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OF SCIENCE 14001700
600 BCE1400 CE
34 At the center of
everything is the Sun
20 Eclipses of the Sun can Nicolaus Copernicus
be predicted
Thales of Miletus 40 The orbit of every planet
is an ellipse
21 Now hear the fourfold Johannes Kepler
roots of everything
Empedocles 42 A falling body
accelerates uniformly
22 Measuring the Galileo Galilei
circumference of Earth
Eratosthenes 44 The globe of the Earth
is a magnet
23 The human is related William Gilbert
to the lower beings
Al-Tusi 45 Not by arguing, but by
trying Francis Bacon
55 Layers of rock form on top
46 Touching the spring of of one another
the air Robert Boyle Nicolas Steno

50 Is light a particle 56 Microscopic observations

or a wave? of animalcules
Christiaan Huygens Antonie van Leeuwenhoek

24 A oating object displaces 52 The rst observation of 58 Measuring the speed

its own volume in liquid a transit of Venus of light
Archimedes Jeremiah Horrocks Ole Rmer

26 The Sun is like re, the 53 Organisms develop in 60 One species never springs
Moon is like water a series of steps from the seed of another
Zhang Heng Jan Swammerdam John Ray

28 Light travels in straight 54 All living things are 62 Gravity affects everything
lines into our eyes composed of cells in the universe
Alhazen Robert Hooke Isaac Newton
96 No vestige of a beginning 115 Mapping the rocks of
EXPANDING and no prospect of an end a nation

James Hutton William Smith

17001800 102 The attraction of mountains

Nevil Maskelyne
116 She knows to what tribe
the bones belong
Mary Anning
74 Nature does not proceed 104 The mystery of nature
by leaps and bounds in the structure and 118 The inheritance of
Carl Linnaeus fertilization of owers acquired characteristics
Christian Sprengel Jean-Baptiste Lamarck
76 The heat that disappears
in the conversion of water 105 Elements always combine 119 Every chemical compound
into vapor is not lost the same way has two parts
Joseph Black Joseph Proust Jns Jakob Berzelius

78 Inammable air 120 The electric conict is

Henry Cavendish
A CENTURY not restricted to the
conducting wire
80 Winds, as they come
nearer the equator,
OF PROGRESS Hans Christian rsted

become more easterly 18001900 121 One day, sir, you may
George Hadley tax it
Michael Faraday
81 A strong current comes 110 The experiments may
out of the Gulf of Florida be repeated with great 122 Heat penetrates every
Benjamin Franklin ease when the Sun shines substance in the universe
Thomas Young Joseph Fourier
82 Dephlogisticated air
Joseph Priestley 112 Ascertaining the relative 124 The articial production
weights of ultimate particles of organic substances
84 In nature, nothing is John Dalton from inorganic substances
created, nothing is lost, Friedrich Whler
everything changes 114 The chemical effects
Antoine Lavoisier produced by electricity 126 Winds never blow in
Humphry Davy a straight line
85 The mass of a plant comes Gaspard-Gustave de Coriolis
from the air
Jan Ingenhousz 127 On the colored light of
the binary stars
86 Discovering new planets Christian Doppler
William Herschel
128 The glacier was Gods
88 The diminution of the great plough
velocity of light Louis Agassiz
John Michell
130 Nature can be represented
90 Setting the electric uid as one great whole
in motion Alessandro Volta Alexander von Humboldt
136 Light travels more slowly 226 Particles have wavelike
in water than in air properties
Lon Foucault Erwin Schrdinger

138 Living force may be 234 Uncertainty is inevitable

converted into heat Werner Heisenberg
James Joule
236 The universe is big
139 Statistical analysis of 186 Rays were coming from and getting bigger
molecular movement the tube Edwin Hubble
Ludwig Boltzmann Wilhelm Rntgen
242 The radius of space began
140 Plastic is not what I 188 Seeing into the Earth at zero
meant to invent Richard Dixon Oldham Georges Lematre
Leo Baekeland
190 Radiation is an atomic 246 Every particle of matter
142 I have called this principle property of the elements has an antimatter
natural selection Marie Curie counterpart
Charles Darwin Paul Dirac
196 A contagious living uid
150 Forecasting the weather Martinus Beijerinck 248 There is an upper
Robert FitzRoy limit beyond which a
collapsing stellar core
156 Omne vivum ex vivo
all life from life A PARADIGM SHIFT becomes unstable
Louis Pasteur 19001945 Chandrasekhar

160 One of the snakes 249 Life itself is a process

grabbed its own tail 202 Quanta are discrete of obtaining knowledge
August Kekul packets of energy Konrad Lorenz
Max Planck
166 The denitely expressed
average proportion of 206 Now I know what the
three to one atom looks like
Gregor Mendel Ernest Rutherford

172 An evolutionary link 214 Gravity is a distortion

between birds and in the space-time
dinosaurs continuum
Thomas Henry Huxley Albert Einstein

174 An apparent periodicity 222 Earths drifting continents

of properties are giant pieces in an
Dmitri Mendeleev ever-changing jigsaw
Alfred Wegener
180 Light and magnetism
are affectations of the 224 Chromosomes play a role
same substance in heredity
James Clerk Maxwell Thomas Hunt Morgan
250 95 percent of the 315 Earth and all its life forms
universe is missing make up a single living
Fritz Zwicky organism called Gaia
James Lovelock
252 A universal computing
machine 316 A cloud is made of billows
Alan Turing upon billows
Benot Mandelbrot
254 The nature of the
chemical bond 317 A quantum model
Linus Pauling of computing
Yuri Manin
260 An awesome power is
locked inside the nucleus 318 Genes can move from
of an atom species to species
J. Robert Oppenheimer Michael Syvanen

320 The soccer ball can

FUNDAMENTAL 286 A perfect game of

withstand a lot
of pressure
Donald Michie
Harry Kroto

1945PRESENT 322 Insert genes into humans

292 The unity of to cure disease
fundamental forces William French Anderson
270 We are made of stardust Sheldon Glashow
Fred Hoyle 324 Designing new life forms
294 We are the cause of on a computer screen
271 Jumping genes global warming Craig Venter
Barbara McClintock Charles Keeling
326 A new law of nature
272 The strange theory of 296 The buttery effect Ian Wilmut
light and matter Edward Lorenz
Richard Feynman 327 Worlds beyond the
298 A vacuum is not solar system
274 Life is not a miracle exactly nothing Geoffrey Marcy
Harold Urey and Peter Higgs
Stanley Miller
300 Symbiosis is everywhere
276 We wish to suggest Lynn Margulis
a structure for the salt 328 DIRECTORY
of deoxyribose nucleic 302 Quarks come in threes
acid (DNA)
James Watson and
Murray Gell-Mann
Francis Crick 308 A theory of everything?
Gabriele Veneziano 344 INDEX
284 Everything that can
happen happens 314 Black holes evaporate
Hugh Everett III Stephen Hawking 352 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

cience is an ongoing search to be reinforced by the French comets reported in 1531 and 1607,
for trutha perpetual philosopher Ren Descartes, and suggested that all three were
struggle to discover how the Bacons scientic method requires the same object, in orbit around the
universe works that goes back to scientists to make observations, Sun. He predicted that it would
the earliest civilizations. Driven form a theory to explain what is return in 1758, and he was right,
by human curiosity, it has relied going on, and then conduct an though only justit was spotted on
on reasoning, observation, and experiment to see whether the December 25. Today, the comet is
experiment. The best known of theory works. If it seems to be true, known as Halleys Comet. Since
the ancient Greek philosophers, then the results may be sent out astronomers are rarely able to
Aristotle, wrote widely on scientic for peer review, in which people perform experiments, evidence
subjects and laid foundations for working in the same or a similar can come only from observation.
much of the work that has followed. eld are invited to pick holes in the Experiments may test a theory,
He was a good observer of nature, argument, and so falsify the theory, or be purely speculative. When the
but he relied entirely on thought and or to repeat the experiment to make New Zealand-born physicist Ernest
argument, and did no experiments. sure that the results are correct. Rutherford watched his students
As a result, he got a number of Making a testable hypothesis re alpha particles at gold leaf in
things wrong. He asserted that big or a prediction is always useful. a search for small deections, he
objects fall faster than little ones, for English astronomer Edmond Halley, suggested putting the detector
example, and that if one object had observing the comet of 1682, beside the source, and to their
twice the weight of another, it realized that it was similar to astonishment some of the alpha
would fall twice as fast. Although particles bounced back off the
this is mistaken, no one doubted it paper-thin foil. Rutherford said it
until the Italian astronomer Galileo was as though an artillery shell had
Galilei disproved the idea in 1590. bounced back off tissue paper
While it may seem obvious today and this led him to a new idea
that a good scientist must rely on about the structure of the atom.
empirical evidence, this was not All truths are easy to An experiment is all the more
always apparent. understand once they are compelling if the scientist, while
discovered; the point is to proposing a new mechanism or
The scientic method discover them. theory, can make a prediction about
A logical system for the scientic Galileo Galilei the outcome. If the experiment
process was rst put forward by the produces the predicted result, the
English philosopher Francis Bacon scientist then has supporting
in the early 17th century. Building evidence for the theory. Even
on the work of the Arab scientist so, science can never prove
Alhazen 600 years earlier, and soon that a theory is correct; as the

20th-century philosopher of science Niels Bohr in the 1920s, which apparently to show he was
Karl Popper pointed out, it can only depended on the discovery of the immortaland as a result we
disprove things. Every experiment electron in 1897, which in turn remember him to this day.
that gives predicted answers is depended on the discovery of
supporting evidence, but one cathode rays in 1869. Those could Stargazers
experiment that fails may bring not have been found without the Meanwhile, in India, China, and
an entire theory crashing down. vacuum pump and, in 1799, the the Mediterranean, people tried to
Over the centuries, long-held invention of the batteryand so the make sense of the movements of
concepts such as a geocentric chain goes back through decades the heavenly bodies. They made
universe, the four bodily humors, and centuries. The great English star mapspartly as navigational
the re-element phlogiston, and a physicist Isaac Newton famously aidsand named stars and groups
mysterious medium called ether said, If I have seen further, it is of stars. They also noted that a
have all been disproved and by standing on the shoulders of few traced irregular paths when
replaced with new theories. These giants. He meant primarily Galileo, viewed against the xed stars.
in turn are only theories, and may but he had probably also seen a The Greeks called these wandering
yet be disproved, although in many copy of Alhazens Optics. stars planets. The Chinese
cases this is unlikely given the spotted Halleys comet in 240 BCE
evidence in their support. The rst scientists and, in 1054, a supernova that is
The rst philosophers with a now known as the Crab Nebula.
Progression of ideas scientic outlook were active in
Science rarely proceeds in simple, the ancient Greek world during the
logical steps. Discoveries may be 6th and 5th centuries BCE. Thales
made simultaneously by scientists of Miletus predicted an eclipse of
working independently, but almost the Sun in 585 BCE; Pythagoras set
every advance depends in some up a mathematical school in what
measure on previous work and is now southern Italy 50 years later, If you would be a real seeker
theories. One reason for building and Xenophanes, after nding after truth, it is necessary
the vast apparatus known as the seashells on a mountain, reasoned that at least once in your
Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, was that the whole Earth must at one life you doubt, as far as
to search for the Higgs particle, time have been covered by sea. possible, all things.
whose existence was predicted In Sicily in the 4th century BCE, Ren Descartes
40 years earlier, in 1964. That Empedocles asserted that earth,
prediction rested on decades of air, re, and water are the fourfold
theoretical work on the structure of roots of everything. He also took
the atom, going back to Rutherford his followers up to the volcanic
and the work of Danish physicist crater of Mt. Etna and jumped in,

House of Wisdom the center of the universe, Isaac Newtons Philosophi

In the late 8th century CE, the overturning the Earth-centered Naturalis Principia Mathematica,
Abbasid caliphate set up the House model gured out by Ptolemy of commonly known as the Principia.
of Wisdom, a magnicent library, Alexandria a millennium earlier. His laws of motion and principle of
in its new capital, Baghdad. This In 1600, English physician universal gravity form the basis for
inspired rapid advances in Islamic William Gilbert published De classical physics.
science and technology. Many Magnete in which he explained
ingenious mechanical devices were that compass needles point north Elements, atoms, evolution
invented, along with the astrolabe, because Earth itself is a magnet. In the 18th century, French chemist
a navigational device that used the He even argued that Earths core Antoine Lavoisier discovered the
positions of the stars. Alchemy is made of iron. In 1623, another role of oxygen in combustion,
ourished, and techniques such as English physician, William Harvey, discrediting the old theory of
distillation appeared. Scholars at described for the rst time how the phlogiston. Soon a host of new
the library collected all the most heart acts as a pump and drives gases and their properties were
important books from Greece and blood around the body, thereby being investigated. Thinking about
from India, and translated them quashing forever earlier theories the gases in the atmosphere led
into Arabic, which is how the West that dated back 1,400 years to the British meteorologist John Dalton to
later rediscovered the works of Greco-Roman physician Galen.
the ancients, and learned of the In the 1660s, Anglo-Irish chemist
Arabic numerals, including zero, Robert Boyle produced a string
that were imported from India. of books, including The Sceptical
Chymist, in which he dened a
Birth of modern science chemical element. This marked the
As the monopoly of the Church over birth of chemistry as a science, as I seem to have been only
scientic truth began to weaken in distinct from the mystical alchemy like a boy playing on the
the Western world, the year 1543 from which it arose. seashore, and diverting myself
saw the publication of two ground- Robert Hooke, who worked for a in now and then nding a
breaking books. Belgian anatomist time as Boyles assistant, produced smoother pebblewhilst the
Andreas Vesalius produced De the rst scientic best seller, great ocean of truth lay all
Humani Corporis Fabrica, which Micrographia, in 1665. His superb undiscovered before me.
described his dissections of human fold-out illustrations of subjects Isaac Newton
corpses with exquisite illustrations. such as a ea and the eye of a y
In the same year, Polish physician opened up a microscopic world no
Nicolaus Copernicus published De one had seen before. Then in 1687
Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium, came what many view as the most
which stated rmly that the Sun is important science book of all time,

suggest that each element Uncertainty and innity expanding, and started with a
consisted of unique atoms, and At the turn of the 20th century, Big Bang. The idea of black holes
propose the idea of atomic weights. a young German named Albert began to take root. Dark matter and
Then German chemist August Einstein proposed his theory of dark energy, whatever they were,
Kekul developed the basis of relativity, shaking classical physics seemed to ll the universe, and
molecular structure, while Russian and ending the idea of an absolute astronomers began to discover
inventor Dmitri Mendeleev laid out time and space. New models of new worldsplanets in orbit
the rst generally accepted periodic the atom were proposed; light was around distant stars, some of
table of the elements. shown to act as both a particle which may even harbor life. British
The invention of the electric and a wave; and another German, mathematician Alan Turing
battery by Alessandro Volta in Italy Werner Heisenberg, demonstrated thought of the universal computing
in 1799 opened up new elds of that the universe was uncertain. machine, and within 50 years
science, into which marched What has been most impressive we had personal computers, the
Danish physicist Hans Christian about the last century, however, worldwide web, and smartphones.
rsted and British contemporary is how technical advances have
Michael Faraday, discovering new enabled science to advance faster Secrets of life
elements and electromagnetism, than ever before, leap-frogging In biology, chromosomes were
which led to the invention of the ideas with increasing precision. shown to be the basis of inheritance
electric motor. Meanwhile, the ideas Ever more powerful particle and the chemical structure of DNA
of classical physics were applied to colliders revealed new fundamental was decoded. Just 40 years later
the atmosphere, the stars, the units of matter. Stronger telescopes this led to the human genome
speed of light, and the nature of showed that the universe is project, which seemed a daunting
heat, which developed into the task in prospect, and yet, aided by
science of thermodynamics. computing, got faster and faster as
Geologists studying rock strata it progressed. DNA sequencing is
began to reconstruct Earths past. now an almost routine laboratory
Paleontology became fashionable operation, gene therapy has moved
as the remains of extinct creatures from a hope into reality, and the
began to turn up. Mary Anning, an Reality is merely an illusion, rst mammal has been cloned.
untutored British girl, became a albeit a very persistent one. As todays scientists build on
world-famous assembler of fossil Albert Einstein these and other achievements,
remains. With the dinosaurs came the relentless search for the truth
ideas of evolution, most famously continues. It seems likely that there
from British naturalist Charles will always be more questions than
Darwin, and new theories on the answers, but future discoveries will
origins and ecology of life. surely continue to amaze.
600 14O0

Thales of Miletus Xenophanes nds Aristarchus of Samos

predicts the eclipse of seashells on mountains, Aristotle writes a string suggests that the Sun,
the Sun that brings and concludes that the of books on subjects rather than Earth,
the Battle of Halys whole Earth was once including physics, is the center of
to an end. covered with water. biology, and zoology. the universe.

585 BCE C.500 BCE C.325 BCE C.250 BCE

C.530 BCE C.450 BCE C.300 BCE C.240 BCE

Pythagoras founds a Empedocles suggests Theophrastus writes Archimedes discovers

mathematical school at that everything on Enquiry into plants that a kings crown
Croton in what is now Earth is made from and The causes of is not pure gold by
southern Italy. combinations of earth, plants, founding measuring the
air, re, and water. the discipline upthrust of
of botany. displaced water.

he scientic study of the scientic is probably Thales of explored the properties of uids.
world has its roots in Miletus, of whom Plato said that A new center of learning developed
Mesopotamia. Following he spent so much time dreaming at Alexandria, founded at the
the invention of agriculture and and looking at the stars that he mouth of the Nile by Alexander the
writing, people had the time to once fell into a well. Possibly using Great in 331 BCE. Here Eratosthenes
devote to study and the means data from earlier Babylonians, measured the size of Earth,
to pass the results of those studies in 585 BCE, Thales predicted a Ctesibius made accurate clocks,
on to the next generation. Early solar eclipse, demonstrating the and Hero invented the steam
science was inspired by the wonder power of a scientic approach. engine. Meanwhile, the librarians
of the night sky. From the fourth Ancient Greece was not a in Alexandria collected the best
millennium BCE, Sumerian priests single country, but rather a loose books they could nd to build the
studied the stars, recording their collection of city states. Miletus best library in the world, which was
results on clay tablets. They did (now in Turkey) was the birthplace burned down when Romans and
not leave records of their methods, of several noted philosophers. Many Christians took over the city.
but a tablet dating from 1800 BCE other early Greek philosophers
shows knowledge of the properties studied in Athens. Here, Aristotle Science in Asia
of right-angled triangles. was an astute observer, but he Science ourished independently
did not conduct experiments; in China. The Chinese invented
Ancient Greece he believed that, if he could bring gunpowderand with it reworks,
The ancient Greeks did not see together enough intelligent men, rockets, and gunsand made
science as a separate subject the truth would emerge. The bellows for working metal. They
from philosophy, but the rst engineer Archimedes, who lived at invented the rst seismograph
gure whose work is recognizably Syracuse on the island of Sicily, and the rst compass. In 1054 CE,
Persian astronomer,
Eratosthenes, a friend of Hipparchus discovers Claudius Ptolemys Abd al-Rahman
Archimedes, calculates the precession of Almagest becomes the al-Su updates the
the circumference of Earths orbit and authoritative text on Almagest, and gives
Earth from the shadows compiles the Western astronomy in the many stars the
of the Sun at midday on worlds rst star West, even though it Arabic names
midsummer day. catalogue. contains many errors. used today.

C.240 BCE C.130 BCE C.150 CE 964

C.230 BCE C.120 CE 628 1021

Ctesibius builds In China, Zhang Heng Indian mathematician Alhazen, one of the
clepsydraswater discusses the nature of Brahmagupta outlines rst experimental
clocksthat remain for eclipses, and compiles the rst rules to use scientists, conducts
centuries the most a catalogue of the number zero. original research on
accurate timepieces 2,500 stars. vision and optics.
in the world.

Chinese astronomers observed a of a martyr, Caliph Harun al-Rashid Alhazen, born in Basra and
supernova, which was identied founded the House of Wisdom in educated in Baghdad, was one of
as the Crab Nebula in 1731. his new capital, intending it to be the rst experimental scientists,
Some of the most advanced a library and center for research. and his book on optics has been
technology in the rst millennium Scholars collected books from the likened in importance to the work
CE, including the spinning wheel, old Greek city states and India and of Isaac Newton. Arab alchemists
was developed in India, and translated them into Arabic. This devised distillation and other new
Chinese missions were sent to is how many of the ancient texts techniques, and coined words such
study Indian farming techniques. would eventually reach the West, as alkali, aldehyde, and alcohol.
Indian mathematicians developed where they were largely unknown Physician al-Razi introduced soap,
what we now call the Arabic in the Middle Ages. By the middle distinguished for the rst time
number system, including negative of the 9th century, the library in between smallpox and measles,
numbers and zero, and gave Baghdad had grown to become and wrote in one of his many books
denitions of the trigonometric a ne successor to the library The doctors aim is to do good,
functions sine and cosine. at Alexandria. even to our enemies. Al-Khwarizmi
Among those who were inspired and other mathematicians invented
The Golden Age of Islam by the House of Wisdom were algebra and algorithms; and
In the middle of the 8th century, several astronomers, notably al-Su, engineer al-Jazari invented the
the Islamic Abbasid Caliphate who built on the work of Hipparchus crank-connecting rod system,
moved the capital of its empire from and Ptolemy. Astronomy was of which is still used in bicycles and
Damascus to Baghdad. Guided by practical use to Arab nomads for cars. It would take several centuries
the Quranic slogan The ink of a navigation, since they steered their for European scientists to catch up
scholar is more holy than the blood camels across the desert at night. with these developments.


orn in a Greek colony in solar eclipse, now dated to May 28,
IN CONTEXT Asia Minor, Thales of 585 BCE, which famously brought a
Miletus is often viewed as battle between the warring Lydians
the founder of Western philosophy, and Medes to a halt.
but he was also a key gure in the
BEFORE early development of science. He Contested history
c.2000 BCE European was recognized in his lifetime for Thaless achievement was not to be
monuments such as his thinking on mathematics, repeated for several centuries, and
Stonehenge may have been physics, and astronomy. historians of science have long
used to calculate eclipses. Perhaps Thaless most famous argued about how, and even if,
achievement is also his most he achieved it. Some argue that
c.1800 BCE In ancient Babylon, controversial. According to the Herodotuss account is inaccurate
astronomers produce the rst Greek historian Herodotus, writing and vague, but Thaless feat seems
recorded mathematical more than a century after the event, to have been widely known and
description of the movement Thales is said to have predicted a was taken as fact by later writers,
of heavenly bodies. who knew to treat Herodotuss
2nd millennium BCE word with caution. Assuming it
is true, it is likely that Thales had
Babylonian astronomers
discovered an 18-year cycle in
develop methods for
the movements of the Sun and
predicting eclipses, but
Moon, known as the Saros cycle,
these are based on day became night, and this which was used by later Greek
observations of the Moon, change of the day Thales the astronomers to predict eclipses.
not mathematical cycles. Milesian had foretold Whatever method Thales used,
AFTER Herodotus his prediction had a dramatic effect
c.140 BCE Greek astronomer on the battle at the river Halys, in
Hipparchus develops a modern-day Turkey. The eclipse
system to predict eclipses ended not only the battle, but also
a 15-year war between the Medes
using the Saros cycle of
and the Lydians.
movements of the Sun
and Moon.
See also: Zhang Heng 2627 Nicolaus Copernicus 3439

Johannes Kepler 4041 Jeremiah Horrocks 52




he nature of matter Empedocles saw the four roots
IN CONTEXT concerned many ancient of matter as two pairs of opposites:
Greek thinkers. Having re/water and air/earth, which
BRANCH combine to produce everything we see.
seen liquid water, solid ice, and
gaseous mist, Thales of Miletus Fire
BEFORE believed that everything must be
c.585 BCE Thales suggests the made of water. Aristotle suggested
whole world is made of water. that nourishment of all things is Hot Dry
moist and even the hot is created
c.535 BCE Anaximenes thinks from the wet and lives by it.
that everything is made from Writing two generations after Air Earth
air, from which water and then Thales, Anaximenes suggested
stones are made. that the world is made of air,
AFTER reasoning that when air condenses Wet Cold
it produces mist, and then rain,
c.400 BCE The Greek thinker
and eventually stones.
Democritus proposes that the Water
Born at Agrigentum on the
world is ultimately made of tiny
island of Sicily, the physician and
indivisible particlesatoms. poet Empedocles devised a more centrifugal force, began to pull
1661 In his work Sceptical complex theory: that everything is them apart. For Empedocles, love
Chymist, Robert Boyle provides made of four rootshe did not use and strife are the two forces that
a denition of elements. the word elementsnamely earth, shape the universe. In this world,
air, re, and water. Combining strife tends to predominate, which
1808 John Daltons atomic these roots would produce qualities is why life is so difcult.
theory states that each element such as heat and wetness to make This relatively simple theory
has atoms of different masses. earth, stone, and all plants and dominated European thought
1869 Dmitri Mendeleev animals. Originally, the four roots which referred to the four
proposes a periodic table, formed a perfect sphere, held humorswith little renement
arranging the elements in together by love, the centripetal until the development of modern
groups according to their force. But gradually strife, the chemistry in the 17th century.
shared properties.
See also: Robert Boyle 4649 John Dalton 11213 Dmitri Mendeleev 17479


he Greek astronomer 7.2 south of the zenithwhich is
IN CONTEXT and mathematician 1/50th of the circumference of a
Eratosthenes is best circle. Therefore, he reasoned, the
remembered as the rst person to separation of the two cities along
measure the size of Earth, but he a northsouth meridian must be
BEFORE is also regarded as the founder of 1/50th of Earths circumference.
6th century BCE Greek geographynot only coining the This allowed him to gure out the
mathematician Pythagoras word, but also establishing many size of our planet at 230,000 stadia,
suggests Earth may be of the basic principles used to or 24,662 miles (39,690 km)an
spherical, not at. measure locations on our planet. error of less than 2 percent.
Born at Cyrene (in modern-day
3rd century BCE Aristarchus Libya), Eratosthenes traveled
of Samos is the rst to place Sunlight reached Swenet at right
widely in the Greek world, studying angles, but cast a shadow at Alexandria.
the Sun at the center of the in Athens and Alexandria, and The angle of the shadow cast by the
known universe and uses eventually becoming the librarian gnomon allowed Eratosthenes to
a trigonometric method to of Alexandrias Great Library. calculate Earths circumference.
estimate the relative sizes of It was in Alexandria that
the Sun and the Moon and Eratosthenes heard a report that
their distances from Earth. at the town of Swenet, south of 7.2
Alexandria, the Sun passed directly
Late 3rd century BCE
overhead on the summer solstice Alexandria
Eratosthenes introduces the (the longest day of the year, when
concepts of parallels and 7.2 Gnomon
the Sun rises highest in the sky).
meridians to his maps Assuming the Sun was so distant
(equivalent to modern that its rays were almost parallel to Swenet
longitude and latitude). each other when they hit Earth, he
used a vertical rod, or gnomon, Earth
18th century The true to project the Suns shadow at Sunrays
the same moment in Alexandria.
circumference and shape
Here, he determined, the Sun was
of Earth is found through
enormous efforts by French
See also: Nicolaus Copernicus 3439 Johannes Kepler 4041
and Spanish scientists.

AL-TUSI (12011274)

Persian scholar born in
IN CONTEXT Baghdad in 1201, during
the Golden Age of Islam,
Nazir al-Din al-Tusi was a poet,
philosopher, mathematician, and
BEFORE astronomer, and one of the rst to The organisms that can
c.550 BCE Anaximander of propose a system of evolution. He gain the new features faster
Miletus proposes that animal suggested that the universe had are more variable. As a result,
life began in the water, and once comprised identical elements they gain advantages
evolved from there. that had gradually drifted apart, over other creatures.
with some becoming minerals and al-Tusi
c.340 BCE Platos theory of others, changing more quickly,
forms argues that species developing into plants and animals.
are unchangeable. In Akhlaq-i-Nasri, al-Tusis work
c.300 BCE Epicurus says that on ethics, he set out a hierarchy of
many other species have been life forms, in which animals were
created in the past, but only higher than plants and humans
were higher than other animals. Al-Tusi believed that organisms
the most successful survive
He regarded the conscious will changed over time, seeing in that
to have offspring.
of animals as a step toward the change a progression toward
AFTER consciousness of humans. Animals perfection. He thought of humans
1377 Ibn Khaldun writes in are able to move consciously to as being on a middle step of the
Muqaddimah that humans search for food, and can learn evolutionary stairway, potentially
developed from monkeys. new things. In this ability to learn, able by means of their will to reach
al-Tusi saw an ability to reason: a higher developmental level. He
1809 Jean-Baptiste Lamarck The trained horse or hunting was the rst to suggest that not
proposes a theory of evolution falcon is at a higher point of only do organisms change over
of species. development in the animal world, time, but that the whole range of
1858 Alfred Russel Wallace he said, adding, The rst steps of life has evolved from a time when
and Charles Darwin suggest human perfection begin from here. there was no life at all.
a theory of evolution by means
See also: Carl Linnaeus 7475 Jean-Baptiste Lamarck 118
of natural selection.
Charles Darwin 14249 Barbara McClintock 271


he Roman author Vitruvius, had substituted silver for some of
IN CONTEXT writing in the 1st century the gold, melting the silver with the
BCE, recounts the possibly remaining gold so that the color
apocryphal story of an incident that looked the same as pure gold.
happened two centuries earlier. The king asked his chief scientist,
BEFORE Hieron II, the King of Sicily, had Archimedes, to investigate.
3rd millennium BCE ordered a new gold crown. When Archimedes puzzled over the
Metalworkers discover that the crown was delivered, Hieron problem. The new crown was
melting metals and mixing suspected that the crown maker precious, and must not be damaged
them together produces an
alloy that is stronger than
either of the original metals.
Silver is less dense A crown made
600 BCE In ancient Greece, than gold, so a lump partly of silver will have
coins are made from an alloy of of silver will have a greater volume and displace
gold and silver called electrum. greater volume than more water than a lump
a lump of gold of the of pure gold of the same
AFTER same weight. weight as the crown.
1687 In his Principia
Mathematica, Isaac Newton
outlines his theory of gravity,
explaining how there is a force
that pulls everything toward The difference in The displaced water
the center of Earthand upthrust between the causes an upthrust.
vice versa. two is small, but it can The partly silver crown
be detected if you hang experiences a greater
1738 Swiss mathematician them on a balance in water.
Daniel Bernoulli develops upthrust than the gold.
his kinetic theory of uids,
explaining how uids exert
pressure on objects by the
random movement of
molecules in the uid. Eureka!
See also: Nicolaus Copernicus 3439 Isaac Newton 6269

in any way. He went to the public realized that any object immersed
baths in Syracuse to ponder the in a liquid experiences an upthrust
problem. The bath was full to the (upward force) equal to the weight
brim, and when he climbed in, he of the liquid it has displaced.
noticed two things: the water level Archimedes probably solved the
rose, making some water slop over puzzle by hanging the crown and A solid heavier than a uid
the side, and he felt weightless. He an equal weight of pure gold on will, if placed in it, descend to
shouted Eureka! (I have found the opposite ends of a stick, which he the bottom of the uid, and the
answer!) and ran home stark naked. then suspended by its center so solid will, when weighed in
that the two weights balanced. the uid, be lighter than its
Measuring volume Then he lowered the whole thing true weight by the weight of
Archimedes had realized that into a bath of water. If the crown the uid displaced.
if he lowered the crown into a was pure gold, it and the lump of Archimedes
bucket lled to the brim with water, gold would experience an equal
it would displace some water upthrust, and the stick would stay
exactly the same amount as its own horizontal. If the crown contained
volumeand he could measure some silver, however, the volume
how much water spilled out. This of the crown would be greater than
would tell him the volume of the the volume of the lump of goldthe
crown. Silver is less dense than crown would displace more water, it has displaced one ton of water,
gold, so a silver crown of the same and the stick would tilt sharply. but then will sink no further. Its
weight would be bigger than a gold Archimedes idea became deep, hollow hull has a greater
crown, and would displace more known as Archimedes principle, volume and displaces more water
water. Therefore, an adulterated which states that the upthrust on than a lump of steel of the same
crown would displace more water an object in a uid is equal to the weight, and is therefore buoyed up
than a pure gold crownand more weight of the uid the object by a greater upthrust.
than a lump of gold of the same displaces. This principle explains Vitruvius tells us that Hierons
weight. In practice, the effect would how objects made of dense material crown was indeed found to contain
have been small and difcult to can still oat on water. A steel ship some silver, and that the crown
measure. But Archimedes had also that weighs one ton will sink until maker was duly punished.

Archimedes Archimedes was possibly the Archimedes also calculated an

greatest mathematician in approximation for pi (the ratio
the ancient world. Born around of a circles circumference to
287 BCE, he was killed by a soldier its diameter), and wrote down
when his home town Syracuse the laws of levers and pulleys.
was taken by the Romans in The achievement Archimedes
212 BCE. He had devised several was most proud of was a
fearsome weapons to keep at bay mathematical proof that the
the Roman warships that attacked smallest cylinder that any given
Syracusea catapult, a crane to sphere can t into has exactly
lift the bows of a ship out of the 1.5 times the spheres volume. A
water, and a death array of mirrors sphere and a cylinder are carved
to focus the Suns rays and set into Archimedes tombstone.
re to a ship. He probably
invented the Archimedes screw, Key work
still used today for irrigation,
during a stay in Egypt. c.250 BCE On Floating Bodies



n about 140 BCE, the Greek
IN CONTEXT astronomer Hipparchus,
During the day probably the nest astronomer
BRANCH Earth is bright, with
shadows, because of the ancient world, compiled a
of sunlight. catalogue of some 850 stars. He
BEFORE also explained how to predict the
140 BCE Hipparchus gures movements of the Sun and Moon
out how to predict eclipses. and the dates of eclipses. In his
work Almagest of about 150 CE,
150 CE Ptolemy improves Ptolemy of Alexandria listed
on Hipparchuss work, and 1,000 stars and 48 constellations.
produces practical tables for The Moon is sometimes Most of this work was effectively
calculating the future positions bright, with shadows. an updated version of what
of the celestial bodies. Hipparchus had written, but in a
more practical form. In the West,
the Almagest became the standard
11th century Shen Kuo
astronomy text throughout the
writes the Dream Pool Essays,
Middle Ages. Its tables included
in which he uses the waxing all the information needed to
and waning of the Moon to calculate the future positions of the
demonstrate that all heavenly The Moon
Sun and Moon, the planets and
bodies (though not Earth) must be bright
because of sunlight. the major stars, and also eclipses
are spherical. of the Sun and Moon.
1543 Nicolaus Copernicus In 120 CE, the Chinese polymath
publishes On the Revolutions Zhang Heng produced a work
of the Celestial Spheres, entitled Ling Xian, or The Spiritual
in which he describes a Constitution of the Universe. In it,
heliocentric system. he wrote that the sky is like a
hens egg, and is as round as a
1609 Johannes Kepler Therefore the Sun crossbow pellet, and Earth is like
explains the movements of is like re, the Moon the yolk of the egg, lying alone at
the planets as free-oating like water. the center. The sky is large and the
bodies describing ellipses. Earth small. This was, following
Hipparchus and Ptolemy, a universe
See also: Nicolaus Copernicus 3439 Johannes Kepler 4041

Isaac Newton 6269

Sun, and the Moons darkness is

due to the light of the Sun being
obstructed. The side that faces the
Sun is fully lit, and the side that is
away from it is dark. Zhang also
The Moon and the planets described a lunar eclipse, where
are Yin; they have shape the Suns light cannot reach the
but no light. Moon because Earth is in the way.
Jing Fang He recognized that the planets
were also like water, reecting
light, and so were also subject to Zhang Heng
eclipses: When [a similar effect]
happens with a planet, we call it an Zhang Heng was born in 78 CE
occultation; when the Moon passes in the town of Xie, in what is
now Henan Province, in Han
across the Suns path then there is
Dynasty China. At 17, he left
with Earth at its center. Zhang a solar eclipse. home to study literature and
catalogued 2,500 brightly shining In the 11th century, another train to be a writer. By his late
stars and 124 constellations, and Chinese astronomer, Shen Kuo, 20s, Zhang had become a
added that of the very small stars expanded on Zhangs work in one skilled mathematician and
there are 11,520. signicant respect. He showed that was called to the court of
observations of the waxing and Emperor An-ti, who, in 115 CE,
Eclipses of the Moon waning of the Moon proved that the made him Chief Astrologer.
and planets celestial bodies were spherical. Zhang lived at a time of
Zhang was fascinated by eclipses. rapid advances in science. In
He wrote, The Sun is like re and addition to his astronomical
The crescent outline of Venus is work, he devised a water-
the Moon like water. The re gives about to be occulted by the Moon.
out light and the water reects it. powered armillary sphere (a
Zhangs observations led him to
Thus the Moons brightness is model of the celestial objects)
conclude that, like the Moon, the
and invented the worlds rst
produced from the radiance of the planets did not produce their own light.
seismometer, which was
ridiculed until, in 138 CE, it
successfully recorded an
earthquake 250 miles (400 km)
away. He also invented the
rst odometer to measure
distances traveled in vehicles,
and a nonmagnetic, south-
pointing compass in the form
of a chariot. Zhang was a
distinguished poet, whose
works give us vivid insights
into the cultural life of his day.

Key works

c.120 CE The Spiritual

Constitution of the Universe
c.120 CE The Map of
the Ling Xian

ALHAZEN (c.9651040)

BRANCH The light of the Sun The light bounces off
Physics bounces off objects. in straight lines.
350 BCE Aristotle argues that
vision derives from physical
forms entering the eye from
an object.
300 BCE Euclid argues that the Light travels in
To see, we need to do nothing
eye sends out beams that are straight lines into but open our eyes.
bounced back to the eye. our eyes.
980s Ibn Sahl investigates
refraction of light and deduces
the laws of refraction.

he Arab astronomer and methodically testing them with
AFTER mathematician Alhazen, experiments. As he observed:
1240 English bishop Robert who lived in Baghdad, The seeker after truth is not one
Grosseteste uses geometry in in present-day Iraq, during the who studies the writings of the
his experiments with optics Golden Age of Islamic civilization, ancients andputs his trust in
and accurately describes the was arguably the worlds rst them, but rather the one who
nature of color. experimental scientist. While suspects his faith in them and
earlier Greek and Persian thinkers questions what he gathers from
1604 Johannes Keplers theory had explained the natural world in them, the one who submits to
of the retinal image is based various ways, they had arrived at argument and demonstration.
directly on Alhazens work. their conclusions through abstract
1620s Alhazens ideas reasoning, not through physical Understanding vision
inuence Francis Bacon, who experiments. Alhazen, working in a Alhazen is remembered today as
advocates a scientic method thriving Islamic culture of curiosity a founder of the science of optics.
based on experiment. and inquiry, was the rst to use His most important works were
what we now call the scientic studies of the structure of the eye
method: setting up hypotheses and and the process of vision. The
See also: Johannes Kepler 4041 Francis Bacon 45 Christiaan Huygens 5051 Isaac Newton 6269

Object Image is upside down and is focused by a lens onto a

and back to front sensitive surface (the retina) at
the back of the eye. However, even
Pinhole though he recognized the eye as a
lens, he did not explain how the
eye or the brain forms an image.

Experiments with light

Alhazens monumental, seven-
volume Book of Optics set out his
theory of light and his theory of
vision. It remained the main
Light rays authority on the subject until
travel from Alhazen provided the rst scientic Newtons Principia was published
the object description of a camera obscura, an
optical device that projects an
650 years later. The book explores
upside-down image on a screen. the interaction of light with lenses,
and describes the phenomenon of
refraction (change in the direction)
Greek scholars Euclid and, later, He noted that, from each point of of light700 years before Dutch
Ptolemy believed that vision every colored body, illuminated scientist Willebrord van Roijen
derived from rays that beamed by any light, issue light and color Snells law of refraction. It also
out of the eye and bounced back along every straight line that examines the refraction of light
from whatever a person was looking can be drawn from that point. by the atmosphere, and describes
at. Alhazen showed, through In order to see things, we have only shadows, rainbows, and eclipses.
the observation of shadows and to open our eyes to let in the light. Optics greatly inuenced later
reection, that light bounces off There is no need for the eye to send Western scientists, including
objects and travels in straight lines out rays, even if it could. Francis Bacon, one of the scientists
into our eyes. Vision was a passive, Alhazen also found, through his responsible for reviving Alhazens
rather than an active, phenomenon, experiments with bulls eyes, that scientic method during the
at least until it reached the retina. light enters a small hole (the pupil) Renaissance in Europe.

Alhazen traveled south of the city, and

saw the sheer size of the river
Abu Ali al-Hassan ibn al- which is almost 1 mile (1.6 km)
Haytham (known in the West as wide at Aswanhe realized the
Alhazen) was born in Basra, in task was impossible with the
The duty of the man present-day Iraq, and educated technology then available. To
who investigates the in Baghdad. As a young man he avoid the caliphs retribution he
writings of scientists, if was given a government job in feigned insanity and remained
learning the truth is his Basra, but soon became bored. under house arrest for 12 years.
goal, is to make himself an One story has it that, on hearing In that time he did his most
enemy of all that he reads. about the problems resulting important work.
Alhazen from the annual ooding of
the Nile in Egypt, he wrote to Key works
Caliph al-Hakim offering to build
a dam to regulate the deluge, 101121 Book of Optics
and was received with honor c.1030 A Discourse on Light
in Cairo. However, when he c.1030 On the Light of the Moon
1400 1700

Nicolaus Copernicus
publishes De Francis Bacon publishes
Revolutionibus Orbium Novum Organum
Coelestium, outlining Johannes Kepler suggests Scientarum and The
a heliocentric that Mars has an New Atlantis, outlining Evangelista Torricelli
universe. elliptical orbit. the scientic method. invents the barometer.

1543 1609 1620S 1643

1600 1610 1639 1660S

Astronomer William Gilbert Galileo observes the Jeremiah Horrocks Robert Boyle publishes
publishes De Magnete, a moons of Jupiter and observes the transit New Experiments
treatise on magnetism, experiments with balls of Venus. Physico-Mechanical:
and suggests that rolling down slopes. Touching the Spring of
Earth is a magnet. the Air, and its Effects,
investigating air pressure.

he Islamic Golden Age Nicolaus Copernicus completed his objects and devising the pendulum
was a great owering of heretical model of the universe that as an effective timekeeper, which
the sciences and arts had the Sun at its center. Aware of Dutchman Christiaan Huygens
that began in the capital of the the heresy, he was careful to state used to build the rst pendulum
Abbasid Caliphate, Baghdad, in that it was only a mathematical clock in 1657. English philosopher
the mid-8th century and lasted model, and he waited until he Francis Bacon wrote two books
for about 500 years. It laid the was on the point of death before laying out his ideas for a scientic
foundations for experimentation publishing, but the Copernican method, and the theoretical
and the modern scientic method. model quickly won many advocates. groundwork for modern science,
In the same period in Europe, German astrologer Johannes Kepler based on experiment, observation,
however, several hundred years rened Copernicuss theory using and measurement, was developed.
were to pass before scientic observations by his Danish mentor New discoveries followed thick
thought was to overcome the Tycho Brahe, and calculated that the and fast. Robert Boyle used an air
restrictions of religious dogma. orbits of Mars and, by inference, pump to investigate the properties
the other planets were ellipses. of air, while Huygens and English
Dangerous thinking Improved telescopes allowed Italian physicist Isaac Newton came up
For centuries, the Catholic Churchs polymath Galileo Galilei to identify with opposing theories of how light
view of the universe was based on four moons of Jupiter in 1610. The travels, establishing the science
Aristotles idea that Earth was at new cosmologys explanatory of optics. Danish astronomer Ole
the orbital center of all celestial power was becoming undeniable. Rmer noted discrepancies in
bodies. Then, in about 1532, after Galileo also demonstrated the the timetable of eclipses of the
years of struggling with its complex power of scientic experiment, moons of Jupiter, and used these
mathematics, Polish physician investigating the physics of falling to calculate an approximate value

In Micrographia, Jan Swammerdam

Robert Hooke describes how Ole Rmer uses the John Ray publishes
introduces the world insects develop in moons of Jupiter to Historia Plantarum, an
to the anatomy of stages in Historia show that light has encyclopedia of the
eas, bees, and cork. Insectorum Generalis. a nite speed. plant kingdom.

1665 1669 1676 1686

1669 1670S 1678 1687

Nicolas Steno writes Antonie van Christiaan Huygens rst Isaac Newton outlines
about solids (fossils and Leeuwenhoek observes announces his wave his laws of motion
crystals) contained single-celled theory of light, which in Philosophiae
within solids. organisms, sperm, and will later contrast with Naturalis Principia
even bacteria with Isaac Newtons idea of Mathematica.
simple microscopes. light as corpuscular.

for the speed of light. Rmers Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, enormous encyclopedia of plants,
compatriot, Bishop Nicolas Steno, perhaps inspired by Hookes which marked the rst serious
was sceptical of much ancient drawings, made hundreds of his attempt at systematic classication.
wisdom, and developed his own own microscopes and found tiny
ideas in both anatomy and geology. life forms in places where no one Mathematical analysis
He laid down the principles of had thought of looking before, such Heralding the Enlightenment, these
stratigraphy (the study of rock as water. Leeuwenhoek had discoveries laid the groundwork for
layers), establishing a new discovered single-celled life forms the modern scientic disciplines of
scientic basis for geology. such as protists and bacteria, astronomy, chemistry, geology,
which he called animalcules. physics, and biology. The centurys
Microworlds When he reported his ndings to crowning achievement came with
Throughout the 17th century, the British Royal Society, they sent Newtons treatise Philosophi
developments in technology three priests to certify that he had Naturalis Principia Mathematica,
drove scientic discovery at the really seen such things. Dutch which laid out his laws of motion
smallest scale. In the early 1600s, microscopist Jan Swammerdam and gravity. Newtonian physics
Dutch eyeglasses-makers showed that egg, larva, pupa, was to remain the best description
developed the rst microscopes, and adult are all stages in the of the physical world for more than
and, later that century, Robert development of an insect, and not two centuries, and together with
Hooke built his own and made separate animals created by God. the analytical techniques of
beautiful drawings of his ndings, Old ideas dating back to Aristotle calculus developed independently
revealing the intricate structure of were swept away by these new by Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm
tiny bugs such as eas for the rst discoveries. Meanwhile, English Leibniz, it would provide a powerful
time. Dutch fabric-store owner biologist John Ray compiled an tool for future scientic study.




hroughout its early history,
IN CONTEXT Western thought was
shaped by an idea of
the universe that placed Earth
at the center of everything. This
BEFORE geocentric model seemed at If the Lord Almighty
3rd century BCE In a work rst to be rooted in everyday had consulted me before
called The Sand Reckoner, observations and common sense embarking on creation thus,
Archimedes reports the ideas we do not feel any motion of the I should have recommended
of Aristarchus of Samos, who ground on which we stand, and something simpler.
proposed that the universe supercially there seems to be no Alfonso X
was much larger than observational evidence that our King of Castile
commonly believed, and that planet is in motion either. Surely
the simplest explanation was
the Sun was at its center.
that the Sun, Moon, planets and
150 CE Ptolemy of Alexandria stars were all spinning around
uses mathematics to describe Earth at different rates? This
a geocentric (Earth-centered) system appears to have been
model of the universe. widely accepted in the ancient the Sun. Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn,
world, and became entrenched in meanwhile, took 780 days, 12 years,
AFTER classical philosophy through the and 30 years respectively to circle
1609 Johannes Kepler resolves works of Plato and Aristotle in against the background stars, their
the outstanding conicts in the the 4th century BCE. motion complicated by retrograde
heliocentric (Sun-centered) However, when the ancient loops in which they slowed and
model of the solar system by Greeks measured the movements temporarily reversed the general
proposing elliptical orbits. of the planets, it became clear direction of their motion.
that the geocentric system had
1610 After observing the problems. The orbits of the known Ptolemaic system
moons of Jupiter, Galileo planetsve wandering lights in To explain these complications,
becomes convinced that the skyfollowed complex paths. Greek astronomers introduced
Copernicus was right. Mercury and Venus were always the idea of epicyclessub-orbits
seen in the morning and evening around which the planets circled
skies, describing tight loops around as the central pivot points of the

Earth appears to be Placing the Sun at the center

stationary, with the Sun, Moon, produces a far more elegant model,
planets, and stars orbiting it. with Earth and the planets orbiting the Sun,
and the stars a huge distance away.

However, a model of the

universe with Earth at its center At the center of
cannot describe the movement of
the planets without using a very everything is the Sun.
complicated system.
See also: Zhang Heng 2627 Johannes Kepler 4041 Galileo Galilei 4243 William Herschel 8687

Edwin Hubble 23641

sub-orbits were carried around Empire dwindled in subsequent to attempt ever more accurate
the Sun. This system was best centuries, the Christian Church measurements of the motions
rened by the great Greco-Roman inherited many of its assumptions. of the planets.
astronomer and geographer Ptolemy The idea that Earth was the center
of Alexandria in the 2nd century CE. of everything, and that man was Arabic scholarship
Even in the classical world, the pinnacle of Gods creation, The later centuries of the rst
however, there were differences with dominion over Earth, became millennium corresponded with
of opinionthe Greek thinker a central tenet of Christianity and the rst great owering of Arabic
Aristarchus of Samos, for instance, held sway in Europe until the science. The rapid spread of
used ingenious trigonometric 16th century. Islam across the Middle East
measurements to calculate the However, this does not mean and North Africa from the 7th
relative distances of the Sun and that astronomy stagnated for century brought Arab thinkers
Moon in the 3rd century BCE. He a millennium and a half after into contact with classical texts,
found that the Sun was huge, and Ptolemy. The ability to accurately including the astronomical
this inspired him to suggest that predict the movements of the writings of Ptolemy and others.
the Sun was a more likely pivot planets was not only a scientic The practice of positional
point for the motion of the cosmos. and philosophical puzzle, but also astronomycalculating the
However, the Ptolemaic system had supposed practical purposes positions of heavenly bodies
ultimately won out over rival thanks to the superstitions of reached its apogee in Spain,
theories, with far-reaching astrology. Stargazers of all which had become a dynamic
implications. While the Roman persuasions had good reason melting pot of Islamic, Jewish,
and Christian thought. In the late
13th century, King Alfonso X of
Castile sponsored the compilation
of the Alfonsine Tables, which
combined new observations with
centuries of Islamic records to
bring new precision to the
Ptolemaic system and provide
Sun the data that would be used to
Mars calculate planetary positions
until the early 17th century.
Earth Questioning Ptolemy
Moon However, by this point the
Ptolemaic model was becoming
absurdly complicated, with yet
more epicycles added to keep
prediction in line with observation.
In 1377, French philosopher
Nicole Oresme, Bishop of Lisieux,
Jupiter addressed this problem head-on in
the work Livre du Ciel et du Monde
Saturn (Book of the Heavens and the
Ptolemys model of the universe has Earth unmoving at the center, Earth). He demonstrated the lack
with the Sun, Moon, and the ve known planets following circular of observational proof that Earth
orbits around it. To make their orbits agree with observations, Ptolemy was static, and argued that there
added smaller epicycles to each planets movement. was no reason to suppose that it
was not in motion. Yet, despite
his demolition of the evidence for
the Ptolemaic system, Oresme
concluded that he did not himself
believe in a moving Earth.
By the beginning of the 16th
century, the situation had become
very different. The twin forces of the
Renaissance and the Protestant
Reformation saw many old religious
dogmas opened up to question. It
was in this context that Nicolaus
Copernicus, a Polish Catholic canon
from the province of Warmia, put
forward the rst modern heliocentric
theory, shifting the center of the
universe from Earth to the Sun.
Copernicus rst published his
ideas in a short pamphlet known
as the Commentariolus, circulated
among friends from around 1514.
His theory was similar in essence
to the system proposed by
Aristarchus, and while it overcame
many of the earlier models failings,
it remained deeply attached to motions on certain parts of their This 17th-century illustration of the
certain pillars of Ptolemaic orbits. One important implication Copernican system shows the planets
thoughtmost signicantly the of his model was that it vastly in circular orbits around the Sun.
idea that the orbits of celestial increased the size of the universe. If Copernicus believed that the planets
were attached to heavenly spheres.
objects were mounted on Earth was moving around the Sun,
crystalline spheres that rotated in then this should give itself away
perfect circular motion. As a result, through parallax effects caused by It was Rheticus who published
Copernicus had to introduce our changing point of view: the the rst widely circulated account
epicycles of his own in order to stars should appear to shift back of the Copernican system, known
regulate the speed of planetary and forth across the sky throughout as the Narratio Prima, in 1540.
the year. Because they do not do so, Rheticus urged the aging priest
they must be very far away indeed. to publish his own work in full
The Copernican model soon something that Copernicus had
proved itself far more accurate than contemplated for many years, but
any renement of the old Ptolemaic only conceded to in 1543 as he
system, and word spread among lay on his deathbed.
Since the Sun remains intellectual circles across Europe.
stationary, whatever appears Notice even reached Rome, where, Mathematical tool
as a motion of the Sun is due contrary to popular belief, the Published posthumously, De
to the motion of the Earth. model was at rst welcomed in Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium
Nicolaus Copernicus some Catholic circles. The new (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly
model caused enough of a stir for Spheres) was not initially greeted
German mathematician Georg with outrage, even though any
Joachim Rheticus to travel to suggestion that Earth was in motion
Warmia and become Copernicuss directly contradicted several
pupil and assistant from 1539. passages of Scripture and was
therefore regarded as heretical
by both Catholic and Protestant
theologians. To sidestep the issue,
a preface had been inserted that
explained the heliocentric model
as purely a mathematical tool for As though seated on a
prediction, not a description of royal throne, the Sun
the physical universe. In his life, governs the family of planets
however, Copernicus himself revolving around it.
had shown no such reservations. Nicolaus Copernicus
Despite its heretical implications,
the Copernican model was used
for the calculations involved in the
great calendar reform introduced Nicolaus Copernicus
by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582.
However, new problems with Born in the Polish city of
the models predictive accuracy Church, thanks largely to the Torun in 1473, Nicolaus
Copernicus was the youngest
soon began to emerge, thanks to controversy surrounding Italian
of four children of a wealthy
the meticulous observations of the scientist Galileo Galilei. Galileos merchant. His father died
Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe 1610 observations of the phases when Nicolaus was 10. An
(15461601), which showed that displayed by Venus and the uncle took him under his wing
the Copernican model did not presence of moons orbiting Jupiter and oversaw his education at
adequately describe planetary convinced him that the heliocentric the University of Krakow. He
motions. Brahe attempted to theory was correct, and his ardent spent several years in Italy
resolve these contradictions with support for it, from the heart of studying medicine and law,
a model of his own in which the Catholic Italy, was ultimately returning in 1503 to Poland,
planets went around the Sun but expressed in his Dialogue where he joined the canonry
the Sun and Moon remained in Concerning the Two Chief World under his uncle, who was now
orbit around Earth. The real Systems (1632). This led Galileo Prince-Bishop of Warmia.
solutionthat of elliptical orbits into conict with the papacy, Copernicus was a master
would only be found by his pupil one result of which was the of both languages and
mathematics, translating
Johannes Kepler. retrospective censorship of
several important works and
It would be six decades before controversial passages in De
developing ideas about
Copernicanism became truly Revolutionibus in 1616. This economics, as well as working
emblematic of the split caused in prohibition would not be lifted on his astronomical theories.
Europe by the Reformation of the for more than two centuries. The theory he outlined in
De Revolutionibus was
As Earth moves around the Sun, the apparent
daunting in its mathematical
Earth in position of stars at different distances changes complexity, so while many
January due to an effect called parallax. Since the stars are recognized its signicance,
so far away, the effect is small and can only be it was not widely adopted
detected using telescopes. by astronomers for practical
everyday use.

Sun Near Key works

star 1514 Commentariolus

1543 De Revolutionibus
Apparent position Orbium Coelestium (On
the Revolutions of the
Heavenly Spheres)
Earth in July Distant stars


hile the work of Nicolaus stated that the planets orbited the
IN CONTEXT Copernicus on celestial Sun on perfect circular paths, and
orbits, published in was forced to introduce a variety
1543, made a convincing case for a of complications to his model to
heliocentric (Sun-centered) model account for their irregularities.
BEFORE of the universe, his system suffered
150 CE Ptolemy of Alexandria from signicant problems. Unable Supernova and comets
publishes the Algamest, a to break free from ancient ideas In the latter half of the 16th century,
model of the universe built that heavenly bodies were mounted Danish nobleman Tycho Brahe
on the assumption that Earth on crystal spheres, Copernicus had (15461601) made observations that
lies at its center and the
Sun, Moon, planets and
stars revolve around it in
circular orbits on xed The birth of a new
star in a constellation Observations of comets
celestial spheres. show that they move
shows that the heavens
16th century The idea of beyond the planets are among the planets,
a Sun-centered cosmology not unchanging. crossing their orbits.
begins to gain followers
through the ideas of
Nicolaus Copernicus.
AFTER If the planets are not
1639 Jeremiah Horrocks uses This suggests
xed onto spheres, an
Keplers ideas to predict and that heavenly bodies are
elliptical orbit around the
not attached to xed
view a transit of Venus across Sun best explains their
celestial spheres.
the face of the Sun. observed motion.
1687 Isaac Newtons laws of
motion and gravitation reveal
the physical principles that
give rise to Keplers laws. The orbit of every
planet is an ellipse.
See also: Nicolaus Copernicus 3439 Jeremiah Horrocks 52

Isaac Newton 6269

would prove vital to resolving the than truly circular. Kepler

problems. A bright supernova formulated a heliocentric model
explosion seen in the constellation with ovoid orbits, but this still did
of Cassiopeia in 1572 undermined not match the observational data.
the Copernican idea that the In 1605, he concluded that Mars
universe beyond the planets was must instead orbit the Sun in an
unchanging. In 1577, Brahe plotted ellipsea stretched circle with
the motion of a comet. Comets the Sun as one of two focus points.
had been thought of as local In his Astronomia Nova (New
phenomena, closer than the Moon, Astronomy) of 1609, he outlined two
but Brahes observations showed laws of planetary motion. The rst Johannes Kepler
that the comet must lie well beyond law stated that the orbit of every
the Moon, and was in fact moving planet is an ellipse. The second law Born in the city of Weil der
among the planets. In one stroke, stated that a line joining a planet to Stadt near Stuttgart, southern
Germany, in 1571, Johannes
this evidence demolished the idea the Sun sweeps across equal areas
Kepler witnessed the Great
of heavenly spheres. However, during equal periods of time. This Comet of 1577 as a small
Brahe remained wedded to the idea means that the speed of the planets child, marking the start of
of circular orbits in his geocentric increases the closer they are to the his fascination with the
(Earth-centered) model. Sun. A third law, in 1619, described heavens. While studying at
In 1597, Brahe was invited to the relationship of a planets year the University of Tbingen,
Prague, where he spent his last to its distance from the Sun: the he developed a reputation as
years as Imperial Mathematician square of a planets orbital period a brilliant mathematician and
to Emperor Rudolph II. Here he (year) is proportional to the cube astrologer. He corresponded
was joined by German astrologer of its distance from the Sun. So a with various leading
Johannes Kepler, who continued planet that is twice the distance astronomers of the time,
Brahes work after his death. from the Sun than another planet including Tycho Brahe,
will have a year that is almost ultimately moving to Prague
Breaking with circles three times as long. in 1600 to become Brahes
student and academic heir.
Kepler had already begun to The nature of the force keeping
Following Brahes death in
calculate a new orbit for Mars from the planets in orbit was unknown.
1601, Kepler took on the post
Brahes observations, and around Kepler believed it was magnetic, of Imperial Mathematician,
this time concluded that its orbit but it would be 1687 before Newton with a royal commission to
must be ovoid (egg-shaped) rather showed that it was gravity. complete Brahes work on the
so-called Rudolphine Tables
for predicting the movements
Keplers laws state t
that planets follow Focus Focus of the planets. He completed
elliptical orbits with A this work in Linz, Austria,
the Sun as one of the where he worked from 1612
two foci of the ellipse. until his death in 1630.
In any given time, t,
a line joining the Key works
planets to the Sun A A
t t
sweeps across 1596 The Cosmic Mystery
equal areas (A) Sun 1609 Astronomia Nova
in the ellipse. (New Astronomy)
1619 The Harmony of
the World
Planet 1627 Rudolphine Tables


or 2,000 years, few people With the equipment available
IN CONTEXT challenged Aristotles during the 1630s, Galileo could
assertion that an external not directly measure the speed or
force keeps things moving and that acceleration of freely falling objects.
heavy objects fall faster than lighter By rolling balls down one ramp and
BEFORE ones. Only in the 17th century up another, he showed that the
4th century BCE Aristotle did the Italian astronomer and speed of a ball at the bottom of
develops ideas about forces mathematician Galileo Galilei the ramp depended on its starting
and motion, but does not test insist that the ideas had to be height, not on the steepness of the
them experimentally. tested. He devised experiments ramp, and that a ball would always
to test how and why objects move roll up to the same height it had
1020 Persian scholar Ibn Sina and stop moving, and was the rst started from, no matter how steep
(Avicenna) writes that moving to gure out the principle of or shallow the inclines were.
objects have innate impetus, inertiathat objects resist a Galileo carried out his remaining
slowed only by external factors change in motion and need a force experiments with a ramp 16 ft (5 m)
such as air resistance. to start moving, speed up, or slow long, lined with a smooth material to
1586 Flemish engineer Simon down. By timing objects falling, reduce friction. For timing, he used a
Galileo showed that the rate of fall large container of water with a small
Stevin drops two lead balls of
is the same for all objects, and pipe in the bottom. He collected the
unequal weight from a church
came to realize the part played by water during the interval he was
tower in Delft to show that
friction in slowing them down. measuring, and weighed the water
they fall at the same speed.
AFTER Galileo demonstrated that the speed a ball
1687 Isaac Newtons Principia reaches at the bottom of a ramp depends only on
formulates his laws of motion. its starting height, not the steepness of the ramp.
A Here, balls dropped from points A and B will B
1971 US astronaut Dave Scott reach the bottom of the ramp at the same speed.
demonstrates Galileos ideas
about falling bodies by
showing that a hammer and a
feather fall at the same rate on
the Moon, which has almost
no atmosphere to cause drag.
See also: Nicolaus Copernicus 3439 Isaac Newton 6269

needs a bigger force to make it

accelerate. The two effects cancel
each other out, so in the absence of Objects of different
any other forces, all falling objects masses appear to fall at
will accelerate at the same rate. We different rates.
Count what is countable, see things falling at different rates
measure what is measurable, in everyday life because of the
and what is not measurable, effect of air resistance, which slows
make it measurable. objects down at different rates
Galileo Galilei depending on their size and shape.
A beach ball and a bowling ball All moving objects are
of the same size will initially affected by air resistance.
accelerate at the same rate. Once
they are moving, the same amount
of air resistance will act on them,
but the size of this force will be a
collected. By letting the ball go at much greater proportion of the
different points on the ramp, he downward force on the beach ball
Without air resistance,
showed that the distance traveled than the bowling ball, and so the
all objects would fall at
depended on the square of the time beach ball will slow down more. the same rate.
takenin other words, the ball Galileos insistence on testing
accelerated down the ramp. theories with careful observation
and measurable experiments marks
The law of falling bodies him, like Alhazen, as one of the
Galileos conclusion was that bodies founders of modern science. His
all fall at the same speed in a ideas on forces and motion paved
vacuum, an idea later developed the way for Newtons laws of motion
A falling body
further by Isaac Newton. There is a 50 years later and underpin our
greater force from gravity on a larger understanding of movement in the uniformly.
mass, but the larger mass also universe, from atoms to galaxies.

Galileo Galilei Galileo was born in Pisa, but made to recant this and other
later moved with his family to ideas. He was sentenced to
Florence. In 1581, he enrolled house arrest, which lasted
in the University of Pisa to the rest of his life. During
study medicine, then switched his connement, he wrote a
to mathematics and natural book summarizing his work
philosophy. He investigated many on kinematics (the science
areas of science, and is perhaps of movement).
most famous for his discovery of
the four largest moons of Jupiter Key works
(still called the Galilean moons).
Galileos observations led him to 1623 The Assayer
support the Sun-centered model 1632 Dialogue Concerning the
of the solar system, which at Two Chief World Systems
the time was in opposition to the 1638 Discourses and
teachings of the Roman Catholic Mathematical Demonstrations
Church. In 1633, he was tried and Relating to Two New Sciences


y the late 1500s, ships Gilberts breakthrough came not
IN CONTEXT captains already relied on from a ash of inspiration, but from
magnetic compasses to 17 years of meticulous experiment.
maintain their course across the He learned all he could from ships
oceans. Yet no one knew how they captains and compass makers, and
BEFORE worked. Some thought the compass then he made a model globe, or
6th century BCE The Greek needle was attracted to the North terrella, out of the magnetic rock
thinker Thales of Miletus notes Star, others that it was drawn to lodestone and tested compass
magnetic rocks, or lodestones. magnetic mountains in the Arctic. needles against it. The needles
It was English physician William reacted around the terrella just as
1st century CE Chinese Gilbert who discovered that Earth ships compasses did on a larger
diviners make primitive itself is magnetic. scaleshowing the same patterns
compasses with iron ladles of declination (pointing slightly
that swivel to point south. away from true north at the
1269 French scholar Pierre de geographic pole, which differs from
Maricourt sets out the basic magnetic north) and inclination
laws of magnetic attraction, (tilting down from the horizontal
toward the globe).
repulsion, and poles. Stronger reasons are obtained Gilbert concluded, rightly, that
AFTER from sure experiments and the entire planet is a magnet and
1824 French mathematician demonstrated arguments has a core of iron. He published
Simon Poisson models the than from probable his ideas in the book De Magnete
forces in a magnetic eld. conjectures and the opinions (On the Magnet) in 1600, causing
of philosophical speculators. a sensation. Johannes Kepler and
1940s American physicist William Gilbert Galileo, in particular, were inspired
Walter Maurice Elsasser by his suggestion that Earth is not
attributes Earths magnetic xed to rotating celestial spheres,
eld to iron swirling in its outer as most people still thought, but is
core as the planet rotates. made to spin by the invisible force
1958 Explorer 1 space mission of its own magnetism.
shows Earths magnetic eld
See also: Thales of Miletus 20 Johannes Kepler 4041 Galileo Galilei 4243
extending far out into space.
Hans Christian rsted 120 James Clerk Maxwell 18085

FRANCIS BACON (15611626)

he English philosopher,
IN CONTEXT statesman, and scientist
Francis Bacon was not
the rst to conduct experiments
Experimental science
Alhazen and other Arab scientists
BEFORE conducted them 600 years earlier Whether or no anything can
4th century BCE Aristotle but he was the rst to explain the be known, can be settled not
deduces, argues, and writes, methods of inductive reasoning and by arguing, but by trying.
but does not test with set out the scientic method. He Francis Bacon
experimentshis methods also saw science as a spring of a
persist for the next millennium. progeny of inventions, which shall
overcome, to some extent, and
c.7501250 CE Arab scientists subdue our needs and miseries.
conduct experiments during
the Golden Age of Islam. Evidence from experiment
According to the Greek philosopher scientic method: observation,
Plato, truth was found by authority deduction to formulate a theory
1630s Galileo experiments
and argumentif enough intelligent that might explain what has been
with falling bodies. men discussed something for long observed, and experiment to test
1637 French philosopher Ren enough, the truth would result. His whether the theory is correct. In
Descartes insists on rigorous student, Aristotle, saw no need for The New Atlantis (1623), Bacon
scepticism and inquiry in his experiments. Bacon parodied such describes a ctitious island and
Discourse on Method. authorities as spiders, spinning its House of Salomona research
webs from their own substance. He institution where scholars conduct
1665 Isaac Newton uses a insisted on evidence from the real pure research centered on
prism to investigate light. world, particularly from experiment. experiment and make inventions.
Two key works by Bacon laid Sharing those goals, the Royal
1963 In Conjectures and out the future of scientic inquiry. Society was founded in 1660 in
Refutations, the Austrian In Novum Organum (1620), he sets London, with Robert Hooke as its
philosopher Karl Popper insists out his three fundamentals for the rst Curator of Experiments.
that a theory may be tested
and proved false, but cannot See also: Alhazen 2829 Galileo Galilei 4243 William Gilbert 44

conclusively be proved correct. Robert Hooke 54 Isaac Newton 6269



1643 Evangelista Torricelli
invents the barometer using
a tube of mercury.
1648 Blaise Pascal and his

brother-in-law demonstrate
that air pressure decreases
with altitude.
1650 Otto von Guericke
performs experiments

ROBERT BOYLE (16271691)

on air and vacuums, rst
published in 1657.
1738 Swiss physicist
Daniel Bernoulli publishes
Hydrodynamica, describing
a kinetic theory of gases.
1827 Scottish botanist Robert
Brown explains the motion
of pollen in water as a result of
collisions with water molecules
moving in random directions.

n the 17th century, several
scientists across Europe
investigated the properties
of air, and their work was to lead
Anglo-Irish scientist Robert Boyle
to produce his mathematical laws
describing pressure in a gas. This
work was tied in to a wider debate
about the nature of the space
between stars and planets. The
atomists held that there was
empty space between celestial
bodies, whereas the Cartesians
(followers of the French philosopher
Ren Descartes) held that the space
between particles was lled with
an unknown substance called the
ether, and that it was impossible to
produce a vacuum.
See also: Isaac Newton 6269 John Dalton 11213 Robert FitzRoy 15055

The barometer
Torricellian vaccum invented by
Evangelista Torricelli
used a column of
mercury to measure
air pressure. Torricelli
We live submerged at the Mercury correctly reasoned
bottom of an ocean of Scale that it was the air
the element air, that by pressing down on
unquestioned experiments Pressure of the mercury in the
mercury column cistern that balanced
is known to have weight. the column of
Evangelista Torricelli Tube mercury in the tube.
Pressure of

Barometers Cistern (dish)

In Italy, the mathematician Gasparo
Berti performed experiments
designed to gure out why a He said that the space in the tube to demonstrate that air pressure
suction pump could not raise water above the mercury was a vacuum. changed depending on altitude.
more than 33 ft (10 m) high. Berti This is explained today in terms One barometer was set up on
took a long tube, sealed it at one of pressure (force on a certain area), the grounds of a monastery in
end and lled it with water. He then but the basic idea is the same. Clermont, and observed by a monk
inverted the tube with its mouth in Torricelli had invented the rst during the day. Prier carried the
a tub of water. The level of water mercury barometer. other to the top of Puy de Dme,
in the tube fell until the column French scientist Blaise Pascal about 3,200 ft (1,000 m) above the
was about 30 ft (10 m) high. In heard of Torricellis barometer town. The column of mercury was
1642, fellow Italian Evangelista in 1646, prompting him to start more than 3 in (8 cm) shorter at
Torricelli, hearing of Bertis work, some experiments of his own. the top of the mountain than in the
constructed a similar apparatus One of these, performed by his monastery garden. Since there is
but used mercury instead of water. brother-in-law Florin Prier, was less air above a mountain than
Mercury is more than 13 times there is above the valley below
denser than water, so his column it, this showed that it was indeed
of liquid was only about 30 in the weight of the air that held the
(76 cm) high. Torricellis explanation liquid in the tubes of mercury or
for this was that the weight of the water. For this, and other work,
air above the mercury in the dish the modern unit of pressure is
was pressing down on it, and that named after Pascal.
this balanced the weight of the
mercury inside the column. Air pumps
The next important breakthrough
was made by Prussian scientist
Blaise Pascals experiments with
barometers showed how air pressure Otto von Guericke, who made a
varied with altitude. In addition to pump that was capable of pumping
physics, Pascal also made signicant some of the air out of a container.
contributions to mathematics. He performed his most famous
experiments of his own, Boyle he was intent on pointing out that
commissioned Robert Hooke (p.54) the results described are all from
to design and build an air pump. experiments, since at the time even
Hookes air pump consisted of a such noted experimentalists as
glass receiver (container) whose Galileo often also reported the
Men are so accustomed to diameter was nearly 16 in (40 cm), results of thought experiments.
judge of things by their senses a cylinder with a piston below it, Many of Boyles experiments
that, because the air is and an arrangement of plugs were directly connected to air
indivisible, they ascribe but and valves between them. pressure. The receiver could be
little to it, and think it but Successive movements of the modied to hold a Torricelli
one remove from nothing. piston drew more and more air out barometer, with the tube sticking
Robert Boyle of the receiver. Due to slow leaks
in the seals of the equipment, the
near-vacuum inside the receiver
could only be maintained for a
short time. Nevertheless, the
machine was a great improvement
on anything made previously, an
demonstration in 1654, when he put example of the importance of
two metal hemispheres together technology to the furthering
with an airtight seal between them of scientic investigation.
and pumped the air out of them
two teams of horses were unable Experimental results
to pull the hemispheres apart. Boyle performed a number of
Before the air was pumped out, different experiments with the
the air pressure inside the sealed air pump, which he described in
hemispheres was the same as the his 1660 book New Experiments
air pressure outside. Without the air Physico-Mechanical. In the book,
inside, pressure from the outside
air held the hemispheres together. Otto von Guericke built the rst air
Robert Boyle learned of von pump. His experiments with the pump
Guerickes experiments when they provided evidence against Aristotles
were published in 1657. To do idea that Nature abhors a vacuum.

Robert Boyle Robert Boyle was born in Ireland, to discuss their ideas. This
the 14th child of the Earl of Cork. group became the Royal Society
He was tutored at home before in 1663, and Boyle was one
attending Eton College in England of the rst council members.
and then touring Europe. His In addition to his interests
father died in 1643, leaving him in science, Boyle performed
enough money to indulge his experiments in alchemy and
interest in science full time. Boyle wrote about theology and the
moved back to Ireland for a couple origin of different human races.
of years, but lived in Oxford from
1654 to 1668 so that he could do Key works
his work more easily, and then
moved to London. 1660 New Experiments
Boyle was part of a group of Physico-Mechanical:
men studying scientic subjects Touching the Spring of the
called the Invisible College, Air and their Effects
who met in London and Oxford 1661 The Sceptical Chymist
out of the top of the receiver and
sealed in place with cement. As
the pressure in the receiver was The height of mercury
The level of mercury falls
reduced, the level of the mercury in a barometer falls if
as air is pumped out of the
fell. He also performed the opposite you take the barometer
receiver in a barometer.
experiment, and found that raising up a mountain.
the pressure inside the receiver
made the level of the mercury rise.
This conrmed the previous
ndings of Torricelli and Pascal.
Boyle noted that it became This is because there is This means that the
harder and harder to pump air out less air above you smaller the amount of
of the receiver as the amount of air pressing down air in the receiver, the
left decreased, and also showed on the mercury. lower its pressure.
that a half-inated bladder in the
receiver increased in volume as
the air surrounding it was removed.
A similar effect on the bladder
could be achieved by holding it in The spring of the air decreases as
front of a re. He gave two possible the mass of the air decreases.
explanations for the spring of
the air that caused these effects:
each particle of the air was
compressible like a spring and the remarkably similar to the modern Power, who performed a series
whole mass of air resembled eece, kinetic theory, which describes of experiments with a Torricelli
or the air consisted of particles the properties of matter in terms barometer and published their
moving randomly. of moving particles. results in 1663. Boyle saw an early
This was similar to the view Some of Boyles experiments draft of the book and discussed
of the Cartesians, although Boyle were physiological, investigating the results with Towneley. He
did not agree with the idea of the effects on birds and mice of conrmed them by experiment
the ether, but suggested that the reducing the pressure of the and published Mr Towneleys
corpuscles were moving in air, and speculating on how air hypothesis in 1662 as part of
empty space. His explanation is is moved in and out of lungs. a response to criticism of his
original experiments.
Boyles law Boyles work on gases was
Boyles law states that the pressure particularly signicant because of
of a gas multiplied by its volume his careful experimental technique,
is a constant, as long as the amount and also his full reporting of all his
of gas and the temperature are experiments and their possible
If the height of the mercury kept the same. In other words, if sources of error, whether or not
column is less on the top of a you decrease the volume of a gas, they gave the expected results.
mountain than at the foot of it, its pressure increases. It is this This led many to seek to extend his
it follows that the weight of the increased pressure that produces work. Today, Boyles law has been
air must be the sole cause of the spring of the air. You can feel combined with laws gured out by
the phenomenon. this effect using a bicycle pump other scientists to form the ideal-
Blaise Pascal by covering the end with a nger gas law, which approximates to
and pushing the handle in. the behavior of real gases under
Although it bears his name, changes of temperature, pressure,
this law was rst proposed not by or volume. His ideas would also
Boyle, but by English scientists eventually lead to the development
Richard Towneley and Henry of the kinetic theory.


BRANCH Newton thought that
Huygens thought that
Physics a source of light emits large
space is lled with an ether.
numbers of tiny corpuscles.
11th century Alhazen
shows that light travels
in straight lines.
1630 Ren Descartes proposes
a wave description of light.
Light is disturbances in The corpuscles are
1660 Robert Hooke states the ether spreading weightless and travel
that light is a vibration of out as waves. in straight lines.
the medium through which
it propagates.
1803 Thomas Young describes
experiments that demonstrate
how light behaves as a wave. Is light a particle or a wave?
1864 James Clerk Maxwell
predicts the speed of light and
concludes that light is a form

n the 17th century, Isaac is the bending of light as it passes
of electromagnetic wave. Newton and the Dutch from one substance to another, and
1900s Albert Einstein and astronomer Christiaan is the reason that lenses can focus
Max Planck show that light Huygens both pondered the true light. Diffraction is the spreading
is both a particle and a wave. nature of light, and reached very out of light when it passes through
The quanta of electromagnetic different conclusions. The problem a very narrow gap.
radiation they recognize they faced was that any theory Before Newtons experiments,
become known as photons. about the nature of light had to it was widely accepted that light
explain reection, refraction, gained its quality of color by
diffraction, and color. Refraction interacting with matterthat
See also: Alhazen 2829 Robert Hooke 54 Isaac Newton 6269 Thomas Young 11011

James Clerk Maxwell 18085 Albert Einstein 21421

the rainbow effect seen when When white light passes through a
light passes through a prism is prism, it is refracted into its component
produced because the prism has parts. Huygens explained that this is
due to light waves traveling at different
somehow stained the light. Newton
speeds through different materials.
demonstrated that the white light
that we see is actually a mixture of
different colors of light, and these century later, in 1803, Thomas
are split up by a prism because Young showed that light does
they are all refracted by slightly indeed behave as a wave, and
different amounts. experiments in the 20th century
As with many natural have shown that it behaves both
philosophers of the time, Newton like a wave and a particle, although
held that light was made up of a there are big differences between
stream of particles, or corpuscles. Huygens spherical waves and
This idea explained how light our modern models of light.
traveled in straight lines and Huygens said that light waves were
bounced off reective surfaces. It longitudinal as they passed through
also explained refraction in terms of spread out in spherical waves. a substancethe ether. Sound
forces at the boundaries between Refraction was thus explained waves are also longitudinal waves,
different materials. if different materials (be they ether, in which the particles of the
water, or glass) caused light waves substance the wave is passing
Partial reection to travel at different speeds. through vibrate in the same
However, Newtons theory could Huygens theory could explain why direction as the wave is traveling.
not explain how, when light hits both reection and refraction can Our modern view of light waves is
many surfaces, some is reected occur at a surface. It could also that they are transverse waves that
and some is refracted. In 1678, explain diffraction. behave more like waves of water.
Huygens argued that space was Huygens ideas made little They do not need matter to
lled with weightless particles impact at the time. This was in propagate (transmit), while particles
(the ether), and that light caused part due to Newtons already giant vibrate at right angles (up and
disturbances in the ether that stature as a scientist. However, a down) to the waves direction.

Christiaan Huygens Dutch mathematician and the force of gravity. Huygens

astronomer Christiaan Huygens wide-ranging achievements
was born in The Hague in 1629. included some of the most
He studied law and mathematics accurate clocks of his time, the
at his university, then devoted result of his work on pendulums.
some time to his own research, His astronomical work, carried
initially in mathematics but then out using his own telescopes,
also in optics, working on included the discovery of Titan,
telescopes and grinding his the largest of Saturns moons,
own lenses. and the rst correct description
Huygens visited England of Saturns rings.
several times, and met Isaac
Newton in 1689. In addition to Key works
his work on light, Huygens had
studied forces and motion, but he 1656 De Saturni Luna
did not accept Newtons idea of Observatio Nova
action at a distance to describe 1690 Treatise on Light


lanetary transits offered
IN CONTEXT an opportunity to test the
rst of Johannes Keplers
three laws of planetary motion
that the planets orbit the Sun in an
BEFORE elliptical path. The brief passages I received my rst
1543 Nicolaus Copernicus by Venus and Mercury across
intimation of the remarkable
makes the rst complete the disk of the Sunat the times
predicted by Keplers Rudolphine
conjunction of Venus and the
argument for a Sun-centered Sunit induced me, in
(heliocentric) universe. Tableswould reveal whether the
underlying theory was correct. expectation of so grand a
1609 Johannes Kepler The rst testa 1631 transit spectacle, to observe with
proposes a system of of Mercury observed by French increased attention.
elliptical orbitsthe rst astronomer Pierre Gassendi Jeremiah Horrocks
complete description of proved encouraging. However,
planetary motion. his attempt to spot the transit of
Venus a month later failed due
AFTER to inaccuracies in Keplers gures.
1663 Scottish mathematician These same gures predicted a
James Gregory devises a way near miss for Venus and the Sun
to measure the exact distance in 1639, but English astronomer marked its progress on the card,
from Earth to the Sun using Jeremiah Horrocks calculated that timing each interval, a friend
observations of the transits of a transit would in fact occur. measured the transit in another
Venus in 1631 and 1639. At sunrise on December 4, 1639, location. By using the two sets of
Horrocks set up his best telescope, measurements from the different
1769 British explorer Captain focusing the Suns disk onto a piece viewpoints, and by recalculating
James Cook observes and of card. Around 3:15 pm, the clouds the diameter of Venus relative to the
records the transit of Venus cleared, revealing a spot of unusual Sun, Horrocks could then estimate
in Tahiti in the South Pacic. magnitudeVenusedging Earths distance from the Sun more
2012 Astronomers observe across the Sun. While Horrocks accurately than ever before.
the last transit of Venus
of the 21st century. See also: Nicolaus Copernicus 3439 Johannes Kepler 4041


he metamorphosis of organism took its fully mature form
IN CONTEXT a buttery from egg to in its miniscule beginning, but that
caterpillar to chrysalis to lower animals were too simple to
adult is a familiar process to us have complex innards. In 1669,
today, but in the 17th century, pioneering Dutch microscopist Jan
BEFORE reproduction was viewed very Swammerdam disproved Aristotle
c.320 BCE Aristotle declares differently. Following the Greek by dissecting insects under the
that worms and insects arise philosopher Aristotle, most people microscope, including butteries,
by spontaneous generation. believed that lifeespecially dragonies, bees, wasps, and ants.
lower creatures such as insects
1651 English physician William arose by spontaneous generation A new metamorphosis
Harvey considers the insect from nonliving matter. The theory The term metamorphosis had
larva a crawling egg and the of preformism held that a higher once meant the death of one
pupa a second egg with little individual followed by anothers
internal development. appearance from its remains.
Swammerdam showed that the
1668 Italian Francesco Redi stages in an insects life cycle
provides early evidence to adult female, egg, larva and pupa
refute spontaneous generation. (or nymph), adultare different
In the anatomy of a louse, you forms of the same creature. Each
AFTER will nd miracles heaped on
1859 Charles Darwin explains life stage has its own fully formed
miracles and will see the internal organs, as well as early
how each stage of an insects wisdom of God clearly versions of the organs for later
life is adapted to its activity manifested in a minute point. stages. Seen in this new light,
and environment at that stage. Jan Swammerdam insects clearly warranted further
1913 Italian zoologist Antonio scientic study. Swammerdam
Berlese proposes that an insect went on to pioneer the classication
larva hatches at a premature of insects based on their
stage of embryo development. reproduction and development,
before dying of malaria at 43.
1930s British entomologist
Vincent Wigglesworth nds See also: Robert Hooke 54 Antonie van Leeuwenhoek 5657

hormones control life cycles. John Ray 6061 Carl Linnaeus 7475 Louis Pasteur 15659


ROBERT HOOKE (16351703)

he development of the crystals form and what happens
IN CONTEXT compound microscope when water freezes. The English
in the 17th century diarist Samuel Pepys called
opened up a whole new world Micrographia the most ingenious
of previously unseen structures. book that I ever read in my life.
BEFORE A simple microscope consists of
c.1600 The rst compound just one lens, while the compound Describing cells
microscope is developed in microscope, developed by Dutch One of Hookes drawings was of a
the Netherlands, probably eyeglasses makers, uses two thin slice of cork. In the structure
by either Hans Lippershey or or more lenses, and generally of the cork, he noted what looked
Hans and Zacharius Janssen. provides greater magnication. like the walls dividing monks cells
English scientist Robert Hooke in a monastery. These were the rst
1644 Italian priest and self- was not the rst to observe living recorded descriptions and drawings
taught scientist Giovanni things using a microscope. of cells, the basic units from which
Battista Odierna produces However, with the publication all living things are made.
the rst description of living of his Micrographia in 1665, he
tissue, using a microscope. became the rst best-selling
popular science author, stunning
AFTER his readers with the new science of
1674 Antonie van microscopy. Accurate copperplate
Leeuwenhoek is the rst to see drawings made by Hooke himself
single-celled organisms under showed objects the public had
the microscope. never seen beforethe detailed
1682 Van Leeuwenhoek anatomies of lice and eas; the
observes the nuclei inside the compound eyes of a y; the delicate
red blood cells of salmon. wings of a gnat. He also drew some
Hookes drawings of dead cork cells
man-made objectsthe sharp show empty spaces between the cell
1931 The invention of the point of a needle appeared blunt wallsliving cells contain protoplasm.
electron microscope by under the microscopeand used He calculated that there were more than
Hungarian physicist Le his observations to explain how a billion cells in 1 in3 (16 cm3) of cork.
Szilrd allows much higher
resolution images to be made. See also: Antonie van Leeuwenhoek 5657 Isaac Newton 6269

Lynn Margulis 30001


NICOLAS STENO (16381686)

he sedimentary strata of
IN CONTEXT rocks that make up much
of Earths surface also form
the basis for Earths geological
history, which is normally depicted
BEFORE as a column of layers with the
Late 15th century Leonardo oldest strata at the bottom and the
da Vinci writes about his youngest at the top. The process
observations of the erosional of deposition of rock by water
and depositional action of and gravity had been known for Rock strata, as Steno realized, all
centuries, but Danish bishop and start life as horizontal layers, which
wind and water on landscapes are subsequently deformed and
and surface materials. scientist Niels Stensius, also known
as Nicolas Steno, was the rst to twisted over time by huge forces
acting on them.
AFTER describe the principles that underlie
1780s James Hutton the process. His conclusions,
refers Stenos principles to published in 1669, were drawn from disturbance after their deposition.
a continuing and cyclical his observations of geological strata Finally, his principle of crosscutting
geological process stretching in Tuscany, Italy. relationships states that if a body
back in time. Stenos Law of Superposition or discontinuity cuts across a
states that any single sedimentary stratum, it must have formed after
1810s Georges Cuvier and deposit, or stratum, is younger than that stratum.
Alexandre Brongniart in the sequence of strata upon which Stenos insights allowed the
France and William Smith it rests, and older than the strata later mapping of geological strata
in Britain apply Stenos that rest upon it. Stenos principles by the likes of William Smith in
principles of stratigraphy of original horizontality and lateral Britain and Georges Cuvier and
to geological mapping. continuity state that strata are Alexandre Brongniart in France.
1878 The rst International deposited as horizontal and They also allowed the subdivision
Geological Congress in Paris continuous layers, and if they are of strata into time-related units,
found tilted, folded, or broken, which could be correlated with
sets out procedures for the
they must have experienced such each other across the world.
production of a standard
stratigraphic scale.
See also: James Hutton 96101 William Smith 115


ntonie van Leeuwenhoek Hooke made the rst drawing of
IN CONTEXT rarely ventured far from his tiny living cells that he had seen in
home above a cloth store a slice of cork through a microscope.
in Delft in the Netherlands. But It never occurred to Hooke or
working on his own in his back any other microscopist of the time
BEFORE room, he discovered an entirely to look for life anywhere they could
2000 BCE Chinese scientists new worldthe world of previously not already see it with their own
make a water microscope with unseen microscopic life, including eyes. Van Leeuwenhoek, by
a glass lens and a water-lled human sperm, blood cells, and, contrast, turned his lenses on
tube to see very small things. most dramatically of all, bacteria. places where there appeared to be
Before the 17th century, no one no life at all, particularly in liquids.
1267 English philosopher suspected there was life too small He studied raindrops, tooth plaque,
Roger Bacon suggests the to see with the naked eye. Fleas dung, sperm, blood, and much
idea of the telescope and were thought to be the smallest more. It was here, in these
the microscope. possible form of life. Then, in about
c.1600 The microscope is 1600, the microscope was invented
When van Leeuwenhoeks
invented in the Netherlands. by Dutch eyeglasses makers who drawings of human sperm were rst
put two glass lenses together to published in 1719, many people did
1665 Robert Hooke observes boost their magnication (p.54). not accept that such tiny swimming
living cells and publishes In 1665, English scientist Robert animalcules could exist in semen.
1841 Swiss anatomist
Albert von Klliker nds that
each sperm and egg is a cell
with a nucleus.
1951 German physicist Erwin
Wilhelm Mller invents the
eld ion microscope and sees
atoms for the rst time.
See also: Robert Hooke 54 Louis Pasteur 15659
Martinus Beijerinck 19697 Lynn Margulis 30001

Microscopes can be turned on places where there

are no visible life forms.

High-magnication single-lens microscopes reveal

tiny animalcules in water and other liquids.

Antonie van
The son of a basket maker,
The world is teeming with microscopic, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek
single-celled life forms. was born in Delft in 1632.
After working in his uncles
linen business, he established
his own fabric store at 20 years
apparently lifeless substances, that thinner than a human hair in a old and remained there for the
van Leeuwenhoek discovered the sample of lake water. These were rest of his long life.
richness of microscopic life. the green algae Spirogyra, an Van Leeuwenhoeks
Unlike Hooke, van Leeuwenhoek example of the simple life forms business allowed him time to
did not use a two-lens compound that are now known as protists. pursue his hobbymicroscopy.
microscope, but a single, high- Van Leeuwenhoek called these He began in about 1668 after a
quality lensreally a magnifying tiny creatures animalcules. In visit to London, where he may
glass. At the time, it was in fact October 1676, he discovered even have seen a copy of Robert
easier to produce a clear picture smaller single-celled bacteria in Hookes Micrographia. From
with such simple microscopics. A drops of water. In the following 1673 onward, he reported his
magnication greater than 30 times year, he described how his own ndings in letters to the Royal
was impossible with compound semen was swarming with the Society in London, writing
more reports to them than any
microscopes since the image little creatures we now call sperm.
scientist in history. The Royal
became blurred. Van Leeuwenhoek Unlike the creatures he had found Society was initially sceptical
ground his own single lens in water, the animalcules in semen of the amateurs reports, but
microscopes, and after years of were all identical. Each of the many Hooke repeated many of his
honing his technique, managed a thousands he looked at had the experiments and conrmed his
magnication of more than 200 same tiny tail and the same tiny discoveries. Van Leeuwenhoek
times. His microscopes were head, and nothing else, and he made over 500 microscopes,
small devices with tiny lenses could see them swimming like many designed to view
just fractions of an inch (a few tadpoles in the semen. specic objects.
millimeters) wide. The sample was Van Leeuwenhoek reported his
placed on a pin on one side of the ndings in a series of hundreds Key works
lens, and van Leeuwenhoek held of letters to the Royal Society in
one eye up close to the other side. London. While he published his 1673 Letter 1, van
ndings, he kept his lens-making Leeuwenhoeks rst letter to
the Royal Society
Single-celled life techniques secret. It is probable
1676 Letter 18, revealing his
At rst, van Leeuwenhoek found that he made his tiny lenses by
discovery of bacteria
nothing unusual, but then, in 1674, fusing thin glass threads, but we
he reported seeing tiny creatures do not know for sure.

OLE RMER (16441710)

upiter has many moons,
IN CONTEXT but only the four largest
Eclipses of Jupiters
moons do not always (Io, Europa, Ganymede,
match predictions. and Callisto) were visible through
Astronomy and physics
a telescope at the time that Ole
BEFORE Rmer was observing the skies
1610 Galileo Galilei of northern Europe, in the late
discovers the four largest 17th century. These moons are
moons of Jupiter. eclipsed as they pass through
The distance between the shadow cast by Jupiter and
1668 Giovanni Cassini Earth and Jupiter at certain times they can be
publishes the rst accurate changes as the planets observed either entering or leaving
tables predicting eclipses orbit the Sun.
the shadow, depending on the
of the moons of Jupiter. relative positions of Earth and
Jupiter around the Sun. For nearly
half of the year, the eclipses of
1729 James Bradley calculates
the moons cannot be observed
a speed of light of 185,000
If light does not at all, because the Sun is between
miles/s (301,000 km/s) based Earth and Jupiter.
propagate instantaneously,
on variations in the positions this explains the Giovanni Cassini, the director
of stars. discrepancies. of the Royal Observatory in Paris
1809 Jean-Baptiste when Rmer started work there in
Delambre uses 150 years the late 1660s, published a set
worth of observations of of tables predicting the moons
Jupiters moons to calculate eclipses. Knowing the times of
a speed of light of 186,600 these eclipses provided a new
The speed of way to gure out longitude. The
miles/s (300,300 km/s). light can be measurement of longitude depends
1849 Hippolyte Fizeau calculated from the on knowing the difference between
measures the speed of light time differences the time at a given location and the
in a laboratory, rather than and distances in the time at a reference meridian (in this
using astronomical data. solar system. case, Paris). On land at least, it was
now possible to calculate longitude
by observing the time of an eclipse
See also: Galileo Galilei 4243 John Michell 8889 Lon Foucault 13637

of one of Jupiters moons and Io

comparing it to the predicted
time of the eclipse in Paris.
It was not possible to hold a Jupiter
telescope steadily enough onboard
ship to observe the eclipses, 1
and measuring longitude at sea
remained impossible until John
Harrison built the rst marine 2
chronometersclocks that could
keep time at seain the 1730s.
From position 1 on Earths orbit, the predicted
Finite or innite speed? eclipse of Jupitiers moon Io appears to occur
Rmer studied observations of later than from position 2. Rmer reasoned that
the eclipses of the moon Io taken this was due to the extra distance light from
Io had to travel to reach Earth in position 1.
over a period of two years and
compared these to the times
predicted by Cassinis tables. calculate the speed of light. He travel instantaneously. However,
He found a discrepancy of produced a gure of 133,000 miles/s not everyone agreed with
11 minutes between observations (214,000 km/s). The current value Rmers reasoning. Cassini
taken when Earth was closest is 186,282 miles/s (299,792 km/s), pointed out that discrepancies
to Jupiter and those taken so Rmers calculation was off by in the observations of the other
when it was farthest away. This about 25 percent. Nevertheless, moons were still not accounted
discrepancy could not be explained this was an excellent rst for. Rmers ndings were not
by any of the known irregularities approximation, and it solved the universally accepted until
in the orbits of Earth, Jupiter, or previously open question as to English astronomer James Bradley
Io. It had to be the time it took whether light had a nite speed. produced his more accurate
for light to travel the diameter of In England, Isaac Newton gure for the speed of light in
Earths orbit. Knowing the diameter readily accepted Rmers 1729 by measuring the parallax
of Earths orbit, Rmer could now hypothesis that light did not of stars (p.39).

Ole Rmer under Giovanni Cassini. In 1679,

he visited England and met
Born in the Danish city of Isaac Newton.
Aarhus in 1644, Ole Rmer Returning to the University
studied at the University of of Copenhagan in 1681, Rmer
For the distance of Copenhagen. On leaving the became professor of astronomy.
about 3,000 leagues, university, he helped to prepare He was involved in modernizing
which is nearly equal the astronomical observations weights and measures, the
to the diameter of the of Tycho Brahe for publication. calendar, and building codes,
Earth, light needs not Rmer also made his own and even the water supplies.
one second of time. observations, recording Unfortunately, his astronomical
Ole Rmer the times of the eclipses of observations were destroyed in
Jupiters moons from Brahes a re in in 1728.
old observatory at Uraniborg,
near Copenhagen. From there, Key work
he moved to Paris, where he
worked at the Royal Observatory 1677 On the Motion of Light


JOHN RAY (16271705)

Seeds nearly always grow
BRANCH Plants make seeds that
into plants similar to the
grow into new plants.
Biology parent plant.
4th century BCE The Greeks
use the terms genus and
species to describe groups
One species never A plant seed does not
of similar things.
grow into an adult of
1583 Italian botanist Andrea
springs from the seed a different species from
Cesalpino classies plants
of another. its parent.
based on seeds and fruits.
1623 Swiss botanist Caspar
Bauhin classies more than

6,000 plants in his Illustrated he modern concept of a approach persisting from ancient
plant or animal species Greece. The Greek philosophers
Exposition of Plants.
is based on reproduction. Plato, Aristotle, and Theophrastus
AFTER A species includes all individuals had discussed classication and
1690 English philosopher John that can actually or potentially used terms such as genus and
Locke argues that species are breed together to produce offspring, species to describe groups and
articial constructs. which in turn can do the same. This subgroups of all manner of things,
concept, rst introduced by English living or inanimate. In doing so,
1735 Carl Linnaeus publishes natural historian John Ray in 1686, they had invoked vague qualities
Systema Naturae, the rst of still underpins taxonomythe such as essence and soul. So
his many works classifying science of classication, in which members belonged to a species
plants and animals. genetics now plays a major role. because they shared the same
1859 Charles Darwin proposes essence, rather than sharing the
the evolution of species by Metaphysical approach same appearance or the ability to
natural selection in On the During this period, the term breed with one another.
Origin of Species. species was in common usage, By the 17th century, myriad
but intricately connected with classications existed. Many were
religion and metaphysicsan organized in alphabetical order, or
See also: Jan Swammerdam 53 Carl Linnaeus 7475 Christian Sprengel 104 Charles Darwin 14249

Michael Syvanen 31819

petal and pollen into general

usage and decided that oral type
should be an important feature for
classication, as should seed type.
He also introduced the distinction
Nothing is invented and between monocotyledons (plants
perfected at the same time. with a single seed leaf) and
John Ray dicotyledons (plants with two seed
leaves). However, he recommended
a limit to the number of features
used for classication, to prevent
species numbers multiplying to
unworkable proportions. His major
work, Historia Plantarum (Treatise
by groups derived from folklore, on Plants), published in three Wheat is a monocotyledon (a plant
such as grouping plants according volumes in 1686, 1688, and 1704, whose seed contains a single leaf) as
to which illnesses they could treat. contains more than 18,000 entries. dened by Ray. Around 30 species of
In 1666, Ray returned from a three- For Ray, reproduction was the this major food crop have evolved from
10,000 years of cultivation, and all of
year European tour with a large key to dening a species. His own them belong to the genus Triticum.
collection of plants and animals denition came from his experience
that he and his colleague Francis gathering specimens, sowing seeds,
Willughby intended to classify and observing their germination: springs from the seed of another
along more scientic lines. no surer criterion for determining nor vice versa. Ray established
[plant] species has occurred to me the basis of a true-breeding group
Practical nature than the distinguishing features by which a species is still dened
Ray introduced a novel practical, that perpetuate themselves in today. In so doing, he made botany
observational approach. He propagation from seedAnimals and zoology scientic pursuits.
examined all parts of the plants, likewise that differ specically Devoutly religious, Ray saw his
from roots to stem tips and preserve their distinct species work as a means of displaying
owers. He encouraged the terms permanently; one species never the wonders of God.

John Ray Born in 1627 in Black Notley, He married Margaret Oakley

Essex, England, John Ray was the in 1673 and, after leaving
son of the village blacksmith and Willughbys household, lived
the local herbalist. At 16, he went quietly in Black Notley to the
to Cambridge University, where age of 77. He spent his later
he studied widely and lectured on years studying specimens in
topics from Greek to mathematics, order to assemble ever-more
before joining the priesthood ambitious plant and animal
in 1660. To recuperate from an catalogues. He wrote more
illness in 1650, he had taken to than 20 works on plants and
nature walks and developed an animals and their taxonomy,
interest in botany. form, and function, and on
Accompanied by his wealthy theology and his travels.
student and supporter Francis
Willughby, Ray toured Britain and Key work
Europe in the 1660s, studying
and collecting plants and animals. 16861704 Historia Plantarum
ISAAC NEWTON (16421727)

BRANCH Why does the apple always fall downward,
never sideways or upward?
1543 Nicolaus Copernicus
argues that the planets orbit
the Sun, not Earth.
There must be an attraction toward the
1609 Johannes Kepler argues center of Earth.
that the planets move freely in
elliptical orbits around the Sun.
1610 Galileos astronomical
observations support
Copernicuss views. Could this attraction extend beyond the
apple, and reach as far as the Moon? If so,
AFTER it would affect the orbit of the Moon.
1846 Johann Galle discovers
Neptune after French
mathematician Urbain Le
Verrier uses Newtons laws to
calculate where it should be.
Could it actually cause the orbit of the
1859 Le Verrier reports that Moon? In that case
Mercurys orbit is not explained
by Newtonian mechanics.
1915 With his general theory
of relativity, Albert Einstein
explains gravity in terms of Gravity affects everything in the universe.
the curvature of space-time.

t the time Isaac Newton xed stars. This model was apple toward the center of
was born, the heliocentric superseded when Johannes Kepler Earth was the same force that
model of the universe, in published his laws of planetary kept the planets in their orbits
which Earth and the other planets motion in 1609. Kepler dispensed around the Sun, and demonstrated
orbit the Sun, was the accepted with Copernicuss crystalline mathematically how this force
explanation for the observed spheres, and showed that the orbits changed with distance. The
movements of the Sun, Moon, and of the planets were ellipses, with mathematics he used involved
planets. This model was not new, the Sun at one focus of each ellipse. Newtons three Laws of Motion and
but had returned to prominence He also described how the speed of his Law of Universal Gravitation.
when Nicolaus Copernicus a planet changes as it moves.
published his ideas at the end of What all these models of the Changing ideas
his life in 1543. In Copernicuss universe lacked was an explanation For centuries, scientic thinking
model, the Moon and each of of why the planets moved in the had been dominated by the ideas
the planets revolved in its own way they did. This is where of Aristotle, who reached his
crystalline sphere around the Sun, Newton came in. He realized conclusions without carrying out
with an outer sphere holding the that the force that pulled an experiments to test them. Aristotle
See also: Nicolaus Copernicus 3439 Johannes Kepler 4041 Galileo Galilei 4243 Christiaan Huygens 5051

William Herschel 8687 Albert Einstein 21421

taught that moving objects only a force acts on it, and a moving pushing the car forward balance
kept moving as long as they were object continues to move with the forces trying to slow it down,
being pushed, and that heavy constant velocity unless a force there is no net force and the car
objects fell faster than lighter ones. acts on it. Here, velocity means will maintain a constant velocity.
Aristotle explained that heavy both the direction of a moving Newtons Second Law states
objects fell to Earth because they object and its speed. So an object that the acceleration (a change
were moving toward their natural will only change its speed or of velocity) of a body depends on
place. He also said that celestial change direction if a force acts on the size of the force acting on it,
bodies, being perfect, must all it. The force that is important is the and is often written down as
move in circles at constant speeds. net force. A moving car has many F = ma, where F is force, m is mass,
Galileo Galilei came up with forces on it, including friction and and a is acceleration. This shows
a different set of ideas, arrived at air resistance, and also the engine that the greater the force on a body,
through experiment. He observed driving the wheels. If the forces the greater the acceleration.
balls running down ramps and
demonstrated that objects all fall
at the same rate if air resistance
is minimal. He also concluded that
moving objects continue to move
unless a force, such as friction,
acts to slow them down. Galileos
Principle of Inertia was to Rocket
become part of Newtons First pushed
Law of Motion. Since friction and up
air resistance act on all moving
objects that we encounter in daily
life, the concept of friction is not
immediately obvious. It was only
by careful experimentation that
Galileo could show that the force
keeping something moving at a
steady speed was only needed to
counteract friction.
Exhaust ow
Laws of motion pushed down
Newton experimented in many
areas of interest, but no records of
his experiments on motion survive.
His three laws, however, have been
veried in many experiments,
holding true for speeds well below
the speed of light. Newton stated Rocket engines
his rst law as: Every body are an example of
perseveres in its state of rest, or Newtons Third Law
of uniform motion in a right line, in action. The rocket
produces a jet that is
unless it is compelled to change that forced downward.
state by forces impressed thereon. The jet exerts an equal
In other words, a stationary and opposite force that
object will only start to move if pushes the rocket up.
It also shows that the body such as Earth.
acceleration depends on the mass Newton, seeing an apple fall from a
of a body. tree, reasoned that Earth must be
For a given force, a body with a attracting the apple and, since the
small mass will accelerate faster apple always fell perpendicular to
than one with a larger mass. the ground, its direction of fall was
I have not been able to
The Third Law is stated as directed to the center of Earth. So
For every action there is an equal
discover the cause of these the attractive force between Earth
and opposite reaction. It means
properties of gravity from and the apple must act as if it
that all forces exist in pairs: if phenomena, and I frame originated in the center of Earth.
one object exerts a force on a no hypotheses. These ideas opened the way to
second object, then the second Isaac Newton treating the Sun and planets as
object simultaneously exerts a force small points with large masses,
on the rst object, and both forces which made calculations much
are equal and opposite. In spite of easier by measuring from their
the term action, movement is not centers. Newton saw no reason
required for this to be true. This to think that the force that made
is linked to Newtons ideas about an apple fall was any different from
gravity, since one example of his Cambridge. At that time, several the forces that kept the planets in
Third Law is the gravitational people had suggested that there their orbits. Gravity, then, was a
attraction between bodies. Not was an attractive force from the universal force.
only is Earth pulling on the Moon, Sun, and that the size of this force If Newtons theory of gravity is
but the Moon is pulling on Earth was inversely proportional to the applied to falling bodies, M1 is the
with the same force. square of the distance. In other mass of Earth and M2 is the mass
words, if the distance between of the falling object. So the greater
Universal attraction the Sun and another body is the mass of an object, the greater
Newton started thinking about doubled, the force between them the force pulling it downward.
gravity in the late 1660s, when he is only one quarter of the original However, Newtons Second Law
retired to the village of Woolsthorpe force. However, it was not thought tells us that a larger mass does not
for a couple of years to avoid that this rule could be applied accelerate as quickly as a smaller
the plague that was ravaging close to the surface of a large one if the force is the same. So
the greater force is needed to
Newtons Law of Gravity produces the equation below, accelerate the greater mass, and all
which shows how the force produced depends on the mass of objects fall at the same speed, as
the two objects and the square of the distance between them. long as there are no other forces
such as air resistance to complicate
matters. With no air resistance, a
The gravitational The masses of the hammer and a feather will fall at
constant (G). two bodies (M). the same speeda fact nally
GM1M2 demonstrated in 1971 by astronaut
Dave Scott, who carried out the
F= experiment on the surface of the
The force of
attraction between
r2 The distance
between them (r).
Moon during the Apollo 15 mission.
Newton described a thought
two masses (F).
experiment to explain orbits in
an early draft of the Philosophiae
Naturalis Principia Mathematica.
He imagined a cannon on a very
high mountain, ring cannon balls
horizontally at higher and higher
speeds. The higher the speed at
If a cannon ball is red with
insufcient speed, gravity will pull
it to Earth (A and B). If red with
sufcient speed, it will orbit Earth (C).

To myself I am only a child

C playing on the beach, while
A vast oceans of truth lie
undiscovered before me.
Isaac Newton

but had lost his notes. Halley

encouraged Newton to redo the
work, and as a result, Newton
produced On the Motion of Bodies
B in an Orbit, a short manuscript sent
to the Royal Society in 1684. In this
paper, Newton showed that the
elliptical motion of the planets that
Kepler described would result from
a force pulling everything toward
the Sun, where that force was
inversely proportional to the
distance between the bodies.
Newton expanded on this work,
and included other work on forces
Newtons thought experiment described a cannon and motion, in the Principia
red horizontally from a high mountain. The greater the Mathematica, which was published
force ring the cannon ball, the farther it travels before in three volumes and contained,
falling to the ground. If it is red hard enough, it will among other things, the Law of
travel right around the planet back to the mountain. Universal Gravitation and Newtons
three Laws of Motion. The volumes
which a ball is red, the farther whizzing off into space in a straight were written in Latin, and it was
away it will land. If it is launched line. In this case, Earths gravity not until 1729 that the rst English
sufciently fast, it will not land at only changes the direction of the translation was published, based
all, but continue around Earth until satellites velocity, not its speed. on Newtons third edition of the
it arrives back at the top of the Principia Mathematica.
mountain. In the same way, a Publishing the ideas Hooke and Newton had already
satellite launched into orbit at In 1684, Robert Hooke boasted fallen out over Hookes criticisms
the correct speed will continue to his friends Edmond Halley of Newtons theory of light.
to circle Earth. The satellite is and Christopher Wren that he Following Newtons publication,
continually being accelerated had discovered the laws of however, much of Hookes work
by Earths gravity. It moves at a planetary motion. Halley was a on planetary motion was obscured.
constant speed, but its direction friend of Newton, and asked him However, Hooke had not been the
is continually changing, making about this. Newton said that he only one to suggest such a law, and
it circle the planet rather than had already solved the problem, he had not demonstrated that it
Newtons laws provided the tools
to calculate the orbits of heavenly
bodies such as Halleys comet,
shown here on the Bayeux Tapestry
after its appearance in 1066.

Using the equations

Edmond Halley used Newtons
equations to calculate the orbit
of a comet seen in 1682, and
showed that it was the same comet
as that observed in 1531 and 1607.
The comet is now called Halleys
comet. Halley successfully
predicted that it would return in
1758, which was 16 years after his
death. This was the rst time that
comets had been shown to orbit the
Sun. Halleys comet passes close to
Earth every 7576 years, and was
the same comet as that seen in
1066 before the Battle of Hastings
in southern England.
The equations were also used
successfully to discover a new
planet. Uranus is the seventh planet
from the Sun, and was identied
as a planet by William Herschel
in 1781. Herschel found the planet
by chance while making careful
worked. Newton had shown that so the mathematics was correct. observations of the night sky.
his Law of Universal Gravitation However, Newtons laws described Further observations of Uranus
and laws of motion could be used so many phenomena that they soon allowed astronomers to calculate
mathematically to describe the came to be widely accepted, and its orbit and to produce tables
orbits of planets and comets, today the internationally used unit predicting where it could be
and that these descriptions of force is named after him. observed at future dates. These
matched observations. predictions were not always
correct, however, leading to the
Sceptical reception idea that there must be another
Newtons ideas on gravity were planet beyond Uranus whose
not welcomed everywhere. The gravity was affecting the orbit of
action at a distance of Newtons Uranus. By 1845, astronomers had
force of gravity, with no way Why should that apple always calculated where this eighth planet
of explaining how or why it descend perpendicularly to the should be in the sky, and Neptune
happened, was seen as an ground, thought he to himself... was discovered in 1846.
occult idea. Newton himself William Stukeley
refused to speculate on the nature Problems with the theory
of gravity. For him, it was enough For a planet with an elliptical orbit,
that he had shown that the idea the point of closest approach to the
of an inverse-square attraction Sun is called the perihelion. If there
could explain planetary motions, were only one planet orbiting the
Sun, the perihelion of its orbit
would stay in the same place.
However all the planets in our solar
system affect each other, so the
perihelia precess (rotate) around
the Sun. Like all the other planets, Nature and natures laws lay
Mercurys perihelion precesses, hid in night; God said Let
but the precession cannot be Newton be and all was light.
completely accounted for using Alexander Pope
Newtons equations. This was
recognized as a problem in 1859.
More than 50 years later, Einsteins
Theory of General Relativity
described gravity as an effect of Isaac Newton
the curvature of space-time, and
calculations based on this theory involved is small compared to Born on Christmas Day in
do account for the observed the speed of light. So for the 1642, Isaac Newton attended
school in Grantham, before
precession of Mercurys orbit, calculations involved in designing
studying at Trinity College,
as well as other observations not airplanes or cars, or guring out Cambridge, where he
linked to Newtons laws. how strong the components of graduated in 1665. During
a skyscraper need to be, the his life, Newton was variously
Newtons laws today equations of classical mechanics Professor of Mathematics at
Newtons laws form the basis of are both accurate enough and Cambridge, Master of the
what is referred to as classical much simpler to use. Newtonian Royal Mint, Member of
mechanicsa set of equations mechanics, while it may not strictly Parliament for Cambridge
used to calculate the effects of be correct, is still widely used. University, and President of
forces and motion. Although these the Royal Society. Besides
laws have been superseded by his dispute with Hooke,
The precession (change in the Newton became involved
equations based on Einsteins rotational axis) of the orbit of Mercury
theories of relativity, the two sets in a feud with German
was the rst phenomenon that could
of laws agree as long as any motion not be explained by Newtons laws. mathematician Gottfried
Leibnitz over priority in the
development of calculus.
In addition to his
scientic work, Newton
spent much time in alchemical
investigations and Biblical
interpretation. A devout but
unorthodox Christian, he
successfully managed to
avoid being ordained as a
priest, which was normally
a requirement for some of
the ofces he held.

Key works

1684 On the Motion of Bodies

in an Orbit
1687 Philosophiae Naturalis
Principia Mathematica
1704 Opticks
1700 1800

English clergyman George Hadley explains Georges-Louis Leclerc,

Stephen Hales the behavior of the trade later the Comte de Henry Cavendish
publishes Vegetable winds in a short paper Buffon, publishes makes hydrogen, or
Statick, demonstrating that remains unknown the rst volume of inammable air, by
root pressure. for decades. Histoire Naturelle. reacting zinc with acid.

1727 1735 1749 1766

1735 1738 1754 1770

Swedish botanist Carl Daniel Bernoulli publishes Joseph Blacks American diplomat
Linnaeus publishes Hydrodynamica, which doctoral thesis on and scientist Benjamin
Systema Naturae, the lays the foundation for carbonates is a Franklin publishes
beginning of his the kinetic theory pioneering work in a chart of the
classication of of gases. quantitative Gulf Stream.
ora and fauna. chemistry.

t the end of the 17th Daniel Bernoulli, the brightest in oxygen and several other new
century, Isaac Newton set a family of Swiss mathematicians, gases. Dutchman Jan Ingenhousz
down his laws of motion formulated the Bernoulli principle picked up where Priestley left off
and gravity, making science more that the pressure of a uid falls and showed how green plants give
precise and mathematical than it when it is moving. This allowed off oxygen in sunlight and carbon
had ever been before. Scientists him to measure blood pressure. dioxide in the dark. Meanwhile, in
in various elds identied the It is also the principle that allows France, Antoine Lavoisier showed
underlying principles governing aircraft to y. that many elements, including
the universe, and the various In 1754, Scottish chemist carbon, sulfur, and phosphorus,
branches of scientic enquiry Joseph Black, who would later burn by combining with oxygen
became increasingly specialized. formulate the theory of latent heat, to form what we now call oxides,
produced a remarkable doctoral thus debunking the theory that
Fluid dynamics thesis about the decomposition combustible materials contain a
In the 1720s, Stephen Hales, of calcium carbonate and the substance called phlogiston that
an English curate, performed a generation of xed air, or carbon make them burn. (Unfortunately,
series of experiments with plants, dioxide. This sparked a chain French revolutionaries would send
discovering root pressureby reaction of chemical research and Lavoisier to the guillotine.)
which sap rises through plants discovery. In England, reclusive In 1793, French chemist Joseph
and inventing the pneumatic genius Henry Cavendish isolated Proust discovered that chemical
trough, a laboratory apparatus hydrogen gas and demonstrated elements nearly always combine
for collecting gases, which was that water is made of two parts of in denite proportions. This was a
to prove useful for later work hydrogen to one of oxygen. Dissident vital step toward guring out the
identifying the components of air. minister Joseph Priestley isolated formulae of simple compounds.
Nevil Maskelyne Thomas Malthus
Joseph Priestley makes calculates the produces his rst
oxygen by heating density of Earth essay on human
mercuric oxide, using by measuring the population, which
sunlight and a magnifying gravitational James Hutton publishes later inuences
glass; he calls it attraction of his theory concerning Charles Darwin and
dephlogisticated air. a mountain. the age of Earth. Alfred Russel Wallace.

1774 1774 1788 1798

1774 1779 1793 1799

Antoine Lavoisier, after Jan Ingenhousz Christian Sprengel Alessandro Volta

learning the technique discovers that green describes plant invents the
from Priestley, makes the plants in sunlight give sexuality in his book electric battery.
same gas, and goes on to off oxygen; this is on pollination.
call it oxygne. photosynthesis.

Earth sciences geology after inheriting farmland and wrote An Essay on the
At the other end of the scale, in Scotland, and realized that Principle of Population, predicting
understanding of Earth processes Earth was a great deal older than catastrophe as the population
was making great advances. In the anyone had previously thought. grows. Malthuss pessimism has
Americas, Benjamin Franklin, in proved unfounded (so far), but his
addition to performing a dangerous Understanding life idea that a population will grow to
experiment to prove that lightning As scientists learned of Earths outstrip resources if left unchecked
is a form of electricity, demonstrated extreme age, new ideas about how was later to have a profound
the existence of large-scale ocean life originated and evolved began inuence on Charles Darwin.
currents with his investigations to emerge. Georges-Louis Leclerc, At the end of the century, Italian
of the Gulf Stream. George Hadley, Comte de Buffon, a larger-than-life physicist Alessandro Volta opened
English lawyer and amateur French author, naturalist, and up a new world by inventing the
meteorologist, published a short mathematician, took the rst electric battery, which was to
paper explaining the action of steps toward a theory of evolution. accelerate advances in the decades
the trade winds in relation to the German theologian Christian that followed. Such had been the
rotation of Earth, while Nevil Sprengel spent much of his life progress through the 18th century
Maskelyne seized on an idea from studying the interaction of plants that English philosopher William
Newton and camped out for several and insects, and noted that Whewell proposed the creation of a
months in terrible weather to bisexual owers produce male and new profession distinct from that of
measure the gravitational attraction female owers at different times, philosopher: We need very much
of a Scottish mountain. In doing so, so they cannot fertilize themselves. a name to describe a cultivator of
he gured out the density of Earth. English parson Thomas Malthus science in general. I should incline
James Hutton became interested in turned his attention to demography to call him a Scientist.


CARL LINNAEUS (17071778)

he classication of the appeared. By the 17th century,
IN CONTEXT natural world into a clear scientists were striving to set out
hierarchy of groups of a more coherent and consistent
named and described organisms is system. In 1686, English botanist
a foundation stone of the biological John Ray introduced the concept
BEFORE sciences. These groupings help of the biological species, dened
c.320 BCE Aristotle groups to make sense of lifes diversity, by the ability of plants or animals
similar organisms on a scale allowing scientists to compare to reproduce with one another,
of increasing complexity. and identify millions of individual and this remains the most widely
organisms. Modern taxonomy accepted denition today.
1686 John Ray denes a the science of identifying, naming,
biological species in his and classifying organismsbegan
Historia Plantarum. with the Swedish naturalist, Carl KINGDOM
Linnaeus. He was the rst to devise Animalia
a systematic hierarchy, based on PHYLUM
1817 French zoologist Georges
his wide-ranging and detailed Chordata
Cuvier extends the Linnaean
study of physical characteristics
hierarchy in his study of fossils CLASS
of plants and animals. He also
as well as living animals. Mammalia
pioneered a way of naming different
1859 Charles Darwins On the organisms that is still in use today. ORDER
Origin of Species sets out how The most inuential of early Carnivora
species arise and are related in classications was that of the FAMILY
his theory of evolution. Greek philosopher Aristotle. In his Felidae
History of Animals, he grouped
1866 German biologist Ernst GENUS
similar animals into broad genera,
Haeckel pioneers the study of Panthera
distinguished the species within
evolving lineages, known as each group, and ranked them on a SPECIES
phylogenetics. scala naturae or ladder of life with Panthera
11 grades of increasing complexity tigris
1950 Willi Hennig bases a
new system of classication in form and purpose, from plants at
Linnaeuss system groups organisms
on cladistics, which looks for the base to humans at the apex. according to shared characteristics. A
evolutionary links. Over the ensuing centuries, a tiger belongs to the cat family Felidae,
chaotic multiplicity of names and which in turn belongs to the order
descriptions of plants and animals Carnivora, in the class Mammalia.
See also: Jan Swammerdam 53 John Ray 6061 Jean-Baptiste Lamarck 118 Charles Darwin 14249

In 1735, Linnaeus produced a

classication in a 12-page booklet Cladistic classication
that grew into a multivolume 12th Linnaean classication groups organisms with a
edition by 1778 and developed the groups like with like. common ancestor.
idea of the genus into a hierarchy
of groupings based on shared
physical characteristics. At the top
were three kingdoms: animals,
plants, and minerals. Kingdoms For Linnaeus, the
were divided into phyla, then order of life reects The order of life reects
classes, orders, families, genera, Gods creation. evolution over time.
and species. He also stabilized the
naming of species by using a two-
part Latin name, with one name
for the genus and another for a
species within that genus, as in Nature does not DNA is used to
Homo sapiensLinnaeus was the proceed by leaps map evolutionary
rst to dene humans as animals. and bounds. relationships.

God-given order
For Linnaeus, classication
revealed that nature does not natural hierarchy, with all species with one or more shared unique
proceed in leaps and bounds in a genus or family related by characteristics, which they have
but rather in its God-given order. descent and divergence from a inherited from their last common
His work was the fruit of numerous common ancestor. A century after ancestor and which are not found
expeditions across Sweden and Darwin, German biologist Willi in more distant ancestors. The
Europe in search of new species. Hennig developed a new approach process of classication by clades
His classication system paved the to classication, called cladistics. continues to this day, with species
way for Charles Darwin, who saw To reect their evolutionary links, reassigned new positions as fresh,
the evolutionary signicance of its this groups organisms into clades often genetic, evidence is found.

Carl Linnaeus Born in 1707 in rural southern the world collecting plants. With
Sweden, Carl Linnaeus studied this vast collection, Linnaeus
medicine and botany in the expanded his Systema Naturae
universities of Lund and Uppsala, through 12 editions into a
and earned a degree in medicine multivolume work, more than
in the Netherlands in 1735. Later 1,000 pages long, encompassing
that year he published a 12-page more than 6,000 species of
booklet called Systema Naturae, plants and 4,000 animals. By the
which outlined a system of time he died in 1778, Linnaeus
classication for living organisms. was one of the most acclaimed
After further travels in Europe, scientists in Europe.
Linnaeus returned to Sweden in
1738 to practice medicine before Key works
being appointed professor of
medicine and botany at Uppsala 1753 Species Plantarum
University. His students, most 1778 Systema Naturae,
famously Daniel Solander, traveled 12th edition


JOSEPH BLACK (17281799)

IN CONTEXT Heat generally raises the temperature of water.

Chemistry and physics
1661 Robert Boyle pioneers But when water boils, the temperature stops rising.
the isolation of gases.
1750s Joseph Black weighs
materials before and after
chemical reactionsthe rst Additional heat is needed to turn the liquid into vapor.
quantitative chemistryand This latent heat gives steam a terrible scalding power.
discovers carbon dioxide.
1766 Henry Cavendish
isolates hydrogen. The heat that disappears in the conversion
1774 Joseph Priestley isolates of water into vapor is not lost.
oxygen and other gases.
1798 American-born British

professor of medicine at about the costs of running their
physicist Benjamin Thompson the University of Glasgow businesses. Why, they asked
suggests that heat is produced and later at Edinburgh, him, was it so expensive to
by the movement of particles. Joseph Black also gave lectures distill whisky, when all they were
1845 James Joule studies the on chemistry. Although he was a doing was boiling the liquid
conversion of motion into heat notable research scientist, he rarely and condensing the vapor.
and measures the mechanical published his results formally, but
equivalent of heat, stating instead announced them during his An idea brought to the boil
that a given quantity of lectures; his students were at the In 1761, Black investigated the
mechanical work generates cutting edge of new science. effects of heat on liquids, and
the same amount of heat. Some of Blacks students were discovered that if a pan of water is
the sons of Scottish whisky heated on a stove, the temperature
distillers, who were concerned increases steadily until it reaches
See also: Robert Boyle 4649 Joseph Priestley 8283 Antoine Lavoisier 84

John Dalton 11213 James Joule 138

212F (100C). Then the water Melting ice

begins to boil, but the temperature Just as heat is needed to turn water
does not change, even though heat into steam, so it is needed to turn
is still going into the water. Black ice into water. The latent heat of
realized that the heat is needed to melting ice means that ice will cool
turn the liquid into vaporor, in a drink. To melt the ice requires
modern terms, to give the molecules heat, and this heat is extracted
enough energy to escape from from the drink in which it oats,
the bonds that hold them fast in the thus cooling down the liquid.
liquid. This heat does not change Black explained all this to the
the temperature, and seems to distillers, although he was unable Joseph Black
disappearso Black called it latent to help them save money. He also
heat (from the Latin for hidden). explained it to a colleague called Born in Bordeaux, France,
More precisely, it is the latent James Watt, who was trying to Joseph Black studied medicine
at the universities of Glasgow
heat of evaporation of water. This gure out why steam engines were
and Edinburgh, conducting
discovery was the beginning of the so inefcient. Subsequently, Watt chemical experiments in the
science of thermodynamicsthe came up with the idea of the laboratory of his professor.
study of heat, its relation to energy, separate condenser, which In his 1754 doctoral thesis,
and the conversion of heat energy condensed the steam without Black showed that when chalk
into motion to do mechanical work. cooling the piston and cylinder. (calcium carbonate) is heated
Water has an unusually high This made the steam engine a to become quicklime (calcium
latent heat, meaning that liquid far more efcient machine, and oxide), it does not gain some
water will boil for a long time before made Watt a rich man. ery principle from the re, as
it all turns into gas. This is why was commonly believed, but
steaming is such an effective way loses weight. Black realized
Black is shown here visiting the that this loss must be a gas,
of cooking vegetables, why steam engineer James Watt at his workshop
has terrible scalding power, and since no liquid or solid was
in Glasgow. Watt is demonstrating one
why it is used in heating systems. of his steam-powered instruments. produced, and called it xed
air because it was an air (gas)
that had been xed in the
chalk. He also showed that
xed air (which we now know
as carbon dioxide) was among
the gases that we exhale.
While professor of medicine
at Glasgow from 1756, Black
conducted his landmark
research on heat. Although
he did not publish his results,
his students circulated his
ndings. After moving to
Edinburgh in 1766, he gave up
research to focus on lecturing
andas the Industrial
Revolution gathered speed
advising on chemical-based
innovations in Scottish
industry and agriculture.


When a metal such as zinc
BRANCH These bubbles
reacts with dilute acid,
may be a new air.
Chemistry it produces bubbles.
1661 Robert Boyle denes an
element, laying the foundations
for modern chemistry.
1754 Joseph Black identies This must be an They burn rapidly
a gas, carbon dioxide, which inammable air. when ignited.
he calls xed air.
177275 Joseph Priestley

n 1754, Joseph Black had Cavendish set out to measure the
and (independently) Swedens
described what we now call weight of a sample of the gas, by
Carl Scheele isolate oxygen,
carbon dioxide (CO2) as xed measuring the loss of weight of
followed by Antoine Lavoisier, air. He was not only the rst the zinc-acid mixture during the
who names the gas. Priestley scientist to identify a gas, but also reaction, and by collecting all
also discovers nitric oxide, demonstrated that there were the gas produced in a bladder and
nitrous oxide, and hydrogen various kinds of air, or gases. weighing itrst full of the gas,
chloride, and experiments with Twelve years later, an English then empty. Knowing the volume,
inhaling oxygen and making scientist named Henry Cavendish he could calculate its density. He
soda water. reported to the Royal Society in found that inammable air was 11
1799 Humphry Davy suggests London that the metals zinc, iron, times less dense than ordinary air.
nitrous oxide could be useful and tin generate inammable air The discovery of low-density
as an anesthetic in surgery. by solution in acids. He called his gas led to aeronautical balloons
new gas inammable air because that were lighter than air. In France
1844 Nitrous oxide is rst used it burned easily, unlike ordinary in 1783, inventor Jacques Charles
for anesthesia by American or xed air. Today we call it launched the rst hydrogen balloon,
dentist Horace Wells. hydrogen (H2). This was the second less than two weeks after the
gas to be identied and the rst Montgoler brothers launched
gaseous element to be isolated. their rst manned hot-air balloon.
See also: Empedocles 21 Robert Boyle 4649 Joseph Black 7677 Joseph Priestley 8283

Antoine Lavoisier 84 Humphry Davy 114

Cavendishs thinking was still to Joseph Priestley, Cavendish was

handicapped by an obsolete notion so difdent about publishing the
from alchemy that a relike element results that his friend the Scottish
(phlogiston) was released during engineer James Watt was the rst
combustion. However, he was to announce the formula, in 1783.
It appears from these precise in his experiments and in Among his many contributions
experiments, that this air, like his reporting: it appears that 423 to science, Cavendish went on to
other inammable substances, measures of inammable air are calculate the composition of air
cannot burn without the nearly sufcient to phlogisticate as one part dephlogisticated
assistance of common air. 1,000 of common air; and that the air [oxygen], mixed with four of
Henry Cavendish bulk of the air remaining after phlogisticated [nitrogen]the
the explosion is then very little two gases we now know make up
more than four-fths of the common 99 percent of Earths atmosphere.
air employed. We may conclude
thatalmost all the inammable
air and about one fth of the
common airare condensed
Explosive discoveries into the dew which lines the glass.
Cavendish also mixed measured
samples of his gas with known Dening water
volumes of air in bottles, and Although Cavendish used the term
ignited the mixtures by taking phlogisticate, he managed to
the tops off and applying lighted demonstrate that the only new
pieces of paper. He found that with material produced was water, and
nine parts of air to one of hydrogen deduced that two volumes of
there was a slow, quiet ame; with inammable air had combined
increasing proportions of hydrogen with one volume of oxygen. In The rst hydrogen balloon, inspired
the mixture exploded with other words, he showed that the by Cavendish, was cheered by a huge
increasing ferocity; but pure, 100 composition of water is H2O. crowd of spectators. Since hydrogen is so
percent hydrogen did not ignite. Although he reported his ndings explosive, modern balloons use helium.

Henry Cavendish One of the strangest and most did signicant original research
brilliant pioneers of 18th century into chemistry and electricity,
chemistry and physics, Henry accurately described the nature
Cavendish was born in 1731 in of heat, and measured Earths
Nice, France. His grandfathers densityor, as people said,
were both dukes, and he was weighed the world. He died
immensely rich. After his studies in 1810. In 1874, the University
at the University of Cambridge, of Cambridge named its new
he lived and worked alone in his physics laboratory in his honor.
house in London. A man of few
words and shy of women, it was Key works
said that he ordered his meals by
leaving notes for his servants. 1766 Three Papers Containing
Cavendish attended meetings Experiments on Factitious Air
of the Royal Society for about 40 1784 Experiments on Air
years, and also assisted Humphry (Philosophical Transactions of
Davy at the Royal Institution. He the Royal Society of London)


GEORGE HADLEY (16851768)

y 1700, it was known that at its greatest over the equator,
IN CONTEXT persistent surface winds, or causes air to rise, and that rising
trade winds, blow from a air is replaced by winds blowing
northeasterly direction between in from higher latitudes.
a latitude of 30N and the equator In 1735, English physicist
BEFORE at 0. Galileo had suggested that George Hadley published his
1616 Galileo Galilei points to Earths eastward rotation made it theory on trade winds. He agreed
trade winds as evidence of get ahead of the air in the tropics, that the Sun causes air to rise, but
Earths rotation. so the winds come from the east. rising air near the equator would
Later, English astronomer Edmond only cause winds to ow toward it
1686 Edmond Halley proposes Halley realized that the Suns heat, from the north and south, not from
that the Sun traveling west the east. As the air rotates with
through the sky causes air to Earth, air moving from 30 N
rise and be replaced by winds Earth rotates
toward the east toward the equator would have its
from the east. own momentum toward the east.
However, Earths surface moves
AFTER Easterly 60N
trade faster at the equator than at higher
1793 John Dalton publishes 30N
winds latitudes, so the surface speed
Meteorological Observations becomes greater than the airs
and Essays, which supports 0
speed and the winds appear to
Hadleys theory. 30S come from an increasingly easterly
1835 De Coriolis builds on latitude direction as they near the equator.
Hadleys ideas, describing a westerlies Hadleys idea was a step on
compound centrifugal force the way to understanding wind
that deects the wind. Polar easterlies patterns, but contained errors.
The key to the deection of wind
1856 American meteorologist Wind patterns result from Earths
rotation combined with circulation direction is in fact that the winds
William Ferrel identies a cells as hot air rises, cools, and falls angular momentum (causing it to
circulation cell in the mid- in polar cells (shown in gray), Ferrel rotate) is conserved, not its linear
latitudes (3060) where air cells (blue), and Hadley cells (pink). (straight-line) momentum.
pulled into a low-pressure
center creates the prevailing See also: Galileo Galilei 4243 John Dalton 11213
westerly winds. Gaspard-Gustave de Coriolis 126 Robert FitzRoy 15055


he warm Gulf Stream current
IN CONTEXT that ows eastward across
the North Atlantic Ocean
is one of the greatest movements
of water on Earth. It is driven
BEFORE east by prevailing westerly winds,
c.2000 BCE Polynesian and is part of a great loop that
seafarers use ocean currents to then recrosses the Atlantic to the
cross between Pacic islands. Caribbean. The current had been
known since 1513, when Spanish
1513 Juan Ponce de Lon explorer Juan Ponce de Len found
is the rst to describe the his ship moving back north off Franklins chart was published in
strong currents of the Atlantic Florida despite winds blowing him 1770 in Britain, but it would be years
Oceans Gulf Stream. south. But it was only properly before British captains learned to use
charted in 1770, by US statesman the Gulf Stream to cut sailing times.
and scientist Benjamin Franklin.
1847 US naval ofcer Matthew
could spot it by whale migrations,
Maury publishes his chart of
Local advantage differences in temperature and color,
winds and currents, compiled As deputy postmaster of the British and the speed of surface bubbles,
by studying ships logs and American colonies, Franklin was and so they crossed over the current
charts in naval archives. fascinated by why it took British to escape it, while the westbound
1881 Prince Albert I of packet ships delivering mail two British packet ships battled against
Monaco realizes that the Gulf weeks longer to cross the Atlantic it all the way.
Stream is a gyre (loop) and than American merchant ships. With Folgers aid, Franklin
splits in twoone branch Already famous for his invention of charted the currents course as it
owing north toward the the lightning conductor, he asked owed along the east coast of North
British Isles, and the other Nantucket whaling captain Timothy America from the Gulf of Mexico to
south to Spain and Africa. Folger why this might be. Folger Newfoundland and then streamed
explained that American captains east across the Atlantic. He also
1942 Norwegian knew of the westeast current. They gave the Gulf Stream its name.
oceanographer Harald
Sverdrup develops a theory See also: George Hadley 80 Gaspard-Gustave de Coriolis 126

of general ocean circulation. Robert FitzRoy 15055



ollowing Joseph Blacks vat, the candle went out about 12 in
IN CONTEXT pioneering discovery of (30 cm) above the froth, where the
xed air, or carbon dioxide ame entered the layer of xed air
(CO2), an English clergyman named oating there. The smoke drifted
Joseph Priestley became interested across the top of the xed air,
BEFORE in investigating various other airs, making it visible and revealing
1754 Joseph Black isolates the or gases, and identied several the boundary between the two airs.
rst gas, carbon dioxide. moremost notably oxygen. He also noticed that the xed air
While a minister in Leeds, owed over the side of the vat and
1766 Henry Cavendish Priestley visited the brewery close sank to the oor, because it was
prepares hydrogen. to his lodgings. The layer of air denser than ordinary air. When
1772 Carl Scheele isolates a above the brewing vat was already Priestley experimented with
third gas, oxygen, two years known to be xed air. He found that dissolving xed air in cold water,
before Priestley, but does not when he lowered a candle over the sloshing it from one vessel to
publish his ndings until 1777.
1774 In Paris, Priestley As Priestley discovers, Oxygen does not burn,
demonstrates his method to oxygen is separate from so it cannot contain the re
xed air (carbon dioxide). element phlogiston.
Antoine Lavoisier, who makes
the new gas and publishes his
results in May 1775.
1779 Lavoisier gives the gas
the name oxygne. But Lavoisier shows that other
gases and materials burn Oxygen is
1783 Genevas Schweppes readily in oxygen. dephlogisticated air.
Company starts making the
soda water Priestley invented.
1877 Swiss chemist Raoul
Pictet produces liquid oxygen,
which will be used in rocket So combustion is a process of Phlogiston
fuel, industry, and medicine. combining with oxygen. does not exist.
See also: Joseph Black 7677 Henry Cavendish 7879
Antoine Lavoisier 84 John Dalton 11213 Humphry Davy 114

another, he found that it made a

refreshing sparkling drink, which
later led to the craze for soda water.

Releasing oxygen
On August 1, 1774, Priestley rst The most remarkable of
isolated his new gaswhich we all the kinds of air I have
now know as oxygen (O2)from producedis, one that is
mercuric oxide in a sealed glass ve or six times better than
ask by heating it with sunlight common air, for the purpose
and a magnifying glass. He later of respiration. Joseph Priestley
discovered that this new gas kept Joseph Priestley
mice alive much longer than Born on a farm in Yorkshire,
ordinary air, was pleasant to Joseph Priestley was brought
up as a dissenting Christian,
breathe and more energizing than
and was intensely religious
ordinary air, and supported the and political all his life.
combustion of various substances Priestley became
he burned as fuel. He also showed interested in gases while
that plants produce the gas in not publish his results until 1777. living in Leeds in the early
sunlighta rst hint of the process Meanwhile in Paris, Antoine 1770s, but his best work
we call photosynthesis. At the time, Lavoisier heard of Scheeles work, was done after he moved to
however, combustion was thought was given a demonstration by Wiltshire as librarian to the
to involve the release from a fuel Priestley, and promptly made his Earl of Shelburne. His duties
of a mysterious material called own oxygen. His experiments on were light and left him time
phlogiston. Because this new gas combustion and respiration proved to conduct research. He later
did not burn, and therefore must that combustion is a process of fell out with the earlhis
contain no phlogiston, he called it combining with oxygen, not political views may have been
dephlogisticated air. liberating phlogiston. In respiration, too radicaland in 1780, he
moved to Birmingham. Here
Priestley isolated several other oxygen absorbed from the air
he joined the Lunar Society,
gases at about this time, but then reacts with glucose and releases
an informal but inuential
went on a European tour, and did carbon dioxide, water, and energy. group of freethinkers,
not publish his results until late the He named the new gas oxygne, or engineers, and industrialists.
following year. Swedish chemist acid-maker, when he discovered Priestleys support for the
Carl Scheele had prepared oxygen that it reacts with some materials French Revolution made him
two years before Priestley, but did such as sulfur, phosphorus, and unpopular. In 1791, his house
nitrogento make acids. and laboratory were burned
This led many scientists to down, forcing him to move to
abandon phlogiston, but Priestley, London and then to America.
though a great experimenter, clung He settled in Pennsylvania,
to the old theory to explain his and died there in 1804.
discoveries and made little further
contribution to chemistry. Key works

1767 The History and Present

Priestleys apparatus for his gas State of Electricity
experiments appear in his book about 177477 Experiments and
his discoveries. At the front, a mouse is Observations on Different
kept in oxygen under a jar; on the right, Kinds of Air
a plant releases oxygen in a tube.


rench chemist Antoine combustion, demolished the theory
IN CONTEXT Lavoisier brought a new of a re element called phlogiston.
level of precision to science, For the past century, scientists had
not least by naming oxygen and thought inammable substances
quantifying its role in combustion. contained phlogiston and released
BEFORE By taking careful measurements it when they burned. The theory
1667 German alchemist of mass in the chemical reactions explained why substances such as
Johann Joachim Becher that occur during combustion, wood lost mass on burning, but not
proposes that things are made he demonstrated the conservation why others, such as magnesium,
to burn by a re element. of massthe principle that, in a gained mass on burning. Lavoisiers
reaction, the total mass of all the careful measurements showed that
1703 German chemist Georg substances taking part is the same oxygen was the key, in a process
Stahl renames it phlogiston. as the total mass of all its products. during which nothing was added or
1772 Swedish chemist Lavoisier heated various lost, but all was transformed.
Carl-Wilhelm Scheele discovers substances in sealed containers
re air (later called oxygen) and found that the mass a metal
but does not publish his gained when it was heated was
exactly equal to the mass of air lost.
ndings until 1777.
He also found that burning stopped
1774 Joseph Priestley isolates when the pure part of the air
dephlogisticated air (later (oxygen) had all gone. The air that I consider nature a vast
called oxygen) and tells remained (mostly nitrogen) did not chemical laboratory in which
Lavoisier about his ndings. support combustion. He realized all kinds of composition and
that combustion therefore involved decompositions are formed.
AFTER a combination of heat, fuel (the Antoine Lavoisier
1783 Lavoisier conrms his burning material), and oxygen.
ideas on combustion with Published in 1778, Lavoisiers
experiments on hydrogen, results not only demonstrated the
oxygen, and water. conservation of mass, but also,
1789 Lavoisiers Elementary by identifying oxygens role in
Treatise on Chemistry names
See also: Joseph Black 7677 Henry Cavendish 7879
33 elements.
Joseph Priestley 8283 Jan Ingenhousz 85 John Dalton 11213


n the 1770s, Dutch scientist Jan
IN CONTEXT Ingenhousz set out to discover
why plants, as earlier scientists
had noticed, put on weight. He went
to England and did his research at
BEFORE Bowood Housewhere Joseph
1640s Flemish chemist Jan Priestley discovered oxygen in
Baptista van Helmont deduces 1774and was about to nd the
that a potted tree gains weight keys to photosynthesis: sunlight
by absorbing water from soil. and oxygen. Pondweed bubbles at night show
respiration as plants convert glucose
1699 English naturalist John Bubbling weeds into energy, absorbing oxygen and
Woodward shows that water is Ingenhousz had read how plants in releasing carbon dioxide.
both taken in and given off by water produce bubbles of gas, but
plants, so their growth needs the bubbles precise composition carbon dioxide, was at least partly
another source of matter. and origin were unclear. In a series the source of a plants increased
1754 Swiss naturalist Charles of experiments, he saw that sunlit organic matterthat is, its extra
leaves gave off more bubbles mass came from air.
Bonnet notices that plant
than leaves in the dark. He collected As we now know, plants make
leaves produce bubbles of air
the gas produced only in sunlight, their food by photosynthesis
under water when illuminated.
and found that it re-lit a glowing converting energy from sunlight into
AFTER splintthis was oxygen. The gas glucose by reacting the water and
1796 Swiss botanist Jean given off by plants in the dark put out carbon dioxide that plants absorb,
Snbier shows that it is the a amethis was carbon dioxide. and releasing oxygen as waste. As a
green parts in plants that Ingenhousz knew that plants put result, plants supply both the oxygen
release oxygen and absorb on weight with little change in the that is vital to life, andas food for
carbon dioxide. weight of the soil they grew from. othersthe energy. In a reverse
In 1779, he correctly reasoned that process called respiration, plants
1882 German scientist gas exchange with the atmosphere, use the glucose as food and release
Thodore Engelman pinpoints especially the absorption of the gas carbon dioxide, day and night.
chloroplasts as the oxygen-
making parts in plant cells. See also: Joseph Black 7677 Henry Cavendish 7879

Joseph Priestley 8283 Joseph Fourier 12223



Better observations showed
BRANCH New telescopes allowed a new planet in
Astronomy for more detailed mapping orbit around the
of the skies. SunUranus.
Early 1600s The lens-based
refracting telescope is
invented, but mirror-based
telescopes are not developed Uranuss orbit was
Using Newtons laws, it
until the 1660s, by Isaac was possible to calculate irregular, suggesting that
Newton and others. where to look for the it was being pulled
new planet. by the gravity of
1774 French observer another planet.
Charles Messier publishes his
astronomical survey, inspiring
Herschel to begin work on a
survey of his own.
Neptune was discovered.
1846 Unexplained changes to
the orbit of Uranus lead French
mathematician Urbain Le

n 1781, German scientist through the construction of
Verrier to predict the existence William Herschel identied reecting telescopes that used
and position of an eighth the rst new planet to be seen mirrors rather than lenses to gather
planetNeptune. since ancient times, although light, avoiding many of the problems
1930 US astronomer Clyde Herschel himself initially thought it associated with lenses at the time.
Tombaugh discovers Pluto, was a comet. His discovery would This was the age of the rst great
also lead to the discovery of another astronomical surveys, as astronomers
which is initially recognized as
planet as a result of predictions scoured the sky and identied a
a ninth planet, but now seen
based on Newtons laws. wide variety of nonstellar
as the brightest member of the
By the late 18th century, objectsstar clusters and nebulae
Kuiper Belt of small icy worlds. astronomical instruments had that looked like amorphous clouds
advanced signicantlynot least of gas or dense balls of light.
See also: Ole Rmer 5859 Isaac Newton 6269 Nevil Maskelyne 10203 Geoffrey Marcy 327

green disk that he suspected might By 1845, two astronomers

be a comet. He returned to it a few Frenchman Urbaine Le Verrier and
nights later, and found that it had Briton John Couch Adamswere
moved, conrming that it was not independently using Bouvards data
a star. Upon looking at Herschels to calculate where in the sky to look
discovery, Nevil Maskelyne realized for the eighth planet. Telescopes
that the new object was moving far were trained on the predicted area,
too slowly to be a comet, and might and on September 23, 1846,
in fact be a planet in a distant orbit. Neptune was discovered within just
Swedish-Russian Anders Johan one degree of where Le Verrier had
Lexell and German Johann Elert predicted it would be. Its existence
Bode independently computed conrmed Bouvards theory and
In the 1780s, Herschel built his the orbit for Herschels discovery, provided powerful evidence of
40-foot telescope with a 47 in (1.2 m) conrming that it was indeed a the universality of Newtons laws.
wide primary mirror and a 40 ft (12 m) planet, roughly twice as far away as
focal length. It remained the largest Saturn. Bode suggested naming it
telescope in the world for 50 years.
after Saturns mythological father,
the ancient Greek sky god Uranus.
Assisted by his sister Caroline,
Herschel systematically quartered Irregular orbit
the sky, recording curiosities such In 1821, French astronomer Alexis I looked for the Comet or
as the unexpectedly large number Bouvard published a detailed table Nebulous Star and found
of double and multiple stars. He describing the orbit of Uranus as it that it is a Comet, for it
even attempted to compile a map should be according to Newtons has changed its place.
of the Milky Way galaxy based on laws. However, his observations of William Herschel
the number of stars he counted the planet soon showed substantial
in different directions. discrepancies with his tables
On March 13, 1781, Herschel predictions. The irregularities of its
was scanning the constellation orbit suggested a gravitational pull
Gemini when he spotted a faint from an eighth, more distant planet.

William Herschel Born in Hanover, Germany, performed an experiment using

Frederick William Herschel a prism and a thermometer to
emigrated to Britain at 19 to measure the temperatures of
make a career in music. His different colors of sunlight,
studies of harmonics and and found that the temperature
mathematics led to an interest in continued to rise in the region
optics and astronomy, and he set beyond visible red light. He
out to make his own telescopes. concluded that the Sun emitted
Following his discovery of an invisible form of light, which
Uranus, Herschel discovered two he termed caloric rays and
new moons of Saturn and the which today we call infrared.
largest two moons of Uranus. He
also proved that the solar system Key works
is in motion relative to the rest of
the galaxy. While studying the 1781 Account of a Comet
Sun in 1800, Herschel discovered 1786 Catalogue of 1,000 New
a new form of radiation. He Nebulae and Clusters of Stars

JOHN MICHELL (17241793)

Newton shows that If light is affected
BRANCH by gravity, a massive
the gravitational
Cosmology attraction of an object enough object will have
is proportional such a strong gravitational
BEFORE eld that no light will be
1686 Isaac Newton formulates to its mass.
able to escape it.
his law of universal gravitation,
in which the strength of
the gravitational attraction
between objects is
proportional to their masses. Einstein explains
gravity as a distortion The velocity
AFTER of space-time, meaning of light will appear
1796 Pierre-Simon Laplace that massless light is to diminish.
independently theorizes about affected by gravity.
the possibility of black holes.
1915 Albert Einstein shows
that gravity is a warping of the

n a 1783 letter to Henry proportion of 500 to 1, a body falling
space-time continuum, which Cavendish at the Royal Society, from an innite height toward it
is why massless light photons British polymath John Michell would have acquired at its surface
are affected by gravity. set out his thoughts on the effect of a greater velocity than that of light,
gravity. The letter was rediscovered & consequently, supposing light
1916 Karl Schwarzschild
in the 1970s and found to contain to be attracted by the same force
proposes the event horizon,
a remarkable description of black all light emitted from such a body
beyond which no data can be holes. Newtons law of gravity states would be made to return towards
received about a black hole. that an objects gravitational pull it. In 1796, French mathematician
1974 Stephen Hawking increases with its mass. Michell Pierre-Simon Laplace came up with
predicts that quantum effects considered what might happen to a similar idea in his Exposition du
at the event horizon will emit light if it is affected by gravity. He Systme du Monde.
infrared radiation. wrote: If the semidiameter of a However, the idea of a black
sphere of the same density with the hole would lie dormant until Albert
sun were to exceed the sun in the Einsteins 1915 paper on general
See also: Henry Cavendish 7879 Isaac Newton 6269 Albert Einstein 21421 Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar 248

Stephen Hawking 314

Black holes aint so black.

Stephen Hawking

unusual on the approach to the

event horizon, but if he or she
dropped a clock toward the black
hole, the clock would appear to
slow down, and approach but
Matter swirls around a black hole in massive stars collapse under their never quite reach the event horizon,
a doughnut-shaped accretion disk own gravity, and grow as they gradually fading from sight.
before being sucked in. Heat in the assimilate ever more matter, and Problems with the theory still
swirling disk causes the hole to emit
that a giant black hole lurks at the exist, however. In 2012, physicist
energyas narrow beams of X-rays.
center of every galaxy. Black holes Joseph Polchinski suggested that
pull matter in, but nothing escapes, effects at the quantum scale would
relativity, which described gravity other than faint infrared radiation, create a rewall at the event
as a result of the curving of space- known as Hawking radiation after horizon that would burn any
time. Einstein showed how matter Stephen Hawking, the physicist astronaut falling through it to a
can wrap space-time around itself, who proposed it. An astronaut crisp. In 2014, Hawking changed
making a black hole within a region falling into a black hole would his mind and concluded that black
called the Schwarzschild radius, feel nothing and notice nothing holes cannot exist after all.
or event horizon. Matterand also
lightcan enter it, but cannot John Michell weighing the worlda
leave. In this picture, the speed of delicate torsion balancebut
light is unchanged. Rather, it is the John Michell was a true died in 1793 before he could use
space the light travels through that polymath. He became professor it. He left it to his friend Henry
changes, but Michells intuition of geology at the University of Cavendish, who performed
now had a mechanism by which Cambridge in 1760, but also the experiment in 1798, and
the velocity of light would at least taught arithmetic, geometry, obtained a value close to the
appear to diminish. theology, philosophy, Hebrew, currently accepted gure.
and Greek. In 1767, he retired Ever since, this has somewhat
From theory to reality to become a clergyman, and unfairly been known as the
Einstein himself doubted whether focused on his science. Cavendish experiment.
Michell speculated on the
black holes existed in reality. It was
properties of stars, investigated Key work
not until the 1960s that they began
earthquakes and magnetism,
to acquire general acceptance as and invented a new method for 1767 An Inquiry into the
indirect evidence of their existence measuring the density of Earth. Probable Parallax and
grew. Today, most cosmologists He built the apparatus for Magnitude of the Fixed Stars
think that black holes form when

or centuries, philosophers
IN CONTEXT had wondered at the
terrifying power of A dead frogs legs twitch
lightning, and also at the way in when connected to two
which sparks can be drawn from different pieces of metal.
BEFORE solids such as amber when rubbed
1754 Benjamin Franklin with a silk cloth. The Greek word
proves that lightning is natural for amber was electron, and the
electricity with his famous sparking phenomenon became
kite experiment. known as static electricity.
In an experiment of 1754,
1767 Joseph Priestley Benjamin Franklin ew a kite When the two metals
publishes a comprehensive into a thunderstorm and showed are touched to the tongue,
account of static electricity. that these two phenomena were it produces a curious
closely related. When he saw sensation
1780 Luigi Galvani conducts sparks ying from a brass key tied
his frogs legs experiments to the kites line, he proved that
with animal electricity. the clouds were electried, and
AFTER that lightning is also a form of
1800 English chemists William electricity. Franklins work inspired
Nicholson and Anthony Carlisle Joseph Priestley to publish a
comprehensive work on The History This electrical force
use a Voltaic pile to split water must come from the two
and Present State of Electricity in
into its two elements, oxygen different metals attached
1767. But it was the Italian Luigi
and hydrogen. to the frogs leg.
Galvani, a lecturer in anatomy at
1807 Humphry Davy isolates the University of Bologna, who, in
the elements potassium and 1780, took the rst major steps
sodium using electricity. toward understanding electricity
when he noticed a frogs leg twitch.
1820 Hans Christian rsted Galvani was investigating a
reveals the link between theory that animals are driven by The force can be
magnetism and electricity. animal electricity, whatever that multiplied by connecting
was, and was dissecting frogs to a series of these metals
look for evidence of this. He noticed in a column.
that if there was a machine nearby
generating static electricity, a frogs
leg lying on the bench suddenly
twitched, even though the frog Voltas breakthrough
was long dead. The same thing Galvanis younger colleague
happened when a frogs leg was Alessandro Volta, a professor of
hung on a brass hook that came natural philosophy, was intrigued
into contact with an iron fence. by Galvanis observations and was
Galvani believed this evidence initially convinced by his theory.
supported his belief that electricity Volta himself had a notable
was coming from the frog itself. background in electricity
experiments. In 1775, he had
invented the electrophorus,
Luigi Galvani is shown here
conducting his famous frogs legs a device that provided an
experiment. He believed that animals instant source of electricity for an
were driven by an electrical force, experiment (the modern equivalent
which he called animal electricity. is a capacitor). It consisted of a
See also: Henry Cavendish 7879 Benjamin Franklin 81 Joseph Priestley 8283 Humphry Davy 114

Hans Christian rsted 120 Michael Faraday 121

resin disk rubbed with cat fur zinc, and so on, until he had a were connected by a piece of wire,
to give it a static electric charge. column, or stack. In other words, and enough to give him a mild
Each time a metal disk was placed he created a pile, or battery. The electric shock.
over the resin, the charge was point of the salty wet cardboard
transferred, electrifying the was to carry the electricity without The news spreads
metal disk. letting the metals on either side of Volta made his discovery in
Volta stated that Galvanis it come into contact with each other. 1799, and news spread rapidly.
animal electricity was among The result was, literally, He demonstrated the effect to
the demonstrated truths. But he electrifying. Voltas crude battery Napoleon Bonaparte in 1801, but
soon began to have his doubts. probably produced only a few volts more importantly, in March 1800,
He came to the conclusion that (the electrical unit named after he had reported his results in a
the electricity causing the frogs him), but that was enough to make long letter to Sir Joseph Banks,
legs to twitch on the hook came a tiny spark when the two ends president of the Royal Society in
from the touching of the two
different metals (the brass and the
This diagram of a voltaic
iron). He published his ideas in pile shows the copper and
1792 and 1793, and began zinc disks separated by
investigating the phenomenon. cardboard soaked in salt
Volta found that a single water. Voltas original piles
junction of two different metals contained an additional
did not produce much electricity, zinc disk at the bottom,
and an additional copper
although there was enough for him
disk at the top. These
to feel a curious sensation with were later shown to be
his tongue. But then he had the Copper
disk unnecessary to produce
brilliant idea of multiplying the the electrical current.
effect by making a series of such
junctions connected by salt water.
He took a small disk of copper, then
placed a disk of zinc on top, then a Zinc disk
piece of cardboard soaked in salt
water, then another disk of copper,
zinc, salty wet cardboard, copper,

Cardboard disk

Each metal has a certain element
power, which is different from
metal to metal, of setting the
electric uid in motion.
Alessandro Volta
Britain. The letter was titled plate of silver followed immediately pieces (not more) shocks which
On the electricity excited by by another of zincI continue affect the whole nger with
the mere Contact of conducting to forma column as high as considerable pain. He then
Substances of different Kinds, and possible without any danger of describes a more elaborate
in it Volta describes his apparatus: its falling. apparatus, consisting of a series
I place then horizontally, on a Without a buzzer or a of cups or drinking glasses, each
table or any other stand, one of the semiconductor to detect voltage, containing salt water, arranged
metallic pieces, for example one of Volta used his body as a detector, in a line or a circle. Each pair is
silver, and over the rst I adapt one and did not seem to mind getting connected by a piece of metal that
of zinc; on the second I place one of electric shocks: I receive from a dips into the liquid in each cup.
the moistened discs, then another column formed of twenty pairs of One end of this metal is silver, the
other zinc, and these metals may
be soldered together or connected
by a wire of any metal, provided
that only the silver dips into the
liquid in one cup, and only the zinc
into the next. He explains
that this is in some ways more
convenient than the solid pile,
albeit more cumbersome.
Volta describes in detail the
various unpleasant sensations
that result from putting one hand
in the bowl at one end of the chain
and touching a wire attached to
the other end to the forehead,
eyelid, or tip of the nose: I feel
nothing for some moments;
afterward, however, there begins at
the part applied to the end of the
wire, another sensation, which is a
sharp pain (without shock), limited
precisely to the point of contact, a
quivering, not only continued, but
which always goes on increasing
to such a degree, that in a little
time it becomes insupportable,
and does not cease till the circle
is interrupted.

Battery mania
That his letter reached Banks
at all is surprising, since the
Napoleonic wars were in progress,

Volta demonstrated his electric

pile to Napoleon Bonaparte at the
French National Institute in Paris
in 1801. Napoleon was sufciently
impressed to make Volta a count
the same year.
trucks and aircraft. Without
batteries, many of our everyday
devices would not work.

Reclassifying metals
In addition to kick-starting the
The language of experiment is
study of current electricity, and
more authoritative than any thereby not only creating a new
reasoning: facts can destroy branch of physics but rapidly
our ratiocination [logical advancing the development of
argument]not vice versa. modern technology, Voltas pile
Alessandro Volta led to a whole new chemical
classication of metals, for he tried
a variety of pairs of metals in his Alessandro Volta
pile, and found that some worked
much better than others. Silver Born in 1745 in Como, northern
with zinc made an excellent Italy, Alessandro Giuseppe
Antonio Anastasio Volta was
combination, as did copper with
brought up in an aristocratic,
but Banks immediately spread tin, but if he tried silver and silver, religious family who hoped
the word to anyone who might be or tin and tin, he got no electricity that he would become a priest.
interested. Within weeks, people at all; the metals had to be Instead he became interested
all over Britain were making different. He showed that metals in static electricity, and, in
electric batteries and investigating could be arranged in a sequence 1775, he made an improved
the properties of current electricity. such that each became positive device for generating it, called
Before 1800, scientists had had to when placed in contact with the the electrophorus. He
work with static electricity, which next one below it in the series. This discovered methane in the
is difcult and unrewarding. Voltas electrochemical series has been atmosphere at Lake Maggiore
invention allowed them to nd out invaluable to chemists ever since. in 1776, and investigated its
how a range of materialsliquids, combustion by the novel
solids, and gasesreact to a live Who was right? method of igniting it with
electrical current. An ironic aspect of this story is an electrical spark inside
a sealed glass vessel.
Among the rst to work with that Volta started investigating the
In 1779, Volta was
Voltas discovery were William touching of different metals only
appointed professor of
Nicholson, Anthony Carlisle, and because he doubted Galvanis physics at the University of
William Cruickshank, who, in May hypothesis. Yet Galvani was not Pavia, a post he held for 40
1800, made their own pile of entirely wrongour nerves do years. Toward the end of his
thirty-six half crowns with the indeed work by sending electrical life, he pioneered the remotely
correspondent pieces of zinc and impulses around the bodywhile operated pistol, whereby
pasteboard and passed the current Volta himself did not get his theory an electric current traveled
through platinum wires into a tube entirely right. He believed that 30 miles (50 km) from Como
lled with water. The bubbles of the electricity arose from just the to Milan and red a pistol.
gas that appeared were identied touching together of two different This was the forerunner of
as two parts of hydrogen and one metals, whereas Humphry Davy the telegraph, which uses
part of oxygen. Henry Cavendish later showed that something could electricity to communicate.
had shown that the formula of not come from nothing. When The unit of electrical potential,
water is H2O, but this was the rst electricity is being generated, the volt, is named after him.
time anyone had split water into its something else must be consumed.
Key work
separate elements. Davy suggested that there was a
Voltas pile was the ancestor chemical reaction going on, and 1769 On the Attractive Force
of all modern batteries, used in this led him to further important of Electrical Fire
everything from hearing aids to discoveries about electricity.

JAMES HUTTON (1726 1797)

or millennia, human
IN CONTEXT cultures have pondered
the age of Earth. Before
the advent of modern science,
estimates were based on beliefs
BEFORE rather than evidence. It was not All the years from the
10th century Al-Biruni uses until the 17th century that a creation of the world amount
fossil evidence to argue that growing understanding of Earths to a total of 5,698 years.
land must once have been geology provided the means to Theophilus of Antioch
under the sea. determine the planets age.

1687 Isaac Newton argues Biblical estimates

that Earths age can be In the Judaeo-Christian world, ideas
calculated scientically. about Earths age were based on
descriptions in the Old Testament.
1779 The Comte de Buffons However, since these texts only A scientic approach
experiments suggest an age presented the creation story in brief During the 10th century CE,
of 74,832 years for Earth. outline, they were subject to much scholars in Persia began to
AFTER interpretation, especially over the consider the question of Earths
1860 John Phillips calculates complex genealogical chronologies age more empirically. Al-Biruni,
Earths age at 96 million years. that followed the appearance of a pioneer of experimental science,
Adam and Eve. reasoned that if marine fossils were
1862 Lord Kelvin calculates Best known of these Biblical found on dry land, then that land
Earths cooling to produce an calculations is that by James must once have been under the
age of 20400 million years, Ussher, the protestant Primate of all sea. Earth, he concluded, must be
later settling on 2040 million. Ireland. In 1654, Ussher pinpointed evolving over long periods of time.
the date of Earths creation to the Another Persian scholar, Avicenna,
1905 Ernest Rutherford uses night preceding Sunday October suggested that layers of rock had
radiation to date a mineral. 23, 4004 BCE. This date became been laid down one upon another.
1953 Clair Patterson puts virtually enshrined in Christian In 1687, a scientic approach
Earths age at 4.55 billion years. culture when it was printed in to the problem was suggested
many Bibles as part of the Old by Isaac Newton. He argued that
Testament chronology. it would take a large body like
Earth about 50,000 years to cool
if it were made of molten iron.
He derived this gure by scaling
up the cooling time taken for
Landscapes are continually Yet this process does not a globe of iron of an inch in
denuded and the debris lead to loss of the land diameter, exposed red hot to
deposited into the sea. surface open air. Newton had opened
the door to a scientic challenge
to previous understandings of
Earths formation.
Following Newtons lead, French
naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc,
because new continents Comte de Buffon, experimented
There is no vestige are formed from materials with a large ball of red-hot iron, and
of a beginning and no derived from previous showed that if Earth were made of
prospect of an end. continents by the same molten iron, it would take 74,832
endless processes. years to cool. In private, Buffon
thought that Earth must be far
See also: Isaac Newton 6269 Louis Agassiz 12829 Charles Darwin 14249 Marie Curie 19095

Ernest Rutherford 20613

older, since eons of time would its parts, with a new world activity. Today, this is known as
be needed for chalk mountains to constantly reshaped and recycled the geological cycle. From this
build up from the remains of marine from the ruins of the old. evidence, Hutton declared that
fossils, but he did not want to Hutton formulated his Earth- all continents are formed from
publish this view without evidence. machine theory before he had found materials derived from previous
the supporting evidence, but, in continents by the same processes,
Secrets of the rocks 1787, he found the unconformities and that these processes still
In Scotland, quite a different he was looking forbreaks in the operate today. Famously, he wrote
approach to the problem of Earths continuity of sedimentary rocks. that the result, therefore, of this
age was being taken by James He saw that much of the land had present enquiry is, that we nd
Hutton, one of the preeminent once been seabed, where layers no vestige of a beginningno
natural philosophers of the Scottish of sediment had been laid down and prospect of an end.
Enlightenment. Hutton was a compressed. In many places these The popularization of Huttons
pioneer of geological eldwork, and layers had been pushed upward, so ideas about deep time was
used eld evidence to demonstrate that they were above sea level, and primarily due to John Playfair, a
his arguments to the Royal Society often distorted, so that they were Scottish scientist who published
of Edinburgh in 1785. not horizontal. He repeatedly found Huttons observations in an
Hutton was impressed by that rock material from the illustrated book, and to British
the apparent continuity of the truncated upper boundary of older geologist Charles Lyell, who
processes by which landscape was strata was incorporated into the transformed Huttons ideas into a
denuded and its debris deposited base of the younger rocks above. system called uniformitarianism.
into the sea. And yet all these Such unconformities showed This held that the laws of nature
processes did not lead to loss of the that there had been many episodes
land surface, as might be expected. in Earths history when the
In 1770, Hutton built a house
Perhaps thinking of the famous sequence of erosion, transportation, overlooking Salisbury Crags in
steam engine built by his friend and deposition of rock debris had Edinburgh, Scotland. Among the
James Watt, Hutton saw Earth as been repeated, and when rock crags he found evidence of volcanic
a material machine moving in all strata had been moved by volcanic penetration through sedimentary rock.
have always been the same, and took Earths initial temperature at
therefore the clues to the past lie 7,000F (3,900C) and applied the
in the present. However, while observation that temperature
Huttons insights concerning the increases as you go downward from
antiquity of the planet rang true the surfaceby about 1F (0.5C)
to geologists, there was still no The mind seemed to over every 50 ft (15 m) or so. From
satisfactory method of determining grow giddy by looking so this, Kelvin calculated that it had
just how old the planet was. far into the abyss of time. taken 98 million years for Earth to
John Playfair cool to its present state, which he
An experimental approach later reduced to 40 million years.
Since the end of the 18th century,
scientists had recognized that A radioactive clock
Earths crust comprises successive Such was Kelvins prestige that
layers of sedimentary strata. his measure was accepted by most
Geological mapping of these strata scientists. Geologists, however,
revealed that cumulatively they are observed that the processes of were left feeling that 40 million
very thick and many contain the erosion and deposition of the rock years was simply not long enough
fossil remains of the organisms materials that make up such strata for the observed rates of geological
that lived in their respective were very slowestimated to be processes, accumulated deposits,
depositional environments. By a few inches (centimeters) every and history. However, they
the 1850s, the geological column 100 years. In 1858, Charles Darwin had no scientic method with
of strata (also known as the made a somewhat ill-judged foray which to contradict Kelvin.
stratigraphic column) had been into the debate when he estimated In the 1890s, the discovery
more or less carved up into some that it had taken some 300 million of naturally occurring radioactive
eight named systems of strata and years for erosion to cut through the elements in some of Earths
fossils, each of which represented Tertiary and Cretaceous period minerals and rocks provided the
a period of geological time. rocks of the Weald in southern key that would resolve the impasse
Geologists were impressed by England. In 1860, John Phillips, between Kelvin and the geologists,
the overall thickness of the strata, a geologist at Oxford University, since the rate at which atoms
estimated to be 1670 miles estimated that Earth is about decay makes a reliable timer.
(25112 km) thick. They had 96 million years old. In 1903, Ernest Rutherford
But in 1862, such geological predicted rates of radioactive
calculations were scorned by the decay and suggested that
eminent Scottish physicist William radioactivity might be used as
Thomson (Lord Kelvin) for being a clock to date minerals and
unscientic. Kelvin was a strict the rocks that contain them.
empiricist and argued that he In 1905, Rutherford obtained
could use physics to determine the very rst radiometric dates
an accurate age for Earth, which of formation for a mineral from
he thought was constrained by Glastonbury, Connecticut: 497500
the age of the Sun. Understanding million years. He warned that these
of Earths rocks, their melting were minimum dates. In 1907,
points and conductivity, had vastly American radiochemist Bertram
improved since Buffons day. Kelvin Boltwood improved on Rutherfords
technique to produce the rst
radiometric dates of minerals in
Lord Kelvin pronounced the world to rocks with a known geological
be 40 million years old in 1897, the year
in which radioactivity was discovered.
context. These included a
He did not know that radioactive decay 2.2-billion-year-old rock from
in Earths crust provides heat that Sri Lanka, whose age increased
greatly slows the rate of cooling. previous estimates by an order
An uncomformity is a buried surface separating two rock
strata of different ages. This diagram shows an angular
unconformity, similar to those discovered by James Hutton
on the east coast of Scotland. Here, layers of rock strata have
been tilted by volcanic activity or movements in Earths
crust, producing an angular discordance with overlying,
younger layers.

James Hutton
discordance Born in 1726 to a respected
merchant in Edinburgh,
Scotland, James Hutton
studied humanities at
Edinburgh University. He
Older, tilted became interested in
rock strata chemistry and then medicine,
but did not practice as a
doctor. Instead, he studied
the new agrarian techniques
of magnitude. By 1946, British radiometric age of 4.56 billion being used in East Anglia,
geologist Arthur Holmes had made years for granite and basalt igneous England, where his exposure
some isotope measurements from rocks in Earths crust, he concluded to soils and the rocks they
lead-bearing rocks from Greenland, that the similarity of dates was were derived from led to an
which gave an age of 3.015 billion indicative of the age of Earths interest in geology. This took
years. This was one of the rst formation. By 1956, he had made him on eld expeditions all
reliable minimum ages for Earth. further measurements, which over England and Scotland.
Returning to Edinburgh
Holmes went on to estimate the increased his condence in the
in 1768, Hutton became
age of the uranium from which the accuracy of the date of 4.55 billion
acquainted with some of
lead was derived, obtaining a date years. This remains the gure the major gures of the
of 4.46 billion years, but he thought accepted by scientists today. Scottish Enlightenment,
that must be the age of the gas including the engineer
cloud from which Earth formed. James Watt and the moral
Finally, in 1953, American philosopher Adam Smith.
geochemist Clair Patterson Over the next 20 years, Hutton
obtained the rst generally developed his famous theory
accepted radiometric age of 4.55 of Earths age and discussed it
billion years for Earths formation. The past history of our with his friends before nally
There are no known minerals or globe must be explained by publishing a long outline in
rocks dating from Earths origin, what can be seen to be 1788 and a much longer book
but many meteorites are thought happening now. in 1795. He died in 1797.
to originate from the same event James Hutton
Key work
in the solar system. Patterson
calculated the radiometric date for 1795 Theory of the Earth
lead minerals in the Canyon Diablo with Proofs and Illustrations
meteorite at 4.51 billion years.
Comparing it with the average


The plumb line
BRANCH The gravitational mass will hang at an angle that
Earth science and physics of a mountain should depends on the relative
attract a plumb bob. density of the mountain
BEFORE and Earth.
1687 Isaac Newton publishes
the Principia, in which he
suggests experiments for
calculating Earths density.
1692 In an effort to explain Measuring the deviation
Earths magnetic eld, should allow calculation
Edmond Halley suggests that of Earths mass.
the planet consists of three
concentric hollow spheres.
1738 Pierre Bouguer attempts

n the 17th century, Isaac However, Newton himself
Newtons experiment, without
Newton had suggested dismissed the idea because
success, on Chimborazo, a
methods for weighing the he thought the deviation would
volcano in Ecuador.
Earthor calculating Earths be too small to be measured
AFTER density. One of these involved with the instruments of the day.
1798 Henry Cavendish measuring the angle of a plumb In 1738, Pierre Bouguer, a
uses a different method to line on each side of a mountain to French astronomer, attempted
calculate the density of nd out how far the gravitational the experiment on the slopes of
Earth, and nds it to be attraction of the mountain pulled Chimborazo in Ecuador. Weather
340 lb/ft3 (5,448 kg/m3). it from the vertical. This deviation and altitude caused problems,
could be measured by comparing however, and Bouguer did not think
1854 George Airy gures the plumb line to a vertical his measurements were accurate.
out Earths density using calculated using astronomical In 1772, Nevil Maskelyne
pendulums in a mine. methods. If the density and proposed to the Royal Society in
volume of the mountain could be London that the experiment could
ascertained, then, by extension, be conducted in Britain. The
so could the density of Earth. Society agreed, and sent a surveyor
See also: Isaac Newton 6269 Henry Cavendish 7879 John Michell 8889

Schiehallion was chosen as the site

for the experiment because it was
symmetrically shaped and isolated
(and therefore less affected by the
gravitational pull of other mountains).
the mean density of the
arc (just over 0.003 degrees). earth is at least double of that
Maskelyne used a survey of the at the surfacethe density of
shape of the mountain and a the internal parts of the earth
measurement of the density of its is much greater than near
rocks to gure out the mass of the surface.
Schiehallion. He was assuming Nevil Maskelyne
that the whole Earth had the same
density as Schiehallion, but the
deviation of the plumb lines
to select an appropriate mountain. showed a measured value of less
He chose Schiehallion in Scotland, than half of what he was expecting.
and Maskelyne spent nearly four Maskelyne realized that the density
months making observations from assumption was not correctthe that said Earth was hollow. It also
both sides of the mountain. density of Earth was clearly much allowed the mass of Earth to be
greater than that of its surface extrapolated from its volume and
The density of rocks rocks, probably, he reasoned, due average density. Maskelynes value
The orientation of the plumb line to the planet having a metallic for the overall density of Earth was
compared to the stars should have core. The actual observed angle 280 lb/ft3 (4,500 kg/m3). Compared
been different at the two stations was used to gure out that the with todays accepted value of
even without any gravitational overall density of Earth is about 344 lb/ft3 (5,515 kg/m3), he had
effects, because of the difference double that of Schiehallions rocks. gured out the density of Earth
in latitude. However, even when This result disproved one with an error of less than 20 percent,
this was accounted for, there was theory of the time, advocated by and in the process had proved
still a difference of 11.6 seconds of English astronomer Edmond Halley, Newton's law of gravitation.

Nevil Maskelyne Born in London in 1732, Nevil much time trying to solve the
Maskelyne became interested problem of measuring longitude
in astronomy at school. After while at seaa major issue of
graduating from Cambridge the day. His method involved
University and being ordained a carefully measuring the
priest, he became a member of distance between the Moon
the Royal Society in 1758, and and a given star, and consulting
was the Astronomer Royal from published tables.
1765 until his death.
In 1761, the Royal Society sent Key works
Maskelyne to the Atlantic island of
St. Helena to observe the transit 1764 Astronomical Observations
of Venus. Measurements taken Made at the Island of St Helena
as the planet passed across the 1775 An Account of
Suns disk allowed astronomers to Observations Made on
calculate the distance between the Mountain Schehallien
Earth and the Sun. He also spent for Finding its Attraction



n the mid-18th century, Swedish and female parts, and that in these,
IN CONTEXT botanist Carl Linnaeus realized the parts mature at different times,
that ower parts parallel the preventing self-fertilization.
reproductive organs of animals. Published in 1793, Sprengels
Forty years later, a German work was largely underappreciated
BEFORE botanist called Christian Sprengel during his lifetime. However,
1694 German botanist gured out how insects played a it was nally given due credit
Rudolph Camerarius shows major role in the pollination, and when Charles Darwin used it as
that owers carry a plants so fertilization, of owering plants. a springboard for his own studies
reproductive parts. on the coevolution of owering
Mutual benet plants and the particular species
1753 Carl Linnaeus publishes In the summer of 1787, Sprengel of insects that pollinate them and
Species Plantarum, devising a noticed insects visiting open ensure cross-fertilizationto their
classication system guided owers to feed on the nectar inside. mutual benet.
by ower structure. He began to wonder whether the
nectar was being advertised
1760s Josef Gottlieb Klreuter, by the petals special color and
a German botanist, proves pattern, and deduced that the
that pollen grains are needed insects were being enticed onto
to fertilize a ower. the owers so that pollen from the
AFTER stamen (male part) of one ower
1831 Scottish botanist Robert stuck to the insect and was carried
to the pistil (female part) of another
Brown describes how pollen
ower. The insects reward was a
grains germinate on a owers
drink of energy-rich nectar.
stigma (female part). Sprengel discovered that some
A honeybee lands on the sexual parts
1862 Charles Darwin owering plants, if they lack color displayed at the center of these brightly
publishes Fertilisation of and scent, rely on wind to disperse colored petals. Honeybees account for
Orchids, a detailed study their pollen. He also observed that 80 percent of all insect pollination and
of the relationship between many owers contain both male pollinate a third of all food crops.
owers and pollinating insects.
See also: Carl Linnaeus 7475 Charles Darwin 14249

Gregor Mendel 16671 Thomas Hunt Morgan 22425


JOSEPH PROUST (17541836)

he Law of Denite
IN CONTEXT Proportions, published
by French chemist Joseph
Proust in 1794, shows that no
matter how elements combine, the
BEFORE proportions of each element in a Iron, like many other metals,
c.400 BCE The Greek thinker compound are always precisely the is subject to the law of nature
Democritus proposes that the same. This theory was one of the which presides at every
world is ultimately made of tiny fundamental ideas about elements
true combination, that
indivisible particlesatoms. that emerged at this period to form
the basis of modern chemistry.
is to say, that it unites
1759 English chemist Robert In making his discovery, Proust
with two constant
Dossie argues that substances was following a trend in French proportions of oxygen.
combine when they are in the chemistry, pioneered by Antoine Joseph Proust
right proportion, which he calls Lavoisier, which advocated careful
the saturation proportion. measurement of weights, ratios,
and percentages. Proust studied
1787 Antoine Lavoisier and the percentages in which metals
Claude Louis Berthollet devise combined with oxygen in metal
the modern system of naming oxides. He concluded that when
chemical compounds. metal oxides formed, the proportion John Daltons new atomic theory of
AFTER of metal and oxygen was constant. elementsthat elements are each
If the same metal combined with made of their own unique atoms. If
1805 John Dalton shows that
oxygen in a different proportion, it a compound is always made from
elements are made up of atoms
formed a different compound with the same combination of atoms,
of a particular mass, which different properties. Prousts argument that elements
combine to make compounds. Not everyone agreed with always combine in xed
1811 Italian chemist Amedeo Proust, but in 1811, the Swedish proportions must be true. This is
Avogadro makes a distinction chemist Jns Jakob Berzelius now accepted as one of the key
between atoms and the realized that Prousts theory t laws of chemistry.
molecules that are formed by
atoms to make compounds. See also: Henry Cavendish 7879 Antoine Lavoisier 84 John Dalton 11213

Jns Jakob Berzelius 119 Dmitri Mendeleev 17479

1800 1900

In the cliffs of Lyme Michael Faraday

Astronomer William Regis, Mary Anning nds discovers the principle Christian Doppler
Herschel discovers the skeleton of the rst behind the explains why binary
infrared radiation. known ichthyosaur. electric motor. stars are colored.

1800 1811 1821 1842

1803 1820 1837 1845

John Dalton introduces the Hans Christian rsted Louis Agassiz German explorer
idea of atomic weights. discovers that when a describes Alexander von
current is switched on, an ice age. Humboldt introduces
a nearby compass the idea of ecology.
needle ickers.

he invention of the electric William Herschel used a prism to of binary stars using the idea that
battery in 1799 opened separate the various colors of light is a wave with a spectrum
up whole new elds of sunlight to study their of various frequencies, laying out
scientic research. In Denmark, temperatures; he found that his the phenomenon now known as the
Hans Christian rsted accidentally thermometer showed a higher Doppler effect. Meanwhile, in Paris,
discovered a connection between temperature beyond the red end of French physicists Hippolyte Fizeau
electricity and magnetism. At the visible spectrum. Herschel had and Lon Foucault measured the
Londons Royal Institution, stumbled upon infrared radiation, speed of light, and showed that it
Michael Faraday imagined the and ultraviolet radiation was travels more slowly through water
shapes of magnetic elds, and discovered the following year than through air.
invented the worlds rst electric proving that there was more to the
motor. In Scotland, James Clerk spectrum than visible light. In a Chemical changes
Maxwell picked up Faradays similar accidental way, Wilhelm British meteorologist John Dalton
ideas and gured out the complex Rntgen later discovered X-rays in tentatively suggested that atomic
mathematics of electromagnetism. his laboratory in Germany. British weights might be a useful concept
physician Thomas Young devised for chemists and ventured to
Seeing the invisible a clever double-slit experiment to estimate a few of them. Fifteen
Invisible forms of electromagnetic determine whether light is really a years later, Swedish chemist Jns
waves were discovered before wave or a particle. His discovery Jakob Berzelius drew up a much
they were understood or the laws of wavelike interference appeared more complete list of atomic
governing their behavior were to settle the argument. In Prague, weights. His student, the German
gured out. Working in Bath, Austrian physicist Christian chemist Friedrich Whler, turned
Britain, German astronomer Doppler explained the color an inorganic salt into an organic

Charles Darwin
outlines his theory of August Kekul
evolution in On the describes the
Origin of Species by chemical structure Dmitri Mendeleev lays
Means of Natural of the benzene out the periodic table Wilhelm Rntgen
Selection. molecule. of the elements. discovers X-rays.

1859 1865 1869 1895

1859 1866 1873 1898

Louis Pasteur disproves Gregor Mendel James Clerk Maxwell Marie Curie
spontaneous publishes his work on publishes his laws of isolates radioactive
generation of life. the genetics of peas. electromagnetism. polonium.

compound, and so disproved the Mary Anning documented a series and Charles Darwin both hit on
idea that life chemistry operated of fossils of extinct creatures she the idea of evolution by means
according to separate rules. In had dug out of the cliffs. Soon of natural selection. T. H. Huxley
Paris, Louis Pasteur further showed afterward, Richard Owen coined demonstrated that birds may well
that life cannot be generated the word dinosaurs to describe have evolved from dinosaurs, and
spontaneously. Inspiration for new the terrible lizards that had once the evidence to support evolution
ideas came from various quarters. roamed the planet. Swiss geologist mounted. Meanwhile, a German-
The structure of the benzene Louis Agassiz suggested that large speaking Silesian friar named
molecule came to German chemist parts of Earth had once been Gregor Mendel sorted out the
August Kekul as he drifted off covered with ice, further expanding basic laws of genetics by studying
to sleep, while Russian chemist the idea that Earth has experienced thousands of pea plants. Mendels
Dmitri Mendeleev used a pack of very different conditions through its work would be neglected for some
cards to crack the problem of the history. Alexander von Humboldt decades, but its rediscovery would
periodic table of the elements. used cross-disciplinary insights to provide the genetic mechanism
Marie (Skodowska) Curie isolated uncover the connections in nature for natural selection.
polonium and radium, and became and established the study of In 1900, British physicist
the only person to win Nobel prizes ecology. In France, Jean-Baptiste Lord Kelvin is alleged to have
in both Chemistry and Physics. Lamarck outlined a theory of said There is nothing new to be
evolution, mistakenly believing discovered in physics now. All
Clues from the past that the passing on of acquired that remains is more and more
The century saw nothing short of a characteristics was its driving precise measurement. Little can
revolution in the understanding of force. Then, in the 1850s, British he have suspected what shocks
life. On the south coast of England, naturalists Alfred Russel Wallace were just around the corner.

THOMAS YOUNG (17731829)
t the turn of the 19th
IN CONTEXT century, scientic opinion
BRANCH If light is made of particles was divided over the
that travel in straight question of the nature of light. Isaac
Physics lines, then this can be proved Newton had argued that a beam
BEFORE in a simple experiment of light is made of countless,
1678 Christiaan Huygens rst tiny, fast-moving corpuscles
proposes that light travels as (particles). If light consists of these
waves. He publishes his bulletlike corpuscles, he said, this
Treatise on Light in 1690. would explain why light travels in
straight lines and casts shadows.
1704 In his book Opticks, But Newtons corpuscles did not
Shine a light through
Isaac Newton suggests that two adjacent slits onto a explain why light refracts (bends
light comprises streams of screen. Two pools of light when it enters glass) or splits into
particles, or corpuscles. should be seen on the colors of the rainbowalso
the screen. an effect of refraction. Christiaan
Huygens had argued that light
1905 Albert Einstein argues
comprises not particles, but waves.
that light must be thought If light travels as waves, Huygens
of as particles, later called said, it is easy to explain these
photons, as well as waves. effects. However, Newtons stature
1916 US physicist Robert But instead, it creates was such that most scientists
Andrews Millikan proves interfering patterns of backed the particle theory.
Einstein correct through light and dark, just as water Then, in 1801, British physician
experiment. waves would if water owed and physicist Thomas Young hit on
through two slits. a design for a simple yet ingenious
1961 Claus Jnsson repeats experiment that would, he believed,
Youngs double-slit experiment settle the question one way or the
with electrons, and shows other. The idea began when Young
that, like light, they can was looking at the patterns of
behave as waves as well light made by a candle shining
as particles. Light must travel as waves. through a mist of ne water
droplets. The pattern showed
colored rings around a bright
See also: Christiaan Huygens 5051 Isaac Newton 6269

Lon Foucault 13637 Albert Einstein 21421

center, and Young wondered if

the rings might be caused by
interacting waves of light.

The double-slit experiment

Young made two slits in a piece of
Scientic investigations are
cardboard and shone a beam of
light onto them. On a paper screen
a sort of warfare carried on
placed behind the slits, the light
against all ones contemporaries
created a pattern that convinced and predecessors.
Young that it was waves. If light Thomas Young Thomas Young
were streams of particles, as
Newton said, there should simply The eldest of 10 children
have been a strip of light directly raised by Quaker parents in
Somerset, England, Thomas
beyond each slit. Instead, Young
Youngs brilliant mind made
saw alternating bright and dark him a child prodigy, and he
bands, like a fuzzy bar code. He was nicknamed the Young
argued that as light waves spread wavelength. For a century, Youngs Phenomenon. At 13, he could
out beyond the slits, they interact. If double-slit experiment convinced read ve languages uently
two waves ripple up (peak) or down scientists that light is a wave, not as an adult, he made the
(trough) at the same time, they make a particle. Then in 1905, Albert rst modern translation of
a wave twice as big (constructive Einstein showed that light also Egyptian hieroglyphics.
interference)creating the bright behaves as if it were a stream of After medical training
bands. If one wave ripples up as the particlesit can behave like a in Scotland, Young set up
other ripples down, they cancel each wave and a particle. Such was the as a physician in London
other out (destructive interference) simplicity of Youngs experiment in 1799, but he was a true
creating the dark bands. Young also that, in 1961, German physicist polymath who, in his spare
showed that different colors of light Claus Jnsson used it to show that time, conducted inquiries
into everything from a
create different interference the subatomic particles electrons
theory of musical tuning to
patterns. This demonstrated that produce similar interference, so that
linguistics. He is most famous,
the color of light depends on its they, too, must also be waves. however, for his work on light.
In addition to establishing
Here, light travels Light waves the principle of interference
through two slits in a piece of light, he devised the rst
of card, and reaches a modern scientic theory of
Card with
screen. The light waves color vision, arguing that
two slits
passing through the slits we see colors as varying
interfere. Where peaks proportions of the three main
(yellow) intersect with colors: blue, red, and green.
troughs (blue), there is
destructive interference. Key works
Where peaks intersect
with peaks and troughs 1804 Experiments and
with troughs, there is
Calculations Relative to
constructive interference.
Destructive Physical Optics
Constructive interference interference 1807 Course of Lectures on
Natural Philosophy and the
Mechanical Arts
Pattern of light intensity

JOHN DALTON (17661844)

Elements combine These xed ratios must
BRANCH with each other to make depend on the relative
Chemistry compounds in simple weight of the atoms of
xed ratios. each element.
c.400 BCE Democritus
proposes that the world is
made of indivisible particles.
8th century CE Persian Therefore, the atomic
polymath Jabir ibn Hayyan (or Tables of elements weight of an element
Geber) classies elements into should be based on can be calculated from
metals and non-metals. the weights of their the weight of each element
ultimate particles. involved in a compound.
1794 Joseph Proust shows that
compounds are always made
of elements combined in the
same proportions.

oward the end of the The idea of atoms dates back to
AFTER 18th century, scientists ancient Greece, but it had always
1811 Amedeo Avogadro shows had begun to realize that been assumed that all atoms were
that equal volumes of different the world is made up of a range identical. Daltons breakthrough
gases contain equal numbers of basic substances, or chemical was to understand that each
of molecules. elements. But no one was certain element is made from different
what an element was. It was John atoms. He described the atoms that
1869 Dmitri Mendeleev draws Dalton, an English meteorologist, made up the elements then known
up a periodic table, displaying who, through his study of weather, including hydrogen, oxygen, and
elements by atomic weight. saw that each element is made nitrogenas solid, massy, hard,
1897 Through his discovery wholly of its own unique, identical impenetrable, moveable particles.
of the electron, J. J. Thomson atoms, and it is this special atom Daltons ideas originated in
shows that atoms are not the that distinguishes and denes his study of the way in which
smallest possible particle. an element. In developing the air pressure affected how much
atomic theory of elements, Dalton water could be absorbed by air.
established the basis of chemistry. He became convinced that air is
See also: Joseph Proust 105 Dmitri Mendeleev 17479

by differences in their weights. Daltons work had put scientists on

He saw that the atoms, or ultimate the right track, and within a decade
particles, of two or more elements Italian physicist Amedeo Avogadro
combined to make compounds in had devised a system of molecular
very simple ratios, so he could proportions to calculate atomic
An inquiry into the gure out the weight of each atom weights correctly. Yet the basic
relative weight of the ultimate by the weight of each element idea of Daltons theorythat each
particles of bodies is a subject, involved in a compound. Very element has its own unique-sized
as far as I know, entirely new. quickly, he gured out the atomic atomshas proved to be true.
John Dalton weight of each element then known.
Hydrogen, Dalton realized, was
the lightest gas, so he assigned it
an atomic weight of 1. Because
of the weight of oxygen that
combined with hydrogen in water,
he assigned oxygen an atomic
a mixture of different gases. As he weight of 7. However, there was a
experimented, he observed that a aw in Daltons method, because
given quantity of pure oxygen will he did not realize that atoms of the
take up less water vapor than the same element can combine. He
same amount of pure nitrogen, always assumed that a compound
and he jumped to the remarkable of atomsa moleculehad only
conclusion that this is because one atom of each element. But
oxygen atoms are bigger and
heavier than nitrogen atoms.
Daltons table shows symbols and
atomic weights of different elements.
Weighty matters Dalton was drawn to atomic theory
In a ash of insight, Dalton through meteorology, when he asked
realized that atoms of different himself why air and water particles
elements could be distinguished could mix.

John Dalton Born into a Quaker family in papers for the Society, including
Englands Lake District in 1766, those about his atomic theory.
John Dalton made regular The atomic theory was quickly
observations of the weather from accepted, and Dalton became a
the age of 15. These provided celebrity in his own lifetime
many key insights, such as that more than 40,000 people
atmospheric moisture turns to rain attended his funeral in
when the air cools. In addition to Manchester in 1844.
his meteorological studies, Dalton
became fascinated by a condition Key works
he and his brother shared: color
blindness. His scientic paper on 1805 Experimental Enquiry into
the subject gained him admission the Proportion of the Several
to the Manchester Literary and Gases or Elastic Fluids,
Philosophical Society, of which Constituting the Atmosphere
he was elected president in 1817. 180827 New System of
He wrote hundreds of scientic Chemical Philosophy

HUMPHRY DAVY (17781829)

n 1800, Alessandro Volta
IN CONTEXT invented the voltaic pile
the worlds rst battery, and
soon many other scientists began
to experiment with batteries.
BEFORE English chemist Humphry Davy
1735 Swedish chemist realized that the batterys electricity
Georges Brandt discovers is produced by a chemical reaction.
cobalt, the rst of many new Electric charge ows as the piles
metallic elements to be found two different metals (the electrodes)
over the next 100 years. react via the brine-soaked paper
between them. In 1807, Davy found
1772 Italian physician Luigi that he could use the electric
Galvani notices the effect charge from a pile to split chemical
of electricity on a frog and compounds, discovering new
believes electricity is biological. elements, and pioneering a process
that was later called electrolysis. Davy used apparatus similar to
1799 Alessandro Volta shows this in his lectures at Londons Royal
that touching metals produce New metals Institution to show how electrolysis
electricity, and creates the Davy inserted two electrodes into splits water into its two elements,
rst battery. hydrogen and oxygen.
dry potassium hydroxide (potash),
AFTER which he moistened by exposing it
to the damp air in his laboratory so the same way and produced the
1834 Davys former assistant
that it would conduct electricity. To metal sodium. In 1808, he used
Michael Faraday publishes the
his delight, metallic globules began electrolysis to discover four more
laws of electrolysis. to form on the negatively charged metallic elementscalcium, barium,
1869 Dmitri Mendeleev electrode. The globules were a new strontium, and magnesiumand
arranges the known elements element: the metal potassium. A the metalloid boron. Like electrolysis,
into a periodic table, creating a few weeks later, he electrolyzed their commercial use would prove
group for the soft alkali metals sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) in highly valuable.
that Davy had been the rst
to identify in 1807. See also: Alessandro Volta 9095 Jns Jakob Berzelius 119
Hans Christian rsted 120 Michael Faraday 121 Dmitri Mendeleev 17479

WILLIAM SMITH (17691839)

n the mid to late 18th century, France, who mapped the geology
IN CONTEXT the need to nd fuels and ores of the Paris Basin in 1811, and
to power Europes Industrial William Smith in Britain.
Revolution spurred a growing
interest in producing geological First national map
BEFORE maps. German mineralogists Smith was a self-taught engineer
1669 Nicholas Steno publishes Johann Lehmann and Georg and surveyor who produced the rst
the principles of stratigraphy Fchsel produced detailed aerial nationwide geological map in 1815,
that will guide geologists views showing topography and showing England, Wales, and part
understanding of rock strata. rock strata. Many subsequent of Scotland. By amassing samples
geological maps did little more than from mines, quarries, cliffs, canals,
1760s In Germany, geologists show the surface distribution of and road and railroad cuttings,
Johann Lehmann and Georg different rock typesuntil the Smith established the succession
Fchsel make some of the rst pioneering work of Georges Cuvier of rock strata, using Stenos
measured sections and maps and Alexandre Brongniart in principles of stratigraphy and
of geological strata. identifying each stratum by its
1813 English geologist Robert characteristic fossils. He also drew
vertical sections of the succession
Bakewell makes the rst
of strata and the geological
geognostic map of rock types
structures into which they had
in England and Wales.
been formed by earth movements.
AFTER Organized fossils are to Over the next few decades, the
1835 The Geological Survey the naturalist as coins rst national geological surveys
of Great Britain is founded to to the antiquary. were established, and they set
conduct systematic geological William Smith about methodically mapping their
mapping of the country. entire countries. The correlation of
strata of similar age across national
1878 The rst International boundaries was achieved by
Geological Congress is held in international agreement in the
Paris. Congresses have been latter part of the 19th century.
held every three to ve years
ever since. See also: Nicholas Steno 55 James Hutton 96101 Mary Anning 11617

Louis Agassiz 12829


MARY ANNING (17991847)

Fossils are the preserved Fossils have been
BRANCH remains of plants found of large animals
Paleontology and animals. no longer around today.
11th century Persian scholar
Avicenna (Ibn Sina) suggests
that rocks can be formed from
petried uids, leading to the In the past, very different animals lived on Earth.
formation of fossils.
1753 Carl Linnaeus includes
fossils in his system of
biological classication.

y the end of the 18th did they t into the classication
century, it was generally systems, and when had they
accepted that fossils become extinct? Within the Judeo-
1830 British artist Henry De
were the remains of once living Christian culture of the Western
la Beche paints one of the rst organisms that had been petried world, it was generally thought that
paleo-reconstructions of a as the sediment around them a benevolent God would not have
scene from deep time. hardened into rock. Both fossils allowed any of his creations to
1854 Richard Owen and and living organisms had been die out.
Benjamin Waterhouse classied for the rst time into
Hawkins make the rst a hierarchy of species, genera, Monsters from the abyss
life-size reconstructions of and families by naturalists such Some of the rst of these large
extinct plants and animals. as the Swedish taxonomist Carl and distinctive fossil remains were
Linnaeus. However, fossil remains found by the Anning family of fossil
Early 20th century The were still seen in isolation collectors around Lyme Regis on
development of radiometric from their environmental and the coast of southern England.
dating techniques allows biological context. Here, Jurassic-period limestone and
scientists to date fossils In the early 19th century, the shale strata outcrop in the cliffs,
according to the rock strata discovery of large fossilized bones where they are eroded by the sea to
in which they are found. unlike those of any living animal reveal abundant remains of ancient
raised many new questions. Where marine organisms.In 1811, Joseph
See also: Carl Linnaeus 7475 Charles Darwin 14249

Thomas Henry Huxley 17273

Anning found a 4 ft- (1.2 m-) long observed in 1824, Mary Anning
skull with a curiously elongated was so thoroughly acquainted
toothed beak. His sister Mary with the science that the moment
found the rest of the skeleton, she nds any bones she knows to
which they sold for about $37 (23). what tribe they belong. She
Exhibited in London, this was the became an authority on many
rst entire skeleton of an extinct kinds of fossils, especially
monster of the abyss and coprolitesfossilized dung.
attracted a great deal of popular The picture of life in ancient
attention. It was identied as an Dorset revealed by Annings fossils
extinct marine reptile and named was one of a tropical coast where Mary Anning
an ichthyosaur, meaning sh-lizard. a wide variety of now-extinct
The Anning family went on to animals thrived. In 1854, Annings Several biographies and
nd more ichthyosaurs and the fossils provided models for the rst novels have been written
about the life of Mary Anning,
rst complete specimen of another life-size reconstruction of an
a self-taught fossil collector.
marine reptile, the plesiosaur, ichthyosaur, made for Londons She was one of two surviving
in addition to the rst British Crystal Palace park by the sculptor children out of 10 born into an
specimen of a ying reptile, new Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins and impoverished Dorset family of
fossil sh, and shellsh. Among the the paleontologist Richard Owen. It religious dissenters who lived
sh they found were cephalopods was Owen who coined the word in the coastal village of Lyme
known as belemnites, some with dinosaur, but Anning who had Regis. The family eked out a
the ink-sac preserved. The family, provided the rst glimpse of the precarious living collecting
and especially Mary, had a talent richness of Jurassic life. fossils for sale to the growing
for fossil hunting. Although poor, numbers of tourists. However,
Mary was literate and taught it was Mary who found and
In 1830, Henry De la Beche sold their most signicant
herself geology and anatomy, which painted this reconstruction of life in
made her a far more effective fossil ndsfossils of Jurassic
the Jurassic seas around Dorset based
hunter. As Lady Harriet Sylvester on Annings fossil discoveries. reptiles that lived 201145
million years ago.
Due to a combination of
her gender, humble social
standing, and religious
unorthodoxy, Anning received
little formal recognition of her
work in her lifetime, and she
noted in a letter, The world
has used me unkindly, I fear
it has made me suspicious of
everyone. However, she was
widely known in geological
circles and various scientists
sought out her expertise.
When her health failed,
Anning was provided with a
small annual pension of about
$40 (25) in recognition of her
contribution to science. She
died of breast cancer at 47.


n 1809, French naturalist
IN CONTEXT Jean-Baptiste Lamarck
introduced the rst major theory
that life on Earth has evolved over
time. The impetus to his theory
BEFORE was the discovery of fossils of What nature does in the
c.1495 Leonardo da Vinci creatures unlike any alive today. course of long periods we do
suggests in his notebook that In 1796, French naturalist Georges every day when we suddenly
fossils are relics of ancient life. Cuvier had shown that fossilized change the environment in
elephant-like bones were markedly which some species of living
1796 Georges Cuvier proves different in anatomy from the bones plant is situated.
that fossil bones belong to of modern elephants, and must Jean-Baptiste Lamarck
extinct mastodons. come from extinct creatures now
1799 William Smith shows the called mammoths and mastodons.
succession of fossils in rock Cuvier explained the vanished
strata of different ages. creatures of the past as victims of
catastrophes. Lamarck challenged
AFTER this idea, and argued that life
1858 Charles Darwin had transmutated, or evolved, Lamarck believed characteristics
introduces his theory of gradually and continuously through were acquired during a creatures
evolution by natural selection. time, developing from the simplest life and passed on. Later, Darwin
life forms to the most complex. A showed that changes occur because
1942 The modern synthesis change in the environment, he mutations at conception survive
reconciles Gregor Mendels suggested, could spur a change in to be passed on through natural
genetics with Darwins natural the characteristics of an organism. selection, and the idea of acquired
selection, paleontology, and Those changes could then be characteristics was ridiculed. But
ecology in trying to explain inherited through reproduction. recently, scientists have argued that
how new species arise. Characteristics that were useful the environmentchemicals, light,
2005 Eva Jablonka and Marion developed further; those that were temperature, and foodcan in fact
Lamb claim that nongenetic, not useful might disappear. alter genes and their expression.
environmental, and behavioral
See also: William Smith 115 Mary Anning 11617 Charles Darwin 14249
changes can affect evolution.
Gregor Mendel 16671 Thomas Hunt Morgan 22425 Michael Syvanen 31819


he leading light of a In 1803, Berzelius had teamed
IN CONTEXT generation of chemists up with a mine owner to make a
inspired by Alessandro voltaic pile and see how electricity
Voltas creation of the battery, splits salts. Alkali metals and
Swedens Jns Jakob Berzelius alkaline earths migrated to the
BEFORE conducted a series of experiments piles negative pole, while oxygen,
1704 Isaac Newton suggests looking at the effect of electricity on acids, and oxidized substances
that atoms are bonded by chemicals. He developed a theory migrated to the positive pole.
some force. called electrochemical dualism, He concluded that salt compounds
published in 1819, which proposed combine a basic oxide, which is
1800 Alessandro Volta shows that compounds are created by the positively charged, and an acidic
that placing two different coming together of elements with oxide, which is negatively charged.
metals next to each other can opposite electrical charges. Berzelius developed his
produce electricity, and so dualistic theory to suggest that
creates the rst battery. compounds are bonded by the
attraction of opposite electrical
1807 Humphry Davy discovers
charges between their constituent
sodium and other metal
parts. Though later shown to be
elements by splitting salts incorrect, the theory triggered
with electrolysis. The habit of an opinion further research into chemical
often leads to the complete bonds. In 1916, it was found that
185758 August Kekul
conviction of its truth, and electrical bonding occurs as ionic
and others develop the idea
makes us incapable of bonding, in which atoms lose or
of valencythe number of
accepting the proofs against it. gain electrons to become mutually
bonds an atom can form.
Jns Jakob Berzelius attractive charged atoms, or ions.
In fact, this is just one of several
1916 US chemist Gilbert ways in which the atoms in a
Lewis proposes the idea of compound bindanother is the
the covalent bond in which covalent bond, in which electrons
electrons are shared, while are shared between atoms.
German physicist Walther
Kossel suggests the idea See also: Isaac Newton 6269 Alessandro Volta 9095 Joseph Proust 105

of ionic bonds. Humphry Davy 114 August Kekul 16065 Linus Pauling 25459


he quest to discover an idea that there is a unity to nature,
IN CONTEXT underlying unity to all rsted now investigated the
forces and matter is as old possibility in earnest.
as science itself, but the rst big
break came in 1820, when the Chance discovery
BEFORE Danish philosopher Hans Christian Lecturing at the University of
1600 William Gilbert conducts rsted found a link between Copenhagen, rsted wanted to
the rst scientic experiments magnetism and electricity. The link show his students how the electric
on electricity and magnetism. had been suggested to him by the current from a voltaic pile (the
German chemist and physicist battery invented by Alessandro
1800 Alessandro Volta creates Johann Wilhelm Ritter, whom he Volta in 1800) can heat up a wire
the rst electric battery. had met in 1801. Already inuenced and make it glow. He noticed that a
AFTER by the philosopher Immanuel Kants compass needle standing near the
1820 Andr-Marie Ampre wire moved every time the current
was switched on. This was the rst
develops a mathematical
proof of a link between electricity
theory of electromagnetism.
and magnetism. Further study
1821 Michael Faraday is able convinced him that the current
to show electromagnetic produced a circular magnetic eld
rotation in action, by creating It appears that the electric as it owed through the wire.
the rst electric motor. conict is not restricted to the rsteds discovery rapidly
conducting wire, but that it prompted scientists across Europe
1831 Faraday and US scientist has a rather extended sphere to investigate electromagnetism.
Joseph Henry independently of activity around it. Later that year, French physicist
discover electromagnetic Hans Christian rsted Andr-Marie Ampre formulated
induction; Faraday uses it in a mathematical theory for the
the rst generator to convert new phenomenon and, in 1821,
motion into electricity. Michael Faraday demonstrated that
1864 James Clerk Maxwell electromagnetic force could convert
formulates a set of equations electrical into mechanical energy.
to describe electromagnetic
See also: William Gilbert 44 Alessandro Volta 9095 Michael Faraday 121
wavesincluding light waves.
James Clerk Maxwell 18085



ritish scientist Michael
IN CONTEXT Faradays discovery of
the principles of both the
electric motor and the electric
generator paved the way for the
BEFORE electrical revolution that would
1800 Alessandro Volta invents transform the modern world,
the rst electric battery. bringing everything from lightbulbs
to telecommunications. Faraday
1820 Hans Christian rsted himself foresaw the value of
discovers that electricity his discoveriesand the tax
creates a magnetic eld. revenues they could generate In Faradays apparatus for showing
1820 Andr-Marie Ampre for government. electromagnetic induction, a current
In 1821, a few months after ows through the small magnetic coil,
formulates a mathematical which is moved in and out of the large
theory of electromagnetism. hearing of Hans Christian rsteds
coil, inducing a current in it.
discovery of the link between
AFTER electricity and magnetism, Faraday
1830 Joseph Henry creates the demonstrated how a magnet will Generating electricity
rst powerful electromagnet. move around an electric wire, and Ten years later, Faraday made an
an electric wire will move around a even more important discovery
1845 Faraday demonstrates
magnet. The electric wire produces that a moving magnetic eld can
the link between light and
a circular magnetic eld around it, create or induce a current of
electromagnetism. which generates a tangential force electricity. This discoverywhich
1878 Designed by Sigmund on the magnet, producing circular was also made independently by
Schuckert, the rst steam- motion. This is the principle behind the US physicist Joseph Henry
driven power station generates the electric motor. A spinning around the same timeis the
electricity for the Linderhof motion is set up by alternating the basis for generating all electricity.
Palace in Bavaria, Germany. direction of the current, which Electromagnetic induction converts
alternates the direction of the the kinetic energy in a spinning
1882 US inventor Thomas magnetic eld in the wire. turbine into electrical current.
Edison builds a power station
to power electric lighting in See also: Alessandro Volta 9095 Hans Christian rsted 120

Manhattan, New York City. James Clerk Maxwell 18085



oday, one of the most
IN CONTEXT fundamental laws of
Heat penetrates physics is that energy
BRANCH every substance is neither created nor destroyed,
Physics in the universe. but only changes from one form to
BEFORE another or moves from one place
1761 Joseph Black discovers to another. French mathematician
latent heatthe heat taken up Joseph Fourier was a pioneer in the
by ice to melt and water to boil study of heat and how heat moves
without changing temperature. from warm places to cool places.
He also studies specic heat Fourier was interested in both
There is a temperature how heat diffused through solids by
required by substances to gradient between warmer
raise their temperature by a conduction and how things cooled
places and cooler places.
down by losing heat. His compatriot
certain amount.
Jean-Baptiste Biot had imagined
1783 Antoine Lavoisier and the spread of heat as action at a
Pierre-Simon Laplace measure distance, in which it spreads by
latent heat and specic heat. jumping from warm places to cool.
Biot represented the heat ow in
AFTER a solid as a series of slices, which
1824 By developing the Heat is transferred across
allowed it to be studied with
rst theory of heat engines, the temperature gradient in
a wavelike movement. conventional equations showing
which turn heat energy into the heat jumping from one slice
mechanical energy, Nicolas to the next.
Sadi Carnot provides the
foundations for the theory Temperature gradients
of thermodynamics. Fourier looked at heat ow in an
1834 mile Clapeyron shows entirely different way. He focused
on temperature gradients
that energy must always Mathematically, a series
of sine and cosine continuous gradations between
become more diffuse,
functions can be used to warm and cool places. These could
formulating the second law
represent the movement. not be quantied with conventional
of thermodynamics. equations, so he devised new
mathematical techniques.
See also: Isaac Newton 6269 Joseph Black 7677 Antoine Lavoisier 84 Charles Keeling 29495

These individual waves each move

uniformly from a peak to a trough.
Adding more and more of these
simple waves together produces
increasing complexity that can
Mathematics compares the approximate any other type of
most diverse phenomena and wave. These innite series are
discovers the secret analogies now called Fourier series.
that unite them. Fourier published his idea in
Joseph Fourier 1807, but it attracted criticism, and
it was not until 1822 that his work
was nally accepted. Continuing
his study of heat, in 1824, Fourier
examined the difference between
the heat that Earth gains from the
Sun and the heat it loses to space.
Fourier focused on the idea of He realized that the reason Earth is
waves, and nding a way to pleasantly warm, considering how
represent them mathematically. far it is from the Sun, is because
He saw that every wavelike gases in its atmosphere trap heat
movement, which is what a and stop it from being radiated
temperature gradient is, can be back into spacethe phenomenon
approximated mathematically by now called the greenhouse effect.
adding together simpler waves, Today, Fourier analysis is A Fourier series can approximate
whatever the shape of the wave to applied not only to heat transfer a wave of any shapeeven a square
be represented. The simpler waves but also to a host of problems one (shown here in pink). Adding more
sine waves to the series gives a closer
that are to be added together are at the cutting edge of science, and closer approximation of the square
sines and cosines, derived from ranging from acoustics, electrical wave. The rst four approximations in
trigonometry, and can be written engineering, and optics to the series (shown here in black) each
out mathematically as a series. quantum mechanics. incorporate an extra sine wave.

Joseph Fourier The son of a tailor, Joseph Fourier to France in 1801, Fourier was
was born in Auxerre, France. made governor of Isre in the
Orphaned at 10, he was taken Alps. In between administrative
into a local convent before going duties overseeing road building
on to a military school, where he and drainage planning, he
excelled at mathematics. France published a groundbreaking
was in the throes of revolution, study of ancient Egypt and
and during the Terror of 1794, he started his studies of heat. He
was briey imprisoned after died in 1831 after tripping and
falling out with fellow falling down a ight of stairs.
After the Revolution, Fourier Key works
accompanied Napoleon on an
expedition to Egypt in 1798. 1807 On the Propagation of
He was made governor of Egypt Heat in Solid Bodies
and put in charge of the study of 1822 The Analytic Theory
ancient Egyptian relics. Returning of Heat



n 1807, the Swedish chemist endowed with a life force beyond
IN CONTEXT Jns Jakob Berzelius suggested the understanding of chemists.
that a fundamental difference So it came as a surprise when
existed between the chemicals the pioneering experiments of a
involved in living things and all German chemist named Friedrich
BEFORE other chemicals. These unique, Whler showed that organic
1770s Antoine Lavoisier and organic chemicals, Berzelius chemicals are not unique at all,
others show that water and argued, could only be assembled by but behave according to the same
salt can return to their former living things themselves and, once basic rules as all chemicals.
state after heating, but sugar broken down, could not be remade We now know that organic
or wood cannot. articially. His idea conformed with chemicals comprise a multitude of
the prevailing theory known as molecules based on the element
1807 Jns Jakob Berzelius vitalism, which held that life was carbon. These carbon-based
suggests a fundamental special and that living things were molecules are indeed essential
difference between organic components of life, but many can
and inorganic chemicals. be synthesized from inorganic
chemicalsas Whler discovered.
1852 British chemist Edward Chemistry rivals
Franklin suggests the idea of Whlers breakthrough came about
valency, the ability of atoms to because of a scientic rivalry. In
combine with other atoms. the early 1820s, Whler and fellow
1858 British chemist chemist Justus von Liebig both
Archibald Couper suggests the came up with identical chemical
idea of bonds between atoms, analyses for what seemed to be two
very different substancessilver
explaining how valency works.
fulminate, which is explosive, and
1858 Couper and August silver cyanate, which is not. Both
Kekul propose that organic men assumed that the other had
chemicals are made by chains the wrong results, but after
Widely used in fertilizers, urea is
of bonded carbon atoms with rich in nitrogen, which is essential to
corresponding, they found they
side branches of other atoms. the growth of plants. Synthetic urea, were both right. This group of
rst made by Whler, is now a key raw compounds led chemists to realize
material in the chemical industry. that substances are dened not just
See also: Antoine Lavoisier 84 John Dalton 11213
Jns Jakob Berzelius 119 Leo Baekeland 14041 August Kekul 16065

Some chemists think that Yet by mixing two

organic chemicals found ordinary chemicals in the
in living things are unique lab, we can produce
and can only be made ureathe organic
by living things. chemical in urine.

Friedrich Whler
Born in Eschersheim, near
Frankfurt in Germany,
Friedrich Whler trained in
We can make obstetrics at the University
Organic substances organic substances of Heidelberg. But chemistry
are not unique. from inorganic was his passion and, in 1823,
substances. he went to study with Jns
Jakob Berzelius in Stockholm.
On his return to Germany, he
embarked on a remarkable
and varied career in chemical
research and innovation.
by the number and kinds of atoms a key component of urine, and has Besides the rst articial
in the molecule but also by the the same chemical formula as synthesis of an organic
atoms arrangement. The same ammonium cyanate. According to substance, Whlers many
formula may apply to different Berzeliuss theory, it could be made discoveriesoften made with
structures with different only by living thingsyet Whler Justus von Liebigincluded
aluminum, beryllium, yttrium,
propertiesthese different had synthesized it from inorganic
titanium, and silicon. He also
structures were later named chemicals. Whler wrote to Berzelius:
helped to develop the idea of
isomers by Berzelius. I must tell you that I can make radicalsbasic molecular
Whler and Liebig went on to urea without the use of kidneys, groups from which other
forge a brilliant partnership, but it explaining that urea was in fact an substances are built. Although
was Whler alone who, in 1828, isomer of ammonium cyanate. later disproved, this theory
stumbled upon the truth about The signicance of Whlers paved the way for todays
organic chemicals. discovery took many years to sink understanding of how
in. Even so, it paved the way for the molecules assemble. In later
The Whler synthesis development of modern organic years, Whler became an
Whler was mixing silver cyanate chemistry, which not only reveals authority on the chemistry of
with ammonium chloride, expecting how all living things depend on meteorites and helped set up
to get ammonium cyanate. Instead, chemical processes, but enables a factory for purifying nickel.
he got a white substance that had the articial synthesis of valuable
different properties from ammonium organic chemicals on a commercial Key works
cyanate. The same powder appeared scale. In 1907, a synthetic polymer
1830 Summary of
when he mixed lead cyanate with called Bakelite was produced from Inorganic Chemistry
ammonium hydroxide. Analysis two such chemicals and ushered in 1840 Summary of
showed the white powder to be the Age of Plastics that shaped Organic Chemistry
ureaan organic substance that is the modern world.


ir and ocean currents do Earths rotation causes winds to be
IN CONTEXT not ow in straight lines. deected to the right in the northern
As the currents move, hemisphere and left in the southern.
they are deected to the right in Initial direction Deected
the northern hemisphere, and right
BEFORE to the left in the southern. In the
1684 Isaac Newton introduces 1830s, French scientist Gaspard-
the idea of centripetal force, Gustave de Coriolis discovered the
stating that any motion in a principle behind this effect, now
curved path must be the result known as the Coriolis effect.
of a force acting on it.
Deected by rotation
1735 George Hadley suggests Coriolis got his ideas from
that trade winds blow toward studying turning waterwheels,
the equator because Earths but meteorologists later realized Deected left Initial direction
rotation deects air currents. that the ideas apply to the way
winds and ocean currents move. simply blow straight from high
Coriolis showed how, when an pressure areas to low pressure
1851 Lon Foucault shows object is moving across a rotating areas. The wind direction is in fact
how the swing of a pendulum surface, its momentum seems to a balance between the pull of low
is deected by Earths rotation. carry it on a curved path. Imagine pressure and the Coriolis deection.
1856 US meteorologist William throwing a ball out from the center This is mostly why winds circle
Ferrel shows that winds blow of a spinning merry-go-round. The counterclockwise into low pressure
parallel to isobarslines that ball appears to curve aroundeven zones in the northern hemisphere,
connect points of equal though to anyone watching from and clockwise in the southern
atmospheric pressure. outside the merry-go-round it is hemisphere. Similarly, ocean
actually moving in a straight line. surface currents circulate in
1857 Dutch meteorologist Winds on the rotating Earth are giant loops or gyres, clockwise
Christophorus Buys Ballot deected in the same way. Without in the northern hemisphere and
formulates a rule stating that the Coriolis effect, winds would counterclockwise in the south.
if the wind is blowing on your
back, an area of low pressure See also: George Hadley 80 Robert FitzRoy 15055
is to your left.


he color of light depends The colors of stars are now
IN CONTEXT on its frequency, which known to be mainly due to their
is the number of waves temperature (the hotter the star,
per second. If something moving the more blue it appears), but the
toward us is emitting waves, the movement of some stars can be
BEFORE second wave will have a shorter detected through Doppler shifts.
1677 Ole Rmer estimates distance to travel than the rst Binary stars are pairs of stars
the speed of light by studying wave, so it will arrive sooner than it orbiting each other. Their rotation
Jupiters moons. would if the source were stationary. causes an alternating redshift and
Thus the frequency of waves blueshift in the light they emit.
AFTER increases if the source and receiver
1840s Dutch meteorologist are getting closer to each other, and
Christophorus Buys Ballot decreases if they are moving apart.
applies the Doppler shift to This effect applies to all types of
sound waves, as does French wave, including sound, and is
physicist Hippolyte Fizeau to responsible for the changing pitch
electromagnetic waves. of a siren as an ambulance passes. The heavens presented an
To the naked eye, most stars extraordinary appearance, for
1868 British astronomer appear to be white, but through all the stars directly behind
William Huggins uses redshift a telescope many can be seen to me were now deep red, while
to nd the velocity of a star. be red, yellow, or blue. In 1842, an those directly ahead were
1929 Edwin Hubble relates Austrian physicist named Christian violet. Rubies lay behind me,
the redshift of galaxies to their Doppler suggested that the red color amethysts ahead of me.
distance from Earth, showing of some stars is due to the fact that Olaf Stapledon
the expansion of the universe. they are moving away from the From his novel, Star Maker (1937)
Earth, which would shift their light
1988 The rst extrasolar to longer wavelengths. Since the
planet is detected, using the longest wavelength of visible light is
Doppler shift of light from red, this became known as redshift
the star that it orbitsthe (as illustrated on p.241).
star appears to wobble as
the planets gravitational See also: Ole Rmer 5859 Edwin Hubble 23641 Geoffrey Marcy 327
pull disrupts its rotation.

LOUIS AGASSIZ (18071873)

IN CONTEXT Retreating glaciers leave particular features behind them

BRANCH in the landscape.
Earth science
1824 Norwegian Jens Esmark
suggests that glaciers are
These features are found in areas where there are no glaciers.
responsible for the creation of
fjords, erratics, and moraines.
1830 Charles Lyell argues that
the laws of nature have always
been the same, so the clues to There must have been glaciers in these
the past lie in the present. places some time in the past.
1835 Swiss geologist Jean
de Charpentier argues that
erratics near Lake Geneva

hen glaciers sweep which is the usual way that rocks
were transported by ice from
across a landscape, are carried across a landscape. A
the Mont Blanc area in an
they leave signature rock of a different kind from rocks
Alpine glaciation. features behind them. Glaciers around it, therefore, is a telltale
AFTER can scour rocks at or leave them sign that a glacier once passed
1875 Scottish scientist James smoothly rounded, often with by. Another is the presence of
Croll argues that variations in striations (scratch marks) showing moraines in valleys. These are piles
Earths orbit could explain the the direction in which the ice of boulders that were pushed aside
temperature changes that moved. They also leave behind when the glacier was growing, and
cause an ice age. erraticsboulders that have been left behind when it retreated.
carried long distances by the ice.
1938 Serbian physicist Milutin These can usually be identied Riddle of the rocks
Milankovic relates changes in because their composition is Geologists in the 19th century
climate to periodic changes different from the rocks on which recognized such features as
in Earths orbit. they lie. Many erratics are too large striations, erratics, and moraines
to have been moved by rivers, as evidence of glaciers. What they
See also: WIlliam Smith 115 Alfred Wegener 22223

could not explain was why such Agassiz wanted to convince others.
features were found in areas on He had met William Buckland, a
Earth that had no glaciers. One prominent English geologist, while
theory argued that rocks were excavating fossil shes in the Old
moved by repeated ooding. Floods Red Sandstone rocks in the Alps.
could explain the boulder drift When Agassiz showed him the
(the sands, clays, and gravels that evidence for his theory of an ice
included erratic boulders) that age, Buckland was convinced,
overlay much of the bedrock of and in 1840 the two men toured
Europe. The material might have Scotland to look for evidence of
been deposited when the last ood glaciation there. After the tour, Louis Agassiz
retreated. The largest erratics could Agassiz presented his ideas to
have been caught up in icebergs, the Geological Society of London. Born in a small Swiss village
which deposited the rocks when Although he had convinced in 1807, Louis Agassiz studied
to be a physician, but became
they melted. But the theory could Buckland and Charles Lyelltwo
a professor of natural history
not explain all of the features. of the leading geologists of the at the University of Neuchtel.
daythe other members of the His rst scientic work, under
The ice age revealed society were unimpressed. A nearly the French naturalist Georges
During the 1830s, Swiss geologist global glaciation seemed no more Cuvier, involved classifying
Louis Agassiz spent several probable than a global ood. freshwater sh from Brazil,
vacations in the European Alps However, the idea of ice ages and Agassiz went on to
studying glaciers and their valleys. gradually gained acceptance, and undertake extensive work
He realized that glacial features today there is evidence from many on fossilized sh. In the late
everywhere, not just in the Alps, different elds of geology that ice 1830s, his interests spread
could be explained if Earth had has covered much of Earths to glaciers and zoological
once been covered in far more surface many times in the past. classication. In 1847, he took
ice than at present. The glaciers a post at Harvard University
of today must be the remnants of in the US.
Agassiz was the rst to suggest Agassiz never accepted
ice sheets that had at one time that large erratics, such as these in the
Darwins theory of evolution,
covered most of the globe. But Caher Valley of Ireland, were deposited
by ancient glaciers. believing that species were
before he published his theory ideas in the mind of God
and that all species had been
created for the regions they
inhabited. He advocated
polygenism, a belief that
different human races did not
share a common ancestor, but
were created separately by
God. In recent years, his
reputation has been tarnished
by his apparent advocacy of
racist ideas.

Key works

1840 Study on Glaciers

184246 Nomenclator

he study of the
IN CONTEXT interrelationship between
the animate and inanimate
world, known as ecology, only
became a subject of rigorous and
BEFORE methodical scientic investigation The principal impulse by
5th4th century BCE Ancient over the last 150 years. The term which I was directed was the
Greek writers observe the ecology was coined in 1866 by
earnest endeavour to
web of interrelationships the German evolutionary biologist,
Ernst Haeckel, and is derived from
comprehend the phenomena
between plants, animals, of physical objects in their
and their environment. the Greek words oikos, meaning
house or dwelling place, and logos, general connection, and to
AFTER meaning study or discourse. But represent nature as one great
1866 Ernst Haeckel coins it is an earlier German polymath whole, moved and animated
the word ecology. named Alexander von Humboldt by internal forces.
who is regarded as the pioneer of Alexander von Humboldt
1895 Eugenius Warming modern ecological thinking.
publishes the rst university Through extensive expeditions
course book on ecology. and writings, Humboldt promoted
1935 Alfred Tansley coins the a new approach to science. He
word ecosystem. sought to understand nature as
a unied whole, by interrelating
1962 Rachel Carson warns of all of the physical sciences and by ancient Greek writers, such as
the dangers of pesticides in employing the latest scientic Herodotus in the 5th century BCE.
Silent Spring. equipment, exhaustive observation, In one of the rst accounts of
and meticulous analysis of data on interdependence, technically
1969 Friends of the Earth and an unprecedented scale. known as mutualism, he describes
Greenpeace are established. crocodiles on the Nile River in
1972 James Lovelocks Gaia The crocodiles teeth Egypt opening their mouths to
hypothesis presents Earth as Although Humboldts holistic allow birds to pick their teeth clean.
a single organism. approach was new, the concept A century later, observations
of ecology developed from early by the Greek philosopher Aristotle
investigations of natural history and his pupil Theophrastus on
species migration, distribution,
and behavior provided an early
version of the concept of the
ecological nichethe particular
place in nature that shapes and is
shaped by a species way of life.
Theophrastus studied and wrote
extensively on plants, realizing the
importance of climate and soils to
their growth and distribution. Their
ideas inuenced natural philosophy
for the next 2,000 years.

Humboldts team climbed Mexicos

Jorullo volcano in 1803, just 44 years
after it rst appeared. Humboldt linked
geology to meteorology and biology by
studying where different plants lived.
See also: Jean-Baptiste Lamarck 118 Charles Darwin 14249 James Lovelock 315

Natures unifying forces as a means of characterizing and showed the global application
Humboldts approach to nature mapping the global environment, of these zones by comparing the
followed in the late 18th-century especially the climate, and then Andean zones with those of the
Romantic tradition that reacted comparing the climatic conditions European Alps, Pyrenees, Lapland,
to rationalism by insisting on the in various countries. Tenerife, and the Asian Himalayas.
value of senses, observation, and Humboldt was also one of
experience in understanding the rst scientists to study how Dening ecology
the world as a whole. Like his physical conditionssuch as When Haeckel coined the word
contemporaries, the poets Johann climate, altitude, latitude, and ecology, he too was following in
Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich soilsaffected the distribution of the tradition of viewing a Gestalt
Schiller, Humboldt promoted the life. With Bonplands assistance, he (unity) of the living and inanimate
idea of the unity (or Gestalt in mapped the changes in ora and world. An enthusiastic evolutionist,
German) of natureand of natural fauna between sea level and high he was inspired by Charles Darwin,
philosophy and the humanities. His altitude in the Andes. In 1805, whose publication of On the Origin
studies ranged from anatomy and the year after his return from the of Species in 1859 banished the
astronomy to mineralogy and Americas, he published a now- notion of Earth as an immutable
botany, commerce, and linguistics, celebrated work on the geography world. Haeckel questioned the role
and provided him with the breadth of the area, summarizing the of natural selection, but believed
of knowledge necessary for his interconnectedness of nature and that the environment played an
exploration of the natural world illustrating the altitudinal zones of important role in both evolution
beyond the connes of Europe. vegetation. Years later, in 1851, he and ecology.
As Humboldt explained, The
sight of exotic plants, even of dried
specimens in a herbarium, red my
imagination and I longed to see Ecology is the study of all the interactions
the tropical vegetation in southern between organisms and their environment that
countries with my own eyes. determine their distribution and abundance.
His ve-year exploration of Latin
America with the French botanist
Aim Bonpland was his most
important expedition. Setting out
in June 1799, he declared, I shall
These interactions must include
collect plants and fossils, and make
astronomical observations with the
best of instruments. Yet this is not
the main purpose of my journey. I
shall endeavor to discover how
natures forces act upon one another
and in what manner the geographic biotic factors, such abiotic factors, such
as human activity and animal as climate, soils, and the
environment exerts its inuence on
and plant communities. hydrological cycle.
animals and plants. In short, I must
nd out about the harmony in
nature. And he did just that.
Among many other projects,
Humboldt measured ocean water
temperature and suggested the use
Nature can be represented
of isolines, or isothermal lines, to as one great whole.
connect points of equal temperature
By the end of the 19th century, the encompassing all those factors that
rst university course in ecology inuence itboth biotic (living
was being taught by the Danish organisms) and abiotic (nonliving
botanist Eugenius Warming, factors such as soil, water, air,
who also wrote the rst ecology temperature, and sunlight). The
textbook Plantesamfund (Plant scope of modern ecology ranges
This whole chain of
Ecology) in 1895. From Humboldts from the individual organism to
pioneering work, Warming populations of individuals of the
poisoning, then, seems
developed the global geographical same species, and the community,
to rest on a base of minute
subdivision of plant distribution made up of populations that share plants which must have been
known as biomes, such as the a particular environment. the original concentrators.
tropical rain-forest biome, which Many of the basic terms and Rachel Carson
are largely based on the interaction concepts of ecology came from the
of plants with the environment, work of several pioneer ecologists
especially climate. in the rst few decades of the 20th
century. The formal concept of the
Individuals and community biological community was rst
Early in the 20th century, the developed in 1916 by the American
modern denition of ecology botanist Frederic Clements. He which successive communities
developed as the scientic study believed that the plants of a given of different species adjust to one
of the interactions that determine area develop a succession of another to form a tightly integrated
the distribution and abundance communities over time, from and interdependent unit, similar
of organisms. These interactions an initial pioneer community to an to the organs of a body. Clements
include an organisms environment, optimal climax community within metaphor of the community as a
complex organism was criticized
at rst but inuenced later thinking.
A food chain transfers energy from primary
producers (plants and algae that convert the Suns
The idea of further ecological
energy into food energy) to consumer organisms that integration at a higher level than
eat the plants (such as rabbits and other herbivores), the community was introduced
and then to the predators that feed on the consumers. in 1935 with the concept of the
ecosystem, developed by the
English botanist Arthur Tansley.
An ecosystem consists of both
living and nonliving elements.
Lion, an apex
predator (not preyed Their interaction forms a stable
on by others) unit with a sustaining ow of
energy from the environmental
to the living part (through the food
Jackal chain) and can operate on all
scales, from a puddle to an ocean
Kite or the whole planet.
Goat Studies of animal communities
Wild cat
by the English zoologist Charles
Elton led him to develop in 1927 the
concept of the food chain and food
Owl cycle, subsequently known as the
plants food web. A food chain is formed
Rabbit by the transfer of energy through an
ecosystem from primary producers
(such as green plants on land)
Snake Mouse through a series of consuming
Rachel Carson (far right) made a
signicant contribution to the science
and public understanding of ecology
by drawing attention to the destructive
impact of pollution on the environment.

organisms. Elton also recognized

that particular groups of organisms
occupied certain niches in the food
chain for periods of time. Eltons
niches include not only the habitats
but also the resources upon which
the occupying organisms rely for
sustenance. The dynamics of
energy transfer through trophic
(feeding) levels were studied by
the American ecologists Raymond
Lindeman and Robert MacArthur,
whose mathematical models
helped change ecology from
primarily a descriptive science harmful effects on the environment renewable energy, organic foods,
into an experimental one. of man-made chemicals such as recycling, and sustainability, were
the pesticide DDT. The rst image all on the political agenda in both
The green movement of Earth seen from space, taken North America and Europe, and
A boom in popular and scientic by Apollo 8 astronauts in 1968, national conservation agencies
interest in ecology in the 1960s awakened public awareness of were established based on the
and 1970s led to the development the planets fragility. In 1969, the science of ecology. Recent decades
of the environmental movement organizations Friends of the Earth have seen growing concern over
with a whole range of concerns, and Greenpeace were established, global climate change and its
stimulated by powerful advocates with the mission to ensure the impact on the environment and
such as the American marine ability of the Earth to nurture life present ecosystems, many of
biologist Rachel Carson. Her 1962 in all its diversity. Environmental which are already threatened
book Silent Spring documented the protection, along with clean and from human activity.

Alexander von Born in Berlin to a wealthy and On his return, Humboldt was
Humboldt well-connected family, Humboldt honored across Europe. Based in
studied nance at the University Paris, he took 21 years to process
of Frankfurt, natural history and and publish his data in over 30
linguistics in Gttingen, language volumes, and then synthesized
and commerce in Hamburg, his ideas in four volumes titled
geology in Freiburg, and anatomy Kosmos. A fth volume was
in Jena. The death of his mother in completed after his death in
1796 provided Humboldt with the Berlin at 89. Darwin called him
means to fund an expedition to the greatest scientic traveller
the Americas from 1799 to 1804, who ever lived.
accompanied by botanist Aim
Bonpland. Using the latest Key works
scientic equipment, Humboldt
measured everything from plants 1825 Journey to the Equinoctial
to population statistics and Regions of the New Continent
minerals to meteorology. 18451862 Kosmos


LON FOUCAULT (18191868)

IN CONTEXT Whichever it is,

Is light a stream
BRANCH light takes time
of particles or a wave?
Physics to travel.

1676 Ole Rmer makes the
rst successful estimate of the
speed of light, using eclipses Newton thought
of Io, one of Jupiters moons.
Foucault found light particles would
that light travels speed up going from air
1690 Christiaan Huygens more slowly in to water, while Huygens
publishes his Treatise on water than in air. thought waves would
Light, in which he proposes slow down.
that light is a type of wave.
1704 Isaac Newtons Opticks
suggests that light is a stream
of corpuscles. Therefore, light must
travel in waves.
1864 James Clerk Maxwell
realizes that the speed of

electromagnetic waves is so n the 17th century, scientists published his theory of light
nearly the same as the speed began to investigate light, as a stream of corpuscles, or
of light that light must be a and whether it had a nite, particles. Newtons explanation
form of electromagnetic wave. measurable speed. In 1690, for refractionthe bending of a
Christiaan Huygens published his beam of light as it passes from one
187983 German-born US theory that light is a pressure wave, transparent material to another
physicist Albert Michelson moving in a mysterious uid called assumed that light travels faster
renes Foucaults method and ether. Huygens thought of light as after it passes from air into water.
obtains a measurement for the a longitudinal wave, and predicted Estimates for the speed of light
speed of light (through air) that that the wave would travel more relied on astronomical phenomena,
is very close to todays value. slowly through glass or water than showing how fast light travels
through air. In 1704, Isaac Newton through space. The rst terrestrial
See also: Christiaan Huygens 5051 Ole Rmer 5859 Isaac Newton 6269 Thomas Young 11011

James Clerk Maxwell 18085 Albert Einstein 21421 Richard Feynman 27273

Contradicting Newton argued, light could not be a

In 1850, Fizeau collaborated with particle, and the experiment was
fellow physicist Len Foucault, who viewed at the time as a refutation
adapted his apparatusand made of Newtons theory of corpuscles.
it much smallerby reecting the Foucault rened his apparatus
Above all we must be beam of light off a rotating mirror further, and in 1862, measured the
accurate, and it is an instead of passing it through the speed of light in air as 185,168
obligation which we intend cogwheel. Light shining at the miles/s (298,000 km/s)remarkably
to fulll scrupulously. rotating mirror would only be close to todays value of 186,282
Lon Foucault reected toward the distant mirror miles/s (299,792 km/s).
when the rotating mirror was at
the correct angle. Light returning
Tube of water (for the
from the xed mirror was reected
speed of light in water)
by the rotating mirror again, but
since this mirror had moved while
the light was traveling, it was not Rotating
measurement was carried out by reected directly back toward the
French physicist Hippolyte Fizeau source. The speed of light could
in 1849. A beam of light was shone now be calculated from the angle
through a gap between the teeth of between the light going to and Fixed
a rotating cogwheel. That light was from the rotating mirror and the mirror
then reected by a mirror that was speed of rotation of the mirror. Light
positioned 5 miles (8 km) away, and The speed of light in water source
passed back through the next gap could be measured by putting
between the wheels teeth. Taking a tube of water in the apparatus Reected light
the precise speed of rotation that between the rotating and
In Foucaults experiment, the
allowed this to happen, together stationary mirrors. Using this speed of light was calculated from
with time and distance, Fizeau apparatus, Foucault established the difference in angle as a beam of
calculated the speed of light as that light traveled more slowly in light reected back and forth between
194,489 miles/s (313,000 km/s). water than in air. As such, he a rotating mirror and a xed mirror.

Lon Foucault Born in Paris, France, Lon a pendulum in 1851 and later a
Foucault was educated mainly gyroscope. Although he had no
at home before entering medical formal training in science, a post
school, where he studied under was created for Foucault at the
the bacteriologist Alfred Donn. Imperial Observatory in Paris.
Since he could not bear the sight He was also made a member of
of blood, Foucault soon gave up several scientic societies, and
his studies, became Donns is one of 72 French scientists
laboratory assistant, and devised named on the Eiffel Tower.
a way of taking photographs
through a microscopehe later Key works
teamed up with Hippolyte Fizeau
to take the rst ever photograph of 1851 Demonstration of Physical
the Sun. In addition to measuring Movement of Rotation of the
the speed of light, Foucault is best Earth by Means of the Pendulum
known for providing experimental 1853 On the Relative Velocities
evidence of Earths rotation, using of the Light in Air and in Water


JAMES JOULE (18181889)

he principle of the was ever lost in this conversion.
IN CONTEXT conservation of energy His ideas were largely ignored
states that energy is never until 1847, when German physicist
lost but only changed in form. But Hermann Helmholtz published a
in the 1840s, scientists had only a paper summarizing the theory of
BEFORE vague idea of what energy was. the conservation of energy, and
1749 French mathematician It was a British brewers son, Joule then presented his work at
milie du Chtelet derives her James Joule, who showed that the British Association in Oxford.
law of the conservation of heat, mechanical movement, and The standard unit of energy, a joule,
energy from Newtons laws. electricity are interchangeable is named after him.
forms of energy, and that when
1824 French engineer Sadi one is changed to another the
Carnot states that there are no total energy remains the same.
reversible processes in nature,
paving the way for the second Converting energy
law of thermodynamics. Joule began his experiments in
a laboratory in the family home.
1834 French physicist mile In 1841, he gured out how much
Clapeyron develops Carnots heat an electric current generates.
work, stating a version of the He experimented with converting
second law of thermodynamics. mechanical movement into heat,
AFTER and developed an experiment in
which a falling weight turns a
1850 German physicist Rudolf
paddle wheel in water, heating
Clausius gives the rst clear
the water. By measuring the rise
statement of the rst and second in temperature of the water, Joule
laws of thermodynamics. was able to gure out the exact In Joules experiment, a falling
1854 Scottish engineer amount of heat a certain amount of weight drove a paddle that turned
William Rankine adds the mechanical work would create. He inside a bucket of water. The energy of
concept that is later named went on to assert that no energy the movement was changed into heat.
entropy (a measure of disorder)
in the transformation of energy. See also: Isaac Newton 6269 Joseph Black 7677 Joseph Fourier 12223


y the middle of the In the early 18th century, Swiss
IN CONTEXT 19th century, atoms and physicist Daniel Bernoulli had
molecules had become suggested that gases are made of a
central ideas in chemistry, and multitude of moving molecules. It is
most scientists understood that their impact that creates pressure
BEFORE they were the key to the identity and their kinetic energy (the energy
1738 Daniel Bernoulli and behavior of elements and of their movement) that creates
suggests that gases are compounds. Few thought they heat. In the 1840s and 1850s,
made of moving molecules. had much relevance to physics, scientists had begun to realize that
but in the 1880s, Austrian physicist the properties of gases reect the
1827 Scottish botanist Ludwig Boltzmann developed the average movement of the countless
Robert Brown identies the kinetic theory of gases, putting particles. In 1859, James Clerk
movement of pollen in water, atoms and molecules right at the Maxwell calculated the speed
which becomes known as heart of physics, too. of molecules and how far they
Brownian motion. traveled before colliding, showing
that temperature is a measure of
1845 Scottish physicist John the average speed of the molecules.
Waterston describes how
energy among gas molecules Centrality of statistics
is distributed according to Boltzmann revealed how important
statistical rules. Available energy is the the statistics are. He showed that the
main object at stake in the properties of matter are simply a
1857 James Clerk Maxwell struggle for existence and combination of the basic laws of
calculates the mean speed the evolution of the world. motion and the statistical rules of
of molecules and the mean Ludwig Boltzmann probability. Following this principle,
distance between collisions. he calculated a number now called
AFTER the Boltzmann constant, providing
1905 Albert Einstein a formula linking the pressure and
analyzes Brownian motion volume of a gas to the number and
mathematically, showing energy of its molecules.
how it is the result of the
impact of molecules. See also: John Dalton 11213 James Joule 138
James Clerk Maxwell 18085 Albert Einstein 21421

LEO BAEKELAND (18631944)

he discovery of synthetic Baekeland created one of the rst
IN CONTEXT plastics in the 19th century commercially successful plastics,
opened the way to the now known as Bakelite.
creation of a huge range of solid What gives plastic its special
materials unlike anything that quality is the shape of its
BEFORE had ever been known before molecules. With only a few
1839 Berlin apothecary light, noncorroding, and capable exceptions, plastics are made
Eduard Simon distils styrol of being molded into almost any from long organic molecules, known
resin from the Turkish sweet- imaginable shape. While plastics as polymers, strung together
gum tree. A century later, this can occur naturally, all of the from many smaller molecules, or
is developed into polystyrene plastics now in widespread use are monomers. A few polymers occur
by the German IG Farben entirely synthetic. In 1907, Belgian- naturally, such as cellulose, the
company. born American inventor Leo main woody substance in plants.

1862 Alexander Parkes

develops the rst synthetic
plastic, Parkesine. Materials made from long Shellac, a resin used in
1869 American John Hyatt molecules called polymers varnish, is a naturally
have special qualities. occurring polymer.
creates celluloid, which is
soon used instead of ivory
to make billiard balls.
1933 British chemists Eric This articial polymer
can be used to produce It is possible to make
Fawcett and Reginald Gibson
strong, hard moldable articial shellac by
of the ICI company create the treating coal tar.
rst practical polythene. materials, called plastics.

1954 Italian Giulio Natta

and German Karl Rehn
independently invent
polypropylene, now the Plastic is not what I meant to invent.
most widely used plastic.
See also: Friedrich Whler 12425 August Kekul 16065

Linus Pauling 25459 Harry Kroto 32021

could make a kind of shellac. In

1907, he added various kinds of
powder to this resin and found
that he could create a remarkable
hard, moldable plastic.
I was trying to make Chemically this plastic is known
as polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolan-
something really hard, but
hydride, but Baekeland called it
then I thought I should make simply Bakelite. Bakelite was a
something really soft instead, thermoset plasticplastic that
that could be moulded into holds its shape after being heated. Leo Baekeland
different shapes. That was how Due to its properties of electrical
I came up with the rst plastic. insulation and heat resistance, Leo Baekeland was born in
Leo Baekeland Bakelite was soon being used to Ghent in Belgium and studied
at the university there. In
make radios, telephones, and
1889, he became associate
electrical insulators. Many more professor of chemistry and
uses were quickly found for it. married Celine Swarts.
Today, there are thousands While the young couple
of synthetic plastics, including were on honeymoon in
Plexiglass, polythene, low-density New York, Baekeland met
Although the molecules of natural polyethylene, and cellophane, Richard Anthony, head of a
polymers were far too complex each with its own properties and well-known photographic
to gure out in the 1800s, some uses. The majority are based company. Anthony was so
scientists began to explore ways on hydrocarbons (chemicals impressed by Baekelands
of making them synthetically made from hydrogen and carbon) work with photographic
from chemical reactions. In 1862, derived from oil or natural gas. processes that he hired him
British chemist Alexander Parkes However, in recent decades, as a consulting chemist.
created a synthetic form of cellulose, carbon bers, nanotubes and Baekeland moved to the
US and was soon in
which he called Parkesine. A few other materials have been added
business for himself.
years later, American John Hyatt to create superlight, superstrong
Baekeland invented the
developed another, which became plastic materials such as Kevlar. rst photographic papers,
known as celluloid. known as Velox, before
developing Bakelite, which
Imitating nature made him rich. He is credited
After developing the worlds rst with many inventions besides
photographic paper in the 1890s, plastic, registering more than
Baekeland sold the idea to Kodak 50 patents in total. In later
and used the money to buy a house life, he became an eccentric
equipped with its own laboratory. recluse, eating food only from
Here, he experimented with ways tin cans. He died in 1944 and
of creating synthetic shellac. is buried in Sleepy Hollow
Shellac is a resin secreted by the Cemetery, New York.
female lac beetle. It is a natural
Key work
polymer that was used to give
Heat-resistant and nonconductive
furniture and other objects a tough, of electricity, Bakelite was an ideal 1909 Paper on Bakelite
shiny coat. Baekeland found that material to use for the casings of read to the American
by treating phenol resin made from electrical goods such as telephones Chemical Society
coal tar with formaldehyde, he and radios.
CHARLES DARWIN (1809 1882)

Most organisms produce more offspring than
BRANCH can survive due to constraints such as lack of
Biology food and living space.
1794 Erasmus Darwin
(Charless grandfather)
recounts his vision of
evolution in Zoonomia. Offspring vary from each other in many ways.
1809 Jean-Baptiste Lamarck
proposes a form of evolution
through the inheritance of
acquired characteristics.
Variation means some offspring are better
1937 Theodosius Dobzhansky
suited or adapted to the struggle for survival.
publishes his experimental
evidence for the genetic basis
of evolution.
1942 Ernst Mayr denes the
concept of species through
populations that reproduce If these individuals pass on the advantageous
traits to their offspring, these also survive.
only with one another.
1972 Niles Eldredge and
Stephen Jay Gould propose
that evolution occurs mainly in
short bursts interspersed with
periods of relative stability. I have called this principle natural selection.

he British naturalist Preservation of Favoured Races in biology, providing a simple, but
Charles Darwin was by no the Struggle for Life, published in immensely powerful, explanation
means the rst scientist London in 1859. Darwin described of life forms both past and present.
to suggest that plants, animals, and the book as one long argument. Darwin was acutely aware of
other organisms are not xed and the potential blasphemy in his
unchangingor, to use the popular Confessing a murder work during the decades he spent
word of the time, immutable. Like On the Origin of Species met with writing it. Fifteen years before
others before him, Darwin proposed academic and popular opposition. publication, he explained to his
that species of organisms change, It made no mention of religious condant, the botanist Joseph
or evolve, through time. His great doctrine, which insisted that Hooker, that his theory required
contribution was to show how species were indeed xed and no God or unchanging species:
evolution took place by a process immutable and designed by God. At last gleams of light have come,
he termed natural selection. He But gradually the ideas in the book & I am almost convinced (quite
laid out his central idea in his changed the scientic perspective contrary to opinion I started with)
book On the Origin of Species by on the natural world. Its core notion that species are not (it is like
Means of Natural Selection, or the forms the basis for all modern confessing a murder) immutable.
See also: James Hutton 96101 Jean-Baptiste Lamarck 118 Gregor Mendel 16671 Thomas Henry Huxley 17273
Thomas Hunt Morgan 22425 Barbara McClintock 271 James Watson and Francis Crick 27683 Michael Syvanen 31819

In 1796, the French naturalist Philosophie Zoologique of 1809

Georges Cuvier recognized that articulated what was perhaps the
certain fossils, such as those rst reasoned theory of evolution.
of mammoths or giant sloths, were He theorized that living beings
the remains of animals that had evolved from simple beginnings
Creation is not an event that become extinct. He reconciled this through increasingly sophisticated
with his religious belief by invoking stages, due to a complexifying
happened in 4004 BCE; it is a
catastrophes such as the Flood force. They faced environmental
process that began some depicted in the Bible. Each disaster challenges on their body physiques,
10 billion years ago and swept away a whole assortment of and from this came the idea of
is still under way. living things; God then replenished use and disuse in an individual:
Theodosius Dobzhansky Earth with new species. Between More frequent and continuous use
each disaster, each species of any organ gradually strengthens,
remained xed and immutable. develops and enlarges that organ
This theory was known as while the permanent disuse of
catastrophism and it became any organ imperceptibly weakens
widely known following the and deteriorates ituntil it nally
publication of Cuviers Preliminary disappears. The organs greater
Darwins approach to evolution, Discourse in 1813. power was then passed to
like the rest of his wide-ranging However, at the time Cuvier offspring, a phenomenon that
work in natural history, was was writing, various ideas based became known as inheritance
cautious, careful, and deliberate. on evolution were already in of acquired characteristics.
He proceeded step by step, circulation. Erasmus Darwin, Although his theory came to be
amassing great quantities of the free-thinking grandfather largely discounted, Lamarck was
evidence along the way. Over of Charles, proposed an early, later praised by Darwin for having
almost 30 years, he integrated idiosyncratic theory. More opened up the possibility that
his extensive knowledge of fossils, inuential were the ideas of change did not occur as a result of
geology, plants, animals, and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, professor what Darwin disparagingly termed
selective breeding, with concepts of zoology at Frances National miraculous interposition.
from demography, economics, and Museum of Natural History. His
many other elds. The resulting Adventures of the Beagle
theory of evolution by natural Darwin had plenty of time to muse
selection is regarded as one of the on the immutability of species
greatest scientic advances ever. during an around-the-world voyage
aboard the survey ship HMS
The role of God Beagle, in 183136, under captain
In the early 19th century, fossils Robert FitzRoy. As expedition
were widely discussed in Victorian scientist, Darwin was charged
society. Some regarded them as with collecting all types of fossil,
naturally formed rock shapes, plant, and animal specimens, and
and nothing to do with living sending them back to Britain from
organisms. Others saw them as each port of call.
the handiwork of the Creator, put
on Earth to test believers. Or they
By studying the fossil record, Georges
thought that they were the remains Cuvier established that species had
of organisms still alive somewhere become extinct. But he believed that
in the world, since God had created the evidence pointed to a series of
living things in perfection. catastrophes, not gradual change.
This epic voyage opened the eyes modied for different ends. This
of the young Darwin, still only in his was one of the rst clear, public
twenties, to the incredible variety formulations of where his thoughts
of life. Wherever the Beagle docked, on evolution were heading.
Darwin keenly observed all aspects
of nature. In 1835, he described Comparing species Natural selection is the
and collected a group of small, Darwins nches, as the Galpagos principle by which slight
insignicant birds on the specimens became known, were variation (of a trait), if useful,
Galpagos Islands, a Pacic Ocean not the only trigger for his work on is preserved.
archipelago 560 miles (900 km) evolution. In fact, his thoughts had Charles Darwin
west of Ecuador. He thought there been mounting throughout the
were nine species, six being nches. Beagles voyage, and especially
After his return to England, during his visit to the Galpagos.
Darwin organized his mass of He was fascinated by the giant
data and oversaw a multivolume, tortoises he saw, and by the way
multiauthor report, The Zoology of the shapes of their shells differed
the Voyage of HMS Beagle. In the subtly from island to island. tortoises, Falkland Island foxes,
volume on birds, the renowned He was also impressed by the and other species supported these
ornithologist John Gould declared species of mockingbirds. They, early conclusions. But Darwin
that there were in fact 13 species too, varied between the islands, was sensitive about where such
in Darwins specimens, all of them yet they also had similarities not blasphemous ideas would lead:
nches. Within the group, however, only among themselves, but with Such facts would undermine the
were birds with differently shaped species that lived on the South stability of species.
beaks, adapted to different diets. American mainland.
In his own, bestselling account Darwin suggested that the Other parts of the jigsaw
of his adventure, The Voyage of the various mockingbirds might have On his way to South America in
Beagle, Darwin wrote, Seeing this evolved from a common ancestor 1831, Darwin had read the rst
gradation and diversity of structure that had somehow crossed the volume of Charles Lyells Principles
in one small, intimately related Pacic from the mainland; then of Geology. Lyell argued against
group of birds, one might really each group of birds evolved by Cuviers catastrophism history
fancy that from an original paucity adapting to the particular and his theory of fossil formation.
of birds in this archipelago, one environment on each island and Instead, he adapted the ideas of
species had been taken and its available food. Observing giant geological renewal put forward by
James Hutton into a theory known
as uniformitarianism. Earth was
continually being formed, altered,
and reformed over immense time
periods by processes such as wave
erosion and volcanic upheaval that
were the same as those happening
today. There was no need to invoke
disastrous interventions by God.
Lyells ideas transformed
the way Darwin interpreted the
landscape formations, rocks, and

This giant tortoise is only found on

the Galpagos Islands, where unique
subspecies have developed on each
island. Darwin gathered evidence
here for his theory of evolution.
The nches of the Galpagos have evolved
differently shaped beaks adapted to specic diets.

Large ground Medium-sized

nch has a large, ground nch has
strong beak for a smaller beak for
crushing large, crushing smaller,
woody seeds. softer seeds.
Geospiza Geospiza fortis

Warbler nch
Small tree nch has a thin beak for
has a short, sharp probing for small
beak for grasping insects and
insects. spearing them.
Camarhynchus Certhidea
parvulus olivacea

fossils he found on his explorations, potential to double after one evidence to support his theory of
which he now saw through Lyells generation of 25 years, then double evolution. Scientists around the
eyes. However, while he was in again in the next generation, and world sent him specimens and
South America, volume two of so on. However, food supplies data. He studied the domestication
Principles of Geology arrived. In could not expand in the same way, of animals and plants, and the
it, Lyell rejected ideas of gradual and the result was a struggle for role of selective breeding, or articial
evolution of plants and animals, existence. Malthuss ideas were selection, especially in pigeons. In
including Lamarcks theories. one of the main inspirations for 1855, he started breeding varieties
Instead, he invoked the concept Darwins theory of evolution. of Columbia livia, or rock doves, and
of centres of Creation to explain they would feature prominently in
species diversity and distribution. The quiet years the rst two chapters in On the
Although Darwin admired Lyell as Even before the Beagle had Origin of Species.
a geologist, he had to discount this returned to England, the interest Through his work on pigeons,
latest concept as the evidence for generated by the specimens Darwin began to understand
evolution mounted. Darwin had sent back had made the extent and relevance of
Another piece of the jigsaw him a celebrity. After his return, variation among individuals.
was revealed in 1838 when Darwin his scientic and popular accounts He rejected the accepted wisdom
read An Essay on the Principle of the voyage increased his fame. that environmental factors were
of Population by the English However, his health deteriorated responsible for such differences,
demographer Thomas Malthus, and gradually he withdrew from insisting that reproduction was
which had been published 40 years the public eye. the cause, with variation somehow
earlier. Malthus described how In 1842, Darwin moved to the inherited from parents. He added
human populations can increase peace and quiet of Down House in this to the ideas of Malthus and
in an exponential way, with the Kent, where he continued to amass applied them to the natural world.
Much later, in his autobiography, Alfred Russel Wallace, like Darwin,
Darwin recalled his reaction when developed his theory of evolution in the
he rst read Malthus back in 1838. light of extensive eld work, conducted
rst in the Amazon River Basin and
Being well prepared to appreciate
later in the Malay Archipelago.
the struggle for existenceit
at once struck me that under
these circumstances favourable Worried about precedence, Darwin
variations would tend to be consulted Charles Lyell. They
preserved, and unfavourable ones agreed to a joint presentation of
to be destroyed. The result of this Darwins and Wallaces papers at
would be the formation of new the Linnaean Society in London on
speciesI had at last got a theory July 1, 1858. Neither author would
by which to work. attend in person. The audiences
Knowing more about the role of response was polite, with no outcry
variation, by 1856 Darwin the pigeon about blasphemy. Encouraged,
breeder could imagine not humans Darwin now nished his book.
but nature doing the choosing. From Published on November 24, 1859,
the term articial selection he On the Origin of Species sold out nonetheless present, among the
derived natural selection. on its rst day. offspring within a species. For
evolution, these variations must
Jolt into action Darwins theory fulll two criteria. One: they should
On June 18, 1858, Darwin received Darwin states that species are not have some effect on the struggle
a short essay by a young British immutable. They change, or evolve, to survive and breed, that is, they
naturalist named Alfred Russel and the main mechanism for this should help to confer reproductive
Wallace. Wallace described a change is natural selection. The success. Two: they should be
ash of insight in which he had process relies on two factors. inherited, or passed to offspring,
suddenly understood how evolution First, more offspring are born than where they would confer the same
occurred, and asked Darwin for can survive when faced with the evolutionary advantage.
his opinion. Darwin was startled challenges of climate, food supply, Darwin describes evolution as
to read that Wallaces insight competition, predators, and a slow and gradual process. As a
replicated almost exactly the same diseases; this leads to a struggle population of organisms adapts
ideas he himself had been working for existence. Second, there is to a new environment, it becomes
on for more than 20 years. variation, sometimes tiny but a new species, different from

Charles Darwin Born in Shrewsbury, England, and on marine invertebrates,

in 1809, Darwin was originally especially barnacles, which he
destined to follow his father studied for almost 10 years. He
into medicine, but his childhood also wrote works on fertilization,
was lled with pursuits such as of orchids, insect-eating plants,
beetle collecting, and with little movement in plants, and
inclination to become a physician, variation among domesticated
he trained for the clergy. A chance animals and plants. Later in life,
appointment in 1831 placed him he tackled the origin of humans.
as expedition scientist on HMS
Beagles around-the-world trip. Key works
Following the voyage, Darwin
was under the scientic spotlight, 1839 The Voyage of the Beagle
gaining fame as a perceptive 1859 On the Origin of Species by
observer, reliable experimenter, Means of Natural Selection
and talented writer. He wrote 1871 The Descent of Man, and
on the formation of coral reefs Selection in Relation to Sex
However, the mechanism by which science until the 20th century,
inheritance occurredhow and when new discoveries in genetics
why some traits are passed on, were integrated into evolutionary
others notremained a mystery. theory, providing a mechanism for
Coincidentally, at the same time heredity. Darwins principle of
I think I have found out that Darwin published his book, a natural selection remains key to
(heres presumption!) the monk named Gregor Mendel was understanding the process.
simple way by which species experimenting with pea plants in
become exquisitely adapted Brno (in the present-day Czech
This cartoon ridiculing Darwin
to various ends. Republic). His work on inherited appeared in 1871, the year in which
Charles Darwin characteristics, reported in 1865, he applied his theory of evolution to
formed the basis of genetics, but humanssomething he had been
was overlooked by mainstream careful to avoid in earlier works.

its ancestors. Meanwhile, those

ancestors may remain the same,
or they may evolve in response to
their own changing environment,
or they may lose the struggle for
survival and become extinct.

Faced with such a thorough,
reasoned, evidence-based
exposition of evolution by natural
selection, most scientists soon
accepted Darwins concept of
survival of the ttest. Darwins
book was careful to avoid any
mention of humans in connection
with evolution, other than the
single sentence, Light will be
shed on the origin of man, and
his history. However, there were
protests from the Church, and the
clear implication that humans had
evolved from other animals was
ridiculed in many quarters.
Darwin, as ever avoiding the
limelight, remained engrossed in
his studies at Down House. As
controversy mounted, numerous
scientists sprang to his defense.
The biologist Thomas Henry Huxley
was vociferous in supporting the
theoryand arguing the case for
human descent from apesand
dubbed himself Darwins bulldog.
ROBERT FITZROY (1805 1865)

century and a half ago,
IN CONTEXT notions of weather
prediction were deemed
little more than folklore. The man
who changed that and gave us
BEFORE modern weather forecasting was With a barometer, two or
1643 Evangelista Torricelli British naval ofcer and scientist three thermometers, some
invents the barometer, which Captain Robert FitzRoy. brief instructions, and an
measures air pressure. FitzRoy is better known today attentive observation, not of
as the captain of the Beagle, the instruments only, but the sky
1805 Francis Beaufort ship that carried Charles Darwin and atmosphere, one may
develops the Beaufort scale on the voyage that led to his theory utilise Meteorology.
of wind force. of evolution by natural selection. Robert FitzRoy
Yet FitzRoy was a remarkable
1847 Joseph Henry proposes scientist in his own right.
a telegraph link to warn the FitzRoy was just 26 when he
eastern United States of sailed from England with Darwin
storms coming from the west. in 1831. Yet he had already served
AFTER more than a decade at sea, and
1870 The US Army Signal had studied at the Royal Naval Naval weather pioneers
Corps begins creating weather College at Greenwich, where he It was no coincidence that many
maps for the whole US. was the rst candidate to pass the of the rst breakthroughs in
lieutenants exam with perfect weather forecasting came from
1917 The Bergen School marks. He had even commanded naval ofcers. Knowing what
of Meteorology in Norway the Beagle on an earlier survey trip weather lay ahead was crucial in
develops the notion of around South America, where the the days of sailing ships. Missing
weather fronts. importance of studying the weather a good wind could have huge
was impressed upon him. His nancial consequencesand
2001 Systems of Unied ship almost met with disaster in being caught at sea in a storm
Surface Analysis use powerful a violent wind off the coast of could be disastrous.
computers to give highly Patagonia after he had ignored Two naval ofcers in particular
detailed local weather. the warning signs of falling had already made signicant
pressure on the ships barometer. contributions. One was Irish

Robert FitzRoy Born in 1805 in Suffolk, England, resentment of the settlers.

to an aristocratic family, Robert He returned to England in
FitzRoy joined the Navy at just 1848 to command the Navys
12 years old. He went on to rst steamship, and was
serve many years at sea as an appointed head of the British
outstanding sea captain. He Meteorological Ofce when it
captained the Beagle on two major was established in 1854. There
survey voyages to South America, he developed the methods that
including the around-the-world became the foundation of
voyage with Charles Darwin. scientic weather forecasting.
FitzRoy was, however, a devout
Christian who opposed Darwins Key works
theory of evolution. After leaving
active service in the Navy, FitzRoy 1839 Narrative of the Voyages
became governor of New Zealand, of the Beagle
where his even-handed treatment 1860 The Barometer Manual
of the Maori earned him the 1863 The Weather Book
See also: Robert Boyle 4649 George Hadley 80 Gaspard-Gustave de Coriolis 126 Charles Darwin 14249

The weather comes in

repeated patterns.

The development of each

pattern is indicated by
signs such as air pressure,
wind direction, and
cloud type.

Since patterns are

mariner Francis Beaufort, who Before FitzRoy began his weather repeated, their future
created a standard scale showing reporting systems, mariners had progress can be predicted.
the wind speed or force linked to already observed that winds form
particular conditions at sea, and cyclonic patterns in hurricanes, and
that wind direction could be used to
later on land. This allowed the predict the storms path.
severity of storms to be recorded
and compared methodically for
the rst time. The scale ranged The Meteorogical Ofce
from 1, indicating light air to In 1854, FitzRoy, encouraged by Observations from
12, hurricane. The rst time the Beaufort, was given the task of multiple locations
Beaufort scale was used was by setting up the British contribution provide a snapshot of
FitzRoy on the Beagle voyage. at the Meteorological Ofce. weather patterns over a
Thereafter it became standard But with characteristic zeal and wide area.
in all naval ships logs. insight, FitzRoy went much further
Another naval weather pioneer than his brief. He began to see
was American Matthew Maury. that a system of simultaneous
He created wind and current weather observations from around
charts for the North Atlantic, the world could not only reveal
which resulted in dramatic hitherto undiscovered patterns,
improvements for sailing times but actually be used to make From the
and certainty. He also advocated weather predictions. snapshot,
the creation of an international Observers already knew that meteorologists
sea and land weather service, in tropical hurricanes, for example,
can forecast the
and led a conference in Brussels the winds blow in a circular
in 1853 that began to coordinate or cyclonic pattern around a
observations on conditions at central area of low air pressure or
sea from all around the world. depression. It was soon realized
FitzRoy colored his daily synoptic
charts in crayon. This one, made in
1863, shows a low-pressure front
bringing storms toward northern
Europe from the west. The lower right
of the chart reveals a cyclone forming.

at any and every point within

the region covered. This was a
remarkable insight that formed
the basis of modern forecasting.
The observation gures alone
were enough, but FitzRoy also used
them to create the rst modern
meteorological chart, the synoptic
chart that revealed the swirling
shapes of cyclonic storms as clearly
as satellite pictures do today.
FitzRoys ideas were summed
up in his book, titled simply
The Weather Book (1863), which
introduced the word forecast and
laid out the principles of modern
forecasting for the rst time.
that most of the large storms Synoptic weather A crucial step was to divide
that blow in the mid-latitudes show FitzRoy understood that the the British Isles into weather areas,
this cyclonic depression shape. keys to weather prediction were collate current weather conditions,
So the direction of the wind gives systematic observations of air and use past weather data from
a clue as to whether the storm is pressure, temperature, and wind each area to help make forecasts.
approaching or receding. speed and direction taken at set FitzRoy recruited a network of
In the 1850s, better records of times from widely spread locations. observers, particularly at sea and
weather events, and the use When these observations were in ports in the British Isles. He also
of the new electric telegraph to sent instantly by telegraph to his obtained data from France and
communicate over long distances, coordinating ofce in London, Spain, where the idea of constant
almost instantly revealed that he could build up a picture or weather observation was catching
cyclonic storms, which form over synopsis of weather conditions on. Within a few years, his network
land, move eastward. In contrast, over a vast area.
hurricanes (tropical North Atlantic This synopsis gave such a
storms) form over water and complete picture of the weather
migrate westward. So in North conditions that it not only revealed
America when a storm hit one current weather patterns on a
place far inland, a telegraph could wide scale, it also enabled weather
be sent to warn places farther patterns to be tracked. FitzRoy I try, by my warnings of
east that a storm was on its way. realized that weather patterns were probable bad weather, to avoid
Observers already knew that a drop repeated. From this, it was clear to the need for a life-boat.
in air pressure on the barometer him that he could gure out how Robert FitzRoy
gave warning of a storm to come. weather patterns may develop over
The telegraph allowed such a short time in the future, from how
readings to be relayed rapidly over they have developed in the past.
great distances and therefore gave This provides the basis for a
warnings much further in advance. detailed forecast of the weather
was operating so effectively that FitzRoys legacy
he could get a daily snapshot of Faced with a barrage of ridicule
weather patterns right across and criticism from vested interests,
Western Europe. Patterns in the the forecasts were suspended and
weather were revealed so clearly FitzRoy committed suicide in 1865.
that he could forecast how it was When it was discovered that he had Having collated and duly
likely to change over the next day spent his fortune on his research considered the Irish telegrams
at leastand so produce the rst at the Meteorological Ofce, the [or from any other weather
national forecasts. government compensated his area], the rst forecast for that
family. But within a few years, district is drawnand
Daily weather forecasts pressure from mariners ensured forthwith sent out for
Every morning, weather reports that his storm warning system was immediate publication.
would come to FitzRoys ofce from again in widespread use. Picking Robert FitzRoy
scores of weather stations across up the detailed forecasts and storm
Western Europe, and within an warnings for particular shipping
hour, the synoptic picture was areas is now an essential part of
gured out. Instantly, forecasts every mariners day.
were despatched to The Times As communications technology
newspaper to be published for improved and added ever more
all to read. The rst weather detail to the observational data, shipsall continuously feeding
forecast was published by the the value of FitzRoys system came information into a global
newspaper on August 1, 1861. into its own in the 20th century. meteorological data bank. Powerful
FitzRoy set up a system of number-crunching supercomputers
signaling cones in highly visible Modern forecasting churn out weather forecasts that
places at ports to warn if a storm Today, the world is dotted with are, in the short-term at least,
was on the way and from which a network of more than 11,000 highly accurate, and a huge range
direction. This system worked so weather stations, in addition to the of activities, from air travel to
well that it saved countless lives. numerous satellites, aircraft, and sports events, rely on them.
Some shipowners, however,
resented the system when their
captains began to delay setting
sail if warned of a storm. There
were also problems disseminating
the forecasts in time. It took 24
hours to distribute the newspaper,
so FitzRoy had to make forecasts for
not just one day ahead but two
otherwise the weather would have
happened by the time people read
his forecasts. He was aware that
longer-range forecasts were far
more unreliable, and was frequently
exposed to ridicule, particularly
when The Times disassociated
itself from mistakes.

This weather station, located in

the remote mountains of Ukraine,
sends data on temperature, humidity,
and wind speed via satellite to
weather supercomputers.


1668 Francesco Redi
demonstrates that maggots
arise from iesand not

1745 John Needham boils
broth to kill microbes, and
believes that spontaneous
generation has occurred
when they grow back.

1768 Lazzaro Spallanzani
shows that microbes do not
grow in boiled broth when
air is excluded.

LOUIS PASTEUR (18221895)

1881 Robert Koch isolates
microbes that cause disease.
1953 Stanley Miller and
Harold Urey create amino
acidsessential to lifein
an experiment that simulates
origin-of-life conditions.

odern biology teaches
that living things can
only arise from other
living things by a process of
reproduction. This may seem self-
evident today, but when the basic
principles of biology were in their
infancy, many scientists adhered to
a notion called abiogenesisthe
idea that life could spontaneously
generate itself. Long after Aristotle
claimed that living organisms
could emerge from decaying
matter, some even believed in
methods that purported to make
creatures from inanimate objects.
In the 17th century, for example,
Flemish physician Jan Baptista
von Helmont wrote that sweaty
See also: Robert Hooke 54 Antonie van Leeuwenhoek 5657 Thomas Henry Huxley 17273

Harold Urey and Stanley Miller 27475

Spoilage or infection
Many living organisms do not occur if microbes
Some of these microbes
are microscopic, and are are prevented from
cause spoilage of food
suspended in the air contaminating and
or infectious disease.
around us. reproducing.

Microbes cannot arise by spontaneous

generation. All life comes from life.

underwear and some wheat grain 1546, Italian physician Girolamo

left in a jar in the open would Fracastoro described seeds of
spawn adult mice. Spontaneous contagion, and came close to the
generation had its advocates until truth of the matter. But he fell short
well into the 19th century. In 1859, of explicitly stating that they were
however, a French microbiologist living, reproducible things, and his
named Louis Pasteur devised a theory made little impact. Instead,
clever experiment that disproved it. people believed that infectious
In the course of his studies, he also disease was caused by miasma
proved that infections were caused or noxious airthat came from This drawing by Francesco Redi
by living microbesgerms. rotting matter. Without a clear idea shows maggots turning into ies.
Before Pasteur, the link between of the nature of germs as microbes, His work showed not only that ies
come from maggots, but also that
disease or decay and organisms no one could properly appreciate maggots come from ies.
had been suspected but never that the transmission of infection
substantiated. Until microscopes and the propagation of life were in
could prove otherwise, the notion effect two sides of the same coin. spontaneous generationat least
that there were such things as tiny in so far as creatures visible to the
living entities that were invisible to First scientic observations human eye were concerned. In
the naked eye seemed fanciful. In In the 17th century, scientists 1668, he studied the process by
attempted to trace the origins which meat becomes riddled with
of larger creatures by studying maggots. He covered one piece of
reproduction. In 1661, English meat with parchment and left
physician William Harvey (known another exposed. Only the exposed
for his discovery of the circulation meat became infected with
of blood) dissected a pregnant deer maggots, because it attracted ies,
In the eld of experimentation, in an effort to discover the origin which deposited their eggs on it.
chance favours only the of a fetus, and proclaimed Omne Redi repeated the experiment with
prepared mind. vivum ex ovoall life from eggs. cheeseclothwhich absorbed the
Louis Pasteur He failed to nd the deers egg in meats odor and attracted ies
question, but it was at least a hint and showed that ies eggs taken
of things to come. from the cheesecloth could then
Italian physician Francesco Redi be used to seed uninfected meat
was the rst to offer experimental with maggots. Redi argued that
evidence for the impossibility of maggots could only arise from
ies, rather than spontaneously. experiments can be easily
However, the signicance of Redis explained. Although heat does
experiment was not appreciated, indeed kill most microbes, some
and even Redi himself did not fully bacteria, for example, can survive
reject abiogenesis, believing that it by turning into dormant, heat-
did occur in certain circumstances. I intend to suggest that resistant spores. And most
Among the rst makers and no such thing as abiogenesis microbes, as with most life, need
users of the microscope for detailed has ever taken place in the oxygen from the air in order to
scientic study, Dutch scientist past, or ever will take place derive energy from their nutrition.
Antonie van Leeuwenhoek showed in the future. Most importantly, however, these
that some living things were so Thomas Henry Huxley sorts of experiments were always
small that they could not be seen vulnerable to contamination
with the naked eyeand also that microscopic airborne microbes can
the reproduction of larger creatures easily colonize a growth medium,
depended upon similar microscopic even after a brief exposure to the
living entities, such as sperm. atmosphere. So in fact, neither of
Yet the idea of abiogenesis these experiments had addressed
was so deeply entrenched in the had arisen spontaneously from the conclusively the question of
minds of scientists that many still sterilized broth. Two decades abiogenisis, one way or another.
thought that these microscopic later, Italian physiologist Lazzaro
organisms were too small to Spallanzani repeated Needhams Conclusive proof
contain reproductive organs and experiment, but showed that the A century later, microscopes
must therefore arise spontaneously. microbes did not grow back if and microbiology had advanced
In 1745, English naturalist John he removed air from the ask. far enough for it to became possible
Needham set out to prove it. He Spallanzani thought that the air to settle the matter. Louis Pasteurs
knew that heat could kill microbes, had seeded the broth, but his experiment demonstrated that
so he boiled some mutton gravy critics proposed instead that air there were microbes suspended
in a askthereby killing its was actually a vital force for the in air, ready to infect any exposed
microbesand then allowed it to new generation of microbes. surface. First, he ltered air through
cool. After observing the broth for a Viewed in the context of cotton. Then he analyzed the
time, he saw that the microbes had modern biology, the results of contaminated cotton lters
come back. He concluded that they Needhams and Spallanzanis and examined the trapped dust

Air can get in Pasteurs swan-neck experiment

through tube proved that a sterilized broth will remain
free of microorganisms as long as they
are prevented from falling into it from the air.

get trapped in
the curve
The broth is boiled to kill When the broth cools Tilting the tube allows The microorganisms
any microoganisms in it. it remains free of microorganisms back quickly multiply again.
microorganisms. into the broth.
with a microscope. He found it It was a crushing blow to the
to be teeming with the type of last devotees of spontaneous
microbes that had been linked generation, and marked the birth
with the decay and spoilage of of a new biology solidly founded
food. It looked as though infection on the disciplines of cell theory,
was caused when microbes literally biochemistry, and genetics. By the
fell out of the air. This was the 1880s, German physician Robert
critical information Pasteur needed Koch had shown that the disease
to succeed in the next step, when anthrax was transmitted by
he took up a challenge laid down by infectious bacteria.
the French Academy of Sciences Nevertheless, nearly a century
to disprove the idea of spontaneous after Huxleys address, abiogenesis
generation once and for all. would once again focus the minds
For his experiment, Pasteur of a new generation of scientists as Louis Pasteur
boiled nutrient-rich brothjust as they began to ask questions about
Needham and Spallanzani had done the origin of the very rst life on Born to a poor French family
a century beforebut this time Earth. In 1953, American chemists in 1822, Louis Pasteur became
such a towering gure in the
made a critical modication to the Stanley Miller and Harold Urey
world of science that, upon
ask. He heated the asks neck to sent electrical sparks through his death, he was given a full
soften the glass, then drew the glass a mix of water, ammonia, methane, state funeral. After training
outward and downward to form a and hydrogen to simulate the in chemistry and medicine,
tube in the shape of a swans neck. atmospheric conditions at the dawn his professional career
When the setup had cooled, the tube of life on Earth. Within weeks, they included academic positions
was part-way directed downward so had created amino acidsthe at the French universities
that microbes could not fall onto the building blocks of proteins and key of Strasbourg and Lille.
broth, even though the temperature chemical constituents of living His rst research was on
was now suitable for their growth cells. Miller and Ureys experiment chemical crystals, but he is
and there was plentiful oxygen triggered a resurgence of work better known in the eld of
since the tube communicated with directed at showing that living microbiology. Pasteur showed
the outside air. The only way organisms can emerge from that microbes turned wine
microbes could grow back in the nonliving matter, but this time into vinegar and soured milk,
and developed a heat-treating
ask was spontaneouslyand this scientists were equipped with
process that killed them
did not happen. the tools of biochemistry and an
known as pasteurization. His
As nal proof that microbes understanding of processes that work on microbes helped to
needed to contaminate the broth took place billions of years ago. develop modern germ theory:
from the air, Pasteur repeated the the idea that some microbes
experiment, but snapped off the caused infectious disease.
swan-necked tube. The broth Later in his career, he
became infected: he had nally developed several vaccines,
disproved spontaneous generation, and established the Institut
and had shown that all life came Pasteur devoted to the study
from life. It was clear that microbes I observe facts alone; of microbiology, which thrives
could no more spontaneously I seek but the scientic to this day.
appear in a ask of broth than conditions under which
mice could appear in a dirty jar. life manifests itself. Key works
Louis Pasteur
1866 Studies on Wine
Abiogenesis returns 1868 Studies on Vinegar
In 1870, English biologist Thomas 1878 Microbes: Their Roles in
Henry Huxley championed Fermentation, Putrefaction,
Pasteurs work in a lecture entitled and Contagion
biogenesis and abiogenesis.
AUGUST KEKUL (1829 1896)

he early years of the
IN CONTEXT 19th century saw huge
developments in chemistry
that fundamentally changed the
scientic view of matter. In 1803,
BEFORE John Dalton suggested that each I spent a part of the night
1852 Edward Frankland element was made of atoms that putting at least sketches of
introduces the idea of valency are unique to that element, and those musings down on paper.
the number of bonds an atom used the concept of atomic weight This is how the structural
can form with other atoms. to explain how elements always theory came into being.
combine with each other in whole- Friedrich August Kekul
1858 Archibald Couper number proportions. Jns Jakob
suggests that carbon atoms Berzelius studied 2,000 compounds
can link directly to one to investigate these proportions.
another, forming chains. He invented the naming system we
use todayH for hydrogen, C for
AFTER carbon, and so onand compiled
1858 Italian chemist Stanislao a list of atomic weights for all 40 elements. Atoms and molecules
Cannizzaro explains the elements that were then known. remained essentially theoretical
difference between atoms He also coined the term organic concepts that nobody had seen
and molecules, and publishes chemistry for the chemistry of directly, but they were concepts
atomic and molecular weights. living organismsthe term later with growing explanatory power.
came to mean most chemistry
1869 Dmitri Mendeleev lays
involving carbon. In 1809, French Valency
out the periodic table.
chemist Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac In 1852, the rst step toward
1931 Linus Pauling elucidates explained how gases combine in an understanding of how atoms
the structure of the chemical simple proportions by volume, combine with each another was
bond in general, and that of and two years later the Italian taken by English chemist Edward
the benzene molecule in Amedeo Avogadro suggested that Frankland, who introduced the idea
particular, using the ideas equal volumes of gas contain equal of valencywhich is the number of
of quantum mechanics. numbers of molecules. It was atoms each atom of an element
clear that there were strict rules can combine with. Hydrogen
governing the combination of the has a valency of one; oxygen has

The atoms of each element In the molecules of

can combine with other atoms in benzene, carbon atoms bond with
a set number of ways. This is each other to form rings, onto
called valency. which hydrogen atoms bond.

This structure came

Carbon atoms have to Kekul in a vision
a valency of four. of a snake grabbing
its own tail.
See also: Robert Boyle 4649 Joseph Black 7677 Henry Cavendish 7879 Joseph Priestley 8283
Antoine Lavoisier 84 John Dalton 11213 Humphry Davy 114 Linus Pauling 25459 Harry Kroto 32021

a valency of two. Then, in 1858,

British chemist Archibald Couper
suggested that bonds were formed
between self-linking carbon atoms, H C C C H
and that molecules were chains of O=O N=N H H H
atoms bonded together. So water, Oxygen Nitrogen Propane
which was known to consist of two
parts of hydrogen to one of oxygen, O H H H
could be represented as H2O, or H H Cl C C C H
HOH, where signies a bond. Water
Carbon has a valency of four, H H H 1-Chloropropane
making it tetravalent, so a carbon
atom can form four bonds, as in H C H H C C H H Cl H
methane (CH4), where the hydrogen H H H H C C C H
atoms are arranged in a tetrahedron Methane Ethane
around the carbon. (Today, chemists H H H
think of a bond as representing a 2-Chloropropane
pair of electrons shared between
the two atoms, and the symbols H,
O, and C as representing the central
part of the appropriate atom.)
Couper was working at the time Kekul used the concept of valency to describe the
bonds that are formed between atoms to make various
at a laboratory in Paris. Meanwhile, molecules. Here, each bond is represented by a line.
in Heidelberg, Germany, August
Kekul had come up with the same
idea, announcing in 1857 that hydrogen, oxygen, and chlorine) (see the diagram above). Some
carbon has a valency of four, and could bond. Suddenly, organic compounds need double bonds to
early in 1858 that carbon atoms can chemistry began to make sense, satisfy the valencies of the atoms:
bond to one another. Publication of and chemists assigned structural the oxygen molecule (O2), for
Coupers paper had been delayed, formulae to all kinds of molecules. example, and the molecule of
allowing Kekul to publish a month Simple hydrocarbons such as ethylene (C2H4). Ethylene reacts
before him and claim priority for methane (CH4), ethane (C2H6), and with chlorine, and the result is
the idea of self-bonding carbon propane (C3H8) were now seen to be not substitution but addition. The
atoms. Kekul called the bonds chains of carbon atoms where the chlorine adds across the double
between atoms afnities, and spare valencies were occupied by bond, to make 1,2 dichloroethane
explained his ideas in greater hydrogen atoms. Reacting such a (C2H4Cl2). Some compounds even
detail in his popular Textbook of compound with, say, chlorine (Cl2) have triple bonds, including the
Organic Chemistry, which rst produced compounds in which one nitrogen molecule (N2) and
appeared in 1859. or more of the hydrogen atoms were acetylene (C2H2), which is highly
replaced by chlorine atoms, making reactive, and used in oxyacetylene
Carbon compounds compounds such as chloromethane welding torches.
Figuring out theoretical models or chloroethane. One feature of this Benzene, however, remained
based on evidence from chemical substitution was that chloropropane a puzzle. It turned out to have
reactions, Kekul declared that came in two distinct forms, either the formula C6H6, but is much
tetravalent carbon atoms could link 1-chloropropane or 2-chloropropane, less reactive than acetylene,
together to form what he called a depending on whether the chlorine even though both compounds
carbon skeleton, to which other was attached to the middle carbon have equal numbers of carbon
atoms with other valencies (such as atom or one of the end carbon atoms and hydrogen atoms. Devising a
linear structure that was not Benzene rings
highly reactive was a real The solution to the puzzle of
conundrum. There clearly had to be benzenes structure came to Kekul
double bonds, but how they were in 1865 in a dream. The answer
arranged was a mystery. was a ring of carbon atoms, a ring
Furthermore, benzene reacts in which all six atoms were equal,
with chlorine not by addition (like with a hydrogen atom bonded to
ethylene) but by substitution: a each one. This meant that the
chlorine atom replaces a hydrogen chlorine in chlorobenzene could be
atom. When one of benzenes attached anywhere around the ring.
hydrogen atoms is substituted Further support for this theory
by a chlorine atom, the result is came from substituting hydrogen
only a single compound C6H5Cl, twice, to make dichlorobenzene This image of a hexabenzocoronene
chlorobenzene. This seemed to (C6H4Cl 2). If benzene is a six- molecule was captured using an atomic
show that all the carbon atoms membered ring with all the carbon force microscope. It is 1.4 nanometers
in diameter and shows carboncarbon
were equivalent, since the chlorine atoms equal, there should be three
bonds of different lengths.
atom might be attached to any distinct forms, or isomers, of this
one of them. compoundthe two chlorine atoms
could be on adjacent carbon atoms,
on carbon atoms separated by one
other carbon, or at opposite ends of
Cl the ring. This turned out to be the
Cl C H case, and the three isomers were
C C named ortho-, meta-, and para-
C C dichlorobenzene respectively.

H C H H Establishing symmetry
C C Ortho-dichlorobenzine An unsolved mystery still remained
C C over the observed symmetry of
C the benzene ring. To satisfy
Cl C Cl its tetravalency, each carbon atom
H C C should have four bonds to other
C C atoms. This meant that they all
had a spare bond. At rst,
C H Kekul drew alternating single
H H and double bonds around the
C C Meta-dichlorobenzine
ring, but when it became
H C H apparent that the ring had to
Cl C H be symmetrical, he suggested
H C C that the molecule oscillated
Benzene C6H6 C C between the two structures.
H C Cl
The electron was not discovered
H until 1896. The idea that bonds
Para-dichlorobenzine form through the sharing of
electrons was rst proposed by
American chemist G. N. Wilson in
1916. In the 1930s, Linus Pauling
then used quantum mechanics
Kekul suggested that double and single bonds between carbon to explain that the six spare
atoms in a benzene ring alternated (left). Two chlorine atoms can electrons in the benzene ring are
substitute for two of the hydrogen atoms in three different ways (right). not localized in double bonds, but
Kekul described the moment that he
formulated his theory of benzene rings
as a dreamlike vision, in which he saw
a snake biting its own tail as in the
ancient symbol of the ouroboros, which
is depicted here as a dragon.

are delocalized around the ring, and

shared equally between the carbon
atoms, so that the carbon-carbon
bonds are neither single nor double,
but 1.5 (see pp.25459). It would
take these new ideas from physics
to nally solve the puzzle of the
structure of the benzene molecule.

Dream of inspiration
Kekuls report of his dream is
the most cited personal account
of a ash of inspiration in all of
science. It seems that he was in a
hypnagogic stateon the edge of
going to sleep: that state where the manner of their motion. Today with the benzene ring theory
realities and imagination slide into I saw how frequently two smaller I turned the chair to face the
each another. He described it as ones merged into a pair; how replace and slipped into a
Halbschlaf, or half-sleep. In fact he larger ones engulfed two smaller languorous stateatoms uttered
describes two such reveries: the ones, still larger ones bonded three before my eyes.Long rows,
rst, probably in 1855, on top of a and even four of the small ones. frequently linked more densely;
bus in south London, heading for The second occasion was in his everything in motion, winding and
Clapham Road. Atoms uttered study in Ghent in Belgium, possibly turning like snakes. And lo, what
before my eyes. I had always seen inspired by the ancient ouroboros was that? One of the snakes grabbed
these tiny particles in motion, but I symbol of a snake biting its own its own tail and the image whirled
had never succeeded in fathoming tail: The same thing happened mockingly before my eyes.

August Kekul Friedrich August Kekul, who structure of benzene, which

called himself August, was made him the principal architect
born on September 7, 1829 in of the theory of molecular
Darmstadt, now in the German structure. In 1895, he was
state of Hesse. While at the ennobled by Kaiser Wilhelm II,
University of Giessen, he and became August Kekul von
abandoned the study of Stradonitz. Three of the rst
architecture and switched to ve Nobel prizes in chemistry
chemistry after hearing the were won by his students.
lectures of Justus von Liebig.
He eventually became professor Key works
of chemistry at Bonn University.
In 1857 and the following 1859 Textbook of Organic
years, Kekul published a series Chemistry
of papers on the tetravalence of 1887 The Chemistry of Benzene
carbon, the bonding in simple Derivatives or Aromatic
organic molecules, and the Substances
GREGOR MENDEL (1822 1884)

n the history of scientic
IN CONTEXT understanding, one of the
greatest of all the natural
mysteries was the mechanism of
inheritance. The fact of heredity
BEFORE had been known ever since people
1760 German botanist noticed that family members were
Josef Klreuter describes recognizably similar. Practical
experiments in breeding implications were everywhere
tobacco plants, but fails to from the breeding of crops and
explain his results correctly. livestock in agriculture, to the
knowledge that some diseases,
1842 Swiss botanist Carl von such as hemophilia, could be
Ngeli studies cell division passed on to children. But no one
and describes threadlike knew how it happened.
bodies that are later identied Greek philosophers thought Inherited characteristics had been
as chromosomes. that there was some sort of essence observed for millennia before Mendel,
or material principle that was but the biological mechanism
1859 Charles Darwin that produced phenomena such
passed from parents to offspring. as identical twins was unknown.
publishes his theory of Parents conveyed the principle to
evolution by natural selection. the next generation during sexual
AFTER intercourse; it was supposed to over many generationsand in
have originated in the blood, and doing so gave rise to biological
1900 Botanists Hugo de Vries,
paternal and maternal principles diversity. But if inheritance relied
Carl Correns, and William
blended to make a new person. on the blending of chemical
Bateson concurrently This idea persisted for centuries principles, surely the biological
rediscover Mendels laws. mainly because no one came up diversity would be diluted out
1910 Thomas Hunt Morgan with anything betterbut when of existence? It would be like
corroborates Mendels laws it reached Charles Darwin, its mixing paints of different colors,
and conrms the chromosomal fundamental weakness became and ending up with gray. The
basis for heredity. all too clear. Darwins theory of adaptations and novelties upon
evolution by natural selection which Darwins theory rested
proposed that species changed would not persist.

Gregor Mendel Born Johann Mendel in 1822 in on animals and concentrated on

Silesia in the Austrian Empire, breeding peas. It was this work
Mendel initially trained in that led him to devise his laws
mathematics and philosophy of heredity and develop the
before entering the priesthood critical idea that inherited
as a way of furthering his characteristics are controlled
educationchanging his name by discrete particles, later
to Gregor and becoming an called genes. He became abbot
Augustinian monk. He completed of the monastery in 1868 and
his studies at the University of stopped his scientic work. On
Vienna and returned to teach at his death, his scientic papers
the abbey in Brno (now in Czech were burned by his successor.
Republic). Here, Mendel developed
his interest in inheritanceand at Key work
various times studied mice, bees,
and peas. Under pressure from 1866 Experiments in Plant
the bishop, he abandoned work Hybrizidation
See also: Jean-Baptiste Lamarck 118 Charles Darwin 14249 Thomas Hunt Morgan 22425
James Watson and Francis Crick 27683 Michael Syvanen 31819 William French Anderson 32223

Mendels discovery and characteristics of plants in the shapeit was possible to identify
The breakthrough in understanding next generation, and the generation dominant and recessive varieties
inheritance came nearly a century after that. He found that alternate according to these proportions.
before the chemical structure of varieties (such as purple ower
DNA was establishedand and white ower) were inherited The key conclusion
less than a decade after Darwin in xed proportions. In the rst Mendel went further and tested the
published On the Origin of Species. generation, only one variety, such inheritance of two characteristics
Gregor Mendel, an Augustinian as purple ower, came through; in simultaneouslysuch as ower
monk in Brno, was a teacher, the second generation, this variety color and seed color. He found that
scientist, and mathematician who accounted for three-quarters offspring ended up with different
succeeded where many better- of the offspring. Mendel called this combinations of traits andonce
known naturalists had failed. It the dominant variety. He called the againthese combinations
was, perhaps, Mendels skills in other variety the recessive variety. occurred in xed proportions. In
mathematics and probability In this case, white ower was the rst generation, all plants
theory that proved the difference. recessive, and made up a quarter of had both dominant traits (purple
Mendel conducted experiments the second generation plants. For ower, yellow seed), but in the
with the common pea, Pisum each characteristictall/short; second generation there was a
sativum. This plant varies in seed color; ower color; and seed mixture of combinations.
several identiable ways, such
as height, ower color, seed color,
and seed shape. Mendel started
looking at the inheritance of one Purebred purple
characteristic at a time and applied peas crossed with
his mathematical mind to the A peas ower may purebred white peas
results. By breeding pea plants, be white or purple. produce a rst generation
which were easily cultivated in of peas that are
the monastery grounds, he could all purple.
conduct a series of experiments
to obtain meaningful data.
Mendel took critical precautions
in his work. Recognizing that
characteristics can skip and hide Breeding the rst
through generations, he was careful generation of purple plants
Purple is the
to start with pea plants of pure dominant characteristic. with each other produces a
stocksuch as white-owered White is the recessive second generation with
plants that only produced white- characteristic. both purple and white
owered offspring. He crossed in a proportion
pure white-owered plants of 3 to 1.
with pure purple-owered ones,
pure tall with pure short, and so
on. In each case, he also precisely
controlled the fertilization: using
tweezers, he transferred pollen from
unopened ower buds to stop them This is explained if inheritance
from scattering indiscriminately. is controlled by pairs of particles
He performed these breeding inherited from the parents.
experiments many times
and documented the numbers
For example, one-sixteenth of the inherited two identical doses of
plants had the combination with the particle concerned. Today we
both recessive traits (white ower, recognize these particles as genes.
green seed). Mendel concluded
that the two characteristics were Genius recognized
inherited independently of one Mendel published the results of Traits disappear entirely in
another. In other words, inheritance his ndings in a journal of natural the hybrids, but reappear
of ower color had no effect on history in 1866, but his work failed unchanged in their progeny.
inheritance of seed color and vice to make an impact in the wider Gregor Mendel
versa. The fact that heredity was scientic world. The esoteric
precisely proportional in this way nature of his titleExperiments
led Mendel to conclude that it was in Plant Hybridizationmight have
not due to the blending of vague restricted the readership but,
chemical principles after all, but in any case, it took more than
happened because of discrete 30 years for Mendel to be properly
particles. There were particles appreciated for what he had A few months later, German
controlling ower color, particles done. In 1900, Dutch botanist botanist Carl Correns explicitly
for seed color, and so on. These Hugo de Vries published the results described Mendels mechanism
particles were transferred from of plant breeding experiments for inheritance. Meanwhile, in
parents to offspring intact. This similar to those of Mendel Englandspurred on after reading
explained why recessive traits including a corroboration of the the papers of de Vries and
could hide their effects and skip three-to-one ratio. De Vries followed CorrensCambridge biologist
a generation: a recessive trait up with an acknowledgment William Bateson read Mendels
would only show through if a plant that Mendel had got there rst. original paper for the rst time
and immediately recognized its
signicance. Bateson would
Parent generation become a champion of Mendelian
ideas, and he ended up coining
the term genetics for this new
eld of biology. Posthumously,
the Augustinian monk had at
last been appreciated.
F1 By then, work of a different
kindin the elds of cell biology
and biochemistrywas guiding
biologists down new avenues
of research. Microscopes
were replacing plant breeding
F2 experiments as scientists searched
for clues by looking right inside
cells. Nineteenth-century biologists
had a hunch that the key to
heredity lay in the cells nucleus.
3:1 proportion Unaware of Mendels work, in
1878, German Walther Flemming
The rst generation of peas (F1) bred from KEY identied the threadlike structures
pure white- and purple-owered plants all inside cell nuclei that moved
have one particle from each parent. Purple is Particle for white
dominant, so all the F1 owers are purple. around during cell division.
In the second generation (F2), one plant in Particle for purple He named them chromosomes,
four will inherit two white particles and meaning colored body. Within
produce white owers. a few years of the rediscovery
Hugo de Vries discovered the 3:1
ratio of characteristics in experiments
with a variety of plants in the 1890s.
He would later concede that Mendel
had a claim to priority in the discovery.

hundreds or thousands of genes

on a string of DNA. Chromosome
pairs separate to create sex
cells, and the chromosome is
then passed on whole. This
means that the inheritance of
traits controlled by different
genes on the same chromosome
is not independent. Each pea
characteristic studied by
Mendel is due to a gene on a
separate chromosome. If they
had been on the same chromosome,
his results would have been more
complex and harder to interpret.
In the 20th century, research
would reveal the exceptions to
Mendels laws. As scientists probed
of Mendels work, biologists had as the Law of Segregation because more deeply into the behavior of
demonstrated that Mendels the alleles segregated to form genes and chromosomes, they
particles of inheritance were real sex cells. Mendels second conrmed that inheritance can
and that they were carried law arose when he considered happen in more complicated ways
on chromosomes. two characteristics. The Law of than Mendel had found. However,
Independent Assortment suggests these discoveries build on, rather
Laws of inheritance rened that the relevant genes for each than contradict, Mendels ndings,
Mendel had established two laws trait are inherited independently. which laid the foundation for
of inheritance. First, the xed Mendels choice of plant species modern genetics.
proportions of characteristics in was, it turns out, fortuitous. We
offspring led him to conclude that now know that the characteristics
the particles of inheritance came of Pisum sativum follow the
in pairs. There was a particle pair simplest pattern of inheritance.
for ower color, a pair for seed color, Each characteristicsuch as
and so on. Pairs were formed at ower coloris under the control of
fertilization because one particle a single type of gene that comes in I suggestthe term
came from each parentand different varieties (alleles). However, Genetics, which sufciently
separated again when the new many biological characteristics indicates that our labours are
generation reproduced to form such as human heightare the devoted to the elucidation of
its own sex cells. If the particles outcome of the interactions of the phenomena of heredity
coming together were different many different genes. and variation.
varieties (such as those for purple Furthermore, the genes William Bateson
and white ower), only the dominant Mendel studied were inherited
particle would be expressed. independently. Later work would
In modern terms, the different show that genes can sit side-by-
varieties of genes are called alleles. side on the same chromosome.
Mendels rst law became known Each chromosome carries


n 1859, Charles Darwin
IN CONTEXT described his theory of
evolution by natural selection.
In the heated debates that followed,
Thomas Henry Huxley was the
BEFORE most formidable champion of
1859 Charles Darwin Darwins ideas, earning himself
publishes On the Origin the nickname Darwins bulldog.
of Species, describing his More signicantly, the British
theory of evolution. biologist did pioneering work
on a key tenet in the evidence Eleven fossils of Archaeopteryx
1860 The rst Archaeopteryx for Darwins theoriesthe idea have been discovered. This birdlike
fossil, discovered in Germany, that birds and dinosaurs are dinosaur lived in the Late Jurassic
is sold to Londons Natural closely related. period, about 150 million years ago,
History Museum. in what is now southern Germany.
If Darwins theory that species
gradually changed into others was
true, then the fossil record should could simply have been one of
1875 The Berlin specimen
show how species that were very the earliest birds, rather than a
of Archaeopteryx, with teeth, different had diverged from feathered dinosaur. But Huxley
is found. ancestors that were very similar. In began to study closely the anatomy
1969 US paleontologist John 1860, a remarkable fossil was found of both birds and dinosaurs, and for
Ostroms study of microraptor in limestone in a German quarry. him, the evidence was compelling.
dinosaurs highlights new It dated from the Jurassic period,
similarities with birds. and was named Archaeopteryx A transitional fossil
lithographica. With wings and Huxley made detailed comparisons
1996 Sinosauropteryx, the rst feathers like a birds, yet from the between Archaeopteryx and
known feathered dinosaur, is time of the dinosaurs, it seemed various other dinosaurs, and found
discovered in China. to be an example of the kind of that it was very similar to the small
2005 US biologist Chris Organ missing link between species that dinosaurs Hypsilophodon and
shows the similarity between Darwins theory predicted. Compsognathus. The discovery,
the DNA of birds and that of One sample, however, was in 1875, of a more complete
Tyrannosaurus rex. not nearly enough to prove the Archaeopteryx fossil, this time
connection between birds and with dinosaur-like teeth, seemed
dinosaurs, and Archaeopteryx to conrm the connection.
See also: Mary Anning 11617 Charles Darwin 14249

Detailed studies of fossils of small dinosaurs show many

features in common with birds.

Birdlike Archaeopteryx fossils have teeth, like dinosaurs.

Thomas Henry Huxley

Born in London, Huxley
The similarities between the anatomy of birds and dinosaurs became an apprentice doctor
are too great to be a coincidence. at 13 years old. At 21, he was
a surgeon aboard a Royal
Navy ship assigned to chart
the seas around Australia
and New Guinea. During
There is an evolutionary link between the voyage, he wrote papers
birds and dinosaurs. on the marine invertebrates
he collected, and these so
impressed the Royal Society
that he was elected a fellow
Huxley came to believe that there dinosaur with feathered legs, in 1851. On his return in 1854,
was an evolutionary link between Pedopenna. Also that year, a Huxley became a lecturer in
birds and dinosaurs, but he did not groundbreaking study of DNA natural history at the Royal
imagine a common ancestor would extracted from the fossilized soft School of Mines.
ever be found. What mattered to tissue of a Tyrannosaurus rex After meeting Charles
Darwin in 1856, Huxley
him were the very clear similarities. showed that dinosaurs are
became a strong advocate of
Like reptiles, birds have scales genetically more similar to birds
Darwins theories. In a debate
feathers are simply developments than to other reptiles. on evolution held in 1860,
of scalesand they lay eggs. They Huxley won the day against
also have a host of similarities in Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of
bone structure. Oxford, who argued for Gods
Nevertheless, the link between creation. Along with his work
dinosaurs and birds remained showing similarities between
disputed for another century. Then, birds and dinosaurs, he
in the 1960s, studies of the sleek, Birds are essentially similar to gathered evidence on the
agile raptor Deinonychus (a relative Reptilesthese animals may subject of human origins.
of Velociraptor) began nally to be said to be merely an
convince many paleontologists extremely modied and Key works
of the link between birds and these aberrant Reptilian type.
microraptors (small predatory Thomas Henry Huxley 1858 The Theory of the
Vertebrate Skull
dinosaurs). In recent years, a host
1863 Evidence as to Mans
of nds of fossils of ancient birds Place in Nature
and birdlike dinosaurs in China has 1880 The Coming of Age
strengthened the linkincluding of the Origin of Species
the discovery in 2005 of a small

n 1661, Anglo-Irish physicist Humphry Davy did not distinguish
IN CONTEXT Robert Boyle dened elements between them when he rst
as certain primitive and discovered them. Similarly,
simple, or perfectly unmingled the halogen elements chlorine
bodies; which not being made and bromine are both pungent,
BEFORE of any other bodies, or of one poisonous oxidizing agents,
1803 John Dalton introduces another, are the ingredients of even though chlorine is a gas
the idea of atomic weights. which all those called perfectly and bromine a liquid. British
mixt bodies are immediately chemist John Newlands noticed
1828 Johann Dbereiner compounded, and into which that when the known elements
attempts rst classication. they are ultimately resolved. were listed in order of increasing
In other words, an element cannot
1860 Stanislao Cannizzaro
be broken down by chemical
publishes an extensive table of
means into simpler substances.
atomic and molecular weights. In 1803, British chemist John
AFTER Dalton introduced the idea of
1913 Lothar Meyer shows the atomic weights (now called relative
periodic relationship between atomic masses) for these elements.
elements by plotting atomic Hydrogen is the lightest element,
weight against volume. and he gave it the value 1, which
we still use today.
1913 Henry Moseley redenes
the periodic table using atomic Law of eight
numbersthe number of In the rst half of the 19th century,
protons in an atoms nucleus. chemists gradually isolated more
elements, and it became clear that
1913 Niels Bohr suggests certain groups of elements had
a model for the structure of similar properties. For example,
the atom. It includes shells sodium and potassium are silvery
of electrons that explain the The rst to attempt a classication
solids (alkali metals) that react of the elements was German chemist
relative reactivity of the violently with water, liberating Johann Dbereiner. By 1828, he had
different groups of elements. hydrogen gas. In fact, they are found that some elements formed
so similar that British chemist groups of three with related properties.

The elements can be arranged in The discovery of these missing

a table according to their elements suggests that the periodic
atomic weights. table reveals important features of the
structure of the atom.

Assuming a periodicity
of properties, predictions can be The periodic table
made from the gaps in a periodic can be used to
table for the discovery of guide experiments.
missing elements.
See also: Robert Boyle 4649 John Dalton 11213 Humphry Davy 114 Marie Curie 19095

Ernest Rutherford 20613 Linus Pauling 25459

1 Mendeleevs periodic table was atomic number 18

1 2
the precursor of 1the modern table, symbol
1 H 1
2 where the corresponding
element H
shown here. He left gaps in his table

3 4
had not yet been discovered, and
2 Li Be
used these to predict the properties element
el B

11 12
of the missing elements. name 13 14 15 16 17 18
3 Na Mg
Cl Ar
3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 PHOSPHORUS

19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36
4 K
Ca Sc
Cr Mn Fe Co Ni Cu Zn Ga Ge As Se Br Kr

37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54

5 Rb Sr
Zr Nb Mo Tc Ru Rh Pd Ag Cd In Sn Sb Te

55 56 5771 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86
6 Cs Ba
Hf Ta W Re Os
Pt Au Hg Tl Pb Bi
Po At Rn

87 88 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118
7 Fr Ra
Rf Db Sg Bh Hs Mt Uun Uuu Cn Uut Uuq Uup Uuh Uus Uuo

57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71

La Ce Pr Nd Pm Sm Eu Gd Tb Dy Ho Er Tm Yb Lu

89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103

Ac Th Pa
U Np Pu Am Cm Bk Cf Es Fm Md No Lr


Alkali metals Transition metals Other metals Other non-metals Noble gases

Alkali earth metals Rare earth metals Metalloids Halogens Radioactive rare earths

atomic weight, similar elements The signicance of Newlands there must be a pattern to them.
occurred every eighth place. He achievement would not be In an effort to solve the puzzle,
published his ndings in 1864. recognized for more than 20 years. he made a set of 56 playing cards,
In the journal Chemical News Meanwhile, French mineralogist each labeled with the name and
Newlands wrote: Elements Alexandre-mile Bguyer de major properties of one element.
belonging to the same group Chancourtois had also noticed the Mendeleev is said to have made
appear in the same horizontal patterns, publishing his ideas in his breakthrough as he was about
line. Also the numbers of similar 1862, but few people noticed. to embark on a winter journey in
elements differ by seven or 1868. Before setting out, he laid out
multiples of sevenThis peculiar Card puzzle his cards on the table and began
relationship I propose to call The Around the same time, Dmitri to ponder the puzzle, as though
Law of Octaves. The patterns Mendeleev was struggling with playing a game of solitare. When
in his table make sense as far the same problem as he wrote his his coachman came to the door for
as calcium, but then go haywire. book Principles of Chemistry in the luggage, Mendeleev waved him
On March 1, 1865, Newlands was St. Petersburg, Russia. In 1863, away, saying he was busy. He
ridiculed by the Chemical Society, there were 56 known elements, and moved the cards back and forth
who said that he might as well list new ones were being discovered until nally he managed to arrange
the elements in alphabetical order, at a rate of about one a year. all 56 elements to his satisfaction,
and refused to publish his paper. Mendeleev was convinced that with the similar groups running
vertically. The following year, Predicting new elements
Mendeleev read a paper at the In his paper, Mendeleev made a
Russian Chemical Society stating bold prediction: We must expect
that: The elements, if arranged the discovery of many yet unknown
according to their atomic weight, elementsfor example, two
exhibit an apparent periodicity elements, analogous to aluminum
of properties. He explained that and silicon, whose atomic weights
elements with similar chemical would be between 65 and 75.
properties have atomic weights Mendeleevs arrangement
that are either of nearly the same included crucial improvements over
value (such as potassium, iridium, Newlands Octaves. Below boron
and osmium) or that increase and aluminum, Newlands had
regularly (such as potassium, placed chromium, which made
rubidium, and cesium). He further little sense. Mendeleev reasoned The six alkali metals are all soft,
explained that the arrangement of that there must exist an as-yet highly reactive metals. The outer layer
the elements into groups in the undiscovered element, and of this lump of pure sodium has reacted
with the oxygen in the air to give it a
order of their atomic weights predicted that one would be found
coating of sodium oxide.
corresponds to their valency, which with an atomic weight of about 68.
is the number of bonds the atoms It would form an oxide (a compound
can form with other atoms. formed by an element with oxygen) predictions that are proved true.
with a chemical formula of M 2O3, In this case, the element gallium
where M is the symbol for (atomic weight 70, forming the
the new element. This formula oxide Ga2O3) was discovered in
meant that two atoms of the 1875; scandium (weight 45, Sc2O3)
new element would combine in 1879; and germanium (weight 73,
with three oxygen atoms to GeO2) in 1886. These discoveries
It is the function of science to make the oxide. He predicted two made Mendeleevs reputation.
discover the existence of a more elements to ll other spaces:
general reign of order in nature one with an atomic weight of about Mistakes in the table
and to nd the causes 45, forming the oxide M 2O3, and the Mendeleev did make some
governing this order. other with an atomic weight of 72, mistakes. In his 1869 paper, he
Dmitri Mendeleev forming the oxide MO2. asserted that the atomic weight
Critics were sceptical, but of tellurium must be incorrect: it
Mendeleev had made very should lie between 123 and 126,
specic claims, and one of the because the atomic weight of
most powerful ways to support iodine is 127, and iodine should
a scientic theory is to make clearly follow tellurium in the table,

The six noble gases that occur naturally (listed in group 18 of the table) are
helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon, and radon. They have very low chemical
reactivity because they each have a full valence shella shell of electrons
surrounding the atoms nucleus. Helium has just one shell containing two
electrons, while the other elements have outer shells of eight electrons.
Radioactive radon is unstable.

He Ne Ar Kr Xe
Nucleus Electron
according to its properties. He was This came to be called the atomic
wrongthe relative atomic weight number of the element, and it is
of tellurium is in fact 127.6; it is this number that determines the
greater than that of iodine. A elements position on the periodic
similar anomaly occurs between table. The fact that atomic weights
potassium (weight 39) and argon had given a close approximation
(weight 40), where argon clearly followed from the fact that for the
precedes potassium in the table lighter elements, the atomic weight
but Mendeleev was not aware of is roughly (though not exactly)
these problems in 1869, because twice the atomic number.
argon was not discovered until
1894. Argon is one of the noble Using the table
gases, which are colorless, odorless, The periodic table of the elements
and hardly react with other may look like just a cataloguing Dmitri Mendeleev
elements. Difcult to detect, none systema neat way of ordering
of the noble gases were known at the elementsbut it has far greater The youngest of at least 12
that time, so there were no spaces importance in both chemistry children, Dmitri Mendeleev
was born in 1834 in a village
for them in Mendeleevs table. Once and physics. It allows chemists
in Siberia. When his father
argon had turned up, however, to predict the properties of an went blind and lost his
there were several more holes to ll, element, and to try variations teaching post, Mendeleevs
and by 1898, Scottish chemist in processes; for example, if a mother supported the family
William Ramsay had isolated particular reaction does not work with a glass factory business.
helium, neon, krypton, and xenon. with chromium, perhaps it works When that burned down, she
In 1902, Mendeleev incorporated with molybdenum, the element took her 15-year-old son across
the noble gases into his table as below chromium in the table. Russia to St. Petersburg to
Group 18, and this version of the The table was also crucial in receive a higher education.
table forms the basis of the periodic the search for the structure of the In 1862, Mendeleev
table we use today. atom. Why did the properties of married Feozva Nikitichna
The anomaly of the wrong elements repeat in these patterns? Leshcheva, but in 1876 he
atomic weights was solved in 1913 Why were the Group 18 elements became obsessed with Anna
by British physicist Henry Moseley, so unreactive, while the elements Ivanova Popova, and married
her before his divorce from
who used X-rays to determine the in the groups on either side were
his rst wife was nal.
number of protons in the nucleus of the most reactive of all? Such
In the 1890s, Mendeleev
each atom of a particular element. questions led directly to the picture organized new standards
of the structure of the atom that has for producing vodka. He
been accepted ever since. investigated the chemistry
Mendeleev was to some extent of oil, and helped to set up
lucky to have been credited for his Russias rst oil renery.
table. Not only did he publish his In 1905, he was elected a
ideas after Bguyer and Newlands, member of the Royal Swedish
We must expect the discovery but also German chemist Lothar Academy of Science, who
of elements analogous to Meyer, who plotted atomic weight recommended him for a Nobel
aluminum and silicon against atomic volume to show Prize, but his candidacy was
whose atomic weight would the periodic relationship between blocked, possibly due to his
be between 65 and 75. elements, was ahead of him, too, bigamy. The radioactive
Dmitri Mendeleev publishing in 1870. As so often in element 101 mendelevium
is named in his honor.
science, the time had been ripe for
a particular discovery, and several Key work
people had reached the same
conclusion independently, without 1870 Principles of Chemistry
knowing about each others work.

A magnetic eld can change the
BRANCH polarization of light.
1803 Thomas Youngs double-
slit experiments appear to
show that light is a wave.
This suggests that light may be an
1820 Hans Christian rsted electromagnetic wave.
demonstrates a link between
electricity and magnetism.
1831 Michael Faraday shows
that a changing magnetic eld
produces an electric eld. Assuming light to be an electromagnetic wave,
it is possible to formulate equations to describe
AFTER mathematically the behavior of light.
1900 Max Planck suggests
that in some circumstances,
light can be treated as if it
were composed of tiny wave
packets, or quanta. The discovery of long-wavelength
radio waves (also part of the electromagnetic
1905 Albert Einstein shows spectrum) conrms the equations.
that light quanta, today known
as photons, are real.
1940s Richard Feynman
and others develop quantum
electrodynamics (QED) to Light and magnetism are affectations
explain the behavior of light. of the same substance.

he series of differential consequences in the 20th century, Michael Faraday. Today, Faraday
equations describing and today offers hope for unifying is perhaps best known for his
the behavior of our understanding of the universe invention of the electric motor and
electromagnetic elds developed into a comprehensive Theory of the discovery of electromagnetic
by Scottish physicist James Clerk Everything. induction, but it was a less
Maxwell through the 1860s and celebrated discovery that provided
1870s are rightly considered one The Faraday effect Maxwells departure point.
of the towering achievements in Danish physicist Hans Christian For two decades, Faraday
the history of physics. A truly rsteds discovery, in 1820, of had been attempting, on and off,
transformative discovery, they not a link between electricity and to nd a link between light and
only revolutionized the way that magnetism set the stage for a electromagnetism. Then, in
scientists viewed electricity, century of attempts to discover 1845, he devised an ingenious
magnetism, and light, but also the links and interconnections experiment that answered the
laid the ground rules for an entirely between seemingly unconnected question once and for all. It involved
new style of mathematical physics. phenomena. It also inspired passing a beam of polarized light
This would have far-reaching a signicant breakthrough by (one in which the waves oscillate
See also: Alessandro Volta 9095 Hans Christian rsted 120 Michael Faraday 121 Max Planck 20205

Albert Einstein 21421 Richard Feynman 27273 Sheldon Glashow 29293

direction, discovering the link presence felt at every point in

between electricity, magnetism, space that lies within their range
and light almost by accident. of inuence, not just when certain
Maxwells main concern lines are cut. Scientists who
was to explain just how the attempted to describe the physics
The special theory of relativity electromagnetic forces involved of electromagnetism tended to fall
owes its origins to Maxwells in phenomena such as Faradays into one of two schools: those who
equations of the inductionwhere a moving saw electromagnetism as some
electromagnetic eld. magnet induces an electric form of action at a distance
Albert Einstein currentwere operating. Faraday similar to Newtons model of
had invented the ingenious idea gravity, and those who believed
of lines of force," spreading in that electromagnetism was
concentric rings around moving propagated through space by
electric currents, or emerging and waves. In general, the supporters
reentering the poles of magnets. of action at a distance hailed from
When electrical conductors moved continental Europe and followed
in a single direction, easily created in relation to these lines, currents the theories of electrical pioneer
by bouncing a beam of light off a owed within them. The density of Andr-Marie Ampre (p.120), while
smooth reecting surface) through the lines of force and the speed of the believers in waves tended
a strong magnetic eld, and testing relative motion both inuenced the to be British. One clear way of
the angle of polarization on the strength of the current. distinguishing between the two
other side using a special eyepiece. But while lines of force were basic theories was that action
He found that by rotating the a useful aid to understanding at a distance would take place
orientation of the magnetic eld, the phenomenon, they did not have instantaneously, while waves
he was able to affect the angle of a physical existenceelectrical would inevitably take some time
polarization of the light. Based on and magnetic elds make their to propagate through space.
this discovery, Faraday argued for
the rst time that light waves were
some kind of undulation in the lines
of force by which he interpreted
electromagnetic phenomena.

Theories of
However, while Faraday was
a brilliant experimentalist, it
took the genius of Maxwell to put
this intuitive idea onto sound
theoretical footing. Maxwell came
to the problem from the opposite

The pattern of iron lings around

a magnet would seem to suggest the
lines of force described by Faraday. In
fact they show the direction of the force
experienced by a charge at a given
point in an electromagentic eld, as
represented in Maxwell's equations.
Maxwells models The electrical and magnetic
Maxwell began to develop his components of an electromagnetic
theory of electromagnetism in a wave move through space while
Magnetic eld oscillating at right angles to each other
pair of papers published in 1855 and in phase, so that both elements
and 1856. These were an attempt reach their maximum amplitudes at
to model Faradays lines of force the same time, and constantly
geometrically in terms of the ow reinforce each other by induction.
in a (hypothetical) incompressible
uid. He had limited success and
in subsequent papers tried an
alternative approach, modeling the Electric eld
eld as a series of particles and
rotating vortices. By analogy,
Maxwell was able to demonstrate
Ampres circuital law, which relates Propagation
the electric current passing through direction
a conducting loop to the magnetic
eld around it. Maxwell also Wavelength
showed that in this model, changes
in the electromagnetic eld would
propagate at a nite (if high) speed.
Maxwell derived an approximate
value for the speed of propagation,
at about 193,060 miles/s
(310,700 km/s). This value was magnetism could affect the amount of electrical or magnetic
so suspiciously close to the speed orientation of an electromagnetic potential energy a point charge
of light as measured in numerous wave as seen in the Faraday effect. would experience at a specic
experiments that he immediately point in the electromagnetic eld.
realized that Faradays intuition Developing the equations Maxwell went on to show
about the nature of light must be Satised that the essentials of how electromagnetic waves
correct. In the nal paper of the his theory were correct, Maxwell moving at the speed of light
series, Maxwell described how set out in 1864 to put it on a arose naturally from the
sound mathematical footing. equations, apparently settling
In A Dynamical Theory of the the debate about the nature of
Electromagnetic Field, he described electromagnetism once and for all.
light as a pair of electrical and He summed up his work on the
magnetic transverse waves, subject in the 1873 Treatise on
oriented perpendicular to each Electricity and Magnetism, but,
From a long view of the history other and locked in phase in such convincing as the theory was, it
of mankindthere can be a way that changes to the electric remained unproven at the time of
little doubt that the most eld reinforce the magnetic eld, Maxwells death, since the short
signicant event of the and vice versa (the orientation of wavelength and high frequency of
19th century will be judged the electrical wave is the one that light waves made their properties
as Maxwells discovery of the normally determines the waves impossible to measure. However,
laws of electrodynamics. overall polarization). In the last eight years later, in 1887, German
Richard Feynman part of his paper, he laid out a physicist Heinrich Hertz provided
series of 20 equations that offered a the nal piece of the puzzle (and
complete mathematical description made an enormous technological
of electromagnetic phenomena in breakthrough) when he succeeded
terms of electrical and magnetic in producing a very different form
potentialsin other words, the of electromagnetic wave with low
today, but it is his set of four
elegant equations that now bear
Maxwells name.
While Maxwells work settled
many questions about the nature
Maxwells equations of electricity, magnetism, and
have had a greater impact light, it also served to highlight
on human history than outstanding mysteries. Perhaps
any ten presidents. the most signicant of these was
Carl Sagan the nature of the medium through
which electromagnetic waves
movedfor surely light waves, like
all others, required such a medium?
The quest to measure this so-called James Clerk Maxwell
luminiferous ether was to dominate
physics in the late 19th century, Born in Edinburgh, Scotland,
frequencies and long wavelengths, leading to the development of in 1831, James Clerk Maxwell
showed genius from an early
but with the same overall speed some ingenious experiments.
age, publishing a scientic
of propagationthe form of The continued failure to detect paper on geometry at 14
electromagnetism known today it created a crisis in physics that years old. Educated at the
as radio waves. would pave the way for the twin universities of Edinburgh
20th-century revolutions of and Cambridge, he became a
Heaviside weighs in quantum theory and relativity. professor at Marischal College
By the time of Hertzs discovery, in Aberdeen, Scotland, at 25
there had been one other important years old. It was there that
The Maxwell-Heaviside equations, he began his work on
development that nally produced
although couched in the abstruse
Maxwells equations in the form electromagnetism.
mathematical grammar of differential
we know today. equations, actually provide a concise Maxwell was interested in
In 1884, a British electrical description of the structure and effect many other scientic problems
engineer, mathematician, and of electrical and magnetic elds. of the age: in 1859, he was the
physicist named Oliver rst to explain the structure of
Saturns rings; between 1855
Heavisidea self-trained genius
and 1872, he did important
who had already patented the
= work on the theory of color
coaxial cable for the efcient vision, and from 1859 to 1866
transmission of electrical signals he developed a mathematical
devised a way of transforming the =
model for the distribution of
potentials of Maxwells equations particle velocities in a gas.
into vectors. These were values t A shy man, Maxwell was
that described both the value and also fond of writing poetry
the direction of the force that was = J + and remained devoutly
experienced by a charge at a given religious all his life. He
point in an electromagnetic eld. died of cancer at 48.
By describing the direction of
charges across the eld rather than Key works
simply its strength at individual
points, Heaviside reduced a dozen 1861 On Physical Lines of Force
1864 A Dynamical Theory of
of the original equations to a mere
the Electromagnetic Field
four, and in doing so made them 1872 Theory of Heat
much more useful for practical 1873 Treatise on Electricity
applications. Heavisides and Magnetism
contribution is largely forgotten


When an electric current
BRANCH is passed through a sealed Fluorescent screens
glass tube, cathode rays near the tube also glow,
Physics even when it is covered
cause part of the tube
BEFORE to glow. in black cardboard.
1838 Michael Faraday passes
an electrical current through
a partially evacuated glass
tube, producing a glowing
electric arc.
1869 Cathode rays are Some unknown type of
Invisible rays ray must have passed
observed by Johann Hittorf. are coming through the cardboard to
AFTER from the tube. make the screen glow.
1896 First clinical use of
X-rays in diagnosis, producing
an image of a bone fracture.

1896 First clinical use of ike many scientic Cathode rays
X-rays in cancer treatment. discoveries, X-rays were This arrangement of electrodes
rst observed by scientists inside a sealed container is called
1897 J. J. Thomson discovers studying something elsein this a discharge tube. By the 1860s,
that cathode rays are in case, electricity. An articially British physicist William Crookes
fact streams of electrons. produced electric arc (a glowing had developed discharge tubes
X-rays are produced when discharge jumping between two with hardly any air in them.
a stream of electrons hits a electrodes) was rst observed in German physicist Johann Hittorf
metal target. 1838 by Michael Faraday. He used these tubes to measure the
1953 Rosalind Franklin passed an electrical current electricity carrying capacity of
uses X-rays to help her to through a glass tube that had charged atoms and molecules.
determine the structure been partially evacuated of air. There was no glowing arc between
of DNA. The arc stretched from the negative the electrodes in Hittorfs tubes,
electrode (the cathode) to the but the glass tubes themselves
positive electrode (the anode). glowed. Hittorf concluded that the
See also: Michael Faraday 121 Ernest Rutherford 20613

James Watson and Francis Crick 27683

rays must have come from the laboratory notes were burned after
cathode, or negative electrode. his death, so we cannot be sure
They were named cathode rays exactly how he discovered these
by Hittorfs colleague Eugen X-rays, but he may have rst
Goldstein, but in 1897, British observed them when he noticed
physicist J. J. Thomson showed that a screen near his discharge
that they are streams of electrons. tube was glowing even though
the tube was covered in black
Discovering X-rays cardboard. Rntgen abandoned his
During his experiments, Hittorf original experiment and spent the
noticed that photographic plates next two months investigating the Wilhelm Rntgen
in the same room were becoming properties of these invisible rays,
fogged, but he did not investigate which are still called Rntgen rays Wilhelm Rntgen was born
this effect any further. Others in many countries. We now know in Germany, but lived in
the Netherlands for part of
observed similar effects, but that X-rays are a form of short-
his childhood. He studied
Wilhelm Rntgen was the rst to wavelength electromagnetic mechanical engineering
investigate their causending radiation. They have a wavelength in Zurich before becoming
that it was a ray that could pass ranging from 0.0110 nanometers a lecturer in physics at
right through many opaque (billionths of a meter). In contrast, Strasbourg University
substances. At his request, his visible light falls between the range in 1874, and a professor
of 400700 nanometers. two years later. He took
senior positions at several
Using X-rays today universities during his career.
Today, X-rays are produced by ring Rntgen studied many
a stream of electrons at a metal different areas of physics,
target. They pass through some including gases, heat transfer,
materials better than others, and and light. However, he is best
can be used to form images of the known for his research into
X-rays, and in 1901 he was
insides of the body or to detect
awarded the rst Nobel Prize
metals in closed containers. In
in Physics for this work. He
CT (computed tomography) scans, refused to limit the potential
a computer combines a series of uses of X-rays by taking out
X-ray images to form a 3D image patents, saying that his
of the inside of the body. discoveries belonged to
X-rays can also be used to form humanity, and gave away his
images of very small objects, and Nobel Prize money. Unlike
X-ray microscopes were developed in many of his contemporaries,
the 1940s. The image resolution that Rntgen used lead protective
is possible when using light shields in his work with
microscopes is limited by the radiation. He died from
wavelengths of visible light. With an unrelated cancer at
their much shorter wavelengths, 77 years old.
X-rays can be used to form images of
Key works
much smaller objects. Diffraction of
The rst X-ray image was taken by
Rntgen of his wife Annas hand. The X-rays can be used to gure out how 1895 On a New Kind of Rays
dark circle is her wedding ring. On atoms in crystals are arrangeda 1897 Additional Observations
seeing the image, Anna is said to have technique that proved crucial in on the Properties of X-rays
exclaimed: I have seen my own death. elucidating the structure of DNA.


he shaking caused by
IN CONTEXT earthquakes spreads out
There are different types in the form of seismic
of seismic wave. waves, which we can detect using
seismographs. While working for
BEFORE the Geological Survey of India
1798 Henry Cavendish between 1879 and 1903, Richard
publishes his calculations Dixon Oldham wrote a survey of an
of the density of Earth. The earthquake that struck Assam in
value is greater than the 1897. In it he made his greatest
density of the surface rocks, P waves are not contribution to plate tectonic
showing that Earth must detected at certain distances theory. Oldham noted that the
from an earthquake quake had three phases of motion,
contain denser materials.
which he took to represent three
1880 British geologist John different types of wave. Two of
Milne invents the modern these were body waves, which
seismograph. traveled through Earth. The third
type was a wave that traveled
1887 Britains Royal Society around the surface of Earth.
therefore rocks
funds 20 earthquake
inside Earth must be
observatories worldwide. deflecting the paths Wave effects
AFTER of the waves. The body waves Oldham identied
1909 Croatian seismologist are today known as P waves and
Andrija Mohorovicic identies S waves (primary and secondary
the seismic boundary between the order in which they arrive at
a seismograph). P waves are
Earths crust and the mantle.
longitudinal waves; as the wave
1926 Harold Jeffreys claims passes, rocks are moved backward
that the core of Earth is liquid. Earths core has and forward in the same direction
properties that are as the waves are traveling. S waves
1936 Inge Lehmann argues different from those
are transverse waves (like the
that Earth has a solid inner in Earths upper layers.
waves on the surface of water); the
core and a molten outer core.
rocks are moved sideways to the
direction of the wave. P waves
See also: James Hutton 96101 Nevil Maskelyne 10203 Alfred Wegener 22223

travel faster than S waves, and Focus of earthquake This model of

can travel through solids, liquids, an earthquake
S waves P waves shows seismic
or gases. S waves can travel only
through solid materials. waves passing
through Earth
and the shadow
Shadow zones zones of the
Later, Oldham studied seismograph primary (P) waves
records for many earthquakes and secondary
around the world, and noticed that (S) waves.
there was a P-wave shadow zone
extending partway around Earth
from the earthquake location. Outer
Hardly any P waves from an core

do ave
earthquake were detected in this
zone. Oldham knew that the speed

ha P-w
at which seismic waves travel

sh s

inside Earth depends on the ad d

density of the rocks. He concluded ow cte s
e Refra wave
that properties of the rocks change P
with depth, and the resulting (bent)
changes in speed cause refraction
(the waves followed curved paths). the focus of the earthquake. This not completely shadowed, since
The shadow zone is therefore indicates an Earth interior that has some P waves are detected there.
caused by a sudden change in very different properties than those In 1936, Danish seismologist Inge
the properties of rocks deep of the mantle. In 1926, American Lehmann interpreted these
within Earth. geophysicist Harold Jeffreys used P waves as reections from an
Today, we know that there is this evidence from S waves to inner, solid core. This is the model
a much larger shadow zone for suggest that Earths core is liquid, of Earth we use today: a solid inner
S waves, which extends across since S waves cannot pass through core surrounded by liquid, then the
most of the hemisphere opposite liquids. The P-wave shadow zone is mantle with crustal rocks on top.

Richard Dixon Oldham grounds in 1903 and returned to

the United Kingdom, publishing
Born in Dublin in 1858, the his ideas about Earths core in
son of the superintendent of 1906. He was awarded the Lyell
the Geological Survey of India Medal by the Geological Society
(GSI), Richard Dixon Oldham of London, and was made a The seismograph,
studied at the Royal School of Fellow of the Royal Society. recording the unfelt motion
Mines, before joining the GSI of distant earthquakes,
himself and became Key works enables us to see into
superintendent as well. the earth and determine
The GSIs main work 1899 Report of the Great its nature.
involved mapping the rock Earthquake of 12th June 1897 Richard Dixon Oldham
strata, but it also compiled 1900 On the Propagation
detailed reports on earthquakes of Earthquake Motion to
in India, and it is for this aspect Great Distances
of his work that Oldham is best 1906 The Constitution of the
known. He retired on health Interior of the Earth
MARIE CURIE (18671934)

ike many major scientic
IN CONTEXT discoveries, radiation was
found by accident. In 1896,
French physicist Henri Becquerel
was investigating phosphorescence,
BEFORE which occurs when light falls on a It was necessary at this
1895 Wilhelm Rntgen substance that then emits light of point to nd a new term
investigates the properties a different color. Becquerel wanted to dene this new property
of X-rays. to know whether phosphorescent of matter manifested by the
minerals also emitted X-rays, which elements of uranium and
1896 Henri Becquerel had been discovered by Wilhelm thorium. I proposed the
discovers that uranium salts Rntgen a year earlier. To nd out, word radioactivity.
emit penetrating radiation. he placed one of these minerals on Marie Curie
top of a photographic plate that was
1897 J. J. Thomson discovers wrapped in thick black paper and
the electron while exploring the exposed both to the Sun. The
properties of cathode rays. experiment workedthe plate
AFTER darkened; the mineral appeared
1904 Thomson proposes to have emitted X-rays. Becquerel
the plum pudding model also showed that metals would Rays produced by atoms
of the atom. block the rays that caused the Following Becquerels discovery,
plate to darken. The next day was his Polish doctoral student, Marie
1911 Ernest Rutherford cloudy so he could not repeat the Curie, decided to investigate
and Ernest Marsden experiment. He left the mineral on these new rays. Using an
propose the nuclear model a photographic plate in a drawer, electrometera device for
of the atom. but the plate still darkened, even measuring electrical currentsshe
without the sunshine. He realized found that air around a sample of a
1932 British physicist that the mineral must have an uranium-containing mineral was
James Chadwick discovers internal source of energy, which conducting electricity. The level
the neutron. turned out to be the result of the of electrical activity depended
breakdown of atoms of uranium in only on the amount of uranium
the mineral he was using. He had present, not on the total mass of the
detected radioactivity. mineral (which included elements

Marie Curie Maria Salomea Skodowska was the University of Paris, the rst
born in Warsaw in 1867. At that woman to hold this position. She
time Poland was under Russian was also the rst woman to be
rule and women were not allowed awarded a Nobel Prize, and the
into higher education. She worked rst to be awarded a second
to help nance her sisters medical Nobel. During World War I, she
studies in Paris, France, and in helped set up radiology centers.
1891 moved there herself to study She died in 1934 of anemia,
mathematics, physics, and probably caused by her long
chemistry. There, she married her exposure to radiation.
colleague, Pierre Curie, in 1895.
When her daughter was born in Key works
1897, she began teaching to help
support the family, but continued 1898 Emissions of Rays
to research with Pierre in a by Uranium and
converted shed. After Pierres Thorium Compounds
death, she accepted his chair at 1935 Radioactivity
See also: Wilhelm Rntgen 18687 Ernest Rutherford 20613 J. Robert Oppenheimer 26065

other than uranium). This led her

to the belief that the radioactivity Uranium minerals emit radiation that darkens photographic
came from the uranium atoms plates even when there is no light.
themselves, and not from any
reactions between uranium and
other elements.
Curie soon found that some
minerals that contained uranium
were more radioactive than The amount of radiation from the uranium minerals depends
only on the quantity of uranium present.
uranium itself, and wondered
whether these minerals contained
another substanceone that was
more active than uranium. By 1898,
she had identied thorium as
another radioactive element. She The radiation must therefore come from the uranium atoms.
rushed to present her ndings in
a paper to the Acadmie des
Sciences, but the discovery of
thoriums radioactive properties
had already been published.
Radiation is an atomic property
Science double of the elements.
Curie and her husband Pierre
worked together to discover the
additional radioactive elements and succeeded in isolating a pure particular element always have the
responsible for the high activity sample of radium in 1910. In 1911, same number of protons but may
of the uranium-rich minerals she was awarded the Nobel Prize in have different numbers of neutrons.
pitchblende and chalcolite. By the Chemistry, becoming the rst Atoms with different numbers of
end of 1898 they had announced person to win or share in two prizes. neutrons are called isotopes of the
the discovery of two new elements, element. For example, an atom of
which they called polonium (after New model of the atom uranium always has 92 protons in
her native country, Poland) and The Curies discovery of radiation its nucleus, but may have between
radium. They attempted to prove paved the way for the two New 140 and 146 neutrons. These
their discoveries by obtaining pure Zealand-born physicists Ernest
samples of the two elements, but it Rutherford and Ernest Marsden to
was not until 1902 that they obtained formulate their new model of the
0.003 oz (0.1 g) of radium chloride atom in 1911, but it was not until
from a metric ton of pitchblende. 1932 that English physicist James
During this time, the Curies Chadwick discovered neutrons and
published dozens of scientic the process of radiation could be
papers, including one outlining their fully explained. Neutrons and
discovery that radium could help to positively charged protons are
destroy tumors. They did not patent subatomic particles that make up
these discoveries, but in 1903, they the nucleus of an atom, which also
Marie and Pierre Curie did not have
were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize has negatively charged electrons a dedicated laboratory. Most of their
in Physics, along with Becquerel. buzzing around it. The protons and work was done in a leaking shed next
Marie continued her scientic work neutrons contribute almost all the to the University of Pariss School of
after her husbands death in 1906, mass of the atom. Atoms of a Physics and Chemistry.
Alpha decay Gamma decay larger one. Fusion also releases
energy, but the great temperatures
240 Pu 236
94 92 U and pressures required to start the
process explain why scientists
have only achieved fusion in the
form of nuclear weapons. So far,
attempts to use nuclear fusion to
generate electricity consume more
energy than is released.
2 He
Alpha particle As a radioactive material decays,
the atoms of the radioactive
Beta decay element change to other elements,
and so the number of unstable
atoms reduces with time. The
22 22 fewer unstable atoms there are, the
11 Na 10 Ne less radioactivity will be produced.
The reduction in activity of a
radioactive isotope is measured by
its half-life. This is the time it takes
for the activity to halve, which
Electron neutrino
e+ is the same as saying the time for
+ the number of unstable atoms in
Beta particle (positron)
a sample to halve. For example, the
Radioactive decay can happen in three ways. Plutonium-240 (top left) isotope technetium-99m is widely
decays to make uranium and an alpha particle. This is an example of used in medicine, and has a half-
alpha decay. During beta decay, sodium-22 decays to make neon, a beta life of 6 hours. This means that 6
particle (in this case a positron), and a neutrino. With gamma decay, a hours after a dose is injected into a
high-energy nucleus gives off gamma radiation but no particles.
patient, the activity will be half of
its original level; 12 hours after
isotopes are named after the when a proton turns into a neutron injection, the activity will be one
total number of protons and or vice versa. Alpha and beta decay quarter of the original level, and so
neutrons, so the most common both change the number of protons on. By contrast, uranium-235 has a
isotope of uranium, with 146 in the nucleus of the decaying half-life of over 700 million years.
neutrons, is written as atom so that it becomes an atom
uranium-238 (i.e. 92 + 146). of a different element. Gamma rays Radioactive dating
Many heavy elements, such are a form of high-energy short- This idea of half-life can be used
as uranium, have nuclei that wave electromagnetic radiation to date minerals or other materials.
are unstable, and this leads to and do not change the nature of Many different radioactive elements
spontaneous radioactive decay. the element. with known half-lives can be used
Rutherford named the emissions Radioactive decay is different to do this, but one of the best
from radioactive elements alpha, from the ssion process that takes known is carbon. The most
beta, and gamma rays. The nucleus place inside nuclear reactors, and common isotope of carbon is
becomes more stable by emitting the fusion process that powers the carbon-12, with 6 protons and 6
an alpha particle, a beta particle, Sun. In ssion, unstable nuclei such neutrons in each atom. Carbon-12
or gamma radiation. An alpha as uranium-235 are bombarded makes up 99 percent of the carbon
particle consists of two protons with neutrons and break up to form found on Earth, and has a stable
and two neutrons. Beta particles much smaller atoms, releasing nucleus. A tiny proportion of the
can be electrons or their opposites, energy in the process. In fusion, carbon is carbon-14, which has
positrons, emitted from the nucleus two small nuclei combine to form a two extra neutrons. This unstable
isotope has a half-life of 5,730 years. produce radon gas (a radioactive
Carbon-14 is constantly being gas produced when radium
produced in the upper atmosphere decays). This was sealed into glass
as nitrogen atoms are bombarded tubes and inserted into patients
with cosmic rays. This means bodies to kill diseased tissue.
there is a relatively constant ratio The Curie laboratory It was seen as a wonder cure,
of carbon-12 to carbon-14 in the was a cross between a stable and even marketed in beauty
atmosphere. Since photosynthesizing and a potato-cellar, and, if I treatments to help rm up aging
plants take in carbon dioxide from had not seen the worktable skin. It was only later that the
the atmosphere, and our food with the chemical apparatus, importance of using materials with
consists of plants (or animals that I would have thought it a short half-life was recognized.
have eaten plants), there is also a a practical joke. Radioactive isotopes are also
relatively constant proportion in Wilhelm Ostwald widely used in medical imaging to
plants and animals while they are diagnose disease, and in treatment
alive, even though the carbon-14 of cancer. Gamma rays are used to
is constantly decaying. When an sterilize surgical instruments, and
organism dies, no more carbon-14 even food, to increase its shelf life.
is taken into its body, while the Gamma ray emitters can be used
carbon-14 already there continues for the internal inspection of metal
to decay. By measuring the ratio of with other dating methods such objects, to detect cracks, or to
carbon-12 to carbon-14 in the body, as tree rings, and the corrections inspect the contents of cargo
scientists can gure out how long applied to objects of similar age. containers to identify contraband.
ago the organism died.
This radiometric method is used A wonder treatment
The erection of Ales stones in
to date wood, charcoal, bone, and Curie realized that radioactivity Sweden was dated to 600 CE by the
shells. There are natural variations had medicinal uses. During World radiometric dating of wooden tools
in the ratios of the carbon isotopes, War I, she used the small amount found at the site. The actual stones are
but dates can be cross-checked of radium she had extracted to hundreds of millions of years older.


IN CONTEXT Tobacco mosaic disease shows features of an infection, but

1870s and 80s Robert Koch lters that catch bacteria do not catch and remove
and others identify bacteria as the contagion, so it cannot be bacteria.
the cause of diseases such
as tuberculosis and cholera.
1886 German plant biologist
Adolf Mayer shows tobacco
Also, unlike bacteria, the infectious agent grows only
mosaic disease can be in a living host, not in laboratory gels or broths.
transferred between plants.
1892 Dmitri Ivanovsky
demonstrates that tobacco
plant sap passing through the
nest unglazed porcelain lters So the causative agent must be different and
still carries infection. even smaller, deserving a new namevirus.

1903 Ivanovsky reports

light-microscope crystal hese days, the word virus and medicine. It was suggested
inclusions in infected host is all too familiar as a in 1898 by Dutch microbiologist
cells, but suspects they are medical term, and many Martinus Beijerinck for a new
very small bacteria. people understand the idea that category of contagious disease-
viruses are just about the smallest causing agents. Beijerinck had
1935 US biochemist Wendell of the harmful agents, or germs, a special interest in plants and a
Stanley studies the structure that cause infections in humans, skilled talent for microscopy. He
of the tobacco mosaic virus, other animals, plants, and fungi. experimented with tobacco plants
and realizes that viruses are Yet at the end of the 19th that were suffering from mosaic
large chemical molecules. century, the term virus was only disease, a discoloring mottled
just making its way into science effect on the leaves that was costly
See also: Friedrich Whler 12425 Louis Pasteur 15659 Lynn Margulis 30001 Craig Venter 32425

for the tobacco industry. His results that could pass on disease. In 1892, microbiological techniques,
led him to apply the term virus Russian botanist Dmitri Ivanovsky Beijerinck gured out that they
already in occasional use for performed tests on tobacco mosaic really did exist. He insisted that
substances that were toxic or disease, showing that its infection they caused disease, propelling
poisonousto the contagious agent passed through the lters. microbiology and medical science
agents that caused the disease. He established that the agent in into a new era. It would not be
At the time, most of Beijerincks this case could not be bacteria, until 1939, with the aid of electron
contemporaries in science and but did not investigate further to microscopes, that tobacco mosaic
medicine were still grappling with discover what the agent might be. virus became the rst virus to have
understanding bacteria. Louis Beijerinck repeated Ivanovskys its photograph taken.
Pasteur and German physician experiment. He, too, established
Robert Koch had rst isolated and that even after juice pressed from
identied them as disease-causing the leaves was ltered, tobacco
in the 1870s, and more were being mosaic disease was still present.
discovered constantly. Indeed, at rst he thought that the
A common method of testing cause was the uid itself, which he
for bacteria at the time was to pass called contagium vivum uidium
liquid containing the suspected (contagious living uid). He further
contagions through various sets of demonstrated that the contagion
lters. One of the best known was carried in the uid could not be
the Chamberland lter, invented in grown in laboratory nutrient gels
1884 by Pasteurs colleague Charles or broths, nor in any host organism.
Chamberland. It used minute pores It had to infect its own specic
in unglazed porcelain to capture living host in order to multiply
particles as small as bacteria. and spread the disease.
Even though viruses could not
This electron micrograph image
Too small to lter be seen by light microscopes of shows particles of the tobacco mosaic
Several researchers had suspected the time, grown with the usual virus at 160,000x magnication.
that there was a class of infectious laboratory culture methods, or The particles have been stained
agents even tinier than bacteria detected by any of the standard to enhance their visibility.

Martinus Beijerinck Something of a recluse, Martinus as working on plant galls,

Beijerinck spent many solitary fermentation by yeasts and
hours experimenting in the other microbes, the nutrition of
laboratory. He was born in microbes, and sulfur bacteria.
Amsterdam in 1851, and studied By the end of his life, he was
chemistry and biology in Delft, internationally recognized. The
graduating in 1872 from Leiden Beijerinck Virology Prizes, set up
University. Focusing on soil and in 1965, are awarded every two
plant microbiology at Delft, he years in the eld of virology.
performed his famous ltering
experiments on the tobacco Key works
mosaic virus in the 1890s. He
also studied how plants capture 1895 On Sulphate Reduction by
nitrogen from the air and Spirillum desulfuricans
incorporate it into their tissues 1898 Concerning a contagium
a kind of natural fertilizer system vivum uidium as a Cause of the
that enriches the soilas well Spot-disease of Tobacco Leaves
1900 1945

J. J. Thomson is awarded Thomas Hunt Morgan

Max Planck describes the Nobel Prize in Physics introduces the Werner Heisenberg sets
discrete packets, or for his discovery of chromosome theory out his uncertainty
quanta, of energy. the electron. of inheritance. principle.

1900 1906 1915 1927

1905 1912 1926 1928

Albert Einstein produces Alfred Wegener Erwin Schrdinger Paul Dirac introduces
his paper on special proposes a theory of unleashes wave quantum
relativity. continental drift. mechanics. electrodynamics.

hile the 19th century black box, which had stubbornly aspects of the same phenomenon,
had seen a fundamental resisted classical equations, by capable of being converted from
change in the way imagining that electromagnetism one to the other, and his equation
scientists view life processes, traveled not in continuous describing their relationE = mc2
the rst half of the 20th would waves, but in discrete packets, hinted at an enormous potential
prove even more of a shock. The or quanta. Five years later, energy locked inside atoms.
old certainties of classical physics, Albert Einstein, a clerk working
largely unchanged since Isaac at the Swiss Patent Ofce, Waveparticle duality
Newton, were about to be thrown produced his paper on special Worse was to follow for the old
away, and nothing short of a new relativity, asserting that the picture of the universe. At
way to view space, time, and speed of light is constant and Cambridge, English physicist
matter was to replace it. By 1930, independent of the movement of J. J. Thomson discovered the
the old idea of a predictable source or observer. After working electron, showing that it has a
universe had been shattered. through the implications of general negative charge and is at least
relativity, Einstein had found by a thousand times smaller and
A new physics 1916 that notions of an absolute lighter than any atom. Studying
Physicists were nding that the time and space independent of the the properties of the electron
equations of classical mechanics observer had gone, to be replaced was to produce new puzzles.
were producing some nonsensical by a single space-time, which was Not only did light have particle-like
results. It was clear that something warped by the presence of mass properties, but particles had
was fundamentally wrong. In 1900, to produce gravity. Einstein had wavelike properties, too. Austrian
Max Planck solved the puzzle of the further demonstrated that matter Erwin Schrdinger drew up a
spectrum of radiation emitted by a and energy should be considered series of equations that described

Linus Pauling writes

The Nature of the
Georges Lematre Chemical Bond, which
Edwin Hubble nds suggests that the Konrad Lorenz uses the ideas of
that the universe universe began as a explains the basis of quantum physics to
is expanding. primeval atom. animal instinct. explain chemistry.

1929 1931 1935 1939

1930 1934 1936 1942

Subrahmanyan Fritz Zwicky Alan Turing J. Robert Oppenheimer

Chandrasekhar proposes the existence describes the Universal takes on the
describes black holes. of dark matter. Turing Machine, Manhattan Project
a programmable to develop the
computer. atomic bomb.

the probability of nding a particle Linus Pauling took this new picture universe was suddenly enormously
in a particular place and state. of an atom and used the ideas of bigger than anyone had thought.
His German colleague Werner quantum physics to explain how Hubble further found that the
Heisenberg showed that there atoms bonded to each another. In universe was expanding in all
was an inherent uncertainty to the process, he showed how the directions. Belgian priest and
the values of place and momentum, discipline of chemistry was, in physicist Georges Lematre
which was initially thought to be a reality, a subsection of physics. By proposed that the universe had
problem of measurement, but later the 1930s, physicists were working expanded from a primeval atom.
found to be fundamental to the on ways to unlock the energy in This was to become the Big Bang
structure of the universe. A strange the atom, and in the US, J. Robert theory. A further puzzle was
picture was emerging of a warped, Oppenheimer led the Manhattan uncovered when astronomer Fritz
relative space-time with particles Project, which was to produce the Zwicky coined the term dark
of matter smeared across it in the rst nuclear weapons. matter to explain why the Coma
form of probability waves. galaxy cluster appeared to contain
The universe expands 400 times as much mass (as seen
Splitting the atom Up to the 1920s, nebulae were from its gravity) as he could explain
New Zealander Ernest Rutherford thought to be clouds of gas or dust from the observable stars. Not only
rst showed that an atom is made within our own galaxy, the Milky was matter not quite what it had
mostly of space, with a small, Way, which comprised the entire been thought to be, but much of it
dense nucleus and electrons in known universe. Then American was not even directly detectable.
orbit around it. He explained astronomer Edwin Hubble It was clear that there were
certain forms of radioactivity as the discovered that these nebulae still major holes in scientic
splitting of this nucleus. Chemist were in fact distant galaxies. The understanding.


1860 The distribution of
so-called black-body radiation
fails to match predictions
made by theoretical models.

1870s Austrian physicist
Ludwig Boltzmanns analysis
of entropy (disorder) introduces
a probabilistic interpretation of
quantum mechanics.

1905 Albert Einstein proposes
that the quantum is a real
entity, using Plancks concept
of quantized light to introduce
MAX PLANCK (18581947) the idea of the photon.
1924 Louis de Broglie proves
that matter behaves both as a
particle and as a wave.
1926 Erwin Schrdinger
formulates an equation for the
wave behavior of particles.

n December 1900, the German
theoretical physicist Max
Planck presented a paper
setting out his method for resolving
a long-standing theoretical conict.
In doing so, he made one of the
most important conceptual leaps
in the history of physics. Plancks
paper marked the turning point
between the classical mechanics of
Newton and quantum mechanics.
The certainty and precision of
Newtonian mechanics was to give
way to an uncertain, probabilistic
description of the universe.
Quantum theory has its roots in
the study of thermal radiation, the
phenomenon that explains why we
feel heat from a re, even when the
See also: Ludwig Boltzmann 139 Albert Einstein 21421 Erwin Schrdinger 22633

black-body object whose emitted

spectrum is almost entirely a result
Classical mechanics treats radiation as if it were emitted across a
continuous range. of its own temperature. Studying
the distribution of a black bodys
light would show that emission of
radiation depended only on a bodys
temperature, and not its physical
shape or chemical composition.
But nonsense results are reached
for the distribution of black-body radiation, Kirchhoffs hypothesis kick-started
assuming a continuous range. a new experimental program
designed to nd a theoretical
framework that would describe
black-body radiation.

Entropy and black bodies

The problem is solved by treating radiation as if it were
produced in discrete quanta. Planck arrived at his new quantum
theory through the failure of
classical physics to explain the
experimental results of black-body
radiation distribution. Much of
Plancks work focussed on the
Radiation is not continuous, second law of thermodynamics,
but is emitted in discrete quanta of energy. which he had identied as an
absolute. This law states that
isolated systems move over time
toward a state of thermodynamic
air in between it and us is cold. reects radiation, and it is this equilibrium (meaning that all
Every object absorbs and emits reected light that gives objects parts of the system are at the same
electromagnetic radiation. If its color even when they do not glow. temperature). Planck attempted to
temperature rises, the wavelength In 1860, German physicist
of the radiation it emits decreases Gustav Kirchhoff thought of an
while its frequency increases. For idealized concept he called a
example, a lump of coal at room perfect black body. This is a
temperature emits energy below theoretical surface that, when at
the frequency of visible light, in the thermal equilibrium (not heating
infrared spectrum. We cannot see up or cooling down), absorbs every A new scientic truth
the emission, so the coal appears frequency of electromagnetic does not triumph by
black. Once we set the coal alight, radiation that falls on it, and does convincing its opponents and
however, it emits higher-frequency not itself reect any radiation. making them see the light, but
radiation, glowing a dull red as the The spectrum of thermal radiation rather becausea new
emissions break into the visible coming off this body is pure, generation grows up that is
spectrum, then white-hot and since it is not mixed with any familiar with it.
nally a brilliant blue. Extremely reectionsit will only be Max Planck
hot objects, such as stars, radiate the result of the bodys own
even shorter-wavelength ultraviolet temperature. Kirchhoff believed
light and X-rays, which again we that such black-body radiation is
cannot see. Meanwhile, in addition fundamental in naturethe Sun,
to producing radiation, a body also for example, comes close to being a
explain the thermal radiation Planck reasoned that this principle
pattern of a black body by guring should be evident in any theoretical
out the entropy of the system. black-body model.
Entropy is a measure of disorder,
though more strictly it is dened The WienPlanck Law
as a count of the number of ways By the 1890s, experiments in
a system can organize itself. The Berlin came close to Kirchhoffs
higher the entropy of a system, perfect black-body, using so-called
the more ways the system has cavity radiation. A small hole in a
of organizing and producing the box kept at a constant temperature
same overall pattern. For instance, is a good approximation of a black
imagine a room where all the body, as any radiation entering the
molecules of air start off bunched box gets trapped inside, and the No real-world object is a perfect
up in the top corner. There are far bodys emissions are purely a result black body, but the Sun, black velvet,
more ways for the molecules to of its temperature. and surfaces coated with lampblack,
such as coal tar, come close.
organize themselves so that there The experimental results proved
is roughly the same number of bothersome for Plancks colleague
them in each cubic centimeter of Wilhelm Wien, since the low- the datait could accurately
the room than there are for them all frequency emissions recorded did describe the short-wavelength
to remain in the top corner. Over not t his equations for radiation at (high-frequency) spectrum of
time, they distribute themselves all. Something had gone wrong. In thermal emission from objects, but
equally throughout the room as 1899, Planck arrived at a revised not the long-wavelength (low-
the entropy of the system rises. equationthe WienPlanck law frequency emissions). This is the
A cornerstone of the second law that attempted a better description point at which Planck broke with
of thermodynamics is that entropy of the spectrum of thermal his conservatism and resorted to
works in one direction only. radiation from a black body. Ludwig Boltzmanns probabilistic
En route to thermal equilibrium, approach to arrive at a new
the entropy of a system always Ultraviolet catastrophe expression for his radiation law.
increases or remains constant. A further challenge came a year Boltzmann had formulated a
later, when British physicists new way to look at entropy by
Lord Rayleigh and Sir James Jeans regarding a system as a large
showed how classical physics collection of independent atoms
predicts an absurd distribution and molecules. While the second
of energy in black-body emission.
The RayleighJeans Law predicted
that, as the frequency of the
radiation increased, the power it
emitted would grow exponentially.
This ultraviolet catastrophe
was so radically at odds with Science cannot solve the
experimental ndings that the ultimate mystery of nature.
classical theory must have been And that is because, in the
seriously awry. If it were correct, a last analysis, we ourselves are
lethal dose of ultraviolet radiation a part of the mystery that we
would be emitted whenever a light are trying to solve.
bulb was turned on. Max Planck
Planck was not too troubled by
A cavity with a small hole will the RayleighJeans Law. He was
trap most of the radiation that enters more concerned about the Wien
through the hole, making it a good Planck Law, which, even in its
approximation of an ideal black body. revised form, was not matching
law of thermodynamics remained The ultraviolet catastrophe was a
valid, Boltzmanns reading gave nonsense result predicted by classical
it a probabilistic, rather than an physics (shown here as the Raleigh
Jeans Law) in which black-body radiation

Radiation intensity
absolute, truth. Thus, we observe increased exponentially as its wavelength
entropy simply because it is shortened. By quantizing radiation,
overwhelmingly more likely than Planck produced a formula that t the
the alternative. A plate breaks but experimental data.

Visible light
does not remake itself, but there
is no absolute law preventing a
plate from putting itself back Rayleigh
togetherit is just exceedingly Planck Jeans Law
unlikely to happen. Radiation
Quantum of action 1000 2000 3000
Planck used Boltzmanns statistical Wavelength of radiation (nm)
interpretation of entropy to arrive at
a new expression for the radiation
law. Imagining thermal radiation as Introducing quanta of energy to come to terms with the
being produced by individual reduced the number of states of consequences of his own work.
oscillators, he needed to count the energy available to the system, While he was never in any doubt
ways in which a given energy could and in doing this (although it about the revolutionary impact
be distributed between them. wasnt his goal), Planck solved the of what he had done, he was
To do this, he divided the total ultraviolet catastrophe. He thought according to historian James
energy into a nite number of of his quanta as a mathematical Francka revolutionary against
discrete energy chunksa process necessityas a trickrather his own will. He found the
called quantization. Planck was a than something that was real. But consequences of his equations
gifted cellist and pianist and might when Albert Einstein used the not to his taste since they often
have imagined these quanta in concept to explain the photoelectric gave descriptions of physical reality
the same way that a xed number effect in 1905, he insisted that that clashed with our everyday
of harmonics is available to the quanta were a real property of light. experience of the world. But for
vibrating string of an instrument. As with many of the pioneers better or worse, after Max Planck,
The resulting equation was simple, of quantum mechanics, Planck the world of physics has never
and it t the experimental data. spent the rest of his life struggling been the same.

Max Planck Born in Kiel in northern Germany giving birth to their children.
in 1858, Planck was an able pupil During World War II, an Allied
at school and graduated early, bomb destroyed his house in
at 17. He chose to study physics at Berlin and his papers, and in the
the University of Munich, where closing stages of the war, his
he soon became a pioneer of remaining son was caught up in
quantum physics. He received the plot to assassinate Hitler
the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918 and was executed. Planck
for his discovery of energy quanta, himself died soon after the war.
although he never was able to
satisfactorily describe the Key works
phenomena as a physical reality.
Plancks personal life was 1900 Entropy and Temperature
beset by tragedy. His rst wife of Radiant Heat
died in 1909, and his eldest 1901 On the Law of Distribution
son was killed in World War I. of Energy in the Normal
Both of his twin daughters died Spectrum


he discovery at the turn theory based on his law of multiple
IN CONTEXT of the 20th century that proportions, which explained
the basic constituent of how elements (simple, uncombined
matterthe atomcould be substances) always combine in
broken into smaller fragments simple, whole-number ratios. Dalton
BEFORE was a watershed moment for saw that this meant that a chemical
c.400 BCE Greek philosopher physics. This astonishing reaction between two substances
Democritus envisages atoms breakthrough revolutionized ideas is no more than the fusing of
as solid, indestructible about how matter is constructed individual small components,
building blocks of matter. and the forces that hold it and repeated countless times. This
the universe together. It revealed was the rst modern atomic theory.
1805 John Daltons atomic an entirely new world at the
theory of matter marries subatomic levelone that required A stable science
chemical processes to physical a new physics to describe its A self-congratulatory mood was
reality and allows him to interactionsand a slew of detectable in physics at the end of
calculate atomic weights. tiny particles that lled this the 19th century. Certain eminent
innitesimally small domain. physicists made grandstanding,
1896 Nuclear radiation is Atomic theories have a long declarations to the effect that the
discovered by Henri Becquerel, history. The Greek philosopher subject was all but nishedthat
and is used to reveal the Democritus developed the ideas of the principal discoveries had all
internal structure of the atom. earlier thinkers that everything is been made and the program going
AFTER composed of atoms. The Greek forward was one of improving the
word tomos, which is credited to accuracy of known quantities to
1938 Otto Hahn, Fritz
Democritus, means indivisible and the sixth decimal place. However,
Strassman, and Lise Meitner
referred to the basic units of matter. many research physicists of the
split the atomic nucleus. Democritus thought that the time knew better. It was already
2014 Firing increasingly materials must reect the atoms clear that they were facing an
energetic particles at the they are made ofso atoms of iron entirely new and strange set of
nucleus continues to reveal are solid and strong, while those of phenomena that deed explanation.
a slew of new subatomic water are smooth and slippery. In 1896, Henri Becquerel,
particles and antiparticles. At the turn of the 19th century, following a lead from Wilhelm
English natural philosopher John Rntgens discovery of mysterious
Dalton proposed a new atomic X-rays the previous year, had

Alpha particles red

into atoms sometimes travel This means that Electrons are
straight through, sometimes are an atom must have found to have specic
deected, and sometimes a small, dense orbits around
bounce back. central nucleus. the nucleus.

Now I know So, the atom is made of

what the atom a small, massive nucleus
with electrons orbiting
looks like. it in shells.
See also: John Dalton 11213 August Kekul 16065 Wilhelm Rntgen 18687 Marie Curie 19095

Max Planck 20205 Albert Einstein 21421 Linus Pauling 25459 Murray Gell-Mann 30207

found an unexplained radiation. he demonstrated that he could J. J. Thomson is pictured here at

What were these new radiations break lumps out of atoms. While work in his Cambridge laboratory.
and where were they coming from? investigating the rays emanating Thomsons plum pudding model
of the atom was the rst to include
Becquerel correctly surmised from high-voltage cathodes the newly discovered electron.
that this radiation was emanating (negatively charged electrodes), he
from within uranium salts. found that this particular kind of
When Pierre and Marie Curie radiation was made of individual theoretically. If an atom contains
studied the decay of radium, corpuscles, since it created charged particles, why shouldnt
they discovered a constant and momentary, pointlike sparkles of the opposing particles have equal
seemingly inexhaustible source of light on hitting a phosphorescent mass? Previous atomic theories
energy inside radioactive elements. screen; it was negatively charged, held that atoms were solid lumps.
If this were the case, it would since a beam could be deected As bet their status as the most
break several fundamental laws of by an electric eld; and it was basic constituent of matter, they
physics. Whatever these radiations exceedingly light, weighing less were entire, whole, and perfect.
were, it was clear that there were than a thousandth of the lightest But when viewed in the light of
large gaps in current models. atom, hydrogen. Moreover, the Thomsons discovery, they clearly
weight of the corpuscle was the were divisible. Put together,
Discovery of the electron same, no matter which element these new radiations raised
The following year, the British was used as a source. Thomson the suspicion that science had
physicist Joseph John (J. J.) had discovered the electron. These failed to understand the vital
Thomson caused a sensation when results were totally unanticipated components of matter and energy.
The plum-pudding model Rutherford had demonstrated that
Thomsons discovery of the radioactivity involved one element
electron earned him the Nobel spontaneously changing into
Prize for Physics in 1906. He was another. Their work was to suggest
enough of a theoretician, however, new ways to probe the inside of
to see that a radical new model All science is either physics the atom and see what was there.
of the atom was needed to or stamp collecting.
adequately incorporate his Ernest Rutherford Radioactivity
ndings. His answer, produced Although radioactivity was rst
in 1904, was the plum-pudding encountered by Becquerel and
model. Atoms have no overall the Curies, it was Rutherford who
electric charge and, since the identied and named the three
mass of this new electron was different types of what we would
small, Thomson postulated that a now call nuclear radiation. These
larger positively charged sphere very different visualization of the are slow-moving, heavy, positively
contained most of the atoms mass, internal structure of the basic unit charged alpha particles; fast-
and the electrons were embedded of all elements. moving, negatively charged beta
in it like plums in the dough of At the Physical Laboratories particles; and highly energetic but
a Christmas pudding. With no at the University of Manchester, uncharged gamma radiation
evidence to suggest otherwise, Ernest Rutherford devised and (p.194). Rutherford classied these
it was sensible to assume that directed an experiment to test different forms of radiation by
the point charges, like the plums Thomsons plum-pudding model. their penetrating power, from the
in a pudding, were arbitrarily This charismatic New Zealander least-penetrating alpha particles,
distributed across the atom. was a gifted experimentalist with which are blocked by thin paper,
a keen sense of which details to to gamma rays that require a
Rutherford revolution pursue. Rutherford had received the thickness of lead to be stopped.
However, the positively charged 1908 Nobel Prize in Physics for his He was the rst to use alpha
parts of the atom steadfastly Theory of Atomic Disintegration. particles to explore the atomic
refused to reveal themselves, and The theory proposed that realm. He was also the rst to
the hunt was on to locate the the radiations emanating from outline the notion of radioactive
missing member of the atomic radioactive elements were the half-life and discover that alpha
pair. The quest resulted in a result of their atoms breaking apart. particles were helium nuclei
discovery that would produce a With the chemist Frederick Soddy, atoms stripped of their electrons.

Ernest Rutherford Brought up in rural New Zealand, Rutherford was an accomplished

Ernest Rutherford was working in administrator, too, and during
the elds when the letter from his lifetime he headed up the
J. J. Thomson arrived informing three top physics research
him of a scholarship to Cambridge laboratories. In 1907, he took
University. In 1895, he was made a the chair in physics at the
research fellow at the Cavendish University of Manchester
Laboratories, where he conducted where he discovered the atomic
experiments alongside Thomson nucleus. In 1919, he returned to
that led to the discovery of the the Cavendish as director.
electron. In 1898, at 27 years old,
Rutherford took up a professorial Key works
post at McGill University in
Montreal, Canada. It was there 1902 The Cause and Nature
that he carried out the work on of Radioactivity, I & II
radioactivity that won him the 1909 The Nature of the Particle
1908 Nobel Prize in Physics. from Radioactive Substances
Scattered microscopes and counting the tiny
particles ashes of light on the scintillation
screens. Then, acting on a hunch,
Rutherford instructed them to
position screens that would catch
any high-angle deections as
well as at the expected low-angle
Beam of
particles scintillations. With these new
Thin gold screens in place, they discovered
that some of the alpha particles
were being deected by more than
90, and others were rebounding off
the foil back the way they came.
Rutherford described the result as
like ring a 15-inch shell at tissue
paper and having it bounce back.
Circular scintillation
The nuclear atom
Halting heavy alpha particles in
Geiger and Marsden aimed alpha particles from their tracks or deecting them by
a radioactive source at an incredibly thin gold leaf.
Source of The scintillation screen could be spun around to
high angles was possible only if
particles detect particles rebounding at any given angle. the positive charge and mass of
an atom were concentrated in
small volume. In light of these
The gold foil experiment through the foil. Most of the results, in 1911, Rutherford
In 1909, Rutherford set out to probe particles would be deected only published his conception of
the structure of matter using alpha slightly by interaction with the the structure of the atom. The
particles. The previous year, along gold atoms and would be scattered Rutherford Model is a solar
with the German Hans Geiger, across shallow angles. system in miniature, with electrons
he had developed zinc sulphide Geiger and Marsden spent orbiting a small, dense, positively
scintillation screens, which long hours sat in the darkened charged nucleus. The models
enabled individual collisions of laboratory, peering down major innovation was the
alpha particles to be counted as innitesimally small nucleus,
brief bright ashes, or scintillations. which forced the uncomfortable
With the help of undergraduate conclusion that the atom is not at
student Ernest Marsden, Geiger all solid. Matter at an atomic scale
would use these screens to is mostly space, governed by
determine whether matter was energy and force. This was a
innitely divisible or whether It was quite the most denitive break from the atomic
atoms contained fundamental incredible event that has ever theories of the previous century.
building blocks. happened to me in my life. It While Thomsons plum-
They red a beam of alpha was almost as incredible as if pudding atom had been an
particles from a radium source at you red a 15-inch shell at a instant hit, Rutherfords model was
an extremely thin strip of gold leaf, piece of tissue paper and it largely ignored by the scientic
just a thousand or so atoms thick. came back and hit you. community. Its failings were all too
If, as the plum-pudding model held, Ernest Rutherford plain to see. It was well established
gold atoms consisted of a diffuse that accelerating electric charges
cloud of positive charge with emit energy as electromagnetic
pointlike negative charges, then the radiation. Thus, as electrons swoop
massive, positively charged alpha around the nucleusexperiencing
particles would plough straight circular acceleration that keeps
them in their orbitsthey now call photons. Bohr sought to
ought to be continually emitting explain the precise pattern of
electromagnetic radiation. Steadily absorption and emission of light
losing energy as they orbited, the from atoms. He suggested that
electrons would spiral inexorably each electron is conned to xed
into the nucleus. According to orbits within atomic shells, and If your experiment needs
Rutherfords model, atoms ought to that the energy levels of the orbits statistics, you ought to have
be unstable, but clearly they are not. are quantizedthat is, they can done a better experiment.
only take certain specic values. Ernest Rutherford
A quantum atom In this orbital model, the
Danish physicist Niels Bohr saved energy of any individual electron
the Rutherford model of the atom is closely related to its proximity to
from languishing in obscurity the atoms nucleus. The closer an
by applying new ideas about electron is to the nucleus, the less
quantization to matter. The energy it has, but it can be excited
quantum revolution had begun into higher energy levels by falling out of orbit into the nucleus
in 1900 when Max Planck had absorbing electromagnetic was, for electrons, impossible.
proposed the quantization of radiation of a certain wavelength. Bohrs was a purely theoretical
radiation, but the eld was still Upon absorbing light, an electron model of the atom. However, it
in its infancy in 1913it would leaps to a higher, or outer, orbit. agreed with experiment and solved
have to wait until the 1920s for a Upon attaining this higher state, many associated problems in an
formalized mathematical framework the electron will promptly drop elegant stroke. The way in which
of quantum mechanics. At the back into the lower-energy orbit, electrons would have to ll up
time Bohr was working on releasing a quantum of energy that empty shells in a strict order,
this problem, quantum theory precisely matches the energy gap getting progressively farther from
essentially consisted of no more between the two orbitals. the nucleus, matched the march
than Einsteins notion that light Bohr offered no explanation for of the properties of the elements
comes in tiny quanta (discrete what this meant or what it might seen across the periodic table as
packets of energy) that we look likehe simply stated that atomic number increases. Even

The plum-pudding model of the atom

with the electrons spread across a diffuse
nucleus was replaced by Rutherfords Electron Proton Neutron
model with electrons in orbit around
a small, dense nucleus. Bohr rened
Rutherfords model by adding
quantized orbits for the electrons.
Here, a carbon atom is illustrated.

6 protons +
6 neutrons
Plum-pudding model Rutherford model Bohr model
more convincing was the way in James Chadwick discovered the neutron by bombarding
which the theoretical energy levels beryllium with alpha particles from radioactive polonium.
of the shells neatly t actual The alpha particles knocked neutrons out of the beryllium.
Then the neutrons dislodged protons from a layer of parafn,
spectral seriesthe frequencies and these protons were detected by an ionization chamber.
of light absorbed and emitted by
different atoms. A long sought after
way to marry electromagnetism Alpha
and matter had been realized. particles Neutrons
Going inside the nucleus
Once this picture of the nuclear
atom had been accepted, the next
stage was to ask what lay inside
the nucleus. In experiments
reported in 1919, Rutherford found
that his beams of alpha particles
could generate hydrogen nuclei
from many different elements. Polonium Beryllium Parafn chamber
Hydrogen had long been
recognized as the simplest of all
the elements and thought of as positive charges crammed into a it feels no repulsion as it passes
a building block for all other tiny nucleus. Like charges repel through matter. However, with
elements, so Rutherford proposed each other, so he theorized that mass slightly greater than a proton,
that the hydrogen nucleus was in there must be another particle it can easily knock protons out
fact its own fundamental particle, that somehow dissipates the of the nucleus, something that
the proton. charge or binds the jostling protons otherwise only extremely energetic
The next development in atomic tightly together. There was also electromagnetic radiation can do.
structure was James Chadwicks extra mass in elements heavier
1932 discovery of the neutron, in than hydrogen, which could be Electron clouds
which Rutherford once again had accounted for by a third, neutral but The discovery of the neutron
a hand. Rutherford had postulated equally massive subatomic particle. completed the picture of the
the existence of the neutron in 1920 However, the neutron proved atom as a massive nucleus
as a way to compensate for the difcult to detect and it took nearly with electrons in orbit around
repulsive effect of many point-sized a decade of searching to nd it. it. New discoveries in quantum
Chadwick was working at the physics would rene our view of
Cavendish Laboratory under the electrons in orbit around a nucleus.
supervision of Rutherford. Guided Modern models of the atom feature
by his mentor, he was studying a clouds of electrons, which
new kind of radiation that had been represent only those areas in
found by the German physicists which we are most likely to nd
The difculties disappear Walther Bothe and Herbert Becker an electron, according to its
if it be assumed that the when they bombarded beryllium quantum wavefunction (p.256).
radiation consists of particles with alpha particles. The picture has been further
of mass 1 and charge 0, Chadwick duplicated the complicated by the discovery
or neutrons. Germans results and realized that neutrons and protons are
James Chadwick that this penetrating radiation was not fundamental particles, but
the neutron Rutherford had been are made of arrangements of
looking for. A neutral particle, smaller particles called quarks.
such as the neutron, is much Questions about the true structure
more penetrating than a charged of the atom are still actively
particle, such as a proton, because being researched.

BRANCH If the speed of light through a vacuum is
17th century Newtonian
physics provides a description
of gravity and motion, which
is still adequate for most And the laws of physics appear the same
to all observers
everyday calculations.
1900 Max Planck rst argues
that light can be considered to
consist of individual packets,
or quanta, of energy.
Then there can be no absolute
AFTER time or space.
1917 Einstein uses general
relativity to produce a model
of the universe. Assuming
that the universe is static,
he introduces a factor called
Observers in relative motion to each other
the cosmological constant experience space and time differently.
to prevent its theoretical
1971 Time dilation due
to general relativity is
demonstrated by ying
Special relativity shows that there
atomic clocks around the is no absolute simultaneity.
world in jet aircraft.

n the year 1905, the German of the nature of light and energy. of general relativity that presented
scientic journal Annalen der A second was an elegant proof a new and deeper understanding
Physik published four papers that a long-observed physical of gravity, space, and time.
by a single authora little-known effect called Brownian motion
26-year-old physicist named Albert could demonstrate the existence Quantizing light
Einstein, then working at the of atoms. A third showed the The rst of Einsteins 1905 papers
Swiss patent ofce. Together, these presence of an ultimate speed limit addressed a long-standing problem
papers would lay the foundations to the universe, and considered the with the photoelectric effect. This
for much of modern physics. strange effects thereof, known as phenomenon had been discovered
Einstein resolved some special relativity, while the fourth by German physicist Heinrich
fundamental problems that forever changed our understanding Hertz in 1887. It involves metal
had appeared in the scientic of the nature of matter, showing electrodes producing a ow
understanding of the physical that it was interchangeable with of electricity (that is, emitting
world toward the end of the energy. A decade later, Einstein electrons) when illuminated by
19th century. One of the papers of followed up the implications of certain wavelengths of radiation
1905 transformed understanding these latter papers with a theory typically ultraviolet light. The
See also: Christiaan Huygens 5051 Isaac Newton 6269 James Clerk Maxwell 18085 Max Planck 20205

Erwin Schrdinger 22633 Edwin Hubble 23641 Georges Lematre 24245

principle behind the emission Light photons

is fairly easily described in
modern terms (energy supplied by
the radiation is absorbed by the
outermost electrons in the metals Electrons ejected
surface atoms, allowing them to from the surface
break free). The puzzle was that the
Electrons are
same materials stubbornly refused ejected from the
to emit electrons when illuminated surface of sodium
by longer wavelengths, no matter only by certain
how intense the light source. wavelengths of
This was a problem for the light. Einstein
classical understanding of light, showed that this
which assumed that intensity, phenomenon can
be explained if light
above all, governed the amount of travels as individual
energy being delivered by a light quanta, or photons.
beam. Einsteins paper, however, No matter how many
seized on the idea of quantized of them there are, if
light recently developed by Max the photons are of the
Planck. Einstein showed that if the wrong wavelength,
they will not eject Sodium
beam of light is split into individual
light quanta (what we would
today call photons), then the energy
carried by each quantum depends bombard the surface (that is, how that visible light was just one
only on its wavelengththe shorter intense the light source is)if none manifestation of a wider spectrum
the wavelength, the higher the of them carries sufcient energy, of electromagnetic waves, all of
energy. If the photoelectric effect the electrons will not break free. which must move through the
relies on interaction between an Einsteins idea was rejected by universe at a single speed.
electron and a single photon, then it leading gures of the day, including Since light was understood
does not matter how many photons Planck, but his theory was shown to be a transverse wave, it was
to be correct by experiments assumed that it propagated
conducted by American physicist through a medium, just as water
Robert Millikan in 1919. waves travel on the surface of
a pond. The properties of this
Special relativity hypothetical substance, known as
Einsteins greatest legacy was born the luminiferous ether, would
The grand aim of all science in the third and fourth 1905 papers, give rise to the observed properties
is to cover the greatest which also involved an important of electromagnetic waves, and
number of empirical facts by reconceptualization of the true since they could not alter from
logical deduction from the nature of light. Since the late place to place, they would provide
smallest number of 19th century, physicists had an absolute standard of rest.
hypotheses or axioms. faced a crisis in their attempts to One expected consequence of
Albert Einstein understand the speed of light. Its the xed ether was that the speed
approximate value had been known of light from distant objects should
and calculated with increasing vary depending on the relative
accuracy since the 17th century, motion of source and observer.
while James Clerk Maxwells For example, the speed of light
equations had demonstrated from a distant star should vary
signicantly depending on whether packets of electromagnetic energy,
it was observed from one side of able to travel through the vacuum
Earths orbit, as our planet moved of space with particle-like
away from it at 20 miles/s (30 km/s), properties while still maintaining
or on the opposite side, when the their wavelike characteristics.
observer was moving toward it Mass and energy are both Accepting these two
at a similar speed. but different manifestations postulates, Einstein considered
Measuring Earths motion of the same thing. the consequences for the rest
through the ether became an Albert Einstein of physics, and mechanics in
obsession for late 19th-century particular. In order for the laws of
physicists. Such a measurement physics to behave in the same way
was the only way of conrming in all inertial reference frames, they
the existence of this mysterious would necessarily appear to be
substance, and yet the proof different when looking from one
remained elusive. However precise frame to another. Only relative
the measuring equipment, light head on. Special relativity, as motion mattered, and when the
always seemed to move at the his theory became known, was relative motion between two
same speed. In 1887, US physicists developed from an acceptance of separate frames of reference
Albert Michelson and Edward two simple postulatesthat light approached the speed of light
Morley devised an ingenious moves through a vacuum with a (relativistic speeds) strange
experiment to measure the xed speed that is independent things began to happen.
so-called ether wind with high of the motion of the source, and
precision, but once again found that the laws of physics should The Lorentz factor
no evidence for its existence. The appear the same to observers in Although Einsteins paper made
negative result of the Michelson- all inertial frames of reference no formal references to other
Morley experiment shook the belief that is, those not subject to external scientic publications, it did
in the ethers existence, and similar forces such as acceleration. mention the work of a handful
results from attempts to repeat it Einstein was undoubtedly helped of other contemporary scientists,
over the following decades only in accepting the rst bold postulate for Einstein was certainly not the
intensied the sense of crisis. by his previous acceptance of only person working toward an
Einsteins third 1905 paper, On the quantum nature of light unorthodox solution to the ether
the Electrodynamics of Moving conceptually, light quanta are often crisis. Perhaps the most signicant
Bodies, confronted the problem imagined as tiny self-contained of these was Dutch physicist

Albert Einstein Born in the southern German city He continued to explore the
of Ulm in 1879, Einstein had a implications of his earlier work,
somewhat bumpy secondary contributing to innovations in
education, eventually training at quantum theory. In 1933, fearing
Zurich Polytechnic to become a the rise of the Nazi party,
mathematics teacher. After failing Einstein elected not to return
to nd teaching work, he took a to Germany from a foreign tour,
job at the Swiss Patent Ofce in settling eventually at Princeton
Bern, where he had plenty of University in the United States.
spare time to develop the papers
published in 1905. He attributed Key works
his success in this work to the fact
that he had never lost his childlike 1905 On a Heuristic Viewpoint
sense of wonder. Concerning the Production and
Following the demonstration Transformation of Light
of general relativity, Einstein 1915 The Field Equations
was propelled to global stardom. of Gravitation
In Einsteins thought experiment, appears to run more slowly as
for a stationary observer at point M, measured from the observers
two lightning ashes at A and B occur reference frame.
simultaneously. However, to an observer
at point M1 on a train moving at high
speed away from A and toward B, the Illustrating relativity
ash at B occurs before the ash at A. Einstein illustrated special
relativity by asking us to consider
Near the speed of light two frames of reference in motion
relative to each other: a moving
M1 train and the embankment next
to it. Two ashes of lightning, at
points A and B, appear to occur
simultaneously to an observer
A B standing on the embankment at
a midpoint between them, M.
An observer on the train is at a
position M1 in a separate frame
of reference. When the ashes
occur, M1 may be passing right by
M. However, by the time the light
has reached the observer on the
train, the train has moved toward
point B and away from point A.
Hendrik Lorentz, whose Lorentz Lorentzs work had been coolly As Einstein puts it, the observer is
factor lay at the heart of Einsteins received, largely because it riding ahead of the beam of light
description of physics close to the could not be incorporated into coming from A. The observer on
speed of light. It is dened standard ether theories. Einstein the train concludes that lightning
mathematically as: 1 approached the problem from the strike B occurred before strike A.
other direction, showing that Einstein now insists that: Unless
the Lorentz factor arose as an we are told the reference-body to
1 v2 / c2 inevitable consequence of the which the statement of time refers,
Lorentz developed this equation to principle of special relativity and there is no meaning in a statement
describe the changes in time and reexamining the true meaning of the time of an event. Both time
length measurements required in of measured time and distance and position are relative concepts.
order to reconcile the Maxwell intervals. An important result of
equations of electromagnetism this was the realization that events Mass-energy equivalence
with the principle of relativity. that appeared simultaneous for an The last of Einsteins 1905 papers
It was crucial to Einstein since it observer in one reference frame was called Does the Inertia of a
provided a term for transforming were not necessarily so for Body Depend on its Energy
results as seen by one observer to someone in a different reference Content? Its three brief pages
show what they look like to another frame (a phenomenon known as expanded on an idea touched on in
observer who is in motion relative the relativity of simultaneity). the previous paperthat the mass
to the rst observer. In the term Einstein also showed how from of a body is a measure of its energy.
quoted above, v is the speed of one the point of view of a distant Here, Einstein demonstrated that
observer compared to the other, observer, the length of moving if a body radiates away a certain
and c is the speed of light. In most objects in their direction of travel amount of energy (E) in the form
situations, v will be very small became compressed as they of electromagnetic radiation, its
compared to c, so v2 /c2 will be close approached the speed of light, in mass will diminish by an amount
to zero, and the Lorentz factor accordance with a simple equation equivalent to E/c2. This equation
close to 1, meaning that it makes governed by the Lorentz factor. is easily rewritten to show that the
almost no difference to calculations. Even more strangely, time itself energy of a stationary particle
within a particular reference frame Over the next few years, many a person standing in a sealed
is given by the equation E = mc2. scientists reached the conclusion elevator in empty space. The
This principle of mass-energy that special relativity offered a elevator is being accelerated in one
equivalence was to become a better description of the universe direction by a rocket. The person
keystone of 20th-century science, than the discredited ether theory, feels a force pushing up from the
with applications that range from and devised experiments that oor, and pushes back against the
cosmology to nuclear physics. demonstrated relativistic effects oor with equal and opposite force
in action. Meanwhile, Einstein following Newtons Third Law.
Gravitation elds was already moving on to a new Einstein realized that the person in
Although Einsteins papers in challenge, extending the principles the elevator would feel exactly as
that annus mirabilis seemed too that he had now established in they would if they were standing
obscure at rst to make much order to consider noninertial still in a gravitational eld.
impression beyond the rareed situationsthose involving In an elevator undergoing
world of physics, it propelled him acceleration and deceleration. constant acceleration, a beam of
to fame within that community. As early as 1907, Einstein had light red at an angle perpendicular
hit upon the idea that a situation to the acceleration would be
of free fall under the inuence deected onto a curved path, and
of gravity is equal to an inertial Einstein reasoned that the same
situationthe equivalence would occur in a gravitational eld.
Our experience of
gravity is equivalent to principle. In 1911, he realized that It was this effect of gravity on
that of being inside a a stationary frame of reference lightknown as gravitational
constantly accelerating inuenced by a gravitational eld lensingthat would rst
frame of reference. is equivalent to one undergoing demonstrate general relativity.
constant acceleration. Einstein Einstein considered what this
illustrated this idea by imagining said about the nature of gravity.

Real location Apparent

Real light of the star location of
The acceleration can
trajectory the star
be explained by a
distortion in the
space-time manifold.

Apparent light
If objects with mass
distort space-time, Sun
this explains their
gravitational attraction.

According to general relativity,

mass creates a gravitational well in
General relativity space-time. The idea can be visualized Observer
explains gravity as by representing three-dimensional space
as a two-dimensional plane. The gravitational
a distortion in the well of a massive object such as the Sun
space-time manifold. causes light to be deected onto a curved path,
altering the apparent position of distant stars to
an observeran effect called gravitational lensing.
Arthur Eddingtons photographs of
a solar eclipse in 1919 provided the rst
evidence for general relativity. Stars
around the Sun appeared out of place,
just as Einstein had predicted.

In particular, he predicted that

relativistic effects such as time
dilation should occur in strong
gravitational elds. The closer a
clock is to a source of gravitation,
the more slowly it will tick. This
effect remained purely theoretical
for many years, but has now been
conrmed using atomic clocks.

Space-time manifold
Meanwhile, also in 1907, Einsteins
former tutor Hermann Minkowski
had hit upon another important
part of the puzzle. Considering the
effective trade-offs between
the dimensions of space and time
involved in special relativity, he
developed the idea of combining
the three dimensions of space to solve a long-standing mystery a few months after the end of the
with one of time in a space-time the way in which Mercurys closest war, Eddington led an expedition
manifold. In Minkowskis approa