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"A late but fruitful marriage": Grammar works
Verfasst von Oliver Kuna am 01.01.2001
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"Nature," wrote Shakespeare's brilliant contemporary, Sir Francis Bacon, "cannot be conquered except by obeying." He thus summed up the basic principle of man's technologies from earliest times: only as we learn the "laws" by which nature works can we make nature work for us.
Dimly at first, nature's laws began to reveal themselves to human minds as clever individuals learn through trial and error to manipulate their physical surroundings. Rapid friction on dry wood can make fire. An edible seed, put in the ground and watered, becomes a plant bearing thousands of seeds. Some kinds of rock, sufficiently heated, yield metals for swords, plows and ornaments. Wet clay, shaped, dried and fired, makes a durable container.
From such scattered, often superficial discoveries of the ways of nature were born the technologies (Greek techne, craft) by which early societies lived, fought and improved and adorned their lives. From their early agricultural-urban settlements, in river valleys all the way from Egypt to northern China, came the invention of writing and the countless technical crafts - along with the arts of government, administration and, tragically, war - by which human civilization encompassed the world.
Among the finest fruits of early civilization was the beginning of science (eventuell) (Latin scientia, knowledge). Entirely apart from the technical crafts, it was pursued mainly by inquiring individuals of the leisure class. A famous example is the Greek philosopher Archimedes (third century BC), who discovered that water is displaced by solids in proportion to their weight. Some observations of this kind could be verified by demonstration; others could not. The theories of the great philosopher Aristotle (fourth century BC) about the material universe held sway in Europe all through the Middle Ages, but were limited by what the naked eye could see, and were wrong on many counts. The day of the disciplined collection of data and the controlled, repeatable experiment - procedures at the heart of the scientific method - did not arrive until the 17th century. By then, the streams of technology and science were both being quickened by a combination of historical forces: wider intellectual freedom; the invention of printing, the telescope and the microscope; the astonishing discoveries of Columbus and other explorers; and the rise of powerful nation-states and business corporations, each able to raise the money to apply technical advances to large projects. Thus the way was prepared for one of the most fruitful marriages of all time, that between science and technology.
An important influence in this marriage was Sir Francis Bacon. "The real and legitimate goal of science," he wrote, "is the endowment of human life with new inventions and riches." He also insisted that science be based on direct, painstaking observation of nature. From his influence, and that of such early experimenters as Sir William Harvey (circulation of the blood) and William Gilbert (magnetism), the Royal Society of London emerged in 1660. Similar scientific associations sprang up on the European continent. Rapid exploitation of new inventions, notably the steam engine, in the 18th and 19th centuries made possible that explosive expansion of economic life called the industrial revolution.
Technology was powerfully stimulated by a century of relative peace in Europe from 1815 to 1914. A further stimulus came from the vast opportunities of the American frontier and from the founding of the land-grant colleges after the Civil War, dedicated by statute to "agriculture and the mechanic arts." In the 20th century major industrial firms and many universities established research laboratories, supplanting free-lance geniuses like Thomas A. Edison and the Wright brothers. Increasingly also, government has promoted science and technology for both military and economic purposes. [...]
The marriage of science and technology has its difficult moments. The scientist is intent on extending the boundaries of the known by probing the unknown. His seeming indifference to practical issues can be frustrating to politicians and administrators impatient to save the lives of cancer patients or produce cheaper energy. Yet only because of the discoveries resulting from tedious years of basic research have specialists in applied research and engineering been able to bring forth such revolutionary advances as penicillin, lasers, microcircuits and superconducting metals. Basic science knows no borders. Its discoveries are quickly made known to the world scientific community, and thence to the public, through scientific journals. This is less true of technology, the flow of which can be held back by governmental curbs on technologies classified as militarily sensitive or by private companies protecting their "intellectual property" through patents or commercial secrets. Despite such limits, private business is by far the largest channel for the international flow of technology.