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History of science and technology

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The history of science and technology (HST) is a field of history which examines how humanity's understanding of science and technology has changed over the millennia, and how this understanding has allowed us to generate new technologies. This field of history also studies the cultural, economic, and political impacts of scientific innovation.

The advent of modern mathematical science is generally believed to have begun with the Hellenic Pythagoreans; although, it would probably be a mistake to believe that modern science was a "Greek invention". Rather, the Greek influence on mathematics and scientific investigation has been better documented than the contributions of other ancient civilizations.

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Challenge to orthodoxy A persistent theme in the history of science and technology has been the poor reception so often given to those who espouse ideas contrary to the prevailing orthodoxy. The story of Galileo is a case in point. Other natural philosophers and astronomers, especially those in areas closely influenced by religious orthodoxy, were reluctant to "check" their theories by looking through the newly-invented telescope as Galileo did. Even in modern times, with the near-univeral acceptance of scientific method and with huge research budgets from government, academia and industry, unpopular or offensive ideas are often given short shrift.

There is controversy over what the lesson of the Galileo story is. While some see Galileo's saga as an example of the arrogance of authority, others argue that rejection of new ideas today cannot be directly compared with examples such as Galileo. Theories developed and tested by following the currently accepted principles of scientific investigation closely, as Galileo did, are generally accepted however surprising they may be, whereas ideas that make yet unproven and seemingly unjustified assumptions are termed pseudoscience.

Contribution to knowledge Even so, after enough time, even the most unpopular idea can become a new scientific orthodoxy, if it can survive experimental test satisfactorily. For example, the germ theory of disease has become so prevalent that pasteurization and Listerine are household words, even if Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister are not so well remembered.

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Social science


General Science and Technology

Ancient technological objects

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