How Scientific Advancements Have Changed the World

Andria Emerson, Elizabeth Friedl
  • Author
    Andria Emerson

    Andria Emerson has taught high school science for over 17 years. She has a M.S from Grand Canyon University in Educational Leadership and Administration, M.S from Grand Canyon University in Adult Education and Distance Learning, and a B.S from the University of Arizona in Molecular and Cellular Biology.

  • Instructor
    Elizabeth Friedl

    Elizabeth, a Licensed Massage Therapist, has a Master's in Zoology from North Carolina State, one in GIS from Florida State University, and a Bachelor's in Biology from Eastern Michigan University. She has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

Understand how science is changing society. Learn how scientific knowledge influenced society. Explore different scientific discoveries that changed the world. Updated: 07/30/2022

Table of Contents


How is Science Changing?

The word science comes from the Latin for knowledge. Science can be thought of as a collection of knowledge and processes. This knowledge encompasses what has been discovered and understood, as well as the process and collection of new knowledge. The goal of science is to pursue knowledge and understanding of how things in the universe work. This includes understanding of both natural and social processes.

Evolution of Science

Since the beginning of time, humans have been trying to understand how things work or behave. The Greek people are credited with being the first people to develop theories about their observations. A theory is an idea or set of principles that are well-substantiated and accepted to be true. Pythagoras, Aristotle, and Plato all developed logical methods of observing the natural world.

The development of science since the early Greeks has continued to develop in all different areas of the world. The middle ages, also referred to as the medieval period, saw growth in universities. The appearance of these universities in the 13th century allowed scientific work being conducted all over the world to be brought together. Science started to move towards processes utilizing the scientific method. The scientific method is a set of processes used to gather knowledge about the world. Struggles between religion and culture played a role in the development of science during this time.

Zacharius Janssen invented the microscope in the 16th century. The evolution of science boomed in the 17th century. Instruments such as the telescope, microscope, clock, and barometer were developed and used to understand the world. These developments all led scientists to critically examine the world and how it worked. During this time, blood cells and bacteria were observed. Scientific laws regarding gravity and the understanding of how pressure, volume, and temperatures of a gas are related also occurred.

In the 18th century, biology and chemistry were born. The first smallpox inoculation was given in 1701. In the 19th century, John Dalton developed the atomic theory of matter, Michael Faraday and James Maxwell contributed important findings on electricity and magnetism and Charles Darwin proposed his theory of evolution.

The 19th and 20th centuries were a time for great advancements in medicine.

During the 19th century:

  • Vaccines for anthrax, rabies, typhoid fever, and Bubonic plague were developed
  • First successful transfusion of human blood
  • Anesthesia was used for the first time
  • Aspirin was developed

During the 20th century:

  • Insulin was used to treat diabetes
  • Many vaccines were developed (diphtheria, whooping cough, tuberculosis, polio, measles, mumps, tetanus, and others)
  • Penicillin was discovered
  • The cardiac pacemaker was developed
  • First kidney and heart transplants occurred
  • HIV identified
  • Dolly the sheep was cloned and the first test-tube baby was born

Fields of Science

There are many different fields of science including psychology, chemistry, biology, and sociology. Below are some of the major advancements that have occurred in these fields of science.

Psychology: the study of how the human mind functions and affects behavior

  • Greeks utilized psychology
  • Psychology emerged as a separate discipline in the 1800s
  • 17th century - Rene Descartes introduced the idea that mind and body interact to form experiences
  • 1873: Wilhelm Wundt outlined connections between physiology and human thought and behavior
  • 1879: first psychology lab opened
  • 1896: functionalism developed and Sigmund Freud introduced psychoanalysis;
  • 1897: the emergence of behaviorism (Ivan Pavlov's classical conditioning)
  • The late 20th century was marked by humanistic thought of psychology and the emergence of cognitive psychology

Sigmund Freud introduced psychoanalysis in 1896.

Sigmund Freud

Chemistry: the study of science that examines the properties, composition, and structure of substances

  • 1000 BC technologies were used to extract metals, make pottery, ferment beer and wine, extract medicine from plants
  • 400 BC: Democritus introduced the idea of an atom in his atomic theory
  • 1661: Robert Boyle described the relationship between pressure, volume, and air
  • 1774: John Priestly discovered oxygen
  • 1789: Antoine Lavoisier introduced the law of conservation of mass
  • 1803: John Dalton proposed the law of definite proportions
  • 1859 and 1860: Bunsen burner and spectroscope were developed
  • 1897: J.J Thompson identified electrons
  • 1913: Niels Bohr introduced quantum mechanics
  • 1917: Ernest Rutherford discover proton
  • 1932: James Chadwick discovered the neutron

The Bohr model shows electrons orbiting in fixed paths around a positively charged center. Niels Bohr proposed the Bohr model in 1661, which explained how electrons orbit a positively charged nucleus of an atom.

Bohr model

Biology: the study of living organisms

  • 200,000 BC: Evidence shows Assyrian and Babylonians cultivated plants, dabbled in veterinarian medicine, and understood the basics of sexual reproduction in plants
  • 5-4th BC: Aristotle considered the founder of biology and asked the question ''What is life''?
  • 1662: Robert Hooke saw cells through a microscope
  • 1693: Anton Van Leeuwenhoek observed bacteria
  • 1735: Carlos Linnaeus developed the modern description of life
  • 1800; Karl Burdach coined the term ''biology''
  • 1838: Matthias Schleiden proposes plants are made of cells
  • 1838: Theodor Schwann proposes animals tissues are made of cells
  • 1859: Charles Darwin proposed his theory of evolution
  • 1909: Wilhelm Johannsen coins the word ''gene''
  • 1927: Alexander Fleming discover penicillin
  • 1953: Watson and Crick proposed the structure of DNA
  • 1996: Dolly the sheep was cloned

Charles Darwin proposed his theory of evolution in 1858.

Charles Darwin

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is science open to change?

Science is open to change. Humans have been using science since the beginning of time. Since then, new ideas and methods have continued to be developed.

How has science improved over the years?

Science has improved over the years in many ways. Advancements in technology including the development of the microscope, scales, and a better understanding of the physical world have helped science improve through the years.

How is science changing the world?

Science has changed the world and made an impact on medical fields, food and agriculture, social sciences, and communications. Each of these areas have seen advancements that have improved life.

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