www.sciencetimeline.net presents
 
marks in the evolution of western thinking about nature
 
Home PagePrehistory through 16501651 through 18651866 through 19251926 through 19601961 through 2000BibliographyIndexLinks
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            "The past only exists insofar as it is present in the records of today.  And what those records are is determined by what questions we ask.  There is no other history than that" (Wheeler 1982:24).

           "Kant...accepted the notion of things-in-themselves existing independently of any knowledge....  As his starting point [he took it] that any specific knowledge we claim to have of such and such an external object is obtained through our senses, [and] hence is at best only indirect and questionable....  What we know directly and with certainty is therefore only the set of our ideas.  [For example,] the very notion of causality [is] an a priori mode of human understanding," in other words, an idea (d'Espagnat 1995:5-7).

           "The wave function of quantum mechanics just describes our knowledge about the system and not the state of the system, in the same way as the Boltzmann equation tells us nothing about the actual state of the system, but just something about the probable outcomes of a measurement" (Cercignani 1998:119).

           "By dissolving Newton's absolute space and time into a network of relationships, general relativity takes a first step away from the notion that the coherence of the world lies outside of it" (Smolin 1997:240). In fact, Einstein said, "Time and space are modes by which we think and not conditions in which we live" (quoted in Forsee 1963:81).

           "A great truth is a truth whose opposite is also a great truth" (Bohr, quoted in Rees et al. 1974:297).  For example, "viewing a thing from outside, considering its relations of action and reaction with other things, it appears as matter.  Viewing it from inside, looking at its immediate character as feeling, it appears as consciousness" (Peirce 1892:353). And, "although all inertial systems are equivalent, according to the mechanics of Galileo and Newton as well as to that of Einstein's special relativity, one can always find a privileged system defined by the fact that from within it the observer sees an isotropic expansion of the universe about him" (Cercignani 1998:111).

           "Advances in cosmology and black holes physics lend new emphasis to some of the most remarkable consequences of Einstein's standard theory:...nature conserves nothing; there is no constant of physics that is not transcended; or, in a word, mutability is a law of nature" (Wheeler 1979:).

           "The reality of things consists in their persistent forcing themselves upon our recognition.  If a thing has no such persistence, it is a mere dream.  Reality, then, is persistence, is regularity" (Peirce c.1897:358).

            "An evolution is a series of events that in itself is purely physical,--a set of necessary occurrences in the world of space and time.  An egg develops into a chick; a poet grows up from infancy; a nation emerges from barbarism; a planet condenses from a fluid state, and develops the life that for millions of years makes it so wonderous a place.  Look upon all these things descriptively, and you shall see nothing but matter moving instant after instant, each containing in its full description the necessity of passing over into the next.  Nowhere will there be, for descriptive science, any genuine novelty or any discontinuity admissible.  But look at the whole appreciatively, historically, synthetically, as a musician listens to a symphony, as a spectator watches a drama.  Now you shall have seen, in phenomenal form, a story" (Royce 1892:425).

ScienceTimeline.net continues to be a great education and learning resource for individuals who wish to educate themselves on the history of modern science. --Dalloway-School.com.

Despite the title tag 'science timeline,' this is not meant to include all science, that is to say all knowledge, rather just the knowledge which people have accumulated--in the West--about the things over which they have, as yet, little control. Nor is it a site that will help you become educated in those fields. This is the 'nature' to which I refer.  It includes the traditional 'exact' sciences, mathematics, and the philosophy of science and it excludes art and society and the thinking about many other things.  On the other hand, new layers of consciousness, for example, certain moments in the creation of representational and abstract painting and of historical writing, are included as important marks in the evolution of thinking about nature.

This remains a work in progress; your comments and suggestions are invited.

I would like to acknowledge with gratitude the helpful comments of Frederick Ted Castle, Timothy Macdonald, and David Park at various earlier stages of this endeavor.  Also, and more especially, I am grateful for the hospitable policy of the Library of the University of Virginia and the generosity of their science libraries' staffs.