Has been teaching history in FG LADC college, Pakistan for 3 years and has researched about various civilizations during the year 2018.
How things went before man adopted Science.
A long time ago, and from a long time, i mean a really long time ago, yes, I'm talking about the Stone Ages over here, when a random person couldn't even have the slightest idea about what a light bulb or a telephone was. As an individual from the Stone Ages, you would have had to consider yourself hitting a jackpot if you ran into embers from an exhausted fire as the first humans didn't even know how to light a fire and I've got no intention to disgust you, had to eat their food raw! So what exactly happened that lead to such enormous changes in intelligence and technology? Exactly how long did this revolution take for itself to occur and how many people played a part in it? Below is a brief account of these questions.
Was Man aware of Science During the Stone Ages?
If you have read this far, then you might have a feeling that people from the Stone Ages must have been really retarded. Well, that's not how the thing actually is. Although really meager as compared to us, but they possessed scientific information to. So why don't we have a record of their scientific works? Well that is because the emergence of man dates back to c.35000 BC while man learnt to read and write somewhere around 2500 BC. So unfortunately we have no clue of what the people back then were up to. That's too bad isn't it?
The First Scientists
By 2500 BC people had learnt to read and write and thus, were able to keep a record of how things were going. And speaking of this time period, we all know that the Egyptians were the most dominant civilization back then, so there is a possibility that they might have been the first ones to have learnt to read and write which kind of makes them the first scientists in human history. Some of their scientific achievements include:
- They were the first people to use paper which was called which was known as papyrus, which they obtained by grinding the pulp of a local specie of a plant that grew on the banks of the river Nile.
- The Egyptians might take the pride for having invented the earliest tools to have been used by man, some of which are still used today including the lever and ramp, which were used by Egyptian slaves for the construction of spectacular pyramids and statues according to the will of their cruel masters. Imagine the labor without these tools- would have been quite a torture.
- The Egyptians have also played a significant role in the development of maritime technology including boats and light houses.
- They are known to have discovered the first mathematical system which was based on symbols rather than digits. I wonder whether the symbols made mathematics fun for the kids back then.
- They devised practical systems for agriculture such as various irrigation methods which include storing water using a dam and they are the ones to have invented the ox drawn plow which is still in use in some under developed and developing countries such as Pakistan, India and the Philippines etc.
- The Egyptians were the first ones to use cosmetics such as toothpastes and make up. So the girls today probably owe a great deal to the Egyptians as their lives would have been really different if the Egyptians hadn't started the first ever cosmetic industry.
- The Egyptian civilization has made some remarkable discoveries in the field of medicine as well. They invented various surgical instruments such as the scalpels, scissors, copper needles, thread, forceps and pincers.
After the collapse of the Egyptian empire, the Egyptians, although still a power to be feared, ceased to have any part in the world of science.
The Contribution of Greeks
After the demise of the Egyptian civilization, the Greeks took over the task of expanding the circle of scientific knowledge known to man. The Greeks produced great Scholars, philosophers and scientists, who really revolutionized the world. Some important names from this period are Pythagoras, Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, Hypocrates, Galen and Archimedes. Some important achievements performed by the Greeks include:
- The Greeks invented the waterwheel used to power the mill and the toothed gears used to transfer power to the mill.
- The Greek scientist Plato might have been the first person to have built an alarm clock, which he did so by constructing a water clock which triggered a sound like an organ at a particular time. Three cheers for Plato for having made sure that we all wake up early.
- The ancient Greek city of Crete, known as the Minoan civilization is known to have been the first one to have used underground clay pipes for sanitation and water supply.
- The Greek mathematicians constructed the earliest basis of geometry and Mathematicians like Pythagoras discovered a number of geometrical theories which hold true to this day. One of the major Greek contributions towards mathematics was the determination of the value of Pi which the Babylonians were the first people to assume to be 3 but had never challenged the value.
- The Greeks made remarkable progress in the fields of medicine and biology. Back in those times, diseases were considered to be gods' way of punishing humans for their sins till Hypocrates of Cos conducted experiments to show that diseases were a naturally occurring process and had nothing to do with anyone's deeds as was superstitiously believed widely across the world. He is also referred as the " Founder of Medicine".
- The idea of everyone having equal say in politics is termed as democracy and it's quite fascinating that modern democracy also had its origins in the ancient Greece.
- The Greeks are considered to be the inventors of Odometer, which is a device used to calculate the distance traveled by a vehicle. The first odometers were mechanical but they slowly evolved into electro-mechanical ones which are being used today. This probably makes the traffic cops indebted to the Greek scientists.
The Greeks could not keep up their scientific progress due to constant wars and the empire fell from the hands of one occupant to another, till it achieved its independence in the early 19th century.
Contribution of Muslim Scientists
The process of scientific revolution didn't come to a pause with the demise of the Greek civilization. This noble task was carried on after them, by the Muslims of Arabia and Persia (modern day Iran and Iraq). Important figures among the Muslim scientists are: Bu Ali Sina, Al Khwarizmi, Omar Al Khayyam, Al Razi, Ibn e Nafees and Jabir bin Hayan. Muslims carried on the work of expanding the bounds of scientific world known to man for several centuries and science progressed at an astonishing rate during their time. Important contributions of Muslim scientists include:
- Islamic doctors described several diseases such as small pox and measles and challenged the classical Greek medical theory. Ibn e Sina (known with the name Avicenna in the west) wrote the book "Al Qanoon Fi Al Tib" ( Canon of medicine). Al Razi challenged the works of Galen on several fronts including the treatment of blood letting. Books written by Muslim biologists back then are still used for reference.
- Muslim mathematicians gathered the works of Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Greek scientists and went on to make innovations of their own. Al Khwarizmi is referred to as the inventor of Algebra and introduced methods of simplifying equations. Around 7th century, Muslim scientists introduced the Hindu-Arabic numerals to replace the Roman numeral system.
- Jabir bin Hayan is referred to as the " Father of Chemistry" who replaced "alchemy" which was the focus of scientists in those times, with modern day chemistry. He discovered various important processes such as distillation, sublimation and reduction. He designed several important equipment such as alembic and retort stand and created several important chemicals which are considered to be vital for most of modern day industrial reactions such as sulphuric and nitric acids.
- Ibn e Haytham rejected the Greek ideas about vision and suggested modern day theories regarding vision. He argued that different objects scattered light in different directions, making them look different. He also worked on the mathematics of refraction and reflection and argued that it must be consistent with the anatomy of eye. Ibn e Sahi discovered the law of refraction known as Snell's law. Muslim scientists also made researches on several eye diseases and wrote several books regarding the surgical treatment of eye disorders.
During the time of Abbasid Caliphate, 55% of the scientist population in the world was Muslim. However, after the Mongol Invasion, the Abbasid Caliphate broke up and the Muslims transferred their work to the Europeans who gave the scientific evolution its final touches.
After the Muslims, the Europeans carried on the the legacy of expanding the boundaries of scientific knowledge known to man. The European formulated most of the modern scientific theories and invented most of the present day instruments. Everyone is familiar with the names Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilee, and Thomas Elva Edison, but, there have been countless European scientists who played a vital role in revolutionizing the world. Major feats of European scientists include:
- Isaac Newton formulated several laws regarding mechanics, which include the concept of inertia and the laws of motion. He explained projectile motion in detail and discovered gravity and suggested his law of gravitation.
- Albert Einstein made marvelous discoveries in the field of physics. His mass-energy equation is still widely used. He challenged Newton's laws of gravitation and made further innovations and proposed his own law of gravitation.
- Galileo Galilee was the first person to have studied the skies with his telescope which was based on earlier telescopes but had a magnification power several times higher than the earlier models. He invented many mechanical devices other than the pump such as the hydro static balance.
- Jean-Francoise Pilatre de Rozier and François Laurent d'Arlandes on November 21, 1783, in Paris, France, in a balloon created by the Montgolfier brothers were the ones to have been the first men to have manned a non tethered hot air balloon. On December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright made four brief flights at Kitty Hawk with their first powered aircraft. The Wright brothers had invented the first successful airplane.
- Alexander Graham Bell is famous for having invented the first telephone. He also invented the metal detector and made several devices to aid the deaf in hearing such as the Audiometer. He performed several experiments regarding aeronautics and hydrofoils.
- Thomas Elva Edison is widely known as the inventor of light bulb. His other inventions include the phonograph, Motion Picture and the ElectroGraphic Vote Recorder.
- Luis Pasteur discovered that diseases were caused by bacteria and invented the first vaccine using weakened microbes. He also came up with the process of pasteurization, in which microbes were killed by heating the beverages. Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, which was the first antibiotic, and has saved millions of life and is still widely used. Joseph Lister introduced the process of sterilization of medical instruments.
- Marie Curie, a towering figure in physics and chemistry, was the one to discover radioactive elements polonium and radium.
- In 1816, Robert Stirling invented the first Heat engine in human history. This engine has been used to drive cars and trains and for various mechanical purposes.
- Neil Bohr and Rutherford carried several experiments regarding the structure of atoms. Bohr proposed several theories regarding spectra and the Quanta.
If I start mentioning all the inventions and discoveries carried out by the European scientists, than it would require me to write another article and I might still miss a ton. Europeans greatly revolutionized the world. This scientific revolution hasn't stopped yet and with every passing day, there are yet innovations being made, new theories being discovered and older, defective ones being rejected. There is still a lot that man has yet to learn. This journey might take eternities before man reaches his destination. With each generation, we have created devices which are more efficient, more portable, and easier to use than the older ones. I would have loved to keep on discussing the evolution of science, but as I' ve been typing for hours and it is 3:am in the morning overhere, I think its about time I end this article.
Umair on May 19, 2019:
A very informative article Thanks.