Division Between Ancient and Modern Science

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Division Between Ancient and Modern Science

Introduction

Power has played a significant role in the motivation of scientific progress, specifically in comparing modern science and ancient science. Power-seekers have been greatly attracted to scientific pursuits, seeking monetary, life-giving or glory-earning ends. In ancient science "the lure of health, wealth, and eternal life charmed many an alchemist to the poorhouse, madness, or an untimely death" (Coudert 35), while modern society itself has embraced scientific development with a similar fervor.

Amidst many similarities, the rift between ancient and modern science is enormous and has frequently left historians puzzled. Although it is clear to historians that the stagnant science of ancient times developed into the modern scientific pursuit in the 17th century, it is not clear what specifically caused this revolution of scientific thought.

This essay will discuss differences in motives which have driven ancient and modern science, arguing that 17th century alterations of power structures led to the ultimate division between modern and ancient science and the eruption of modern science as it is today. Comparisons will be drawn regarding knowledge accessibility, prevailing philosophies and ideologies, and the relationship between science and the church.

Knowledge Accessibility: ancient secrets vs. modern community knowledge

To begin, a major shift in scientific thinking arrived with the dawn of the printing press and the new-found accessibility of knowledge. "Alchemy was from its origins a secret art;" (Roberts 66) secrecy was an absolute necessity in early science when a powerful recipe or method had been discovered, as such knowledge was a valuable commodit...

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Read, John. Through Alchemy to Chemistry: A Procession of Ideas & Personalities. London: G. Bell, 1957.

Roberts, Gareth. The Mirror of Alchemy: Alchemical Ideas and Images in Manuscripts and Books: From Antiquity to the Seventeenth Century. Buffalo: U. of Toronto, 1994.

Yearly, Steven. Science, Technology, and Social Change. Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1988.

Works Consulted:

Sazlberg, Hugh W. From Caveman to Chemist: Circumstances and Achievements. Washington, D.C.: American Chemical Society, 1991.

Sirvin, Nathan. Chinese Alchemy: Preliminary Studies. Cambridge: Harvard, 1968.

Thorndike, Lynn. History of Magic & Experimental Science. Vol. 1 New York: Colombia, 1964.

Waite, Arthur E. Alchemists Through the Ages. Blauvelt, N.Y.: Rudolf Steiner, 1970.

Wilson, David A. Alchemy: Creating Gold From Base Metal. Black Mountain, N.C.: Lorien House, 1988.

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