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The History of Physics


In order to attempt to trace the origins of the modern science that we now refer to

as “physics,” we must begin with the origin of the term itself. Taken from the Greek

word “physika” meaning growth or nature, physics most obviously began as the

intelligent study of the human environment (Webster 393). From superstition and

religious practices, the foundation of all other sciences was born. These concepts have

subsequently grown into what we regard today as physics.

It can be easily argued that the earliest evidence of mankind’s scientific

assessment of the physical world can be traced to the Babylonians. In all

probability, the Babylonians had the first written language (Neugebauer 7). If for no

other reason then these written records, we consider Babylonians to exhibit the first

known efforts to understand things in a scientific method.

The ancient Babylonians developed standards of weights and measures to ensure

fair trade. They implemented a system of counting that was in many ways superior to our

present system. Ancient Babylonians are credited with originating the studies of the sun,

moon and stars that we base our calendars on to this present day (Spangenburg 5). Most

important to this discussion of the origins of modern physics is the fact that some ancient

Babylonian math tablets show that the Babylonians had ideas about Pythagoras’ Theorem

one-thousand years before Pythagoras lived.

Archeological evidence certainly supports that physics as an intelligent, scientific

study of matter and energy dates back to the earliest existences of human civilization. As

long as human beings have been organizing themselves, t...


... middle of paper ...


...sity Press,1985

Crombie, A. C., The History of Science From Augustine To Galileo. New York: Dover
Publications, 1995

Goldstein, Thomas, Dawn of Modern Science. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1988

Lindberg, David C., The Beginnings of Western Science The European Tradition in
Philosophical, Religious and Institutional Context, 600B.C. to A.D. 1450.
Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1992

Neugebauer, O[tto], The Exact Sciences in Antiquity. New York: Dover Publications,
Inc. 2ed, 1969

Spangenburg, Ray and Diane K. Moser, The History of Science From 1895 to 1945. New
York: Facts on File, 1994

Spangenburg, Ray and Diane K. Moser, The History of Science From the Ancient Greeks
to the Scientific Revolution. New York: Facts on File, 1994

Webster’s New Explorer Dictionary and Thesaurus. Springfield: Merriam-Webster,1999


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