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In astronomy ever larger telescopes have assisted in the discovery that the sun is a rather ordinary star in a huge

Revolutions in Modern Science


collection of stars, the Milky Way, which itself is only one of countless such collections, or galaxies, that in general are
The enormous growth of science during the classical period engendered an optimistic attitude on the part of many expanding away from each other. The study of remote objects, billions of light-years from the earth, has been carried
that all the major scientific discoveries had been made and that all that remained was the working out of minor out at all wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation, with some of the most notable results being made in radio
details. Faith in the absolute truth of science was in some ways comparable to the faith of earlier centuries in such astronomy, which has been used to map the Milky Way, study quasars, pulsars, and other unusual objects, and
ancient authorities as Aristotle and Ptolemy. This optimism was shattered in the late 19th and early 20th cent. by a detect relatively complex organic molecules floating in space. The latter, coupled with the discovery of extrasolar
number of revolutionary discoveries. These in turn attracted increasing numbers of individuals into science, so that planetary systems and possible microscopic fossils in meteorites of Martian origin, have raised new questions about
whereas a particular problem might have been studied by a single investigator a century ago, or by a small group of the origin of life and the possible existence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.
scientists a few decades ago, today such a problem is attacked by a virtual army of highly trained, technically Modern Science and Technology
proficient scholars. The growth of science in the 20th cent. has been unprecedented.
The technological advances of modern science, which in the public mind are often identified with science itself, have
In much of modern science the idea of progressive change, or evolution, has been of fundamental importance. In affected virtually every aspect of life. The electronics industry, born in the early 20th cent., has advanced to the point
addition to biological evolution, astronomers have been concerned with stellar and galactic evolution, and where a complex device, such as a computer, that once might have filled an entire room can now be carried in an
astrophysicists and chemists with nucleosynthesis, or the evolution of the chemical elements. The study of the attaché case. The electronic computer has become one of the key tools of modern industry. Electronics has also
evolution of the universe as a whole has involved such fields as non-Euclidean geometry and the general theory of been fundamental in developing new communications devices (radio, television, laser). In transportation there has
relativity. Geologists have discovered that the continents are not static entities but are also evolving; according to the been a similar leap of astounding range, from the automobile and the early airplane to the modern supersonic jet and
theory of plate tectonics, some continents are moving away from each other while others are moving closer together. the giant rocket that has taken astronauts to the moon. Perhaps the most overwhelming aspect of modern science is
The Impact of Elementary Particles not its accomplishments but its magnitude in terms of money, equipment, numbers of workers, scope of activity, and
Physics in particular was shaken to the core around the turn of the century. The atom had been presumed impact on society as a whole. Never before in history has science played such a dominant role in so many areas.
indestructible, but discoveries of X rays (1895), radioactivity (1896), and the electron (1897) could not be explained The Craft Tradition and Early Empiricism in Europe
by the classical theories. The discovery of the atomic nucleus (1911) and of numerous subatomic particles in addition
Certain technical innovations during the Dark Ages, e.g., development of the heavy plow, the windmill, and the
to the electron opened up the broad field of atomic and nuclear physics. Atoms were found to change not only by
magnetic compass, as well as improvements in ship design, had increased agricultural productivity and navigation
radioactive decay but also by more dramatic processes—nuclear fission and fusion—with the release of large
and contributed to the rise of cities, with their craft guilds and universities. These changes were more pronounced in
amounts of energy; these discoveries found both military and peaceful applications.
N Europe than in the south. The introduction of papermaking (12th cent.) and printing (1436–50) made possible the
Quantum Theory and the Theory of Relativity recording of craft traditions that had been handed down orally in previous centuries. This served to reduce the gap
The explanation of atomic structure required the abandonment of older, commonsense, classical notions of the nature between the artisan classes and the scholar classes and contributed to the development of certain individuals who
of space, time, matter, and energy in favor of the new view of the quantum theory and the theory of relativity. The first combined elements of both traditions—the artist-engineers such as Leonardo da Vinci, whose studies of flight and
of these two central theories of modern physics was developed by many scientists during the first three decades of other technological problems were far beyond their time, and the artist-mathematicians, such as Albrecht Dürer, who
the 20th cent.; the latter theory was chiefly the product of a single individual, Albert Einstein. These theories, examined the laws of perspective and wrote a textbook on geometry. Many artists came to study anatomy in detail.
particularly the quantum theory, revolutionized not only physics but also chemistry and other fields.
Advances in Chemistry
Knowledge of the structure of matter enabled chemists to synthesize a sweeping variety of substances, especially
complex organic substances with important roles in life processes or with technological applications. Radioactive
isotopes have been used as tracers in complicated chemical and biochemical reactions and have also found
application in geological dating. Chemists and physicists have cooperated to create many new chemical elements,
extending the periodic table beyond the naturally occurring elements.
Biology Becomes an Interdisciplinary Science
In biology the modern revolution began in the 19th cent. with the publication of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution
(1859) and Gregor Mendel's theory of genetics, which was largely ignored until the end of the century. With the work
of Hugo de Vries around the turn of the century biological evolution came to be interpreted in terms of mutations that
result in a genetically distinct species; the survival of a given species was thus related to its ability to adapt to its
environment through such mutations. The development of biochemistry and the recognition that most important
biological processes take place at the molecular level led to the rapid growth of the field of molecular biology, with
such fundamental results as the discovery of the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the molecule carrying the
genetic code. Modern medicine has profited from this explosion of knowledge in biology and biochemistry, with new
methods of treatment ranging from penicillin, insulin, and a vast array of other drugs to pacemakers for weak hearts
and implantation of artificial or donated organs.
The Abstraction of Mathematics
In mathematics a movement toward the abstract, axiomatic approach began early in the 19th cent. with the discovery
of two different types of non-Euclidean geometries and various abstract algebras, some of them noncommutative.
While there has been a tendency to consolidate and unify under a few general concepts, such as those of group, set,
and transformation, there has also been considerable research in the foundations of mathematics, with a close
examination of the nature of these and other concepts and of the logical systems underlying mathematics.
Astronomy beyond the Visual Spectrum