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By BERNICE

stratcd hy

RNfSI

KOHN

THE
SCIENTIFIC

METHOD

THE
SCIENTIFIC

METHOD
by Bernice
illustrated

Prentice-Hall,

Kohn

by Ernest Crichlow
Inc.,

Englewood

Cliffs,

N.J

this

book

is

for

Raymond

Sacks

P-H books by Bernice Kohn:


Our Tiny Servants: Molds and Yeasts
Computers at Your Service
Everything Has a Size
Everything Has a Shape
The Peaceful Atom
Marvelous Mammals: Monotremes and Marsupials
other

The

Scientific

Method by Bernice Kohn

1964 by Bemice Kohn


All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this

book, or any portions thereof, in any form except for the


inclusion of brief quotations in a review. Library of
Congress Catalog Card Number: 64-13256 Printed in
the United States of America

J-79606
Prentice-Hall International, Inc.,

Sydney

London

Prentice-Hall of Aus-

Prentice-Hall of Canada, Ltd., Toronto


Prentice-Hall of India (Private) Ltd., New Delhi Prentice-Hall of
Japan, Inc., Tokyo Prentice-Hall de Mexico, S.A., Mexico City
tralia, Pty., Ltd.,

C641810

Contents
Done

You've

The Method

Experimental Science Begins

The

Little Beasties

Darwin and Evolution

The Wizard

Miracle Medicines

10

It!

12

Circulation of Blood

20

26

32

Key, a Kite and the Method

Old Method,
Index

71

of

44

Menlo Park

52

58

New World

64

38

:#'^...

You've

done
I

?J
Il^

it!

What makes

a scientist a scientist?

discover things?

perhaps.

Is it

Then why

luck?

Is it

How do

scientists

accident? Partly both,

make

doesn't just anyone

great

sci-

entific discoveries?

The answer

that a scientist has a certain

is

finding out things. Another

the scientist's
entific

way

of solving a

of the scientific

training of a scientist but


it.

used the

way

problem

In fact,

it's

scientific

method

is

is

is

the

you don't have

method, and

called the sci-

first

to

be a

scientist

method without even knowing

day, walking

it.

It

this:

home from

school,

you might have

heard a faint whimper from behind a bush.


gating,

step in the

very possible that you might have

could have happened like

One

for

of

method.

The use
to use

word

way

you found a tiny puppy, cold and

On

investi-

shivering. Be-

cause he looked lonely and miserable, you picked him

up and took him home.

He stopped shivering in the cozy bed that you made


for him but he still whined. You guessed that he was
hungry. But what does a small puppy eat? You didn't

know, so you had

to find out.

You

called everyone

you

knew who had

a dog to ask

what puppies

One

eat.

said hamburger, one

told

you something

said

milk and your best friend suggested

different.

Each one

cereal!

You decided that one of them was probably right.


You would have to find out which one.
You located some hamburger in the refrigerator and
put it down in front of the dog. He didn't eat it. You
poured some milk into a saucer but the puppy didn't
drink it. You tried to feed him cereal from a spoon, but
he turned

his

head away. And

You decided
eat,

that he

was because he

it

young to

eat

all

the time he cried.

must be hungry, so
couldn't. Perhaps

if

he wouldn't

he was

still

by himself. Maybe he needed to be fed from

a nursing bottle.

You ran next door and borrowed

baby

from your neighbor.

bottle

You

filled

the bottle with milk and put the nipple into

the puppy's mouth.

He began

to suck

it

was

Does

full

all

method?

and round, and the puppy

of this have anything to

You

right away.

held the bottle for him and in a few minutes his


belly

too

little

fell asleep.

do with the

scientific

You followed it! And many


early scientists followed the method exactly as you did,
without ever having heard of it! The scientific method is
simply the sensible way to go about solving a problem.
It

It

certainly does.

can be explained in

five steps. Let's see

what they

are.

If>l/

2
The
method

Before a scientist can begin to solve a problem, he


has to know exactly what the problem is. Sound simple?
Well,
it

it

isn't

always but

in the case of the

was.

The problem was how

The

first

hungry puppy

to feed him.

thing you did was to gather

all

the informa-

tion

you possibly could. You noticed that the puppy was

still

unhappy even though he was warm. You got

mation on feeding puppies from your friends.

had the

time,

If

you had

you probably would have gone

library to look for a

book on puppy

care. Or,

infor-

to the

you might

have taken the puppy to a veterinarian for advice. All of


this
is

adds up to the

first

step in the scientific method. It

observation coWecting

all

the facts you possibly can.

You thought over the facts and decided that one


them was probably correct. This is the second step
the scientific

method and

it is

of
in

called the hypothesis. That

means a guess based on the

facts

you have gathered

so far.

The

third step

is

to test the guess

what happens. This part


experiment.

You made

or guesses ) to see

of the scientific

method

three experiments

12

is

called

when you

fed

puppy hamburger, milk from a saucer, and cereal.


None of the experiments worked so you took the
fourth step. You developed a theory. A theory is a guess

the

based on the

The

fifth

results of the experimentation.

and

proof of the theory.


his scientific

good

knowledge

over again.

scientist

prove a theory. Sometimes he

to

wrong and then he has to


Your theory was proven quickly. The

finds out that his theory


start all

method is the
makes use of all of

the scientific

last step in

is

puppy drank the milk from a bottle and was satisfied, so


you knew that you had found the right way to feed him
you had solved the problem.

And
list

that's all there is to the scientific

method. Let's

the steps in order, so that they are perfectly clear.

1.

Observation:

collecting as

many

facts as pos-

sible.
2.

Hypothesis:

making a guess based on the


facts.

3.

Experiment:

4.

Theory:

testing the hypothesis.

the hypothesis which seems to be


correct after experiment.

5.

Proof:

the ability of the theory to stand

under any

test

think up.

13

which anyone

at all

up
can

Not every
time.

Very

every

scientist follows all five steps exactly,

often,

man carries on the unfinished work

one

He may read about someone else's observation and develop a new hypothesis on which he will conduct his own experiments. Or, he may hear of someone
else's experiment and form his own theory from the re-

of another.

sultand prove

it.

sometimes not for

many

knowing the

Just
isn't

This sometimes happens within days,

the whole story.

Scientists

Many

have

five steps of the scientific

You

lots of

have to know

also

it

tance.

what

it

and recognized
line,

it.

time were

made

The

scien-

the accident

came

all

When

At some point along the

is

how to think.

wasn't really accident.

thought and imagined.

along, he noticed

method

imagination and they use

of the great discoveries of

by "accident" only
tist

generations.

its

possible impor-

he probably made

The educated guess is


has a large amount of edu-

called an educated guess.

a guess, true enough, but

cation behind

it.

The

it

scientist has studied, read, noticed,

and thought. In other words, he has observed. His


"guess"

is

just a hypothesis

with perhaps a

little

than the usual amount of imagination thrown

The

earliest

craftsmen were

men

more

in.

of imagination but

not of science. Invention and discovery began in the

days before history.

When man
14

learned to use

fire,

he

made

a great discovery.

When

he fashioned the

spear from stone, he invented a weapon. These

veloped

The

but

skills

first

six

Men

de-

we would

call science

thousand years ago in Egypt and Meso-

observed the heavens and learned a great

deal about astronomy.

made

men

not think of them as scientists.

glimmerings of what

began about
potamia.

we do

first

They noted the

constellations

and

a calender based on the stars. These people were

limited in their discoveries because they did not experi-

ment. However, they did record what they learned so


that the

work could be carried on by

The Egyptians

also

others.

made some fine inventions,

ing the sundial and a water clock. But progress


slow.

includ-

was very

Three thousand years were to pass before a me-

chanical clock was invented!

Many

discoveries

India, Persia

were

also

made

and elsewhere. But by 500

become the center

of progress.

in early China,
B.C.,

Greece had

The Greeks were

great

They accomplished much with reason and


logic. They were also good observers.
The Greeks learned many things about the universe,
thinkers.

about medicine, and about mathematics. They

made
Some

some great discoveries and some great mistakes!


of the mistakes were so convincing that hundreds
years passed

by before anyone found out about them.


15

of

The Greeks

down

fell

as scientists

of their careful observation

because in spite

and thinking, they

didn't

experiment.

No one

thought

much about experiment

at all until a

book was written by an English philosopher. His name

was Francis Bacon and he lived from 1561

Bacon believed

and

that

that the best

periment.

knowledge comes from experience

way

to gain experience

is

through ex-

He is called the father of the scientific method.

Bacon completely abandoned the pure


totle

to 1626.

logic of Aris-

He stressed, instead, the


He also made a point of

and the other Greeks.

portance of experiment.

necessity of exploring any evidence that did not

imthe

seem

to agree with the theory being tested. This, of course,


is

an important part of the proof. In practicing the

last

step of the scientific method, every scientist tries as hard


as

he can to disprove

completely does he

his theory.

know

Only when he has

failed

for a fact that the theory

was

correct.

The publication of Bacon's method started the era of


modern science. Gone were the guesses based only on
what men thought to be true. From Bacon's day on, ideas
would be based on what men had actually found out to
be

true.

16

During the three hundred and


lived, there

fifty

years since

Bacon

have been more marvelous discoveries and

inventions than there were in


before. Let's look at

happened the

some

all

the thousands of years

of the wonderful things that

brilliant results of scientific thinking.

17

GALILEO

<
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Wt

J^

M^tt

Experimental
science begins
fc

^/

mgmmimtMik LIA.

The change from

the old methods to the scientific

method was not a sudden

one. There were a

few

experi-

menters even before Bacon's time.

Leonardo da Vinci, an ItaHan who lived from 1452

He was

1519, was notable.

a great artist and engineer

and performed many experiments with valuable


As early

as the 1580's, a Belgian,

great Greek, Aristotle,

speed that

is

stone.

had

The

fall

balls,

The

fall.

That

is,

But not

world had accepted

Stevin.

He

climbed to

him two

one ten times heavier than the other.

dropped them both

at the

ten times as fast as a one-

the top of a thirty foot tower and took with

leaden

began

said that bodies fall with a

entire civilized

this idea for centuries.

results.

Stevin,

in proportion to their weight.

ten-pound stone would

pound

Simon

speed with which things

to think about the

to

He

same time onto a board on

the ground and proved that the two weights hit at the

same time because only one sound was heard!


This experiment should have put an end to Aristotle's

theory but

it

didn't.

For one thing, the

results of Stevin's

experiment were published in Dutch and very few peo-

20

pie outside of Holland

knew

And

the language.

up an idea

other thing, people just didn't like to give


that they

had had

But other men

for an-

for so long.

in other countries continued to chal-

lenge the old ideas. According to the ancient astronomers, such as Aristotle, and the Egyptian, Ptolemy, the
earth

was the center

moved around

it.

of the

known

universe and the sun

In 1543, a Polish priest, Nicolas Coper-

nicus, published a

new

idea.

Copernicus said that the

sun was the center of the universe and that the earth

and other planets moved around


the

moon

He

it.

also

noted that

rotated around the earth. Almost no one be-

lieved him.

But
first

little

step

by

little,

men began

as

and reinforced

of the

was Galileo
and died

first

go beyond the

their observations with experi-

ments, they started to find out

One

to

how things

really

of the great experimental scientists

Galilei.

He was

in 1642. Galileo

born in

devoted

Pisa, Italy, in
his life to

the errors of the ancient philosophers. His

based on hard

When

was no equipment

Galileo himself built

verse,

1564

exposing

work was

facts.

there

he was eager

worked.

to

for his experiments,

what he needed. One

of the things

prove was Copernicus' theory of the uni-

which he

felt

sure

was
21

correct.

When

he heard

about a Dutchman

who had ground

things look larger, Galileo promptly

made

himself a telescope.

in the

world to see the

moon

as anything

and

valleys.

saw

He

to

make

work and

the

first

man

more than a

light.

observation,

was perfectly smooth. But


his telescope,

went

He was probably

make-believe face on a disk of

The Greeks, by

lenses to

had

said that the

moon

Galileo, experimenting with

moon was covered

that the

decided that

it

with

hills

must be another planet,

like the earth.

Galileo's telescope soon revealed other wonders.

saw four moons

circling

around Jupiter and he saw spots

He

on the face of the sun.


changed,

like the

As a

also

found that Venus

moon, from a crescent

and that the Milky

Way

He

was made up

result of his observations

leo established that the sun

to a full circle,

of a host of stars.

and experiments,

Gali-

was indeed the center of the

so-called universe.

Galileo also taught the world


falling bodies.

He had

much about

gravity and

probably never heard of Stevin's

experiment, but Galileo had the same idea and con-

ducted

his

own experiment

to

There were no skyscrapers


felt that

prove

it.

in those days,

and Galileo

the highest building he could find wouldn't be

high enough to really prove anything. But, he reasoned,

22

a slope

just the

is

same

as a height except that

out.

For the purpose of an experiment

fect

because the objects would

roll

it

it is

spread

would be

down

per-

slowly and

could be accurately timed.

And so Galileo took a beam twenty-two feet long and


made a smoothly polished groove in it. He ran brass
balls down the groove, timing each run with an Egyptian
water clock. As a result of
proof, Galileo finally

showed the world

was wrong about the speed


proved that
weight,

fell

all

that Aristotle

of falling bodies. In fact,

freely falling bodies,

the

and

his experiments, theory,

same distance

no matter what

in the

he

their

same amount

of

time.

By
also

the careful use of the scientific method, Galileo

found out much more about motion, gravity, pen-

dulums, sun spots, and the phases of the moon.

He

also

invented the thermometer.

were

Galileo's teachings

in conflict with the teachings

of the church in those days,


trial

and condemned

and

in

1633 he was put on

as a heretic. In order to save his

Hfe he was forced to say that his discoveries were false.

There

is

a popular story,

and

it

may

well be true, to

the effect that right after his "confession" that the earth

stood

still,

breath:

Galileo

"And

yet

it

was heard
does move."

23

to

murmur under

his

m
TO BODY

TO LUNGS

./>

FROM
LUNGS

^<=^

^;

Ik

FROM
BODY

//>

THE HEART

la

iH-

wi

^\v

WILLIAM

HARVEY

4
The
circulation

of blood

The story of
stretches over

the discovery

hundreds of years.

how blood circulates


Many men came close

to the truth and yet failed to reach

gators observed,

it.

Some

some even experimented but

until the scientific

investi-

it

wasn't

method was followed completely

that

the facts were known.

One

of the great medical writers of ancient times

Galen, a Greek

who

lived

from 129

to

199

a.d.

131 books and articles and 83 of them are

He

still

was

wrote
in ex-

istence!

Galen was very much interested

in the heart

and the

flow of blood. Unlike other Greeks of his time, he did a

few experiments, but only with animals, never with


humans.
Galen knew that the blood from the veins entered the
right

chamber

of the heart,

and

that the blood from the

chamber entered the arteries. But he also knew that


the chambers of the heart are separated by a wall called
left

the septum. Therefore, Galen concluded that a

little

blood must leak through the septum. That was his theory

but he never

tried to

prove

26

it.

Later writers studying Galen's work decided that the

blood swished back and forth. Some of them believed


that there

were two

different kinds of

blood one kind

in

the veins and another in the arteries.

In the middle of the sixteenth century, a Fleming,

Andreas Vesalius, pointed out that the septum of the


heart was thick and tough, and that blood could not possibly pass

through

it.

No one

paid any attention to him.

At around the same period, Michael Servetus, a


Spaniard

who worked

up with the idea


at

all.

could

France and Switzerland, came

Aristotle

move

left

it

chambers of the

had

heart, through the

said that only heavenly matter

in a circle.

Everything else had a beginning

and an end. In presenting


totle's ideas,

move back and forth


moved in a circle from

that blood did not

Servetus decided that

the right to the


lungs.

in

his

arguments against Aris-

Servetus unfortunately had a great deal to

say about religious matters. In 1553, he was


as a heretic

and burned

at the stake.

condemned

His writings were

burned with him.


There were other investigators,

too,

but they

made

mistakes and after what had happened to Servetus,


they were afraid to say too much.

It

wasn't until the sev-

enteenth century, in England, that the truth was found

and

safely spoken.

27

William Harvey was born in the English town of

He wanted

Folkestone in 1578.

1597 he went to study


finest

to

be a doctor, so

at the University of

in

Padua, the

medical school of the day.

One

of the great teachers

at

the University was

Hieronymus Fabricius. This man had discovered what


he called

"little

doors" in the heart but he didn't

what they were

know

Fabricius believed and taught

for.

Galen's idea, that the blood oozed through the septum

and then washed back and


It

was a

thrilling

famous Fabricius
heart.

its

day

forth.

dissect a

The thought

Harvey when he saw the

for

human

that he

corpse and display

would one day

tell

the

man was wrong probably never


mind but that was exactly what was

world that the great


crossed Harvey's
to happen.

The more Harvey thought about

Fabricius'

"little

doors" (or valves) in the heart, the more puzzled he

became.

What was

He had observed
pothesis. He wrote,

the valves and


"I

might not be a motion

Was

purpose?

their

began

as

it

now he had

to think

were

whether there

in a circle."

there anything to the hypothesis?

first

of the blood investigators to actually

28

up
He was

Harvey

an elaborate system of experiments and proofs.


the

a hy-

set

weigh and

He

measure blood.

didn t jump to any conclusions he

found out and proved every one. In

short,

he followed

the scientific method.

Harvey showed

that blood

moved

in only

one direc-

The valves or "little doors" now had a


purpose. They were one-way openings. The blood

tion in the veins.

clear

could not flow back and forth in the veins it had to go


around.
In 1628, William Harvey published his famous book
called in Latin, Exercitatio

Anatomica de Motu Cordis

et Sanguinis. In English, that

Anatomy on

means "An Exercise

in

Movements of the Heart and Blood in


Animals." In the book, Harvey clearly proved that blood
is

the

pumped from one

side of the heart, through the lungs,

to the other side. It then goes

parts of the body,

and

through the arteries to

finally,

all

through the veins and

back to the heart again.

Through the
contribution

scientific

to

method, Harvey made a great

modern medicine and surgery the

knowledge that blood

circulates.

29

VAN JlEiIuWENHOEK

William Harvey died

in 1657.

making his discoveries about the

But while he was

still

circulation of the blood,

another young scientist was just growing up in Holland.

Only no one

in the

young Dutchman

world would have thought of the

as a scientist then.

Antony van Leeuwenhoek was born


Holland.

He

left

school

when he was

job in a dry goods store in

1632 in Delft,

sixteen

Amsterdam.

grown up and had learned the

business,

and took a

When

he was

Leeuwenhoek

home town, was married, and opened


dry goods store of his own. To increase his income, he

went back
a

in

to his

got a part time job as the janitor of the Delft city


It

doesn't sound as

if

man who owned

a job, and was raising a family


time.

aged

But Leeuwenhoek,

hall.

a store, held

would have much spare

many modern men, manhis hobby grinding lenses.

like

to find a bit of time for

Eyeglasses, and other crude magnifying glasses,

had

been invented long before and Leeuwenhoek thought


it

very interesting to see things enlarged.

from spectacle makers how


things

two or even three

to

make

times.

32

He

learned

lenses that enlarged

But why stop there?

Leeuwenhoek developed a burning wish to make better


lenses and see smaller and smaller things. The more he
saw, the more curious he became. He fashioned a crude
microscope from his lenses and then worked tirelessly
to make the microscope better and better. It is probable
that the dry goods store
hall

was neglected, and that the

city

grew dusty!

Leeuwenhoek began
his microscope.

He

examine strange things with

to

looked at skin, at animal eyes and

He was

muscles, at parts of insects.


things he saw. But he kept

them

all

astonished at the
to himself.

Leeu-

wenhoek was an uneducated man. He had never heard


of the scientific method.

He

tious

man.

until

he was

But he was a careful and a cau-

wasn't going to say anything to anybody

sure.

went on building

So for twenty years, Leeuwenhoek


finer microscopes, peering, studying,

peering some more, and checking and double checking


all

of his experiments.

And

then one day, Leeuwenhoek trained his micro-

scope on a drop of clean rain water.


his eyes,

He

stared,

and stared again. Tumbling about

jumping and playing

for all the

world

rubbed

in the water,

like a litter of

puppies, were hosts of tiny animals! Animals in a drop


of water? Impossible!

And

yet, there

they were.

But Leeuwenhoek, the cautious man, didn't jump

33

to

any conclusions.

He had his

hypothesis, he experimented

again and again, he checked his theories 3,nd always,


there were the

"little

beasties" as

a drop of newly fallen rain

wenhoek kept
it

again, there

it

for a

were the

he called them.

showed no

signs of

When

few days.

"beasties." So,

life,

When
Leeu-

he examined

he reasoned, the

come down from the sky with the


rain. Where did they come from?
The animals appeared to be everywhere. Leeuwenhoek was astonished to find them even in his mouth!

tiny animals did not

When

endless observations and experiments finally

convinced Leeuwenhoek that he had

he wrote a

letter to the

made no

mistake,

Royal Society of England. In

pages and pages of painstaking

Leeuwenhoek

script,

They were so small, he said,


water held two million seven hun-

described his tiny animals.


that a single drop of

dred of them!

He

estimated that one animal was a

thousand times smaller than the eye of a louse.

The men

of the Royal Society

Leeuwenhoek's
selves.

letter,

his microscopes.

was not ready

to give

away

would have

to find

its

Society

scopes

if

in

but they wanted to see for them-

They wrote back asking the Dutchman

them how he made


ever,

were interested

Leeuwenhoek, how-

his secrets.

own way

The Royal

to build micro-

they wanted to see the beasties.

34

to tell

And

that

is

just

what they

did.

Nehemiah Grew were appointed


and

to follow

animals.

Robert Hooke and

to build a

Leeuwenhoek's instructions

On November

microscope

for finding the

15, 1677, they succeeded,

and

the most learned scientists of the world looked for the


first

time at Leeuwenhoek's astonishing animals, or

microbes, as they

words micros,

came

small,

and

to

be called (from the Greek

bios, life).

Antony van Leeuwenhoek lived


old.

to

be ninety-one years

Before his death he found the tiny capillary blood

vessels
veins.

which carry the blood from the

The

last

arteries to the

proof of Harvey's circulation of the blood

was demonstrated. And a whole new world


tion

was opened up. The discovery

lead

men on

to finding the causes

of microbes

was

to

and the cures of many

diseases.

C641810

35

of investiga-

;'^'f^

^'^:'
BENJAMl^4
Z-

,^^

^^
V:'

W^

FRANK;^'/

6
A

key,

kite

and the method

While the use

method was spreading

over Europe, ripples of the wave were being

all

the

New World,

tist

in

in

of the scientific

too.

The

first

felt in

great experimental scien-

America was Benjamin Franklin, who was born

Boston in 1706.
Franklin was famous as a statesman, an inventor, and

an investigator in

many branches

of science. His most

important contributions, however, were in the

field of

electricity.

Electricity itself

doctor

named William

ments with

electricity

the early 1700's, a

British

had done some

experi-

was not a new discovery.


Gilbert

around the year 1600. Then,

in

Frenchman named Charles du Fay

decided that there were two different kinds of

electricity.

In 1745, Pieter van Muschenbroek of Leyden, Holland, invented the

Leyden

jar.

This was a specially con-

structed jar that could hold a charge of electricity.

touched, the jar gave up

its

When

charge with a resulting shock.

This was considered a great curiosity, and even though

an

electric

shock

is

quite unpleasant,

very eager to experience

it.

38

many

people were

Benjamin Franklin, through careful use of the


method, found out the true nature of

tific

scien-

electricity

and

gave to the world one of the most powerful tools ever


discovered.

One
are not

of Franklin

two

one kind of

great discoveries

s first

different kinds of electricity.


electricity

but

positive or negative. This

too

much

or too

it

electrons,

happens because there

little electric fluid.

instead. If a

trons than protons,

it is

Franklin's hypothesis
tively

is

only

is

either

Electric fluid

was a

we talk about protons

body has more protons than

positively charged. If

it is

There

can appear in two forms,

term of Franklin's day. Nowadays,

and electrons

was that there

it

has more elec-

negatively charged.

was that

if

positively

and nega-

charged bodies were brought close together, the

extra electric fluid

have enough.

If

would jump

body

that

to the

body

had no charge

that didn't
at all

were

brought near either of the charged bodies it would give

up

fluid to the

fluid

body

that didn't have enough, or take

from the body that had too much.

Franklin tested his hypothesis with the following

experiment:

He placed two men on insulated glass stools. One


man had a positive charge, the other a negative charge.
When the two men touched hands, they both became
39

to the

man

a third

man

uncharged because the extra charge flowed

who

didn't

have enough.

Then the experiment was repeated with

who was uncharged. When he touched

either of the

charged men, he got a shock or drew a spark.

FrankUn conducted many other simple but dramatic


experiments which changed the whole
study. But probably his most

famous experiment was the

one that proved that lightning


It

may seem

field of electrical

is

electricity.

you that such a simple

to

need any proof but

it

wasn't so in 1752.

It

fact doesn't

was popularly

believed that lightning was caused by explosions of


gases in the

air.

Franklin proved that lightning was electricity in the

made
Then he

following way: First, he

a paper kite and tied a

very long string to

attached a metal key to

it.

the end of the string.


a storm, so he

knew

He

planned to

that the string

electricity flows easily along

reasoned that
clouds,
If

it

if

would

fly

the kite during

would get wet. Since

wet cotton

string,

Franklin

there were electricity in the storm

travel

down

the string to the key.

Franklin had held the key, the electricity would

have passed right through the string and the key and
into him.

To prevent

this,

Franklin tied a piece of

thread beneath the key and used

40

it

for a handle.

silk

He

knew

that electricity will not flow through silk

if it is

kept dry.

With

his kite all ready, Franklin

storm. Finally, one came.


shelter of a

doorway.

of silk thread in his

He ran outside but stood in the

He was
hand

Suddenly there was a

very careful to keep the bit

dry.

brilliant flash of lightning

a mighty crash of thunder.

Had

the kite? Franklin cautiously

it,

tests

his finger

toward

a large spark

jumped

his finger.

Franklin's hypothesis certainly

Further

and

anything happened to

moved

the key. Before he even touched

from the key to

waited for a thunder

proved

all

seemed

to

be

correct.

of his theories. His book, Experi-

ments and Observations on Electricity Made

at Phila-

delphia in America became one of the most popular


science books of the eighteenth century.
in French, Italian,

and German,

It

was printed

as well as in English.

Science and the quest for knowledge had advanced to


the point where Franklin did not have to fear for his

because of

his

new

ideas. Instead,

over the world.

41

he was honored

life
all

mfv

CH/^^UES DARWIN

Darwin
and evolution
PROTOHIPPUS

At the beginning of the nineteenth century there


were new thoughts popping up everywhere concerning
the origin of

life.

Almost everyone

in the

believed that the story of creation as


Bible was literally true.
living thing

had been created

plant and animal


exactly as

yet

They believed

it

it

western world

was

told in the

that every kind of

in the first days, that

each

had come down through the ages

had been made

in the first

place and

There were many observers of nature throughout

Europe who began

to think that

perhaps the story of

creation in Genesis could be understood in

new

ways.

Jean Baptiste Lamarck in France dared to suggest that


different species of animals
other.

Erasmus Darwin

in

had descended one from the

England agreed with Lamarck

but went even further. Darwin

between

living things

felt that

had something

the competition

to

do with

their

progress.

A British minister, Thomas


1798,

An

Malthus, had published in

Essay on the Principle of Population. Malthus

pointed out that living beings multiply at such a rate

44

that the world could not possibly supply


for

them

all. It

was necessary

for large

enough food

numbers

of ani-

mals to die and people, too, through disease and wars

to keep the world going.


Against this background of ideas, Charles Darwin,

son of a doctor and grandson of Erasmus Darwin, was

born in England in 1809. As a young man, he gave up


the idea of becoming,
minister.

a doctor, and second, a

first,

The only thing

that really interested

him was

natural history. His endless fiddling with growing things

seemed

like a

that he

would do something

waste of time to

his family.

They wished

"useful."

But the young man's teachers

felt differently.

When

they heard of an opening for a naturalist on a govern-

ment

ship, they

And

so, in

recommended Darwin

December, 1831, Charles Darwin

in the brig Beagle for a

The

trip

was

for the job.


set sail

voyage of

scientific exploration.

and

to take the little ship

to last five years

around the world.

Wherever the ship touched shore during the long


cruise,

Darwin made painstaking

collections of animals,

plants, rocks, fossils anything at all relating to

life.

He

was a careful observer, and certain questions kept


cropping up in his mind.

Why were the plants

and animals on the


45

islands often

diflFerent

from those on the mainland? And why did

happen that

in a chain of islands (like the

it

Galapagos)

the living things on one island were sometimes almost


like those

Why

on the next

were there

fossil

island,

many

The answers

little diflFerent?

bones of huge animals that did

not seem to exist any longer?


island have so

but yet a

diflFerent

Why

did the birds on one

kinds of beaks?

to these questions

began

to

simmer

in

Darwin's mind. But he had to be sure. Slowly, carefully,


patiently,

he observed, collected,

made

listed,

notes,

and

observed some more.

When the Beagle returned to England in 1836, Darwin


continued his investigations. He studied the breeding
patterns of domestic animals and experimented widely
himself, with the breeding of pigeons.

For more than

twenty years, he labored. Always, he observed, hypothesized, experimented, theorized,

1859,

Darwin published

his

and proved.

Finally, in

famous book. Origin of

Species.

In the book, Darwin showed, as a result of his careful


scientific

work, that

all

living things

have undergone

changes in order to survive. This change from one kind


of plant or animal to another kind

is

called evolution.

Birds have diflFerent kinds of beaks because they eat


diflFerent

kinds of food. Animals on one island are dif-

46

on the next island because they need

ferent from those


to

be

in order to survive.

As the island

animals have to adapt to

its

is

different, the

condition.

Malthus was right about the number of animals being


too great for the

amount

of food in the

Darwin

finished the thought.

most

lived.

jit,

By

this

The others

world but

The animals which were

perished.

means, Darwin pointed out, living things have

always improved. The strong ones, the smart ones, the


fast runners, the best nest-builders, the finest fighters,

the expert hiders, and so on, remained to be the parents


of the next generation.

The weaklings eventually died

out.

Actually, another

man, Alfred Russel Wallace, came

same conclusions about evolution

to the

about the same time.

at

as

Darwin, and

He and Darwin had

their

first

papers on the subject published together. Darwin, however,

is

On the

the

man

people remember for his great work.

Origin of the Species by

tion, or the Preservation of

gle for Life SiS his

Means

of Natural Selec-

Favoured Races

in the Strug-

book was called before the

title

was

shortened.

The
his

secret of Darwin's contribution can

own words

in his autobiography:

47

be found

in

My
I

first

notebook was opened on July 1837.

worked on true Baconian

principles,

and with-

out any theory collected facts on a wholesale


scale

fifteen

months

systematic enquiry,

after I

my

had begun

happened

to

read for

amusement Malthus on population, and being


well prepared to appreciate the struggle for ex-

which everywhere goes on from long

istence

continued observation of the habits of animals

and

plants,

it

at

once struck

me that under these

circumstances favourable variations would tend


to

be preserved, and unfavourable ones

destroyed.

The

result of this

to

would be the

mation of a new species. Here then

had

be

for-

at last

got a theory by which to work.

When,

after

theory, there

twenty years, Darwin

finally

proved

his

was an uproar heard around the world.

But not for long. Darwin's proof could not be ignored.


All of the

work

in biology (the study of living things)

since that time has

been based on

it.

Darwin's work was by no means ended with Origin


of Species. Proceeding in his usual, careful, scientific

way, he went on to publish The Fertilisation of Orchids


in 1862,

The Variation

of Plants

48

and Animah under Do-

mestication in 1867, and

The Descent

The

latter

cies.

Following, there were

became almost

as

famous

still

of

Man

in 1871.

as Origin of Spe-

more books.

All of

them

proved, through the scientific method, the theory of


evolution in both plants and animals.

49

mw^

8
The wizard
of

Menio Park

Thomas Alva Edison was born


in Milan, Ohio, in 1847.
at a

He showed

United

States,

his natural curiosity

very early age when he tried to hatch eggs by sitting

on them.
fly

in the

He

also tried to

make

by feeding him quantites

a friend light

of a fizzy

enough

to

headache medi-

cine!

When Thomas was

seven, his family

moved

to Port

Huron, Michigan. Instead of appreciating the young


genius, the local schoolteacher declared that Edison

was

"addled" and couldn't be taught.

Thomas' mother, who was a teacher, knew better, however.

him

She decided to keep her son

The

herself.

at

training she gave

home and

teach

him helped him

to

become one

of the greatest inventors the world has ever

known. All

his life

Edison followed

basic rules read, experiment,

While he was

still

quite

and

young

think.

about ten years old

Edison became fascinated by one of

He made

his mother's three

his science books.

himself a laboratory in his basement and care-

fully tried all of the chemistry experiments suggested

in the book.

Then he experimented on
52

his

own. Un-

doubtedly, by the time he was twelve, Edison was a


highly experienced follower of the scientific method.

Young Tom got a job selling papers and candy on a


train. With the money he earned, he was able to buy
books and equipment for his
of the things that interested

set

One

him was the "new" telegraph.

Tom bought the necessary apparatus,


made

experiments.

scientific

and taught himself

rigged up a home-

to operate

it,

becoming one

of the country's fastest telegraph operators.

Edison started inventing things while he was


his teens.
all

He

developed a machine to

tell

still

in

stockbrokers

over the country the prices of stocks at the Stock Ex-

change

in

New

York. This invention

money for Edison to leave his job


when he was twenty-three years
had dreamed of
laboratory in

for

From then

as a telegraph operator

old and to do what he

years open

Menlo Park,

made enough

his

own

fully staffed

New Jersey.

on, the inventions almost

poured

out.

Beginning in 1870, Edison patented an average of one

new

invention every

month

for six years!

Edison invented telegraph systems which permitted

many messages

to

be sent

at the

same time; he helped

develop the typewriter; he invented the mimeograph

machine and wax paper; he devised a new type of


alarm and

made improvements

fire

in the telephone.

In 1877, while Edison was experimenting with a tele-

53

phone, he

a sharp steel point on the back of

felt

it

vibrate

when he

spoke. Getting a brilliant idea, Edison held a

piece of

stiff

"Hello."

The

paper against the

steel point

made

vibrating point

little

and said

groove in the

paper. Edison then pushed the point a second time over


the groove. Very faintly, he heard, "Hello."

Edison promptly made a sketch for a machine which

would record sound by means


cut grooves in

One

tinfoil.

of a vibrating needle that

of his

mechanics put the

machine together and then stood staring and unbelieving as the machine clearly repeated after Edison,

had a

little

lamb,

Edison called

his

new

from the Greek words

Of

all his

fame

was white

fleece

its

talking

for

inventions,

as

"Mary

snow

."
.

machine a phonograph,

sound and

to write.

none brought Edison

as

much

as the electric light bulb. Electric arc lights, in-

vented by

Sir

Humphrey Davey

at the

beginning of the

nineteenth century, were commercially manufactured

by Edison's

made

time.

But arc

a lot of noise,

gave an unsteady

and hurt the

he could make a good

light

through a filament until

how

lights

it

eyes.

by passing

Edison

light,

felt that

electric current

was hot enough

to glow.

But

could the filament get that hot without burning up?

Edison's solution was to place the filament inside a


glass

bulb from which

all

the air

54

had been pumped.

Without any oxygen, the filament couldn't burn up and

would

therefore

last a

long time.

The first bulb Edison made used a platinum filament.


This worked fairly well, but the platinum was terribly
expensive. Edison began to experiment.

many

He tested many,

filament materials one after the other.

satisfactory.

Then Edison decided

to try

None was

something very

simple ordinary sewing cotton, baked in a furnace


it

was charred. You can imagine how hard

was

to handle. It

yet, after

until

this material

broke under the slightest touch.

And

many attempts, Edison finally managed to bend

a piece of the carbonized thread into a loop


into a bulb.

When

glowed brightly.

It

and

seal

it

the current was turned on, the bulb

remained lighted

for over forty hours,

beginning on October 21, 1879.

From then

on,

it

was only a matter

of a

few years

until

Edison solved the problems of manufacturing really good


incandescent lamps (as light bulbs are properly called).
Electric lights soon

Among

Edison's other great achievements were the

development of the
of

motion pictures.

mous

all

became commonplace.
electric railroad

When

he died

and the invention

in 1931,

he was

fa-

over the world as the "Wizard of Menlo Park."

But wizards make us think of magic, and Edison didn't


practice magic.

He

followed the scientific method.

55

Miracle

medicines

modern times, there is not so much talk about the


scientific method it is taken completely for granted. All
In

scientists learn

natural to
their

way

it

them
of

as part of their early training. It

as breathing. It

life.

And

tion led Alexander

their

way

as

of working,

an almost automatic observa-

so,

Fleming

medical discoveries of

is

is

all

to

one of the most important

time.

The year was 1928; the place, St. Mary's Hospital in


London. Fleming was at work in his laboratory. It was a
warm September day and he had left the window open.
He was experimenting with disease germs and he had a
dish of germs (a culture) on the windowsill.

bit of

mold had formed on the top of the culture, common bluegreen mold, the kind you sometimes find on a

stale,

decaying lemon.

Fleming walked over

window. Casually,

to catch the breeze

his glance fell

something very strange. The


turned clear
liquid

was

happened

away

all

thick,

dish.

He noticed

cloudy culture had

around the patch of mold. Where the

clear there couldn't


to

on the

from the

be any germs. What had

them? Fleming guessed (hypothesis)

that this might

right

be something important.
58

He scraped off the bit of mold and put it into a culture


dish of its own. When the tiny patch of mold had grown
larger,

could

Fleming began

kill

germs.

It

to experiment with

it

to see

if it

could!

One experiment followed another, and finally, Fleming managed to squeeze a tiny drop of brownish fluid
from the mold. This was the germ killer. Fleming decided
to call

penicillin

it

from Penicillium, the name of the

blue-green mold.

proved in every

Penicillin
killer

ever discovered. But

drop of
use.

it,

that

it

didn't

Fleming stopped

it

be the best germ

test to

make

took so long to

seem

as

if it

a single

could ever be of any

experiments and went back

his

to his other work.

During World
interest in

War

II,

however, there was a sudden

new medicines

for

wounded

soldiers.

Two

doctors at Oxford University read about penicillin and

decided

it

was worth

investigating.

The

doctors. Sir

Howard W. Florey and Ernst B. Chain, tried to prepare the magic brown drops. They, too, found the going
very slow. The medicine was exciting but impractical.
Then, in 1941, Dr. Florey came to the United States.

He and

his fellow

mold than the


would

yield

workers decided to search for a better

original one. Perhaps

more

penicillin.

59

One

some other

fine day,

variety

an assistant

found a half rotten, very moldy cantaloupe


in Peoria, Illinois.

She took

back to the laboratory. That

it

mold contained two hundred times


so the

as

By

penicillin

work begun by Fleming's observation,


was carried on by

hypothesis, and early experiments


others.

much

mold.

as Fleming's original

And

in a fruit store

1946, penicillin was being

made in big batches,

and millions of lives were saved with it.


a miracle medicine but

miracle medicines.
scientists reasoned,

If

it

It

was considered

was only the

first

mold could produce

why

of

many

penicillin,

couldn't other molds contain

other miracle drugs?


Professor Selman

Waksman

particularly interested in the

He

at

Rutgers University was

molds that grew

tested ten thousand different kinds!

each

new mold

in a

germ culture

like

He

in the soil.
tried out

Fleming's and

one day he was rewarded by seeing that beautiful, clear


ring

all

around the patch of mold.

new drug
Then
to

Waksman

called his

streptomycin.

the search was really on. Travelers were asked

send in samples of

soil

from

all

over the world. Thou-

sands upon thousands of these samples were tested. Most


of the tests led to nothing.

few led

to

still

better

won-

der drugs.

Today, drugs from molds, or

60

antibiotics, are in every-

day use

all

over the world.

The next time you

are sick

and

your doctor makes you well with one of these drugs,

remember the devoted

who made

this

followers of the scientific

cure possible for you.

61

method

ENRICO FERMI

kl

10
Old method,

New

World

Throughout the great sweep

of scientific discovery

and development, certain achievements have stood

out.

They have often been important enough to give their


names to the periods in which they happened. You were
born into such a period the Atomic Age.
It is

too

bad

that the world's

atomic energy came through


great,

new

tool of

things never before

dreamed

experience with

use in a war. For this

its

mankind can

first

also

be used

to

do

fine

can supply power,

of. It

ease labor, improve health, provide better food. In short,


it

in

can make the world an

which

to live.

easier, healthier, better place

Atomic energy

is

one of the great

triumphs of science, and a triumph for the

scientific

method.

The ancient Greeks had made up the word atom to


mean a particle so tiny that it couldn't be divided. And
right into modern times, people believed that an atom
was the smallest thing there was.

It

was

unsplittable,

indivisible unconquerable.

But by the early part of the twentieth century

known

that atoms

were made of
64

still

it

was

smaller particles.

And

in 1919, Ernest Rutherford,

split

an atom for the

By

first

an English

time.

the middle of the 1930's, scientists were thinking

quite a bit about

what would happen

one could

if

the center, or nucleus, of the atom in such a

make

scientist,

way

split

as to

the exploding atom explode other atoms. This

process

would be

called a chain reaction.

In 1942, during

World War

who had been working

II,

a group of scientists

very hard on the problem of

atomic chain reactions, were ready to experiment for


the

first

time.

an Italian

On

The

leader of the group was Enrico Fermi,

scientist

who had come

a cloudy morning in

to this country.

December

what had once been a squash court

the

men met

in

at the University of

Chicago. They entered through a door underneath the


football stadium.

The men had been in that room before. In fact, they


had been at work for days stacking up a huge pile of
graphite bricks. Here and there among the bricks they
had placed a piece

of a radioactive

element called

uranium. Fermi believed that

when

certain size, a chain reaction

would take

On
tions

the morning of

had been

about to

start.

December

finished

2,

the pile reached a


place.

1942, the prepara-

and the great experiment was

Buried in the pile were three cadmium

65

rods.

They were

were

in place nothing could

called control rods because while they

When

happen.

they were

removed, the chain reaction would begin the

men

hoped!

Nearby were several Geiger counters. These are


ments which

tick

whenever they are near atomic

The counters would


and

if

instru-

tell

the scientists

if

rays.

a reaction began

the chain stage had been reached.

The first two control rods were drawn out of the pile.
The counters began to tick. Then Fermi gave the command to start pulling out the third rod. It was marked in
feet,

and Fermi

said, "Pull

it

out to thirteen feet." Every-

one watched the instruments. "Pull

out another foot."

it

The men hardly dared breathe. Another


Another inch. A little more. The counters ticked a
Not

yet.

faster.

More.

little

it

little

more.

Finally, after hours of tense


said, "Pull

foot.

and careful work, Fermi

out another foot. This

Suddenly the counters seemed

is

going to do

go mad.

to

it!"

It

had

worked! The chain reaction was in progress.


After twenty-eight minutes of operation, the control
rods were put back into the pile.

had been

started

The

chain reaction

and had been stopped.

Arthur H. Compton, one of the


to a telephone.

first

He wanted

men

to notify

66

in the

room, ran

James B. Conant,

Chairman

of the United States National

Defense Re-

search Committee. However, this was top-secret information because our country

one

was

Compton

else got his message,

know

be interested

to

landed in the

New

Conant

To make

sure no

said, "Ji^? you'll

that the Italian navigator has just

World."

said, "Is that so?

And Compton

at war.

replied,

Were

the natives friendly?"

"Everyone landed safe and

happy."
Just as the Italian navigator,

Columbus, had landed

in

new world, so the Italian physicist, Fermi, also landed


in a new world the world of atomic energy. Like the
a

long line of great scientists before him, Fermi did his


valuable work by using the scientific method.

67

Index

antibiotics,

electron, 39

60

evolution, 46

Aristotle, 16, 20, 21

atom, 64
Fabricius, Hieronymus, 28

Atomic Age, 64
atomic

pile,

65

falling bodies, 20,

22

Fermi, Enrico, 65

Fleming, Alexander, 58
Howard W., 57

Bacon, Francis, 16
Beagle, 45

Florey, Dr.

blood, 26

Franklin, Ben, 38

Chain, Dr. Ernst, 59

Galen, 26

chain reaction, 65

Galileo, 21

Compton, Arthur H., 66


Conant, James B., 66

Geiger counter, 66

control rods, 66

gravity, 22

Copernicus, 21

Greeks, 15, 22, 26, 64

Gilbert, William, 38

Grew, Nehemiah, 35
da Vinci, Leonardo, 20
Darwin, Charles, 45
Darwin, Erasmus, 45

Harvey, William, 28
Hooke, Robert, 35

du Fay, Charles, 38
incandescent lamp, 55
Edison,

Thomas

A.,

52

Lamarck, Jean Baptiste, 44


Leeuwenhoek, Antony van, 32-35
Leyden jar, 38

Egyptians, 15
electric fluid,
electricity,

39

38

electric light bulb,

54

lightning, 40

71

Malthus, Thomas, 44, 47

Rutherford, Ernest, 65

microbes, 35

method

microscope, 33

scientific

mold, 58

septum, 26

Muschenbroek, Pieter van, 38

Servetus, Michael, 27

(def.

Stevin, Simon, 20

negative charge, 39

streptomycin, 60

nucleus, 65
telegraph, 53

Origin of Species, 46
penicillin,

59

telescope, 22

uranium, 65

Penicillium, 59

phonograph, 54

Vesalius, Andreas, 27

positive charge, 39

proton, 39

Ptolemy, 21

Waksman, Selman, 60
Wallace, A. R, 47

72

),

12