chapter  1
61 Pages

The Shapes of Nature: Beginnings of Scientific Thought

The process of gaining knowledge about our world and the skies above was an integral part of every culture. For Western science, there was a crucial juncture in the development of thought: a transition from gathering knowledge about nature to gaining a genuine understanding. Many historians of science hold that the first such turning point took place within the Greek culture. Human thought rose to a new level when Greek philosophers, starting around 650 BC, began to look for rational explanations for natural events in the world around us. As with most cultures, Greeks had varied supernatural explanations for the daily motion of the sun, for monthly changes in the shape of the moon, or for terrifying lightning and thunder in a storm. Mystical accounts mingled with colourful myths about invisible gods in faraway places – on tops of mountains, beneath the earth, or in the heavens.