Although there are various answers regarding defining the modern science and its beginning, based on different historical interpretations, the characteristics of modern science remain similar regardless of the historical timelines. The earliest dates for the birth of modern science range from the High Middle Ages in 1277 through the 17th century. Some historians cite a second scientific revolution to have occurred in the early 20th century with the advent of quantum physics.
As opposed to medieval science, which hailed theology and metaphysics as the pinnacle of scientific knowledge, modern science only references natural objects which can be perceived by the five senses or can be perceived with the aid of instruments. As a result, methods of observation have also led to developing branches of science that deal only with theoretical components, such as quantum physics and some parts of astronomy. Once facts have been observed, tested and retested, scientists try to arrange their observations in the format of expressions referred to as scientific laws. Observations which cannot yet be tested and proven on a consistent basis are referred to as scientific theory.
The scientific method is another important component of modern science, as it describes the objective basis for testing and communicating results from scientific investigations. Using the scientific method, a scientist will form an educated guess regarding the outcome of a process or experiment and then use various tests, which isolate one or more variables, in order to obtain an objective and certifiable outcome. If the hypothesis does not match up with the conclusion of the experiment, then the hypothesis must be modified to meet the outcomes.
A strong emphasis on mathematics over philosophy, symbols and attitudes is another hallmark characteristic of modern science that goes hand-in-hand with observability and the scientific method. For example, in the Middle Ages, until the time of Galileo Galilei, the Earth was thought to be the center of the universe because of the attitude and symbolic importance of humans being at the center of everything and its religious implications, which were expounded upon by the church. However, Galileo's use of math sparked one of the foundations of modern science in that it replaced philosophy and speculation with objective observation. Isaac Newton, one of the fathers of modern science, further solidified the importance of mathematics in theorizing that the entire universe could be explained through the use of mathematical models.
Two Types of Science
Modern science can be divided into two different branches, which are known as applied science and pure science. Pure science describes the science of discovery. Applied science describes the process of developing new technology and products for consumers and often results from the experiments and theories of pure science. While both branches of science utilize the powers of observation, the scientific method and mathematics, pure science is more concerned with expanding and testing the existing body of scientific knowledge while applied science seeks to put that knowledge to use.
About the Author
David McGuffin is a writer from Asheville, N.C. and began writing professionally in 2009. He has Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of North Carolina, Asheville and Montreat College in history and music, and a Bachelor of Science in outdoor education. McGuffin is recognized as an Undergraduate Research Scholar for publishing original research on postmodern music theory and analysis.