Newton is frequently seen as the founder of Western science. Was he the first person to explicitly articulate the scientific method?

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    $\begingroup$ Frequently see by whom? I've never read that. $\endgroup$
    – user207421
    Oct 10 '16 at 20:36
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    $\begingroup$ Newton is not seen as the founder of Western science by many. Modern physics, yes, although he shares the crown with Galileo, but Archimedes and Hipparchus are seen as doing Western science almost two millenia before Newton. $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    Oct 10 '16 at 20:41
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    $\begingroup$ the scientific method? no such thing. $\endgroup$
    – mobileink
    Oct 22 '16 at 22:50

NO. See at least :

Note : "scientific method" is a vague concept: it is a "recipe" with various ingredients: observation, experiments, hypotheses, mathematization.

Observations, for example, are as old as mankind: for Europe, they date back at least to Ancient Greece : see Presocratic Philosophy.

The peculiar mixture of the ingredients is an Early Modern invention: we can find it fully mature into Newton's works, but Newton relies heavily on Galileo and Descartes.


Usually Francis Bacon (1561-1626) is credited with "articulating the scientific method" in general, and not only "first in Europe", but just the first.

  • $\begingroup$ see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method#History $\endgroup$ Oct 10 '16 at 14:26
  • $\begingroup$ @PeterMasiar - in this way, scientific method existed "from the beginning" and we loose any benefit from using the locution in order to understand what is peculiar aboit science. Have you ever tried to read Parmenides poem ? See here for text and translation; if you really think that it can be "similar" to Newton's Principia... $\endgroup$ Oct 10 '16 at 14:39
  • $\begingroup$ What does not "fit well" about Bacon - IMO - is that he was a "big theorist" (and rethorist) of new science, but he was not a scientist at all. There is not a single statement in his works with "scientific value" : nor math, nor experiments,... nothing at all. But his role was paramount indeed. $\endgroup$ Oct 10 '16 at 14:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Mauro ALLEGRANZA: yes you are right. He was a philosopher, not a scientist. But the question was "articulating the scientific method", and this he did, indeed. Some scientists of that time, like Kepler and Galileo and others practiced the method, without thinking much about general formulation. $\endgroup$ Oct 10 '16 at 20:09
  • $\begingroup$ Partially agreed ... "the method" is not what we can find in the philosophical treatises about method but what is "practiced" in the paradigmatic works, like Newton's Principia. $\endgroup$ Oct 11 '16 at 5:53

No not in Europe. But scientific method has its roots in the Islamic World. The origins of the scientific method hearken back to the Islamic World, not the Western one. Around 250 years before Roger Bacon expounded on the need for experimental confirmation of his findings, an Arab scientist named Ibn al-Haytham was saying the exact same thing. He not only was a precursor of the scientific method (both theoretically and in practice), but he was well-known in Europe (as Alhazen or Alhacen) since the Middle Ages and influenced many European thinkers such as Bacon himself, Galileo, Kepler, Descartes and others. In other words, he was not an isolated antecedent, but an influential precursor.


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