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The whole of modern thought is steeped in science... The greatest intellectual revolution mankind has yet seen is now slowly taking place by her agency.
The history of science familiarizes us with the ideas of evolution and the continuous transformation of human things. . .. It shows us that if the accomplishments of mankind as a whole are grand the contribution of each is small.
The history of science is the real history of mankind.
- Du Bois REYMOND.
The history of science presents science as the constant pursuit of truth a growth to which each may contribute. . . . Science is international.
This book is the outgrowth of a lecture course given by the authors for several years* to undergraduate classes of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the chief aims of the course being to furnish a broad general perspective of the evolution of science, to broaden and deepen the range of the students' interests and to encourage the practice of discriminating scientific reading.
There are of course excellent treatises on the history of particular sciences, but these are as a rule addressed to specialists, and concern themselves but little with the important relations of the sciences one to another or to the general progress of civilization. The present work aims to furnish the student and the general reader with a concise account of the origin of that scientific knowledge and that scientific method which, especially within the last century, have come to have so important a share in shaping the conditions and directing the activities of human life. The specialist in any branch of science is finding it more and more difficult to keep himself informed, even to the indispensable minimum extent, as to current progress in his own field, - and hence his frequent neglect of all other branches than his own.
It may reasonably be expected that some attention to the history of science on the part of students will give them a better understanding of the broad tendencies which have determined the general course of scientific progress, will enlarge their appreciation of the work of successive generations, and tend to guard them against falling into those ancient pitfalls which have bordered the paths of progress. In the words of Mach:
There is no grander nor more intellectually elevating spectacle than that of the utterances of the fundamental investigators in their gigantic power.
* By the senior author since 1889.
Possessed as yet of no methods — for these were first created by their labors and are only rendered comprehensible to us by their performances — they grapple with and subjugate the object of their inquiry and imprint upon it the forms of conceptual thought. Those who know the entire course of the development of science will ... judge more freely and more correctly the significance of any present scientific movement than those who, limited in their views to the age in which their own lives have been spent, contemplate merely the trend of intellectual events at the present moment.
At a time when the forces of science are being diverted from the promotion and conservation of civilization to its destruction, and when attempts are being made to turn the waters now flowing in the stream of science back into ancient and so-called classical channels, it will be well for the general reader no less than the student of science to review its history, and to judge for himself concerning its proper place în contemporary life and education. Many volumes would be required to depict the lives of the workers, - often marked by self-denial and sometimes by persecution, to trace the full significance of their achievements, or to portray the spirit animating their labors ; — that spirit of science to which, regarding it as a critic rather than a votary, impressive tribute has been paid by one of our modern seers :
A greater gain to the world ... than all the growth of scientific knowledge is the growth of the scientific spirit, with its courage and serenity, its disciplined conscience, its intellectual morality, its habitual response to any disclosure of the truth.
- F. G. Peabody.
It has naturally been foreign to the purpose of the authors to admit matter too technical for the general student or, on the other hand, too slight in its influence on the general progress of science. The division of responsibility between them corresponds roughly to that implied by the title "mathematical" and "natural sciences”, and emphasis has been laid on interrelations rather than on distinctions between the various sciences. The mathematical group from their relatively greater age and higher development afford the best examples of maturity; the natural sciences illustrate more clearly recent progress. No attempt