A Short History of Science

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

A SHORT HISTORY OF SCIENCE

CHAPTER I
EARLY CIVILIZATIONS

'The night of time far surpasseth the day' said Sir Thomas Browne; and it is the task of Archaeology to light up some parts of this long night. -- Charles Eliot Norton.

THE ANTIQUITY AND ANCESTRY OF MAN . -- It is now generally agreed that men of some sort have been living upon this earth for many thousand years. It is also, though perhaps less generally, agreed that mankind has descended from the lower animals, precisely as the men of to-day have descended from men that lived and died ages ago.

The history of science, however, is not so much concerned with the ancestry or origin of mankind as with its antiquity; for while science is a comparatively recent achievement of the human race, its roots may be traced far back in practices and processes of prehistoric and primitive times. Mankind is very old, but science so far as we know had no existence before the beginning of history, i.e. about 6000 years ago, and until 2500 years ago it occurred if at all only in rudimentary form. The best opinion of to-day holds that man has been on this earth at least 250,000 years, and in spite of wide variations is of one zoölogical "kind" or "species" and three principal types or "races," viz., white or Caucasian, yellow or Mongolian, and black or Ethiopian (Negroid). These great races are believed to have had a common ancestry in a more primitive race, and this in turn to have descended from the lower animals. It is furthermore held that there was prob-

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