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Concluding chapter 6. Natural sciences and medicine

(1,817 words)

Author(s): Steinle, Friedrich
1. Subject and lemmasWork on the encyclopedia presented a challenge: using a group of related articles to sketch a picture of the progress of the (natural)sciences in Europe as part of the general progress of civilization in the period from 1450 to 1850. In principle, the concept allowed only for general topics; articles on persons or places were excluded. Such a structure requires tracing diachronic themes over long periods of time, but also incurs the danger of under-representing and under…
Date: 2023-11-14

Natural science

(1,657 words)

Author(s): Steinle, Friedrich
1. ConceptNatural science today denotes the fields of science that strive for understanding of natural processes and conditions, as distinct from the social, economic, technical, and human sciences that deal with human culture and technology (Humanities). There is recurrent debate over whether medicine should be counted among the natural sciences or treated as a separate field in its own right. Natural science denotes not only a specific subject of study, but also a professional field and a group…
Date: 2020-04-06


(1,342 words)

Author(s): Steinle, Friedrich
1. DefinitionIn antiquitym the term heaviness, gravity (Greek  barýtēs, Latin  gravitas) was used for the tendency of bodies to fall downward and, if blocked, to press down as weight. As measured by scales, weight in all periods and cultures has always been a central measure (Weights and measures) of the quantity of a material in commerce and industry (Quantification and measurement). Although important improvements were made in the technical construction of scales, from antiquity to the present th…
Date: 2023-11-14


(3,135 words)

Author(s): Steinle, Friedrich
1. Electricity before 1700Of all the subjects of natural study, electricity has enjoyed a particularly striking career. Unlike chemistry (Chemical sciences), mechanics, astronomy, optics, and metallurgy, it has no long-standing tradition, and even in the 17th century, effects known as “electrical” were barely known. Yet by 1850, electricity was in the process of bringing wholesale changes to the human way of life. Its meteoric rise was the result of an unusual dynamic between research, technology, and society.It was already known in Antiquity that a piece of amber, whe…
Date: 2019-10-14


(2,194 words)

Author(s): Steinle, Friedrich
1. ConceptExperiment in the modern sense is understood as the manipulation of things with the purpose of gaining knowledge about them. With research, experiment also serves instruction and demonstration. All natural sciences and many fields of the humanities and social sciences base the claim to certainty of their knowledge on experience, whether arrived at by observation or experiment. In other cultural spheres, such as art, music, or new forms of economic activity or social living, experiment i…
Date: 2019-10-14


(2,632 words)

Author(s): Steinle, Friedrich
1. ConceptObservation (Latin observatio) is the main source of empirical knowledge, and together with experiment represents the key procedure of natural science and the empirical spheres of the humanities and social sciences (Empiricism). As directed attention focused on specific objects or aspects of objects, observation is also found in non-scientific spheres of life, for example in a draftsman observing her subject, a soldier enemy lines, a roulette player his fellow players, or a passer-by eyeing suspicious figures in a car park.Friedrich Steinle2. Traditions of scientif…
Date: 2020-04-06


(1,178 words)

Author(s): Steinle, Friedrich
1. Prior historySpeculations about an interaction between electricity and magnetism were already being voiced in the 18th century, stimulated by reports of magnetic needles switching polarity during storms, or the magnetization of iron crosses on church towers. However, stable experimental conditions only became possible with the development of the voltaic pile around 1800 (the first electric battery; Galvanism), which delivered sustained electrical effects for the first time. Experiments in Parma…
Date: 2019-10-14

Scientific instruments

(1,362 words)

Author(s): Steinle, Friedrich
1. ConceptThe use of scientific instruments – material equipment and aids to the obtaining and proces…
Date: 2021-08-02

Physical sciences

(9,529 words)

Author(s): Steinle, Friedrich
1. ConceptAmong the many meanings of the Greek word  physis (Latin  natura), the most important was in reference to the sphere of things that carry the origin of their being and their drive to change within themselves. This sphere is distinct from that of the planned, purposeful arrangement of things by people, known as  téchne (Latin  ars; Aristot. Phys. 2,1; 2,8), and the two still form the basis for the opposition of nature and technology. Physics as a quest for knowledge (Greek physikḗ epistḗme, Latin  philosophia naturalis; Natural philosophy) in Aristotle concerns itself…
Date: 2020-10-06

Quantification and measurement

(2,130 words)

Author(s): Rammer, Gerhard | Steinle, Friedrich
1. Concept Quantification means the apprehension of a defined item in numerical terms. Combined with the indication of a unit of measurement or a scale, the quantification of an item provides the conditions for its measurement. Even in the ancient world, quantification was already central to many aspects of everyday life (lengths, time, weights and measures), crafts and trades, and technology (see also Metrology). The subject under discussion here, however, is quantification and measure…
Date: 2021-03-15


(2,374 words)

Author(s): Steinle, Friedrich | Epple, Moritz
1. Concept and originsThe present-day understanding of physics as a science concerned with the properties and laws of inanimate matter and the development of mathematically-formulated theories on the basis of experiment and measurement arose only in the late 18th and early 19th centuries out of the wider sense of physics as natural philosophy (Physical sciences). The key development was the focus on a specific subject area and the increasing reliance on quantitative and mathematical procedures (Quantification and measurement) [6. chapter 5]; [5].One important impulse cam…
Date: 2020-10-06


(8,431 words)

Author(s): Steinle, Friedrich | Reith, Reinhold
1. ConceptEnergy (from the Greek enérgeia, “activity”, “actuality”) today describes the capacity of a body or a physical system to do work. Energy being a conserved quantity that, while appearing in different forms (mechanical, electrical, thermal, chemical, etc.), remains constant in total in isolated systems is one of the most fundamental principles of natural science, applying equally to and thus connecting the physical and chemical sciences and biology. Mechanics was already approaching an unders…
Date: 2019-10-14


(2,867 words)

Author(s): Jonkers, Art Roeland Theo | Steinle, Friedrich
1. Concept The attractive power of natural magnets (i.e. lodestones; Latin  magnes; German  Magnetstein; French  aimant; Italian  magnete) was already reported in antiquity. In the 12th century, the north-south alignment of magnetized iron needles became known in Europe, and magnetism acquired its first eminent practical application in the form of the compass. Often mentioned in a single breath in antiquity, magnetism and electricity came to be treated as quite distinct in the early modern period. Only with the …
Date: 2019-10-14


(4,345 words)

Author(s): Sparn, Walter | Mizrahi, Moti | Steinle, Friedrich | Großhans, Hans-Peter
1. BackgroundThe Indo-European word behind  Latin  veritas, French  vérité, German  Wahrheit (English “truth”) meant “respect,” “assent,” “fidelity”; Greek  alḗtheia (literally “unconcealment”) was also important for the history of the term. The pragmatic questions concerning whether an assertion or message is true and what criteria we should use to assess and recognize its truth have been answered implicitly or explicity in every culture. The question of what truth is arises whenever a culture reflects on its…
Date: 2022-11-07


(14,627 words)

Author(s): Walther, Gerrit | Steinle, Friedrich | Beutel, Albrecht | Tschopp, Silvia Serena | Kanz, Roland | Et al.
1. Concept and definition Enlightenment in English is first attested from 1865 as a translation of the German  Aufklärung, which was first recorded in 1691. With their European cognates  lumières (French), illuminismo (Italian), and  ilustración (Spanish), they denote the most influential European educational and cultural movement of the 18th century, as well as its overriding goals: to subject all authorities, traditions, and hierarchies to the critical measure of a newly defined reason, and to abolish them if they ran counter…
Date: 2019-10-14