A Short History of Science

By W. T. Sedgwick; H. W. Tyler | Go to book overview

PREFACE

THIS book is the outgrowth of a lecture course given by the authors for several years* to undergraduate classes of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the chief aims of the course being to furnish a broad general perspective of the evolution of science, to broaden and deepen the range of the students' interests and to encourage the practice of discriminating scientific reading.

There are of course excellent treatises on the history of particular sciences, but these are as a rule addressed to specialists, and concern themselves but little with the important relations of the sciences one to another or to the general progress of civilization. The present work aims to furnish the student and the general reader with a concise account of the origin of that scientific knowledge and that scientific method which, especially within the last century, have come to have so important a share in shaping the conditions and directing the activities of human life. The specialist in any branch of science is finding it more and more difficult to keep himself informed, even to the indispensable minimum extent, as to current progress in his own field, -- and hence his frequent neglect of all other branches than his own.

It may reasonably be expected that some attention to the history of science on the part of students will give them a better understanding of the broad tendencies which have determined the general course of scientific progress, will enlarge their appreciation of the work of successive generations, and tend to guard them against falling into those ancient pitfalls which have bordered the paths of progress. In the words of Mach: --

There is no grander nor more intellectually elevating spectacle than that of the utterances of the fundamental investigators in their gigantic power.

____________________
*

By the senior author since 1889.

-v-

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