The Scientific Method/History of Scientific Thought
Some of the earliest science was a combination of practical wisdom, basic arithmetic, observations, and mysticism. Many early civilizations used supernaturalism to explain natural phenomena, which helps to explain why these early civilizations had such a broad and varied mythos. Every new phenomena required the creation of a new god, goddess, spirit, or demon for explanation.
The sun was not a burning sphere in space, but instead it was the god Apollo on a burning, flying chariot. Desert mirages were not an optical and psychological occurrence, it was a trick played by an evil jinn. Natural disasters represented the wrath of an angered deity.
Greece and Rome
The rise of Greece and Rome created an environment where philosophical minds could consider the natural world more readily and easily than was possible in previous times. The philosophical tradition began with Thales of Melitus, who posited that the world was made of water. While it's obvious to us now that the world is not made of water, it does give insight into the conceptual framework that the earliest scientists had. It is clear that world is not immutable, that is that it changes over time. Water is also known to take multiple forms of ice (solid) and vapor (gas).
After Thales, there were a long line of scientific thinkers: Anaximenes (who held that the world was made of air, not water), Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Democritus and Euclid. Aristotle, one of the last great Greek philosophers was said to know all of science by the time he died.
After the fall of the Roman empire, Europe descended into a period known as the dark ages. Religious oppression and oppression by feudal lords led to a sharp decline in scientific thought. then no one knows!!
The renaissance, or the "rebirth" was a period where great thinkers challenged the power of the church, and opened up the way for science to grow once again. Much of science at the beginning of the renaissance was centered around observational science, such as astronomy (with Galileo, Copernicus, and Kepler). However, Mathematics was going through a rebirth of it's own, and many great thinkers were beginning formalize mathematical tools and apply them to physical problems. Rene Descartes, a preeminent philosopher, scientist and mathematician created the first version of the scientific method, and employed it to study various subjects in science and philosophy.
Best known of this period, although certainly not the only great thinker was Isaac Newton, who used the new mathematics of Calculus to unify the study of physics and astronomy.
The industrial revolution was a time when machines were used to a much greater extent then they had ever been. Many processes were automated through the use of mechanical machines, and many great inventions, including the steam engine, were created. It was during this time that many great scientists began to study electricity and magnetism, effects that were poorly understood and not explained by the theories of newton.
While the world of the industrial revolution was about mechanics and machines, the modern world has been dominated by the study and application of electricity. Starting with the equations of Maxwell, many great thinkers such as Heaviside, Edison, Tesla, and Hertz began to invent new technologies that we still use today: Telephones, Electrical power distribution, and electrical communications. With the advent of the vacuum tube and silicone transistor, the computer revolution has pushed science and technology further and faster than it has ever been.