Skip to main content Skip to Search Box
Summary Article: science
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Any systematic field of study or body of knowledge that aims, through experiment, observation, and deduction, to produce reliable explanations of phenomena, with reference to the material and physical world.

History Activities such as healing, star-watching, and engineering have been practised in many societies since ancient times. Pure science, especially physics (formerly called natural philosophy), had traditionally been the main area of study for philosophers. The European scientific revolution between about 1650 and 1800 replaced speculative philosophy with a new combination of observation, experimentation, and rationality.

Philosophy of science Today, scientific research involves an interaction between tradition, experiment and observation, and deduction. The subject area called philosophy of science investigates the nature of this complex interaction, and the extent of its ability to gain access to the truth about the material world. It has long been recognized that induction from observation cannot give explanations based on logic. In the 20th century Karl Popper described scientific method as a rigorous experimental testing of a scientist's ideas or hypotheses (see hypothesis). The origin and role of these ideas, and their interdependence with observation, have been examined, for example, by the US thinker Thomas S Kuhn, who places them in a historical and sociological setting.

Sociology of science The sociology of science investigates how scientific theories and laws are produced, and questions the possibility of objectivity in any scientific endeavour. One controversial point of view is the replacement of scientific realism with scientific relativism, as proposed by Paul K Feyerabend. Questions concerning the proper use of science and the role of science education are also restructuring this field of study.

Branches of science Science is divided into separate areas of study, such as astronomy, biology, geology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics, although more recently attempts have been made to combine traditionally separate disciplines under such headings as life sciences and earth sciences. These areas are usually jointly referred to as the natural sciences. The physical sciences comprise mathematics, physics, and chemistry. The application of science for practical purposes is called technology. Social science is the systematic study of human behaviour, and includes such areas as anthropology, economics, psychology, and sociology.

One area of contemporary debate is whether the social-science disciplines are actually sciences; that is, whether the study of human beings is capable of scientific precision or prediction in the same way as natural science is seen to be.

Employment in science Some 595,000 people were employed in science, technology, and mathematics in the UK in 1993; about 170,000 of them in computing.


Progress and the Idea of Perfectability

Science and Religion


Andy Darvill's Science Site

Bad Science

BBC Online Science

BBC Science

Bizarre Stuff you Can Make in your Kitchen

Discovery Channel

4,000 Years of Women in Science

Gondar Design Science: GCSE Subjects

Invention Dimension!

Mad Scientist Network

Museum of Science

Museum of the History of Science

Natural History Museum

New Scientist

Reeko's Mad Scientist Lab


Science Club

Science Jokes Archive

Science Museum

Why Files

You can with Beakman and Jax

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.

Related Articles

Full text Article Physics
Bloomsbury Thesaurus

Classical physics has been superseded by quantum theory: quantum theory is verified by experiments. Experiments must be described in terms...

Full text Article Physics
Bloomsbury Guide to Human Thought

Physics (Greek, ‘about nature’) is humankind's attempt at understanding the laws of nature. It is our quest to find the physical...

Full text Article Physics
Illustrated Dictionary of Science, Andromeda

Originally, the knowledge of natural things (=natural science); now, the science dealing with the interaction of Matter and Energy (but...

See more from Credo