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McMaster University
Jack Leach

Course: ECON 3R03 - The History of Economic Growth Section: CO1 Instructor: J. Leach Date: 16-01-13 Origins of Western Science An economy requires the assistance of science in order to sustain long-term economic growth. There is some debate that the first Industrial Revolution didn’t require science but rather that it was obvious engineering advancements but this was certainly not true for the second Industrial Revolution where science & technology were deeply intertwined. Advancement of science is not an inevitability; we see that there are numerous economies in which science didn’t succeed. Western societies seem to have found the right set of institutions to allow science to flourish. The Greeks The Greeks were far advanced in science but it took the Europeans until the Middle Ages just to get up to this level of scientific advancement. The people we know as Greeks today were the amalgamation of 3 tribes. As a result of the continued growth of the Greek state the population eventually outgrew the land’s ability to support them. In response the Greeks attempted to colonize other arable land as well as engaging in trade to acquire more food. Greek colonization was bounded by the Mediterranean Sea. Most of the land on the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea possessed arable land that could be used to grow excess food which was shipped back to the Greek mainland. The settlers on Turkey’s west coast evolved a way of thinking about the world called naturalism and essentially became the world’s first scientists. 1 Greek Scientific Heritage The Greeks didn’t start their science from scratch they borrowed and built on top of the knowledge from other societies. From the Babylonians they borrowed math & timekeeping. Many mathematical concepts we still have today have Babylonian origins. The Babylonians were also very advanced astronomers and were able to correctly predict lunar eclipses. Until the Copernican Revolution astronomy was mostly concerned with measurement and less concerned with the principles/theory behind what was observed. The other society the Greeks learned from were the Egyptians who also had a very good grasp of mathematics. While the Egyptians had a good understanding of measurement mathematics the Greeks were more interested in the abstract ideas of mathematics. For instance while the Egyptians were happy to know that there were 3 Pythagorean triples the Greeks weren’t satisfied until they had an under- standing of the relationships between the sides of a right angle triangle. The Pythagorean Theorem precedes a
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