The history of science is the study of the historical development of science and scientific knowledge, including both the natural sciences and social sciences. (The history of the arts and humanities are termed as the history of scholarship.) From the 18th century through late 20th century, the history of science, especially of the physical and biological sciences, was often presented in a progressive narrative in which true theories replaced false beliefs. More recent historical interpretations, such as those of Thomas Kuhn, portray the history of science in more nuanced terms, such as that of competing paradigms or conceptual systems in a wider matrix that includes intellectual, cultural, economic and political themes outside of science.
Science is a body of empirical, theoretical, and practical knowledge about the natural world, produced by scientists who emphasize the observation, explanation, and prediction of real world phenomena. Historiography of science, in contrast, often draws on the historical methods of both intellectual history and social history. However, the English word scientist is relatively recent—first coined by William Whewell in the 19th century. Previously, people investigating nature called themselves natural philosophers.
While empirical investigations of the natural world have been described since classical antiquity (for example, by Thales, Aristotle, and others), and scientific methods have been employed since the Middle Ages (for example, by Ibn al-Haytham, and Roger Bacon), the dawn of modern science is often traced back to the early modern period, during what is known as the Scientific Revolution that took place in 16th- and 17th-century Europe. Scientific methods are considered to be so fundamental to modern science that some consider earlier inquiries into nature to be pre-scientific. Traditionally, historians of science have defined science sufficiently broadly to include those inquiries.