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By Lois N. Magner

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From a rigorous focus on the evolution of great ideas and the thought processes of great scientists, it has expanded to include new questions about the social, cultural, economic, and ideological context in which science and scientists are embedded. Profoundly influenced by the concepts and techniques borrowed from sociology, demography, anthropology, and psychology, the new social historians of science emphasize factors such as class, race, gender, institutional affiliations, economics, and so forth.

Images of fire and rivers appear frequently in the Heraclitean fragments, reflecting the principle that all things are in flux and nothing is stable. The world we think we are seeing is actually like the flow of a river and, according to Heraclitus, we can never step twice into the Page 16 same river. The endless flux could be seen in the changing seasons and the human life cycle. Heraclitean philosophy could explain everything from the changes in the external world to the complexities of human thought.

Many of the earliest philosophers are known only through a few fragments of their work, but what has survived suggests that their ingenious questions and answers served as the seed crystals that were to stimulate the subsequent development of Western biology, medicine, astronomy, and physics. Natural science first developed not in the Athens of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, but on the Aegean fringes of the mainland of Asia Minor known as Ionia. Miletus, home of the first of the natural philosophers, was the mother city of numerous colonies on the Black Sea and had commercial interests throughout the Mediterranean world as well as contacts with the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt.

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