depicting the body also advanced. But it was not until the 1750s that anatomical art truly began to flourish. The number[…]

Five Moon-Landing Innovations That Changed Life on Earth

The technologies behind weather forecasting, GPS and even smartphones can trace their origins to the race to the Moon. Much of the technology common in daily life today originates from the drive to put a human being on the Moon. This effort reached its pinnacle when Neil Armstrong stepped off the Eagle landing module onto[…]

The Networks of Science in Exile during the Spanish Civil War

Without doubt, this process fostered the vascularization of science in receiving countries. By Dr. Francisco Javier Dosil MancillaProfessor of HistoryUniversidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo Abstract Spanish science in exile operated as a network of networks. Its dynamics help us understand the deep imprint that exiled scientists left in their host countries. The network[…]

The Historical Development of Modern Surgery in America

Reviewing the great surgical advances in the United States in the last century. By Dr. Yeu-Tsu Margaret LeeGeneral Surgeon and Surgical Oncologist Abstract Surgeons use operative procedure to save life and to treat patient’s disease. Advances are made with new operations and/or designing and modification of surgical instrument. This paper reviews the great surgical advances[…]

‘Piltdown Man’: The Legacy of a Great Scientific Hoax

The University of Melbourne’s anatomy museum features fossil models from an entirely fictional early human; a forgery that derailed the study of our evolution for decades. ‘Piltdown man’ was the name given to a handful of fossil fragments found at a site in East Sussex, UK in 1912. The fossils, quickly identified as being from[…]

Palaeography: Medieval Scribes and the Transmission of Hebrew Scientific Works

Before the age of printing, the texts and layouts of Hebrew works were not standardised. This is because the transmission of works was out of the hands of their authors and in the hands of scribes. Dr Israel Sandman considers the intervention of scribes when copying Hebrew scientific works. When transmitting Hebrew works, scribes were[…]

Written in the Stars: Astronomy and Astrology in Medieval Manuscripts

Faith, science, and stargazing influenced everyday decisions in the Middle Ages. Introduction Humankind has always looked to the sky in wonder, with a desire to understand our place in the universe. Eclipses, comets, and star and planet sightings mesmerize us and inspire awe. In the medieval world, from about 500 to 1500, astronomy was a[…]

The Science and Biology of Aristotle

Aristotle studied developing organisms, among other things, in ancient Greece, and his writings shaped Western philosophy and natural science for greater than two thousand years. By Dorothy Regan Haskett, Valerie Racine, and Joanna Yang Aristotle spent much of his life in Greece and studied with Plato at Plato’s Academy in Athens, where he later established[…]

Leonardo da Vinci Joined Art with Engineering

As Leonardo da Vinci found centuries ago, scholars of art, design, engineering and science can work together for mutual benefit. Leonardo da Vinci’s remarkable capacity for careful observation made him an astonishing artist and a brilliant scientist. He was able to compare the speed of a bird’s wing movement downwards and upwards. He noticed the differences[…]

Inside the Medieval and Early Modern Alchemist’s Workshop

What tools would an alchemist use in the quest to transmute other elements into gold? David Teniers the Younger, a seventeenth-century Flemish painter, had a serious thing for alchemy. Over the course of his career, Teniers painted some 350 different scenes, illustrating just about every aspect of alchemy imaginable. All of Teniers’ alchemical scenes, however,[…]

Caterina Sforza: Fearless Regent and Scientist of 15th-Century Italy

Sforza was an early scientist who experimented with chemistry and medicine. By Amy Lifson Caterina Sforza, the infamous fifteenth-century Italian regent of Forlì and Imola, was also an early scientist who experimented with chemistry and medicine. On the cover of Meredith K. Ray’s NEH-supported Daughters of Alchemy, a portrait of her, reproduced and seen above,[…]

Jacques Labillardière’s Contribution to Botany in the 19th Century

Exploring the impact of Labillardière’s work following a voyage to Australasia. This article, Jacques Labillardière’s Contribution to Botany in the 19th Century, was originally published in The Public Domain Review under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0. If you wish to reuse it please see: https://publicdomainreview.org/legal/ Jacques-Julien Houtou de Labillardière’s *Relation du voyage à la recherche de La[…]

The Life and Work of 17th-Century Botanist Nehemiah Grew

How Grew’s pioneering “mechanist” vision in relation to the floral world paved the way for the science of plant anatomy. This article, The Life and Work of 17th-Century Botanist Nehemiah Grew, was originally published in The Public Domain Review under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0. If you wish to reuse it please see: https://publicdomainreview.org/legal/ In the 82[…]

Cultural Transfer of Scientific Knowledge in the Early Modern and Postcolonial Worlds

Some general principles for approaching the topic of knowledge transfer and science transfer. Abstract We are all familiar with stories of the daring voyages of discoverers and researchers who braved the seas and severe privation in the service of truth and enlightenment. The title of this article, “Knowledge Transfer and Science Transfer”, and the fact[…]