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A scientist is someone who conducts scientific research to advance knowledge in an area of interest. [1] [2]

Scientific method mathematical and experimental techniques employed in the natural sciences; more specifically, techniques used in the construction and testing of scientific hypotheses

The scientific method is an empirical method of acquiring knowledge that has characterized the development of science since at least the 17th century. It involves careful observation, applying rigorous skepticism about what is observed, given that cognitive assumptions can distort how one interprets the observation. It involves formulating hypotheses, via induction, based on such observations; experimental and measurement-based testing of deductions drawn from the hypotheses; and refinement of the hypotheses based on the experimental findings. These are principles of the scientific method, as distinguished from a definitive series of steps applicable to all scientific enterprises.

Branches of science field or discipline of science

The branches of science, also referred to as sciences, "scientific fields", or "scientific disciplines," are commonly divided into three major groups:


In classical antiquity, there was no real ancient analog of a modern scientist. Instead, philosophers engaged in the philosophical study of nature called natural philosophy, a precursor of natural science. [3] It was not until the 19th century that the term scientist came into regular use after it was coined by the theologian, philosopher, and historian of science William Whewell in 1833. [4] [5] The term 'scientist' was first coined by him for Mary Somerville, partly because the term "man of science", more custom at that time, was clearly inappropriate here. [6]

Classical antiquity Age of the ancient Greeks and the Romans

Classical antiquity is the period of cultural history between the 8th century BC and the 5th or 6th century AD centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome known as the Greco-Roman world. It is the period in which Greek and Roman society flourished and wielded great influence throughout Europe, North Africa and Western Asia.

Philosopher person with an extensive knowledge of philosophy

A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy, which involves rational inquiry into areas that are outside either theology or science. The term "philosopher" comes from the Ancient Greek, φιλόσοφος (philosophos), meaning "lover of wisdom". The coining of the term has been attributed to the Greek thinker Pythagoras.

Natural philosophy ancient philosophical study of nature and physical universe that was dominant before the development of modern science. It is considered to be the precursor of natural science

Natural philosophy or philosophy of nature was the philosophical study of nature and the physical universe that was dominant before the development of modern science. It is considered to be the precursor of natural science.

In modern times, many scientists have advanced degrees [7] in an area of science and pursue careers in various sectors of the economy such as academia, industry, government, and nonprofit environments. [8] [9] [10]

A terminal degree is a university degree that can signify one of two outcomes. In some cases, it is the highest degree that can be awarded in a specific academic or professional track. In other cases, it is a degree that is awarded when a candidate completes a certain amount of coursework but does not go on to doctoral work. Some students enroll in a terminal Master's program with the goal of preparing to enter a PhD program. For certain professions and research grants it means the lowest degree to be considered qualified.

Science systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge

Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.

An academy is an institution of secondary education, higher learning, research, or honorary membership. Academia is the worldwide group composed of professors and researchers at institutes of higher learning.


"No one in the history of civilization has shaped our understanding of science and natural philosophy more than the great Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle (384-322 BC), who exerted a profound and pervasive influence for more than two thousand years" --Gary B. Ferngren Aristotle Altemps Inv8575.jpg
"No one in the history of civilization has shaped our understanding of science and natural philosophy more than the great Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle (384-322 BC), who exerted a profound and pervasive influence for more than two thousand years" —Gary B. Ferngren
Alessandro Volta, the inventor of the electrical battery and discoverer of methane, is widely regarded as one of the greatest scientists in history. Volta A.jpg
Alessandro Volta, the inventor of the electrical battery and discoverer of methane, is widely regarded as one of the greatest scientists in history.
Francesco Redi, referred to as the "father of modern parasitology", is the founder of experimental biology. Francesco Redi.jpg
Francesco Redi, referred to as the "father of modern parasitology", is the founder of experimental biology.
Physicist Albert Einstein developed the general theory of relativity and made many substantial contributions to physics. Albert Einstein photo 1921.jpg
Physicist Albert Einstein developed the general theory of relativity and made many substantial contributions to physics.
Physicist Enrico Fermi is credited with the creation of the world's first atomic bomb and nuclear reactor. Enrico Fermi 1943-49.jpg
Physicist Enrico Fermi is credited with the creation of the world's first atomic bomb and nuclear reactor.
Atomic physicist Niels Bohr made fundamental contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum theory. Niels Bohr.jpg
Atomic physicist Niels Bohr made fundamental contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum theory.
Marine Biologist Rachel Carson launched the 20th century environmental movement. Rachel-Carson.jpg
Marine Biologist Rachel Carson launched the 20th century environmental movement.

The roles of "scientists", and their predecessors before the emergence of modern scientific disciplines, have evolved considerably over time. Scientists of different eras (and before them, natural philosophers, mathematicians, natural historians, natural theologians, engineers, and others who contributed to the development of science) have had widely different places in society, and the social norms, ethical values, and epistemic virtues associated with scientists—and expected of them—have changed over time as well. Accordingly, many different historical figures can be identified as early scientists, depending on which characteristics of modern science are taken to be essential.

Some historians point to the Scientific Revolution that began in 16th century as the period when science in a recognizably modern form developed. It wasn't until the 19th century that sufficient socioeconomic changes occurred for scientists to emerge as a major profession. [12]

The Scientific Revolution was a series of events that marked the emergence of modern science during the early modern period, when developments in mathematics, physics, astronomy, biology and chemistry transformed the views of society about nature. The Scientific Revolution took place in Europe towards the end of the Renaissance period and continued through the late 18th century, influencing the intellectual social movement known as the Enlightenment. While its dates are debated, the publication in 1543 of Nicolaus Copernicus's De revolutionibus orbium coelestium is often cited as marking the beginning of the Scientific Revolution.

Classical antiquity

Knowledge about nature in classical antiquity was pursued by many kinds of scholars. Greek contributions to science—including works of geometry and mathematical astronomy, early accounts of biological processes and catalogs of plants and animals, and theories of knowledge and learning—were produced by philosophers and physicians, as well as practitioners of various trades. These roles, and their associations with scientific knowledge, spread with the Roman Empire and, with the spread of Christianity, became closely linked to religious institutions in most of European countries. Astrology and astronomy became an important area of knowledge, and the role of astronomer/astrologer developed with the support of political and religious patronage. By the time of the medieval university system, knowledge was divided into the trivium —philosophy, including natural philosophy—and the quadrivium —mathematics, including astronomy. Hence, the medieval analogs of scientists were often either philosophers or mathematicians. Knowledge of plants and animals was broadly the province of physicians.

History of science in classical antiquity aspect of history

The history of science in classical antiquity encompasses both those inquiries into the workings of the universe aimed at such practical goals as establishing a reliable calendar or determining how to cure a variety of illnesses and those abstract investigations known as natural philosophy. The ancient peoples who are considered the first scientists may have thought of themselves as natural philosophers, as practitioners of a skilled profession, or as followers of a religious tradition. The encyclopedic works of Aristotle, Archimedes, Hippocrates, Galen, Ptolemy, Euclid, and others spread throughout the world. These works and the important commentaries on them were the wellspring of science.

Ancient Greece Civilization belonging to an early period of Greek history

Ancient Greece was a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Roughly three centuries after the Late Bronze Age collapse of Mycenaean Greece, Greek urban poleis began to form in the 8th century BC, ushering in the Archaic period and colonization of the Mediterranean Basin. This was followed by the period of Classical Greece, an era that began with the Greco-Persian Wars, lasting from the 5th to 4th centuries BC. Due to the conquests by Alexander the Great of Macedon, Hellenistic civilization flourished from Central Asia to the western end of the Mediterranean Sea. The Hellenistic period came to an end with the conquests and annexations of the eastern Mediterranean world by the Roman Republic, which established the Roman province of Macedonia in Roman Greece, and later the province of Achaea during the Roman Empire.

Physician professional who practices medicine

A physician, medical practitioner, medical doctor, or simply doctor is a professional who practises medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining, or restoring health through the study, diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of disease, injury, and other physical and mental impairments. Physicians may focus their practice on certain disease categories, types of patients and methods of treatment—known as specialities—or they may assume responsibility for the provision of continuing and comprehensive medical care to individuals, families, and communities—known as general practice. Medical practice properly requires both a detailed knowledge of the academic disciplines underlying diseases and their treatment—the science of medicine—and also a decent competence in its applied practice—the art or craft of medicine.

Middle Ages

Science in medieval Islam generated some new modes of developing natural knowledge, although still within the bounds of existing social roles such as philosopher and mathematician. Many proto-scientists from the Islamic Golden Age are considered polymaths, in part because of the lack of anything corresponding to modern scientific disciplines. Many of these early polymaths were also religious priests and theologians: for example, Alhazen and al-Biruni were mutakallimiin; the physician Avicenna was a hafiz; the physician Ibn al-Nafis was a hafiz, muhaddith and ulema; the botanist Otto Brunfels was a theologian and historian of Protestantism; the astronomer and physician Nicolaus Copernicus was a priest. During the Italian Renaissance scientists like Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei and Gerolamo Cardano have been considered as the most recognizable polymaths.


During the Renaissance, Italians made substantial contributions in science. Leonardo Da Vinci made significant discoveries in paleontology and anatomy. The Father of modern Science, [13] [14] Galileo Galilei, made key improvements on the thermometer and telescope which allowed him to observe and clearly describe the solar system. Descartes was not only a pioneer of analytic geometry but formulated a theory of mechanics [15] and advanced ideas about the origins of animal movement and perception. Vision interested the physicists Young and Helmholtz, who also studied optics, hearing and music. Newton extended Descartes' mathematics by inventing calculus (contemporaneously with Leibniz). He provided a comprehensive formulation of classical mechanics and investigated light and optics. Fourier founded a new branch of mathematics — infinite, periodic series — studied heat flow and infrared radiation, and discovered the greenhouse effect. Girolamo Cardano, Blaise Pascal Pierre de Fermat, Von Neumann, Turing, Khinchin, Markov and Wiener, all mathematicians, made major contributions to science and probability theory, including the ideas behind computers, and some of the foundations of statistical mechanics and quantum mechanics. Many mathematically inclined scientists, including Galileo, were also musicians.

There are many compelling stories in medicine and biology, such as the development of ideas about the circulation of blood from Galen to Harvey.

Age of Enlightenment

During the age of Enlightenment, Luigi Galvani, the pioneer of the bioelectromagnetics, discovered the animal electricity. He discovered that a charge applied to the spinal cord of a frog could generate muscular spasms throughout its body. Charges could make frog legs jump even if the legs were no longer attached to a frog. While cutting a frog leg, Galvani's steel scalpel touched a brass hook that was holding the leg in place. The leg twitched. Further experiments confirmed this effect, and Galvani was convinced that he was seeing the effects of what he called animal electricity, the life force within the muscles of the frog. At the University of Pavia, Galvani's colleague Alessandro Volta was able to reproduce the results, but was sceptical of Galvani's explanation. [16]

Lazzaro Spallanzani is one of the most influential figures in experimental physiology and the natural sciences. His investigations have exerted a lasting influence on the medical sciences. He made important contributions to the experimental study of bodily functions and animal reproduction. [17]

Francesco Redi discovered that microorganisms can cause disease.

19th century

Until the late 19th or early 20th century, scientists were still referred to as "natural philosophers" or "men of science". [18] [19] [20] [21]

English philosopher and historian of science William Whewell coined the term scientist in 1833, and it first appeared in print in Whewell's anonymous 1834 review of Mary Somerville's On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences published in the Quarterly Review . [22] Whewell's suggestion of the term was partly satirical, a response to changing conceptions of science itself in which natural knowledge was increasingly seen as distinct from other forms of knowledge. Whewell wrote of "an increasing proclivity of separation and dismemberment" in the sciences; while highly specific terms proliferated—chemist, mathematician, naturalist—the broad term "philosopher" was no longer satisfactory to group together those who pursued science, without the caveats of "natural" or "experimental" philosopher. Members of the British Association for the Advancement of Science had been complaining about the lack of a good term at recent meetings, Whewell reported in his review; alluding to himself, he noted that "some ingenious gentleman proposed that, by analogy with artist, they might form [the word] scientist, and added that there could be no scruple in making free with this term since we already have such words as economist , and atheist —but this was not generally palatable". [23]

Whewell proposed the word again more seriously (and not anonymously) in his 1840 [24] "The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences:

As we cannot use physician for a cultivator of physics, I have called him a physicist. We need very much a name to describe a cultivator of science in general. I should incline to call him a Scientist. Thus we might say, that as an Artist is a Musician, Painter, or Poet, a Scientist is a Mathematician, Physicist, or Naturalist.

He also proposed the term physicist at the same time, as a counterpart to the French word physicien. Neither term gained wide acceptance until decades later; scientist became a common term in the late 19th century in the United States and around the turn of the 20th century in Great Britain. [22] [25] [26] By the twentieth century, the modern notion of science as a special brand of information about the world, practiced by a distinct group and pursued through a unique method, was essentially in place.

20th century

Ramón y Cajal won the Nobel Prize in 1906 for his remarkable observations in neuroanatomy.

Marie Curie became the first female to win the Nobel Prize and the first person to win it twice. Her efforts led to the development of nuclear energy and Radio therapy for the treatment of cancer. In 1922, she was appointed a member of the International Commission on Intellectual Co-operation by the Council of the League of Nations. She campaigned for scientist's right to patent their discoveries and inventions. She also campaigned for free access to international scientific literature and for internationally recognized scientific symbols.


As a profession, the scientist of today is widely recognized.


In modern times, many professional scientists are trained in an academic setting (e.g., universities and research institutes), mostly at the level of graduate schools. Upon completion, they would normally attain an academic degree, with the highest degree being a doctorate such as a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), [7] Doctor of Medicine (MD), Doctor of Engineering (DEng), or even a dual doctoral degree (e.g., MD, PhD). Although graduate education for scientists varies among institutions and countries, some common training requirements include specializing in an area of interest, [27] publishing research findings in peer-reviewed scientific journals [28] and presenting them at scientific conferences, [29] giving lectures or teaching, [29] and defending a thesis (or dissertation) during an oral examination. [7] To aid them in this endeavor, graduate students often work under the guidance of a mentor, usually a senior scientist, which may continue after the completion of their doctorates whereby they work as postdoctoral researchers. [30]


After the completion of their training, many scientists pursue careers in a variety of work settings and conditions. [8] In 2017, the British scientific journal Nature published the results of a large-scale survey of more than 5,700 doctoral students worldwide, asking them which sectors of the economy that would like to work in. A little over half of the respondents wanted to pursue a career in academia, with smaller proportions hoping to work in industry, government, and nonprofit environments. [9] [10]

Scientists are motivated to work in several ways. Many have a desire to understand why the world is as we see it and how it came to be. They exhibit a strong curiosity about reality. Other motivations are recognition by their peers and prestige. The Nobel Prize, a widely regarded prestigious award, [31] is awarded annually to those who have achieved scientific advances in the fields of medicine, physics, chemistry, and economics. Some scientists have a desire to apply scientific knowledge for the benefit of people's health, the nations, the world, nature, or industries (academic scientist and industrial scientist). Scientists tend to be less motivated by direct financial reward for their work than other careers. As a result, scientific researchers often accept lower average salaries when compared with many other professions which require a similar amount of training and qualification. [32]

Research interests

Scientists include experimentalists who mainly perform experiments to test hypotheses, and theoreticians who mainly develop models to explain existing data and predict new results. There is a continuum between two activities and the division between them is not clear-cut, with many scientists performing both tasks.

Those considering science as a career often look to the frontiers. These include cosmology and biology, especially molecular biology and the human genome project. Other areas of active research include the exploration of matter at the scale of elementary particles as described by high-energy physics, and materials science, which seeks to discover and design new materials. Although there have been remarkable discoveries with regard to brain function and neurotransmitters, the nature of the mind and human thought still remains unknown.

By specialization

Natural science

Physical science
Life science

Social science

Formal science



By employer


By country

The number of scientists is vastly different from country to country. For instance, there are only four full-time scientists per 10,000 workers in India while this number is 79 for the United Kingdom and the United States. [33]

Scientists per 10,000 workers for selected countries [33]

United States

According to the United States National Science Foundation 4.7 million people with science degrees worked in the United States in 2015, across all disciplines and employment sectors. The figure included twice as many men as women. Of that total, 17% worked in academia, that is, at universities and undergraduate institutions, and men held 53% of those positions. 5% of scientists worked for the federal government and about 3.5% were self-employed. Of the latter two groups, two-thirds were men. 59% of US scientists were employed in industry or business, and another 6% worked in non-profit positions. [34]

By gender

Scientist and engineering statistics are usually intertwined, but they indicate that women enter the field far less than men, though this gap is narrowing. The number of science and engineering doctorates awarded to women rose from a mere 7 percent in 1970 to 34 percent in 1985 and in engineering alone the numbers of bachelor's degrees awarded to women rose from only 385 in 1975 to more than 11000 in 1985. [35] [ clarification needed ]

See also

Related lists

Related Research Articles

History of physics aspect of history

Physics is the fundamental branch of science. The primary objects of study are matter and energy. Physics is, in one sense, the oldest and most basic academic pursuit; its discoveries find applications throughout the natural sciences, since matter and energy are the basic constituents of the natural world. The other sciences are generally more limited in their scope and may be considered branches that have split off from physics to become sciences in their own right. Physics today may be divided loosely into classical physics and modern physics.

Physicist scientist who does research in physics

A physicist is a scientist who specializes in the field of physics, which encompasses the interactions of matter and energy at all length and time scales in the physical universe. Physicists generally are interested in the root or ultimate causes of phenomena, and usually frame their understanding in mathematical terms. Physicists work across a wide range of research fields, spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic and particle physics, through biological physics, to cosmological length scales encompassing the universe as a whole. The field generally includes two types of physicists: experimental physicists who specialize in the observation of physical phenomena and the analysis of experiments, and theoretical physicists who specialize in mathematical modeling of physical systems to rationalize, explain and predict natural phenomena. Physicists can apply their knowledge towards solving practical problems or to developing new technologies.

Various aspects of the relationship between religion and science have been cited by modern historians of science and religion, philosophers, theologians, scientists, and others from various geographical regions and cultures. Even though the ancient and medieval worlds did not have conceptions resembling the modern understandings of "science" and "religion", certain elements of these modern ideas are found throughout history. It was in the 19th century when the phrases "religion and science" or "science and religion" first emerged in literature. This coincided with the refining of "science", from the studies of "natural philosophy", and "religion" as distinct concepts in the last few centuries partly due to professionalization of the sciences, the Protestant Reformation, colonization, and globalization. Since then, many have characterized the relationship as either conflict, harmony, complexity, or mutual independence.

Natural science branch of science about the natural world

Natural science is a branch of science concerned with the description, prediction, and understanding of natural phenomena, based on empirical evidence from observation and experimentation. Mechanisms such as peer review and repeatability of findings are used to try to ensure the validity of scientific advances.

Luigi Galvani Italian physician, physicist, and philosopher

Luigi Aloisio Galvani was an Italian physician, physicist, biologist and philosopher, who discovered animal electricity. He is recognized as the pioneer of bioelectromagnetics. In 1780, he discovered that the muscles of dead frogs' legs twitched when struck by an electrical spark. This was one of the first forays into the study of bioelectricity, a field that still studies the electrical patterns and signals from tissues such as the nerves and muscles.

Lazzaro Spallanzani Italian priest, biologist and physiologist

Lazzaro Spallanzani was an Italian Catholic priest, biologist and physiologist who made important contributions to the experimental study of bodily functions, animal reproduction, and animal echolocation. His research of biogenesis paved the way for the downfall of preformationism theory, though the final death blow to preformationism was dealt by Pasteur.

William Whewell English philosopher & historian of science

William Whewell was an English polymath, scientist, Anglican priest, philosopher, theologian, and historian of science. He was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. In his time as a student there, he achieved distinction in both poetry and mathematics.

Accademia dei Lincei academy of sciences

The Accademia dei Lincei is an Italian science academy, located at the Palazzo Corsini on the Via della Lungara in Rome, Italy.

The scientific community is a diverse network of interacting scientists. It includes many "sub-communities" working on particular scientific fields, and within particular institutions; interdisciplinary and cross-institutional activities are also significant. Objectivity is expected to be achieved by the scientific method. Peer review, through discussion and debate within journals and conferences, assists in this objectivity by maintaining the quality of research methodology and interpretation of results.

The sociology and philosophy of science, as well as the entire field of science studies, have in the 20th century been occupied with the question of large-scale patterns and trends in the development of science, and asking questions about how science "works" both in a philosophical and practical sense.

The history of scientific method considers changes in the methodology of scientific inquiry, as distinct from the history of science itself. The development of rules for scientific reasoning has not been straightforward; scientific method has been the subject of intense and recurring debate throughout the history of science, and eminent natural philosophers and scientists have argued for the primacy of one or another approach to establishing scientific knowledge. Despite the disagreements about approaches, scientific method has advanced in definite steps. Rationalist explanations of nature, including atomism, appeared both in ancient Greece in the thought of Leucippus and Democritus, and in ancient India, in the Nyaya, Vaisesika and Buddhist schools, while Charvaka materialism rejected inference as a source of knowledge in favour of an empiricism that was always subject to doubt. Aristotle pioneered scientific method in ancient Greece alongside his empirical biology and his work on logic, rejecting a purely deductive framework in favour of generalisations made from observations of nature.

This timeline of the history of scientific method shows an overview of the cultural inventions that have contributed to the development of the scientific method. For a detailed account, see History of the scientific method.

Science and technology in Italy overview of science and technology in Italy

Science and technology in Italy has a long presence, from the Roman era and the Renaissance. Through the centuries, Italy has advanced the scientific community which produced many significant inventions and discoveries in biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, astronomy and the other sciences.

An index list of articles about the philosophy of science.

Christianity and science views of science within Christianity

Most sources of knowledge available to early Christians were connected to pagan world-views. There were various opinions on how Christianity should regard pagan learning, which included its ideas about nature. For instance, among early Christian teachers, Tertullian held a generally negative opinion of Greek philosophy, while Origen regarded it much more favorably and required his students to read nearly every work available to them.


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External articles

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