How Did Natural Philosophy Become Science?


Vincent White

Natural philosophy, also known as the “philosophy of nature,” was a term used to describe the study of the natural world before the term “science” came into existence. In this article, we will explore how natural philosophy evolved into science over time and how it has impacted our understanding of the world around us.

The Roots of Natural Philosophy

The origins of natural philosophy can be traced back to ancient Greece where philosophers like Aristotle and Plato began exploring questions about the natural world. They were interested in understanding phenomena such as why objects fall to the ground and why there are different types of animals.

These early philosophers did not have access to modern scientific tools like microscopes or telescopes, but they used observation and reasoning to develop theories about how nature worked.

The Emergence of Science

Over time, natural philosophy evolved into what we now know as science. This transformation occurred during the Scientific Revolution, which took place between the 16th and 18th centuries.

During this period, scientists began using a more empirical approach to studying nature. They developed new instruments like microscopes and telescopes that allowed them to observe phenomena that were previously invisible.

Scientists also began conducting experiments to test their hypotheses. For example, Galileo Galilei performed experiments with falling objects that helped him develop his laws of motion.

The Role of Mathematics

Another key factor in the development of science was the use of mathematics. Scientists began using mathematics to express their ideas in a more precise way. This allowed them to make predictions about future observations and test their theories more rigorously.

One famous example is Isaac Newton’s development of calculus, which he used to explain his laws of motion and theory of gravity. By using mathematics, scientists could make predictions that could be tested against real-world observations.

The Impact on Society

The emergence of science had a profound impact on society. It led to the development of new technologies that transformed daily life, such as the steam engine and the telegraph.

Science also helped us understand the natural world in a more systematic way. For example, scientists discovered that infectious diseases were caused by microorganisms, which led to the development of vaccines and antibiotics.


In conclusion, natural philosophy evolved into science through a combination of observation, experimentation, and the use of mathematics. This transformation had a significant impact on society and our understanding of the natural world. Today, science continues to advance and push the boundaries of what we know about nature.