"The Ages of Science"?

Are there identifiable “Ages of Science”? There is something that seems to be accepted as the Age of Discovery, but that mainly had to do with exploration of the globe. I’m looking for science. I’m thinking there might be three or four Great Ages/Eras of Science.

Any help is much appreciated. Thanks.

Well, the stone age, bronze age, iron age distinctions are descriptions of the technology used for tool making during those periods. Sort of.

Possibly the Age of Natural Philosophy (when “science” was in its infancy…Newton, the Royal Society, etc), the Industrial Age (science as the mother of industry), the Atomic Age, the Space Age, the Information Age?

The Rennaisance and The Enlightenment both come to mind.

There’s a bunch of them, depending on the culture you’re considering.

Old Babylonian period in mathematics, early second millennium BCE. Development of base-60 place-value number system and computation into advanced algorithmic system for solving a wide variety of mensuration, geometry, and what we would call algebra problems.

Late Babylonian period in astronomy, late first millennium BCE. Invention of sophisticated predictive mathematical astronomy using hundreds of years’ worth of recorded observations, periodic algorithms for predicting eclipses and other celestial phenomena, development of prototype of 360-degree circle* and coordinate systems for celestial position measurement, etc. Also included invention of horoscopic astrology, which nowadays we might not consider a scientific achievement but which was a HUGE driver and support system for the practice of quantitative science throughout several linked Eurasian civilizations for the next two thousand years.

Hellenistic period in Greek science, about 350 BCE-200 CE. Combined some Babylonian and Egyptian disciplines with Hellenic philosophical inquiries in a sustained burst of amazing scientific productivity. Galen, Euclid, Archimedes, Eratosthenes, Heron of Alexandria, Ptolemy, dozens of others, need I say more?

Gupta Era in India, early/middle first millennium CE. Included sophisticated mathematics such as algebra of signed quantities based on decimal place-value number system, plane trigonometry of sines and mathematics of transfinite quantities, ingenious computational methods in astronomy, developments in medicine and surgery, the expansion of rigorous theories of grammar that inspired the development of modern phonetics and linquistics by 19th-century Western Indologists, and many others.

Islamic Golden Age or Islamic Renaissance, about 9th-13th centuries CE. Immense multicultural scientific synthesis on a scale unsurpassed till the European Renaissance, building on Hellenistic and Indian mathematics, astronomy, medicine, philosophy and other disciplines. Major state-funded scientific research and engineering projects including the building of observatories and the establishment of teaching hospitals and institutions that became the prototypes of the medieval universities. Names like al-Khwarizmi, ibn al-Haytham, al-Biruni, Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, ibn Sina, a whole bunch of superstars who made crucial contributions in science and technology.

Twelfth-century Renaissance in the Latin West, early second millennium CE. Translations of Islamic scientific texts, integration of Islamic and classical learning with medieval Western philosophy, emergence of the great European universities. Roger Bacon, William of Ockham, Buridan, Oresme, you get the picture.

Renaissance, Scientific Revolution, Industrial Revolution, mid- to late second millennium CE in Europe: these are better known and you can find abundant information about them. But they were by no means the first periods of significant development in science.

Oh, and I left out ancient Egypt, other epochs in India, and China entirely, but there was a lot going on there that would make it into any reasonably comprehensive list of important ages of science. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any good introductory but comprehensive overview of the history of science as a whole in the great literate civilizations from earliest antiquity to the modern period, but somebody really should write one.

  • Huh, I’m reminded that that was the first subject I ever posted to the SDMB about. Ou sont les neiges d’antan?..

I’ve never seen an “Age of Science” mentioned, but I might have just missed it. I would say that it should begin with the discovery of the scientific method, roughly the time of Galileo, though we might push it back to Bacon.

I’d specifically not consider the Hellenistic period an age of science. Though they explored scientific topics, and wished to understand the world, they did it in a very different way from the way science is done today, and therefore seldom got the right answer. When they converged on an answer, it was usually by an argument from authority: if Aristotle said it, it must be right. Even when they got something more or less correct, like atomic theory, it was for the wrong reasons.

I think you’re confusing actual Hellenistic science with a popular caricature of medieval Aristotelianism in western Europe many centuries later, and grossly underestimating its actual achievements.

There was fuck-all reliance on arguments from authority in, for example, Euclid’s geometry demonstrations, or Eratosthenes’ determination of terrestrial latitude, or Ptolemy’s theories of cartographic projection, or Archimedes’ results in mechanics, or Ptolemy’s determination of solar eccentricity. Yes, all those scientists worked with their culturally predominant assumptions about the basic nature of matter and space, hence, e.g., their use of the principles of geocentrism and the division of the four elements. But there’s nothing intrinsically unscientific about that, any more than it was unscientific for Newton to work with the assumptions of Euclidean space and physical determinism that were predominant in his own day, rather than singlehandedly discovering general relativity and quantum electrodynamics.

Thanks for all the replies, especially the latter ones. What I was asking (and I think I have my answer) was not so much were their periods when a lot of scientific discovery occurred, but if there were 3 or 4 times where it was so rich that they’re commonly referred to as, i.e., The First/Second/Third/Fourth Age of Science. Or something like that. It appears, from the answers from some learned Dopers, that this is not the case. I was hoping it were, but at least I now know. Ignorance fought.

Thank you, all.

Oh, I see. No, the only period with that brand name right on the box, so to speak, would be the so-called “Scientific Revolution” of the sixteenth-seventeenth centuries.

You can invent any periodization you want and if you can get enough people to use it, it becomes valid. Extra credit if some of your supporters write popular textbooks and get the next generation in on your scheme.

Ultimately, of course, periodizations have absolutely no physical reality: Lives straddle them, political systems rise and fall independently of them, and the people living in them have no idea they’re in, for example, the Age of Biology and better make with the pipettes if they know what’s good for them. About the most that can be said for periodization systems is that they’re better than arbitrarily dividing time into decades and expecting everything to change over every ten years.

Prediction: We are exiting the modern era of science. Support for scientific research is declining, popular understanding of scientific matters is going (or has gone) down the tubes, and people are not interested in evidence.

I hope I am wrong and will not be around to see it, in any case.

Is this right? What do you base this claim on?

Anyone else believe that?

Every generation thinks its generation is the last of something, the next generation is worse, and after the next the rains will come and the abused Earth will shudder and all sins will be shriven in flame. The attraction of the idea is its only foundation.

I’ve read quite a bit of it, and have read a Roman essay on atomic theory, from the time of the Republic. My issue is not with their assumptions, but with their method of reasoning. When they did do actual experiments, they did a good job, and they excelled in mathematics, where the process of logical reasoning works without experimentation. But for the most part Greek “science” was truly natural philosophy.