The Big Picture

in Science for All

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780226068633
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226068664 | DOI:
The Big Picture

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  • History of Science and Technology


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In the nineteenth century, the impact of new ideas about the origin of the earth, life, and humanity had provoked passionate public debates and a transformation of religious beliefs. These issues remained controversial into the new century, but they were increasingly eclipsed by the latest developments in physics and cosmology, evolution and biology, materialism and medicine. It was here that the “big picture” was being repainted in ways that forced everyone to recognize that science was still capable of undergoing major revolutions. The universe was not only bigger than the Victorians had imagined; it was evolving too. Here the new physics of the very small interacted with the new cosmology of the very large. As popular writers such as Arthur Eddington and James Jeans explained, nuclear physics helped us to understand the life cycle of the stars, while relativity transformed our understanding of space and time. Many authors stressed the medical applications of the latest developments. In biology, this focus was echoed in the popular science magazines of the period.

Keywords: religious beliefs; popular science; physics; cosmology; evolution; biology; materialism; medicine; universe; relativity

Chapter.  9104 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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