The Scientific Method

Which process has steps that include asking a question, creating a hypothesis, experimenting, analyzing, and drawing a conclusion?

And the answer: the scientific method.

Frontispiece to Thomas Sprat, The History of the Royal-Society of London, etching by Winceslaus Hollar, after John Evelyn, 1667. Courtesy of Kahn Academy. 

The scientific method is a way of learning about the world around us, without relying on assumptions. Used across many different fields, the process starts with a question and an observation, and then a hypothesis about what the answer might be, followed by testing and experimenting, and then a conclusion.

The scientific method was born many centuries ago, following a period of relative cultural and scientific instability. From 500 to 1000 A.D., there was a decline in power of the Roman empire and virtual disappearance of urban life in the western world. During this time, little scientific advancements were made. It wasn’t until the Renaissance of the 12th century that philosophers and scientists began to reimagine older works and theories. As European scholars became exposed to knowledge and cultures cultivated in the Islamic world and other regions beyond their boundaries, they became reacquainted with the works of ancient scholars like Aristotle, Ptolemy and Euclid. This provided a common platform and vocabulary on which to build an extended scientific community that could share ideas and inspire creative problem-solving.

Francis Bacon was the first to formalize the scientific method, but not solely on his own accord. The work of Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) and Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) influenced Bacon tremendously. Later, Isaac Newton (1642-1727) did much to send the efforts forward by his advancements in mathematics. As a result, modern science began its slow but steady progression to what we know today.

Learn more about the scientific method below.

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