Physics today involves the investigation of the nature and behaviour of matter and energy, and it is often thus distinguished from chemistry and biology. The same term, derived from the Greek word for ‘nature’, ‘physis’, is used to describe a number of ancient inquiries, including peri physeos historia (the inquiry into nature), ‘ta physika’ (natural things) and physikē [sc. epistēmē], where no such distinction is implied. These ancient expressions are to some extent context-relative and they covered a range of interests far wider than that encompassed by modern physics. ‘Theory of Nature’ might be a reasonable general characterization of ancient physics. Notably, for some ancient authorities ‘physics’ explicitly excluded mathematics and even mathematical attempts at modelling nature. For early doctors physical inquiry was equivalent to what we might now call physiology; the cognate terms in English, ‘physic’ and ‘physician’, tend to relate, on the other hand, to the practice of what is now called pathology.Less
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