A History of Science: In Five Volumes - Vol. 1

A History of Science: In Five Volumes - Vol. 1

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A History of Science: In Five Volumes - Vol. 1

A History of Science: In Five Volumes - Vol. 1

Read FREE!

Excerpt

TO speak of a prehistoric science may seem like a contradiction of terms. The word prehistoric seems to imply barbarism, while science, clearly enough, seems the outgrowth of civilization; but rightly considered, there is no contradiction. For, on the one hand, man had ceased to be a barbarian long before the beginning of what we call the historical period; and, on the other hand, science, of a kind, is no less a precursor and a cause of civilization than it is a consequent. To get this clearly in mind, we must ask ourselves: What, then, is science? The word runs glibly enough upon the tongue of our every-day speech, but it is not often, perhaps, that they who use it habitually ask themselves just what it means. Yet the answer is not difficult. A little attention will show that science, as the word is commonly used, implies these things: first, the gathering of knowledge through observation; second, the classification of such knowledge, and through this classification, the elaboration of general ideas or principles. In the familiar definition of Herbert Spencer, science is organized knowledge.

Now it is patent enough, at first glance, that the veriest savage must have been an observer of the phenomena of nature. But it may not be so obvious . . .

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