Literature Review Chapter: Scientific Revolution &amp Management of Western Civilization

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¶ … Scientific Method, Scientific Revolution and Scientific Management of Western Civilization

The quest for knowledge for knowledge's sake is an inherent part of mankind, and with this knowledge we are able to progress as a race through scientific advancements, in the form of medicine and technology to name but two. One of the most famous figures who pushed knowledge for knowledge's sake was Galileo, who discovered, to the horror of the Church, that the Earth is not the centre of the universe. So important was Galileo that he has been called the "father of modern observational astronomy" (Singer 217). The Scientific Revolution itself was a major turning point in human understanding of the world, but rather than being confined to a single area or group, knowledge has been sought and gained all around the world. Indeed, the history of science in early cultures predates the science of the Middle Ages. However, rather than being a developed scientific method, the early cultures' science was protoscience, or the philosophical disciplines which later served as the basis for rigorous science, such as alchemy becoming chemistry.

1. Mesopotamia

The Mesopotamian people always had an unshakable quest for knowledge. Right from their beginnings as a race, which began around 3500 B.C. In what is now Iraq, they kept thorough and detailed observations of the world with numerical data. For instance, a concrete tablet of Pythagoras' law has been found and traced back to as early as the eighteenth century B.C., which is a date far earlier than Pythagoras himself was even born (Hoffman 18).

The Mesopotamian people did not stick solely to mathematical advances though, and were actually responsible for many things which we not only use on a daily basis but are wholly necessary for our society in its current state. One notable example is the invention of the wheel in 3500 B.C., which took transportation to a whole new level and allowed the development of all forms of transport used today, from bicycles and trains to cars and airplanes (Ancient Mesopotamia: Science & Inventions). According to the same source, the Mesopotamians also invented the seeder plow which "revolutionized agriculture by carrying out the tasks of seeding and ploughing simultaneously." What is particularly interesting about the development of the seeder plow was that the Mesopotamians believed the image of the plow could be seen in the stars, which is how they came to build it. Moreover, they "discovered that by observing the movements of celestial bodies they could measure time, which was key for planting crops and for holding religious festivals. Their astronomical observations still aid today's scientists."

The "astronomical observations" of the Mesopotamians are not only used by today's scientists, but all of us. Our entire concept of days and periods of time are from the Mesopotamians, such as a week being defined as every seven days, the lunar month and the solar year. Indeed, even the names of the days are named after the celestial bodies that were at the time believed to revolve around the Earth: the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn (Scofield). Scofield also made the point that the Mesopotamians agricultural success was only permitted to happen because of their development of astronomy, astrology and the calendar as these could be measured to deduce the optimum time for growing crops and harvesting. What is particularly interesting, though, is that the Mesopotamian people considered astronomy and astrology to be the same thing. Mesopotamian astronomy actually later became more astrology-based, and rather than distancing itself from superstitions it studied the stars to decide omens and horoscopes. Despite the persistent attitude towards such practices, the Mesopotamians knew what they were doing. Some 1500 years later, Al-Batani used the collected horoscope and omen information to calculate the Earth's axis, citing it as being 54.5 arc-seconds per annum. The value currently placed by scientists is 49.8 arc-seconds per annum. Clearly then, the information they collected was incredibly accurate. So accurate in fact that historian Asger Aaboe stated all subsequent varieties of scientific astronomy, in the Hellenistic world, in India, in Islam, and in the West -- if not indeed all subsequent endeavor in the exact sciences -- depend upon Babylonian astromony in decisive and fundamental ways.

It can also be said that the Mesopotamians devised the origins of philosophy, as their wisdom incorporated such thoughts as ethics, whilst their reasoning and rationality was developed to extend far beyond empirical observation (Buccellati 35-47). Their philosophy also laid the foundations for their revised approach to astronomy in the eighth and seventh centuries B.C., as the astronomers began to study philosophy to try to gain an understanding of the early universe, combining their predictive planetary systems with an internal logic. As this approach was important not only to astronomy but also the philosophy of science, it has been called the first scientific revolution by a number of scholars (Brown).

The Mesopotamians were also instrumental to developments in medicine and technology. In the medical field, they introduced concepts and procedures that remain the main part of modern-day treatment, such as prescriptions, diagnosis, physical examinations and prognosis. The Diagnostic Handbook, the single most extensive medical text from the Mesopotamians, explained methods of therapy and etiology as well as various symptoms of illness and subsequent diagnosis and prognosis (Horstmanshoff, Stol and Tilburg 97-98).

For technological innovation, the achievements of the Mesopotamians were prolific. Inventions accredited to them range from metal and copper-working, which is scarcely surprising as they were amongst the very first groups of the Bronze age, to water storage and irrigation as well as textile weaving and glass making (Faiella 8-31).

There can be no doubt therefore that the Mesopotamians were people of vast intelligence, creating ideas and objects that not only helped them, but have remained in use over the millennia and continue to be an integral part of our societal needs.

2. Egypt

Like the Mesopotamians, the Egyptians were responsible for making great developments that revolutionized science in their time but have, in some way or another, remained in use to this day. One notable example is the Egyptian hieroglyphs, which provided the basis of the Phoenician alphabet and thus laid the foundations for such languages as Greek, Latin, Arabic and Hebrew (Jensen 256). However this was not known for sure until the pictographic Proto-Sinaitic alphabet was discovered. The Phoenician language, as the first widespread phonetic script, spread relatively rapidly around the world thanks to the Phoenician merchant sailors, introducing the language to various parts of Europe and North Africa (Daniels 94-95). Latter-day historians have subsequently found Phoenician inscriptions around the world, from Lebanon to Carthage, as well as indications of its usage in Egypt (Wilford). Wilford also notes in his article that "the writing…with Egyptian influences, has been dated to somewhere between 1900 and 1800 B.C., two or three centuries earlier than previously recognized uses of a nascent alphabet." Such a find allowed scientists to trace the evolution of language from the pictorial hieroglyphs to alphabetic writing, which originated as "a kind of shorthand by which fewer than 30 symbols, each one representing a single sound, could be combined to form words for a wide variety of ideas and things." Thus, any lingering doubt about the influence of Egypt on developed language has since been discarded.

The Egyptians also helped develop an understanding of physiology and medicine, with one of the very first medical documents still in existence being the Edwin Smith papyrus. The papyrus is the sole surviving copy of an Ancient Egyptian textbook examining trauma surgery and was the oldest surgical document. The papyrus shows remarkable knowledge for a primitive culture, demonstrating an understanding of major organs such as the heart, liver, kidneys and bladder as well as the recognition that the heart was connected to the blood vessels.

According to the New York Academy of Medicine, the Papyrus dates back to the sixteenth century B.C. And the content is from materials predating it by a thousand years (Wilkins 240-244). Owing to it attempting to describe and analyze the brain, it could be considered as the roots of neuroscience. Aside from the workings of the brain, the papyrus, like the Mesopotamians, utilized such concepts as examination, treatment, prognosis and diagnosis, all of which are still standard practice today (Britannica). The aforementioned components show startling parallels to the basic scientific empirical method and according to Lloyd the Egyptian works played a very significant role in this methodology being developed.

Thus, it can be deduced that the Egyptians played an enormous role in the development of both language and medicine, with their advancements in both still being used and revered today.

3. Greek

The impact of Greece on the civilized world can be neither denied nor understated. The history of science in Greece was born through its philosophy of the search for practical knowledge, focusing mainly on reason and inquiry. In this way, philosophers developed lines of thought and reasoning pertaining to ethics and morality on how we can lead good lives… [END OF PREVIEW]

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