TheHistory of Physics Therehave been many contributors to physics throughout history. Physics is alsodefined as the branch of science concerned with the nature and properties ofenergy and matter. Physics, before the 19th century was also knownas “Natural Philosophy”. Natural Philosophy’s history dates to the mid 600 BCEwhen Socratic philosophers were curious about how the universe and world works.
During the mid-600 to 700 BCE, a man named Tales of Miletus believed thateverything happens because of a natural cause, not because of myths orreligion. He was also known as the “The Father of Science” since science ismore of a rational understanding of nature rather than a religious ormythological explanation. However even before his time, during late 200 BCE to mid-400BCE, many philosophers have already contemplated ideas of physics.
Some ofthese philosophers include: Democritus, Epicurus, and Aristarchus of Samos. Therewere many people responsible for the advancement of Physics. Some includeWilliam Gilbert, Galileo, Evangelista Torricelli, Von Guericke, Robert Boyle, andthe famous two: Aristotle and Isaac Newton. Thaleswas the first physicist and his theories gave the discipline its name.
He was regardedto the be the first physicists or philosopher by many others such as Aristotle.He believed that the world, although fashioned from many materials, was reallybuilt of only one element, water. The interaction of water between the three phasesof solid, liquid and gas gave materials different characteristics. This was thefirst explanation to take natural phenomena out of the realm of divineprovidence and into the realm of natural laws and explanations. In terms ofother contributions, he also made significant contributions to mathematics. He usedwhat we call now, geometry to calculate the size of pyramids and the distancesof ships from the shoreline.
BeforeThales, few of the persuasive Greek thinkers during the mid-200 to mid-400 BCEperiod were Leucippus, Democritus, and Epicurus, whom set forward thepossibility that matter consisted of atoms and various objects consists of adifferent combination of these atoms. Another rationalist was Aristarchus ofSamos (310-230 B.C.) who was the principal individual known to have suggestedthat the earth rotates once every year around the sun, as opposed to thenatural clarification that the sun turns around the earth. He additionally wantedto compute relative sizes for the earth, moon and sun. During this timehowever, it was not viewed as important by the Greeks to test such theories; mostof them were searching for was a clarification of the world in view of fewphilosophical standards.The Greeks spent mucheffort wondering about the development of the sun, moon, planets and stars.
Since this development moreover expected an important part in the change ofpresent day science, it justifies discussing in some detail. The stars are sodistant from us that their relative movements can’t be seen except for overtimescales of a couple of hundreds of years. Subsequently, to an eyewitness onearth, the stars give off an impression of being settled in an immense circle,concentric with the earth. This circle rotates at consistent speed about the earthat a rate of only more than once in twenty-four hours, coming back to nearly asimilar position at a given time of day once consistently.
Correspondingly, thesun and moon seem to lie on circles, which rotate about the earth once everyday and once every 27 days, separately. The movements of the planets seemedvery confusing to a natural eyewitness. We now realize that the planets are allon circles with individual separations from the sun, and orbital periods that werelonger the more distant the planet is from the sun. For instance, Venus,Earth’s closest and brightest planetary neighbor, has a time of 225 days,contrasted with Earth’s 365. This implies as Venus influences its yearlyjourney during that time to sky as saw from Earth, it at times moves in reversewith respect to the settled stars, in “retrograde movement”, as itscircle conveys it inverse to the heading the earth is moving.
Aristotle is generallycredited with providing the most comprehensive of such explanations. Hebelieved that there were four unique elements: earth, water, air and fire. Eachhad its natural place determined by its weight. Earth, being the heaviest, wantedto be at the center of the universe. Water was above the earth, with air abovewater, and then fire. This order makes much sense. Solid (“earthy”)bodies sink in water; if you release air under water the air bubbles to thesurface; and flames leap upward during burning.
The farther a body was from theearth, the more perfect it became. Hence the moon was the least perfect of theheavenly bodies, as could be seen by its uneven appearance, while the fixedstars were the most perfect of all, and were composed of a fifth element (the”quintessence”) which had no weight at all. Interestingly certainlycontributed to the history of science with his methodology and empiricism, he hinderedthe progress of physics for many millennia. He made the fatal error of ifmathematical theory and the natural world did not overlap, a sign of hisoverreliance upon empiricism.
Aristotle attempted to explain ideas such asmotion and gravity with his theory of elements, an addition to ancient physicsthat also spread into alchemy and medicine.