Science Research Paper Topics

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Science Research Paper TopicsSee our thematic list of science research paper topics. The English word science derives from the Latin scire, “to know.” In many languages, the word science or its equivalents can be used broadly to mean “a systematic body of knowledge that guides our relations with the world.” This is the sense that is present in phrases such as “the social sciences.” There have existed many different knowledge systems of this type. All animals with brains have, and make use of, structured knowledge of the external world, so in principle we could claim that even animals depend on some form of science. The following list of science research paper topics is divided into 16 categories:

  1. Acoustics
  2. Agriculture
  3. Anatomy
  4. Astrophysics
  5. Biochemistry
  6. Biology
  7. Botany
  8. Chemistry
  9. Ecology
  10. Engineering
  11. Genetics
  12. Geology
  13. Mathematics
  14. Organic Chemistry
  15. Paleontology
  16. Physics

An essay on the history of science follows the thematic list of science research paper topics for your further inspiration.

Acoustics Research Paper Topics

Acoustics is the science that deals with the production, transmission, and reception of sound. The first scientist to study sound scientifically was German physicist Ernst Florens Friedrich Chladni (1756–1827). Chladni was an amateur musician who became interested in finding mathematical equations to describe musical sounds. Because of his work, he is often called the father of acoustics. Acoustics research paper topics include:

  1. Diffraction
  2. Echolocation
  3. Magnetic recording
  4. Sonar
  5. Ultrasonics

Agriculture Research Paper Topics

The development of agriculture—the raising of crops and animals for food—has been fundamental to the development of civilization. Farming brought about the settlement of farm communities, which grew into towns and city-states. Farming also made possible sedentary (settled) lifestyles, which in turn led to increased technological development. As growing populations demand an ever-increasing food supply, the need for agricultural advances continues to this day. Agriculture research paper topics include:

  1. Agrochemical
  2. Aquaculture
  3. Cotton
  4. Crops
  5. DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane)
  6. Drift net
  7. Forestry
  8. Organic farming
  9. Slash-and-burn agriculture
  10. Soil

Anatomy Research Paper Topics

Anatomy is a branch of biology that deals with the structure of plants and animals. Comparative anatomy is a related field in which the structures of different animals are studied and compared. There are three main areas of anatomy: gross anatomy deals with organs and organ groupings called systems that are visible to the naked eye; cytology is the study of cell structure; and histology examines the structure of tissues. Microscopes are used in both cytology and histology to study cell and tissue structures. Anatomy research paper topics include:

  1. Blood
  2. Brain
  3. Cholesterol
  4. Chromosome
  5. Circulatory system
  6. Digestive system
  7. Ear
  8. Endocrine system
  9. Excretory system
  10. Eye
  11. Heart
  12. Immune system
  13. Integumentary system
  14. Lymphatic system
  15. Muscular system
  16. Nervous system
  17. Physiology
  18. Reproductive system
  19. Respiratory system
  20. Skeletal system

Astrophysics Research Paper Topics

Astrophysics uses the already understood theories of physics (the study of matter and energy) to describe astronomical (universal) phenomena or events. Astrophysicists try to understand the processes that cause our universe and everything in it to behave the way it does. Astrophysics research paper topics include:

  1. Archaeoastronomy
  2. Asteroid
  3. Big bang theory
  4. Binary star
  5. Black hole
  6. Brown dwarf
  7. Celestial mechanics
  8. Comet
  9. Constellation
  10. Dark matter
  11. Extrasolar planet
  12. Galaxy
  13. Infrared astronomy
  14. Light-year
  15. Meteor and meteorite
  16. Neutron star
  17. Nova
  18. Orbit
  19. Quasar
  20. Radio astronomy
  21. Red giant
  22. Redshift
  23. Solar system
  24. Starburst galaxy
  25. Star cluster
  26. Stellar magnetic fields
  27. Supernova
  28. Ultraviolet astronomy
  29. White dwarf
  30. X-ray astronomy

Biochemistry Research Paper Topics

Biochemistry is the science dealing with the chemical nature of the bodily processes that occur in all living things. It is the study of how plants, animals, and microbes function at the level of molecules. Biochemistry research paper topics include:

  1. Amino acid
  2. Carbohydrate
  3. Cholesterol
  4. Fermentation
  5. Hormones
  6. Lipids
  7. Nucleic acid
  8. Osmosis
  9. Proteins
  10. Vitamin

Biology Research Paper Topics

Biology (from the Greek bios, meaning “life”) is the scientific study of all forms of life, including plants, animals, and microorganisms. Biology is composed of many fields, including microbiology, the study of microscopic organisms such as viruses and bacteria; cytology, the study of cells; embryology, the study of development; genetics, the study of heredity; biochemistry, the study of the chemical structures in living things; morphology, the study of the anatomy of plants and animals; taxonomy, the identification, naming, and classification of organisms; and physiology, the study of how organic systems function and respond to stimulation. Biology often interacts with other sciences, such as psychology. For example, animal behaviorists would need to understand the biological nature of the animal they are studying in order to evaluate a particular animal’s behavior. Biology research paper topics include:

  1. Adaptation
  2. Antibody and antigen
  3. Arachnids
  4. Bacteria
  5. Biodiversity
  6. Biome
  7. Biophysics
  8. Biosphere
  9. Carcinogen
  10. Cellulose
  11. Coelacanth
  12. Cryobiology
  13. Disease
  14. Ear
  15. Enzyme
  16. Eutrophication
  17. Evolution
  18. Fertilization
  19. Fungi
  20. Genetics
  21. Hibernation
  22. Hormones
  23. Indicator species
  24. Leaf
  25. Lipids
  26. Lymphatic system
  27. Metabolism
  28. Metamorphosis
  29. Molecular biology
  30. Mutation
  31. Parasites
  32. Photosynthesis
  33. Plague
  34. Plankton
  35. Protozoa
  36. Reproduction
  37. Respiration
  38. Rh factor
  39. Sponges
  40. Virus

Botany Research Paper Topics

Botany is a branch of biology that deals with plant life. It is the study of the structure and the vital processes of plants, including photosynthesis, respiration, and plant nutrition. Among the plants studied are flowering plants, trees, shrubs, and vines. Specialized areas within the field of botany include the study of mosses, algae, lichens, ferns, and fungi. Botany research paper topics include:

  1. Cellulose
  2. Cotton
  3. Flower
  4. Forests
  5. Horticulture
  6. Leaf
  7. Photosynthesis
  8. Plant
  9. Seed
  10. Trees

Chemistry Research Paper Topics

Chemistry is the study of the composition of matter and the changes that take place in that composition. If you place a bar of iron outside your window, the iron will soon begin to rust. If you pour vinegar on baking soda, the mixture fizzes. If you hold a sugar cube over a flame, the sugar begins to turn brown and give off steam. The goal of chemistry is to understand the composition of substances such as iron, vinegar, baking soda, and sugar and to understand what happens during the changes described here. Chemistry research paper topics include:

  1. Acids and bases
  2. Actinides
  3. Alcohols
  4. Alkali metals
  5. Aluminum family
  6. Atom
  7. Atomic mass
  8. Biochemistry
  9. Carbon family
  10. Catalyst and catalysis
  11. Chemical bond
  12. Colloid
  13. Compound, chemical
  14. Cyclamate
  15. Diffusion
  16. Dyes and pigments
  17. Electrolysis
  18. Element, chemical
  19. Equation, chemical
  20. Explosives
  21. Filtration
  22. Formula, chemical
  23. Halogens
  24. Hydrogen
  25. Industrial minerals
  26. Ionization
  27. Lanthanides
  28. Molecule
  29. Nitrogen family
  30. Oxidation-reduction reaction
  31. Oxygen family
  32. Ozone
  33. Periodic table
  34. pH
  35. Plastics
  36. Poisons and toxins
  37. Polymer
  38. Reaction, chemical
  39. Solution
  40. Transition elements

Ecology Research Paper Topics

Ecology is the study of the relationships of organisms with their living and nonliving environment. No organism exists entirely independently of other living and nonliving things around it. A cactus in the middle of the desert, for example, draws nourishment from the air and from the ground. It depends on sunlight for energy needed to grow. The cactus may be home to birds, lizards, and microscopic animals. Even relationships that seem to be stark and simple as that of the cactus with its surroundings involve complex ties that form the subject matter of ecology. Ecology research paper topics include:

  1. Acid rain
  2. Alternative energy sources
  3. Biodegradable
  4. Biodiversity
  5. Bioenergy
  6. Biome
  7. Biosphere
  8. Carbon cycle
  9. Composting
  10. Drought
  11. Ecosystem
  12. Endangered species
  13. Environmental ethics
  14. Erosion
  15. Eutrophication
  16. Food web and food chain
  17. Gaia hypothesis
  18. Greenhouse effect
  19. Hydrologic cycle
  20. Indicator species
  21. Nitrogen cycle
  22. Oil spills
  23. Organic farming
  24. Paleoecology
  25. Pollution
  26. Pollution control
  27. Rain forest
  28. Recycling
  29. Succession
  30. Waste management

Engineering Research Paper Topics

Engineering is the art of applying science, mathematics, and creativity to solve technological problems. The accomplishments of engineering can be seen in nearly every aspect of our daily lives, from transportation to communications to entertainment to health care. Engineering follows a three-step process: analyzing a problem, designing a solution for that problem, and transforming that design solution into physical reality. Engineering research paper topics include:

  1. Aerodynamics
  2. Aircraft
  3. Antenna
  4. Automation
  5. Automobile
  6. Battery
  7. Bridges
  8. Canal
  9. Cathode
  10. Compact disc
  11. Dam
  12. Diesel engine
  13. Diode
  14. Electric arc
  15. Electric current
  16. Electric motor
  17. Electricity
  18. Electrocardiogram
  19. Electromagnetic field
  20. Electromagnetic induction
  21. Electronics
  22. Fluorescent light
  23. Generator
  24. Incandescent light
  25. Integrated circuit
  26. Internal-combustion engine
  27. Jet engine
  28. LED (light-emitting diode)
  29. Magnetic recording
  30. Mass production
  31. Radar
  32. Radio
  33. Steam engine
  34. Submarine
  35. Superconductor
  36. Telephone
  37. Television
  38. Transformer
  39. Transistor
  40. Video recording

Genetics Research Paper Topics

Genetics is the branch of biology concerned with the science of heredity. The term heredity refers to the way in which specific characteristics are transmitted from one generation to the next. For example, we know that a tall mother and a tall father tend to have children that are tall. Geneticists (scientists who study genetics) are interested in finding out two things about this observation. First, what is there in the cells of a person’s body that directs the body to become tall rather than short. Second, how are the directions for “tallness” transmitted from parent to offspring, from one generation to the next? Genetics research paper topics include:

  1. Biotechnology
  2. Birth defects
  3. Cancer
  4. Chromosome
  5. Clone and cloning
  6. Genetic disorders
  7. Genetic engineering
  8. Human Genome Project
  9. Mendelian laws of inheritance
  10. Mutation

Geology Research Paper Topics

Geology is the scientific study of Earth. Geologists study the planet—its formation, its internal structure, its materials, its chemical and physical processes, and its history. Mountains, valleys, plains, sea floors, minerals, rocks, fossils, and the processes that create and destroy each of these are all the domain of the geologist. Geology is divided into two broad categories of study: physical geology and historical geology. Geology research paper topics include:

  1. Catastrophism
  2. Cave
  3. Coal
  4. Coast and beach
  5. Continental margin
  6. Desert
  7. Earthquake
  8. Earth science
  9. Earth’s interior
  10. Geologic map
  11. Geologic time
  12. Glacier
  13. Hydrologic cycle
  14. Ice ages
  15. Iceberg
  16. Island
  17. Lake
  18. Minerals
  19. Mountain
  20. Natural gas
  21. Oil drilling
  22. Plate tectonics
  23. River
  24. Soil
  25. Volcano

Mathematics Research Paper Topics

Mathematics is the science that deals with the measurement, properties, and relationships of quantities, as expressed in either numbers or symbols. For example, a farmer might decide to fence in a field and plant oats there. He would have to use mathematics to measure the size of the field, to calculate the amount of fencing needed for the field, to determine how much seed he would have to buy, and to compute the cost of that seed. Mathematics is an essential part of every aspect of life—from determining the correct tip to leave for a waiter to calculating the speed of a space probe as it leaves Earth’s atmosphere. Mathematics research paper topics include:

  1. Algebra
  2. Arithmetic
  3. Boolean algebra
  4. Calculus
  5. Complex numbers
  6. Correlation
  7. Function
  8. Geometry
  9. Graphs and graphing
  10. Imaginary number
  11. Logarithm
  12. Multiplication
  13. Natural numbers
  14. Polygon
  15. Proof (mathematics)
  16. Pythagorean theorem
  17. Set theory
  18. Statistics
  19. Trigonometry
  20. Zero

Organic Chemistry Research Paper Topics

Organic chemistry is the study of compounds of carbon. The name organic goes back to a much earlier time in history when chemists thought that chemical compounds in living organisms were fundamentally different from those that occur in nonliving things. The belief was that the chemicals that could be extracted from or that were produced by living organisms had a special “vitalism” or “breath of life” given to them by some supernatural being. As such, they presented fundamentally different kinds of problems than did the chemicals found in rocks, minerals, water, air, and other nonliving entities. The chemical compounds associated with living organisms were given the name organic to emphasize their connection with life. Organic chemistry research paper topics include:

  1. Carbon family
  2. Coal
  3. Cyclamate
  4. Dioxin
  5. Fermentation
  6. Hydrogen
  7. Hydrologic cycle
  8. Lipids
  9. Natural gas
  10. Nitrogen cycle
  11. Nitrogen family
  12. Oxygen family
  13. Ozone
  14. Petroleum
  15. Vitamin

Paleontology Research Paper Topics

Paleontology is the study of ancient life-forms of past geologic periods. Paleontologists learn about ancient animals and plants mainly through the study of fossils. These may be the actual remains of the animal or plant or simply traces the organism left behind (tracks, burrows, or imprints left in fine sediments). Paleontology research paper topics include:

  1. Dating techniques
  2. Dinosaur
  3. Evolution
  4. Fossil and fossilization
  5. Paleoecology

Physics Research Paper Topics

Physics is the science that deals with matter and energy and with the interaction between them. Perhaps you would like to determine how best to aim a rifle in order to hit a target with a bullet. Or you want to know how to build a ship out of steel and make sure that it will float. Or you plan to design a house that can be heated just with sunlight. Physics can be used in answering any of these questions. Physics research paper topics include:

  1. Acceleration
  2. Aerodynamics
  3. Antiparticle
  4. Atomic theory
  5. Ballistics
  6. Buoyancy
  7. Cathode
  8. Cathode-ray tube
  9. Color
  10. Conservation laws
  11. Cryogenics
  12. Density
  13. Diffraction
  14. Doppler effect
  15. Elasticity
  16. Electric current
  17. Electricity
  18. Electromagnetic field
  19. Electromagnetism
  20. Electron
  21. Energy
  22. Evaporation
  23. Fluid dynamics
  24. Frequency
  25. Gases
  26. Gravity and gravitation
  27. Gyroscope
  28. Half-life
  29. Heat
  30. Interference
  31. Ionization
  32. Isotope
  33. Laser
  34. Laws of motion
  35. Light
  36. Magnetism
  37. Mass
  38. Molecule
  39. Momentum
  40. Nuclear fission
  41. Nuclear fusion
  42. Particle accelerators
  43. Photoelectric effect
  44. Pressure
  45. Quantum mechanics
  46. Radiation
  47. Radioactivity
  48. Relativity theory
  49. Spectrum
  50. Subatomic particles
  51. Temperature
  52. Thermodynamics
  53. Time
  54. Tunneling
  55. Vacuum
  56. Video recording
  57. Virtual reality
  58. Volume
  59. Wave motion
  60. X-ray

The Emergence and Evolution of Science

The knowledge systems of the animal world are individualistic; each individual has to construct its own maps of reality, with minimal guidance from other members of its species. Humans construct their knowledge systems collectively because they can swap information so much more effectively than other animals. As a result, all human knowledge systems distill the knowledge of many individuals over many generations, and this is one reason why they are so much more effective and more general in their application than those of animals.

This means that even the most ancient of human knowledge systems possessed in some degree the qualities of generality and abstraction that are often seen as distinguishing marks of modern science. Frequently, it seems, the knowledge systems of foragers relied on the hypothesis that reality was full of conscious and purposeful beings of many different kinds, whose sometimes eccentric behavior explained the unpredictability of the real world. Animism seems to have been widespread, and perhaps universal, in small-scale foraging communities, and it is not unreasonable to treat the core ideas of animism as an attempt to generalize about the nature of reality. But foraging (Paleolithic) era knowledge systems shared more than this quality with modern science. There are good a priori reasons to suppose that foraging communities had plenty of well-founded empirical knowledge about their environment, based on careful and sustained observations over long periods of time. And modern anthropological studies of foraging communities have demonstrated the remarkable range of precise knowledge that foragers may have of those aspects of their environment that are most significant to them, such as the habits and potential uses of particular species of animals and plants. Archaeological evidence has also yielded hints of more systematic attempts to generalize about reality. In Ukraine and eastern Europe engraved bones dating to as early as thirty thousand years ago have been found that appear to record astronomical observations. All in all, the knowledge systems of foraging societies possessed many of the theoretical and practical qualities we commonly associate with modern science. Nevertheless, it remains true that the science of foragers lacked the explanatory power and the universality of modern science—hardly surprising given the limited amount of information that could accumulate within small communities and the small scale of the truth markets within which such ideas were tested.

With the appearance of agricultural technologies that could support larger, denser, and more varied communities, information and ideas began to be exchanged within networks incorporating millions rather than hundreds of individuals, and a much greater diversity of experiences and ideas. By the time the first urban civilizations appeared, in Mesopotamia and Egypt late in the fourth millennium BCE, networks of commercial and intellectual exchange already extended over large and diverse regions. Mesopotamia and Egypt probably had contacts of some kind with networks that extended from the Western Mediterranean shores (and perhaps Neolithic Europe) to Sudan, northern India, and Central Asia, in what some authors have described as the first world system.

Calendrical knowledge was particularly important to coordinate the agricultural activities, markets, and public rituals of large and diverse populations. The earliest calendars distilled a single system of time reckoning from many diverse local systems, and they did so by basing time reckoning on universals such as the movements of the heavenly bodies. This may be why evidence of careful astronomical observations appears in developed Neolithic societies in Mesopotamia, China, Mesoamerica (whose calendars may have been the most accurate of all in the agrarian era), and even in more remote environments such as England (as evidenced by Stonehenge) or Easter Island. The development of mathematics represents a similar search for universally valid principles of calculation. It was stimulated in part by the building of complex irrigation systems and large monumental structures such as pyramids, as well as by the need to keep accurate records of stored goods. In Mesopotamia, a sexagesimal system of calculation was developed that allowed complex mathematical manipulations including the generation of squares and reciprocals.

In the third and second millennia BCE, Eurasian networks of commercial and information exchanges reached further than ever before. By 2000 BCE, there existed trading cities in Central Asia that had contacts with Mesopotamia, northern India, and China, linking vast areas of Eurasia into loose networks of exchange. Late in the first millennium BCE, goods and ideas began traveling regularly from the Mediterranean to China and vice versa along what came to be known as the Silk Roads. The scale of these exchange networks may help explain the universalistic claims of religions of this era, such as Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, and Christianity.

The impact of these developments on knowledge systems is easiest to see in the intellectual history of classical Greece. Here, perhaps for the first time in human history, knowledge systems acquired a new degree of theoretical generality, as philosophers tried to construct general laws to describe the real world. As the writings of the historian Herodotus suggest, the Greeks were exposed to and interested in a colossal variety of different ideas and influences, from North Africa, Egypt, Persia, India, and the pastoralist societies of the steppes. The volume and variety of ideas to which Greek societies were exposed reflected their geographical position and the role of Greek traders, explorers, and emigrants forced, partly by overpopulation, to explore and settle around the many different shores of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Faced with a mass of new information, Greek philosophers set about the task of eliminating the particular and local and isolating those ideas that remained true in general. Thales of Miletus (c. 625–547 BCE), often regarded as the first of the Greek natural philosophers, offered explanations of phenomena such as earthquakes and floods that are universal in their claims and entirely free of the notion that reality is controlled by conscious entities.

At its best, Greek natural philosophy tried to capture not just this or that aspect of reality, but reality’s distilled essence. This project is most apparent in Greek mathematics and in Plato’s conviction that it is possible to attain knowledge of a perfect real world beneath the imperfections of the existing world. Greek philosophers were particularly interested in the testing of new ideas, a trait that is perhaps inevitable in societies faced with a sudden influx of new forms of knowledge. The rigor with which ideas were tested is apparent in the dialogues of Socrates, in which ideas are repeatedly subjected to Socrates’ corrosive logic (in an ancient anticipation of the notion of falsification), with only the most powerful surviving. Many other societies developed sophisticated methods of mathematical calculation and astronomical observation, and some, such as Song China (960–1279), developed metallurgical, hydraulic, and financial technologies that were unsurpassed until the twentieth century. But few showed as much openness to new ideas or as much interest in the testing of new ideas and theories as the Greeks.

Other societies have responded in similar ways to the exposure to new and more varied ideas. Perhaps Mesopotamia and Egypt, both with relatively easy access to Africa, India and the Mediterranean, count as early pioneers of scientific ideas for similar reasons. And perhaps it is the extensive contacts of medieval Islam that explain the fundamental role of Islam both in exchanging ideas (such as the mathematical concept of zero) between India and the Mediterranean worlds and in preserving and developing the insights of Greek and Hellenic science. Even in the Americas, it may have been the size of Mesoamerican populations and their exposure to many different regional cultures that led to the development of sophisticated calendrical systems from perhaps as early as the second millennium BCE.

Europe in the era of the scientific revolution certainly fits this model. Medieval European societies showed a remarkable openness to new ideas and an exploratory spirit that was similar to that of classical Greece. By the late medieval ages, European contacts reached from Greenland in the west to China in the east. Then, as European seafarers established close links with Southeast Asia in the east and the Americas in the west, Europe suddenly found itself at the center of the first global network of informational exchanges. The unification of the world in the sixteenth century constituted the most revolutionary extension of commercial and intellectual exchange networks in the entire history of humanity. Ideas about navigation and astronomy, about new types of human societies and new gods, about exotic crops and animal species, began to be exchanged on an unprecedented scale. Because Europe suddenly found itself at the center of these huge and varied information networks, it was the first region of the world to face the task of integrating information on a global scale into coherent knowledge systems. In the sixteenth century, European philosophers struggled to make sense of the torrent of new information that descended upon them, much of which undermined existing certainties. Like the Greeks, European thinkers faced the challenge of sorting the ephemeral from the durable, and to do that they had to devise new methods of observing and testing information and theories. It was this project that yielded the observational and experimental techniques later regarded as the essence of scientific method.

Thinkers in the era of the scientific revolution not only developed new ways of studying the world, they also created a new vision of the universe. The new vision was based on the work of three astronomers: Nicholas Copernicus (1473–1543), Tycho Brahe (1546–1601), and Johannes Kepler (1571–1630). Copernicus was the first modern astronomer to suggest that the earth might be orbiting the sun; Brahe’s careful astronomical observations provided the empirical base for Copernicus’s theories, and Kepler’s calculations showed that the new model of the universe worked much better if it was assumed that heavenly bodies traveled in ellipses rather than circles. Galileo used the newly invented telescope to show that heavenly bodies were as scarred and blemished as the earth, an observation that raised the intriguing possibility that the heavens might be subject to the same laws as the earth. Newton clinched this powerful unifying idea by showing that both the earth and the heavens—the very small and the very large— were subject to the same basic laws of motion. And this suggested the possibility that the universe as a whole might run according to general, abstract laws rather than according to the dictates of divine beings. Galileo’s discovery of millions of new stars also suggested that the universe might be much larger than had been supposed, while Anthony van Leeuwenhoek (1632–1723), the pioneer of modern microscopy, showed that at small scales there was also more to reality than had been imagined. Taken together, the theories of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries transformed traditional views of the universe in ways that threatened to decenter human beings and throw into question God’s role in managing the universe. It was no wonder, then, that many feared that the new science might undermine religious faith.

Since the seventeenth century, the global information exchanges that stimulated the scientific breakthroughs of the scientific revolution have accelerated and affected more and more of the world. The prestige of the new sciences was particularly high in the era of the Enlightenment (seventeenth and eighteenth centuries), and encouraged more and more investigators to study the world using the techniques and assumptions of the scientific revolution. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, scientific investigations yielded powerful new theories in fields as diverse as medicine (the germ theory), chemistry (the atomic theory and the periodic table), the study of electromagnetism (the unified theory of electromagnetism), energetics (theories of thermodynamics), geology, and biology (natural selection).

Scientific research was supported by the creation of scientific societies and journals, the introduction of science courses in universities, and the creation of research laboratories by businesses. The last two developments were both pioneered in Germany. The word scientist was first used in the 1840s. Meanwhile, the spread of scientific approaches to the study of reality and the increasing scope of scientific theory began to yield significant technological innovations in health care, manufacturing, and warfare. Particularly important were innovations in transportation and communications, such as the invention of trains and planes and the introduction of postal services, the telegraph, the telephone, and eventually the Internet, because these innovations expanded the scale and quickened the pace of information exchanges.

In the twentieth century, a series of new scientific theories appeared that refined the orthodoxies of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century science. Einstein’s theory of relativity demonstrated that space and time were not absolute frames of reference, while the quantum theory showed that, at the very smallest scales, reality itself does not behave in the predictable, mechanical ways assumed by earlier theories. Big bang cosmology, which has dominated cosmological thought since the 1960s, demonstrated that the universe, far from being eternal and infinite, had a history, beginning many billions of years ago, while the theory of plate tectonics, which appeared at about the same time, provided the foundations for a unified theory of geology and a detailed history of the formation and evolution of the earth. In biology, Francis Crick (1916–2004) and James Watson (b. 1928) described the structure of DNA in 1953; their work laid the foundations for modern evolutionary theory and modern genetic technologies. Meanwhile, the scale of scientific research itself expanded as governments and corporations began to fund special research facilities, sometimes to fulfill national objectives, as was the case with the Manhattan Project, which designed the first atomic weapons.

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