The great Albert Einstein once said “The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking.” Over the passed four centuries enormous amounts of refining have taken place. From Newton to Galileo, the idea of deeper thinking led to miraculous discoveries that shape our modern field of science. Though I do not dare compare myself to the fathers of modern science, my many years of study in the field and its history allow me to explain the key developmental factors that brought us where we are today.
The transition of the understanding of science from an exclusive party of well-educated gentlemen to the general public, the connection of math and equations to science (as well as the development of new ones), and the conquering of concepts that seemed impossible to grasp, such as infinity and movement, science has taken on its modern form. As I am aware that each of you reading this paper are yourselves esteemed scientists and historians, I hope that you will consider my opinion on the development of science.
In the times when science began to grow and gain popularity, education and learning was limited to those wealthy enough to go to school. The majority of the population never received any formal teaching, and many did not have the ability to read and write. The idea of gaining scientific knowledge was unattainable to the average person because of the vocabulary and wordiness of the educational papers well known scientists wrote. Extremely formal writing and speaking were common etiquette in that day and certain social rules applied to every type of conversation.
(Dolnick 70-71) The feisty Robert Hooke went against these rules. He and his allies of the Royal society sought to speak and write in “the language of artisans, countrymen, and merchants before that of wits and scholars.” (Dolnick 70) Even before the founding of the Royal Society, Thomas Hobbes, a philosopher, began using “ordinary language” and performing his experiments in public in order that all people may “pursue truth as scientists did.” (Dolnick 72) These first few who dared to open science up to all changed the field’s course and led to many discoveries to be made by those whom science was never supposed to be understood. After all, Isaac Newton was just the child of a poor farmer who was unable to write his own name.
As all of you know, mathematics is the platform which advanced science is built upon. Oddly enough, science is also the platform which many forms of advanced math are built upon. Calculus, discovered by both Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz, was invented in order to explain motion and physics. A strong connection between mathematics and science began with Johannes Kepler. Kepler began using geometry to try and explain the orbits of planets. While teaching a class on astronomy he “began drawing a diagram having to do with the positions of Jupiter and Saturn, the two most distant planets.” (Dolnick 146) These two astronomically important planets were quite important because when the were “in conjunction” scientists could predict when they would be in conjunction again. The two planets meet every 117 degrees around the zodiac. (Dolnick 147) filling in conjunction points every 117 degrees numbering each one, Kepler connected each of the evenly spaced dots in numerical order. What he found when he finished was another smaller circle inside the original. Kepler immediately assumed that the outer circle was a representation of Saturn’s orbit and the inner circle was a representation of Jupiter’s orbit.
Kepler wished to go deeper and discover what connected these orbits and the orbits of other planets. He discovered that placing a triangle inside the outer circle and around the inner one created a perfect fit. Kepler moved on from that by continuing to place a the next geometric shape (triangle, square, pentagon…) inside each inner circle, it created a pattern of ever smaller circles until all representing the orbits of planets. (Dolnick 149-151) Kepler continued revising his theory, eventually switching to the five platonic solids instead of geometric shapes. His ideas in this area were incorrect, but they eventually gave us three laws that influenced science and planetary study forever. (Dolnick 158) The next advance in mathematics came from Galileo who sought to discover whether or not the earth moved. Using many methods, he found that the Earth did indeed move, and that “smooth, steady motion looks and feels exactly the same as utter stillness.” (Dolnick 172) Kepler and Galileo’s study of astronomical movement opened the door for Newton’s study of movement, discovery of calculus, and of gravity. “Kepler had taken the first giant steps toward showing that mathematics governed the heavens. Galileo showed that mathematics reigned here on Earth.” (Dolnick 182) Eventually Newton’s discoveries would tie these two together. Without out mathematics and mathematical calculations world changing discoveries would never have been made and modern science would not exist.
Science is simply a composition of many great discoveries about the universe and all of its inner workings, but a few of these discoveries actually altered the course modern science would take and allowed for better understanding of how the intricate patterns that govern our universe work. From Copernicus’s discovery of a heliocentric universe, to Galileo’s discovery of an Earth in constant motion, all the way up to Newton’s discovery of universal gravitation and the laws of motion; all changed the way that people saw the universe. As time here on Earth passes, our picture of the universe we call home slowly becomes clearer with each magnificent new find. The brilliant people who spend their lives deep in observation and buried in research have given us modern science. One of the greatest scientists of all time, Isaac Newton, gave us many of those world changing discoveries himself. Newton used calculus, the math from which he and Leibniz both claimed, to develop the theory of universal gravitation.
Despite the popular story, it is unlikely that Isaac Newton discovered gravity by an apple falling on his head. More likely, the discovery arouse of many years of questioning the force that caused things to fall to the ground. (Dolnick 272) His questioning soon turned to calculating as he dug deeper into the force we now call gravity. Newton was able to discover that it was gravity that held the moon in place, caused the planets to orbit the sun, and even caused apples to fall from their tree. Eventually he came to the realization that, in fact, all objects have a gravitational pull from a wildflower to the moon, “everything pulls on everything else.” (Dolnick 293) Isaac Newton’s universal gravitation was one of the amazing discoveries that will never be forgotten. The findings of the great scientists we credit modern science to really did change the world. Without them we would not be where we are today, and thanks to them we continue to look deeper in order understand the ways of planet Earth.
Science is a field of study unlike any other. There are never perfect answers or solutions and even the smallest questions of how or why take years upon years to explain, yet without those questions we would know nothing. Modern science exists today due to many factors including the transfer of science from the wealthy and elite to anyone who wanted to know more, the mathematics that are crucial to any new discovery, and the amazing findings and inventions of those before us. We know so much, but there is still so much to learn. It is likely that humans will never understand exactly how the world works, but everyday we come closer and closer to understanding the mysteries of our clockwork universe.