Robert Hooke, 17th-Century Scientist Extraordinaire

He argued with Newton, and both were partially right. Introduction Groundbreaking discoveries in science often come with two iconic images, one representing the breakthrough and the other, the discoverer. For example, the page from Darwin’s notebook sketching the branching pattern of evolution often accompanies a portrait of Darwin in his early years when the notebook[…]

Marie Tharp: The Woman Who Pioneered Mapping the Ocean Six Decades Ago

Geologist and cartographer Tharp changed scientific thinking about what lay at the bottom of the ocean. Introduction Despite all the deep-sea expeditions and samples taken from the seabed over the past 100 years, humans still know very little about the ocean’s deepest reaches. And there are good reasons to learn more. Most tsunamis start with[…]

Rosalind Franklin: The Woman Who Discovered the Secret to Life

Franklin was born a century ago, and her X-ray crystallography work crucially contributed to determining the structure of DNA. Introduction What do coal, viruses and DNA have in common? The structures of each – the predominant power source of the early 20th century, one of the most remarkable forms of life on Earth and the[…]

Art and Science in Renaissance Italy

The increased study of plants for artistic purposes during the Renaissance led to the development of the modern field of botany. Early Renaissance Italy witnessed a remarkable flowering of the arts and sciences. Humanist scholars looked to medieval libraries to discover works from the past, which they copied, studied and developed in new ways. They[…]

Jan Baptist Van Helmont: Toxicology in the Middle Ages and Renaissance

Van Helmont was an heir of Paracelsus’s thought and movement who went to lengths in later years to distinguish himself. Introduction This article discusses Jan Baptist Van Helmont’s (1579-1644) views on poison in light of his medical alchemy. First, it argues that his approach was fundamentally influenced by the theories of ‘universal poison’ and ‘potent[…]

Alexander von Humboldt Seeking Unity in the New World

Journeying through South America, Alexander von Humboldt sought nothing less than “the unity of nature.” Alexander von Humboldt’s journey to becoming the preeminent scientist of his day had many possible starting points. But July 16,1799,  the day that he, a Prussian naturalist, and his friend Aimé Bonpland, a French botanist, disembarked from the Pizarro in the South[…]

A Mathematical Duel in 16th-Century Renaissance Venice

The story of two Renaissance mathematicians whose jealousies, intrigues, and contentious debates led to a discovery. By Fabio Toscano translated Arturo Sangalli Niccolò Tartaglia was an ambitious teacher who possessed a secret formula – the key to unlocking a seemingly unsolvable, two-thousand-year-old mathematical problem. He wrote it down in the form of a poem to[…]

Russia and the Medical Drug Trade in the Seventeenth Century

Examining what drugs were available in Russia and the great diversity of drugs traded in early modern Europe. Summary This article deals with the trade in medicines into Russia in the seventeenth century. Both the early modern medical drug trade, and Russian medicine, have previously received substantial attention, but no work has thus far been[…]

Talisman and Amulets as ‘Protective Gear’ in Medieval Islam

From magic bowls to holy shirts, Muslim cultures used various devices to protect the user from harm starting in the 11th century. Introduction From the 11th century until around the 19th century, Muslim cultures witnessed the use of magic bowls, healing necklaces and other objects in hopes of warding off drought, famine, floods and even[…]

When Religion Sided with Science during Plague in the Medieval Islamic World

Looking at how people thought about science and religion in the past can inform the contemporary world’s approach. Plagues – A Fact of Life Plagues were a fact of life in ancient and medieval worlds. Personal letters from the Cairo Geniza – a treasure trove of documents from the Jews of medieval Egypt – attest[…]

Astronomy in China since the Ancient World

China continues to be active in astronomy, with many observatories and its own space program. Introduction Astronomy in China has a very long history. Oracle bones from the Shang Dynasty (second millennium B.C.E.) record eclipses and novae. Detailed records of astronomical observations were kept from about the sixth century B.C.E. until the introduction of Western[…]

The Enlightenment, Reason, and Natural Law: Choosing the Beggar Over the Monster

“Enlightenment is the human being’s emancipation from its self-incurred immaturity.” By Santana Juache Introduction The Enlightenment stemmed out of a vast array of political and social changes in Europe. It was a period of radical reformation, of privilege and secular authority. Law and morality were believed to have been bred into the blood of kings[…]

Roger Bacon and His Medieval Search for Scientific Truth

Roger Bacon believed people should test their beliefs rather than accepting what they’re told. Introduction It seems that science has been taking a beating lately. From decades of denial by the tobacco industry that smoking causes cancer to more recent attempts to use the COVID-19 pandemic to score political points, a presumption seems to have[…]

A History of Science and Technology in China since the Ancient Han Dynasty

Among the earliest inventions were the abacus, the “shadow clock,” and the first flying machines. Introduction The history of science and technology in China is both long and rich with science and technological contribution. In antiquity, independent of Greek philosophers and other civilizations, ancient Chinese philosophers made significant advances in science, technology, mathematics, and astronomy.[…]

“Invisible Little Worms”: Athanasius Kircher’s 17th-Century Study of the Plague

Kircher’s investigation can be seen as an important early step to understanding contagion. This article, “Invisible Little Worms”: Athanasius Kircher’s Study of the Plague, was originally published in The Public Domain Review under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0. If you wish to reuse it please see: Introduction Living through the devastating Italian plague of 1656, the[…]

Science, Technology, and the Rise of Machines in the 20th Century

How to turn language, the core operating system of the humanities, into numbers. Stephen Mitchell suffered from allergies. “When the trees come out, I can’t see. People stand around saying, ‘Isn’t it lovely,’ but I weep,” he told the New York Times in 1965. A thirty-five-year-old professor at Syracuse University, he found sanctuary in the temperature-controlled environment of[…]

The Face of Science: How Albert Einstein Became a Celebrity

Success did not come easy to Einstein. It took six minutes, fifty-one seconds for Albert Einstein to become world famous. That’s how long the moon stood suspended before the face of the sun on May 29, 1919, eclipsing its light. Mind you, the astronomers below couldn’t sail back home and develop their photographs for weeks;[…]

Ancient and Medieval Religious Belief and Medicine

The spirits and gods were believed to make their presence known through disease. Introduction When people fall ill they inevitably ask: ‘Why am I ill?’ and ‘How do I get better?’ Throughout history, the answers have been sought and provided through a mixture of natural, spiritual and moral meanings. People have rarely understood illness through[…]

Menelaus of Alexandria and Science in Ancient Greece

Menelaus, and others like him, reduced the physical world to a purely geometric one. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Menelaus of Alexandria was a Greek astronomer, scientist, and mathematician who lived around 100 CE. Menelaus made a significant and lasting contribution to the fields of astronomy, geometry, and trigonometry. His major work, the Spherics survives and presents[…]

The Age of the Earth

The Earth has been through many changes during its existence. Introduction Modern geologists and geophysicists consider the age of Earth to be around 4.54 billion years (4.54×109 years).[1] This age has been determined by radiometric age dating of meteorite material[2] and is consistent with the ages of the oldest-known terrestrial and lunar samples. Following the[…]

Galileo Galilei: A Scientific Break from Aristotle

The Catholic Church didn’t finally officially recognize their own error until John Paul II in 1992. Introduction Galileo Galilei (February 15, 1564 – January 8, 1642) was an Italian physicist, astronomer, and philosopher, whose career coincided with that of Johannes Kepler. His work constitutes a significant break from that of Aristotle and medieval philosophers and[…]

‘De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium’: The Medieval Copernican Revolution

His work marked the starting point of modern astronomy and cosmology. Introduction Nicolaus Copernicus (February 19, 1473 – May 24, 1543) was one of the great polymaths of his age. He was a mathematician, astronomer, jurist, physician, classical scholar, governor, administrator, diplomat, economist, and soldier. Amid his extensive accomplishments, he treated astronomy as an avocation.[…]

NESSI Emerges as New Tool for Researching Exoplanet Atmospheres

NESSI views the galaxy in infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye. By Elizabeth Landau The darkness surrounding the Hale Telescope breaks with a sliver of blue sky as the dome begins to open, screeching with metallic, sci-fi-like sounds atop San Diego County’s Palomar Mountain. The historic observatory smells of the oil pumped[…]

The 1900 Total Eclipse That Helped Prove Einstein’s Theory of Relativity

It was a matter of the right eclipse, the right place, and the right time. By Charles EmmersonHistorian and Author When Albert Einstein published the first draft of his general relativity theory in 1911, it predicted that light would bend when passing the gravitational pull of a large object. To verify his calculations, he needed[…]

The Real Alexander von Humboldt: A Scientist of the Romantic Age

Humboldt almost invented the electric battery– in fact, he came very close. Alexander von Humboldt was born 250 years ago this fall. As his legacy is celebrated across the globe, I continue to be struck by the grandiose claims that are made about him in the existing literature. The narrative that emerges is of an intrepid explorer, striding out to[…]

5 Effective Tips to Improve Your Science Writing Skills

Whether you are into writing and need polishing your style, or you are a newbie trying to survive in the world of academic rules and standards, this article is definitely for you. We have examined the most common mistakes students make and outlined the 5 effective tips to boost your writing skills today. Check them[…]

A History of Science and Technology in China

The first recorded observations of comets, solar eclipses, and supernovae were made in China. Introduction The history of science and technology in China is both long and rich with science and technological contribution. In antiquity, independent of Greek philosophers and other civilizations, ancient Chinese philosophers made significant advances in science, technology, mathematics, and astronomy. The[…]