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Origin of Experimental Science

Origin of Experimental Science

The earliest scientists started the use of science laboratory as far back as the 17th century.  The scientists of that time blamed the low output on the method of conducting science. Galen’s writing on physiology contained examples of experimental investigation, Robert Crosseteble in the University of Padua, Italy in the 16th century also discussed the precursors of hypothetico-deductive method but Gehlea (1564 – 1643) was the first to employ the modern scientific method in physics and astronomy.  Francis Bacon (1561 – 1620) was perhaps the first in the 17th century to formulate steps to account for the scientific method.  Descartes (1569 – 1650) discussed on method based on mathematical reasoning and deduction was also published after Bacon’s book (Abimbola, 1994).  The emphasis on method of teaching science paid off when several discoveries and inventions were made from the 176th century.

By the mid-19th century, the British writers and philosophers had articulated a view of science as an inductive process.  They behave that scientists should not only engage in observation of nature but should also draw conclusion from these facts and theories. Well-established inductive methods soon led to discoveries of laws and theories. The problem that persisted was then that scientists and teachers made little efforts to teach students about the new methods.  Lecturers in schools emphasized the contents of the material while the science laboratory was not yet accepted as part of higher education.  For example, when Benjamin Siliman set up the first chemistry laboratory at Yale in 1847, he paid rent to the College for the use of the building and bought equipment at his own expense (National Academy of Sciences, 2015). 

But during the 1880s things started changing on the use of the science laboratories.  Example is the John Hopkins University that established itself as a research institution with students’ laboratories.  Other leading colleges and universities soon followed by creating student science laboratories. The primary goal of these laboratories was to prepare students for higher science education in college and university laboratories.

As demand for secondary school teachers trained in laboratory method grew, colleges and universities began offering summer laboratory courses for teachers. There was influx of teachers to college and the universities.  but some educator started calling for a high school physics curriculum with more personal and social relevance to students, while others argued that science teaching could be improved by providing more historical perspectives, and high schools begin to reduce the number of laboratory exercises.  However, a balance has to be made between laboratory exercises and the content.

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