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date: 29 November 2022



  • Geoffrey Lloyd


Greek and Roman scientists did not refer directly to the experimental method. However, in a variety of contexts they described testing procedures that were clearly deliberate investigations designed to throw light on problems or to support theories. Examples can be found in the Presocratic philosophers, the Hippocratic writers (see hippocrates (2)), *Aristotle, *Erasistratus, *Heron, *Philon (2), Ptolemy (4), and *Galen.We should distinguish first the areas where experimental investigation is possible from those where it is not. Direct experiments in astronomy are out of the question. This was also true, in antiquity, in relation to most problems in meteorology (thunder and lightning) and in geology (*earthquakes). In such cases ancient scientists often conjectured analogies with other more accessible phenomena that were directly investigable. Thus *Anaximenes (1) may have tried to support *Anaximander's theory of lightning as caused by wind splitting the clouds by suggesting that it is like the flash of an oar in water. Similarly some of the experimental interventions described in the Hippocratic writers incorporate an element of analogy. The writer of Diseases4, for instance, describes a system of intercommunicating vessels which can be filled or emptied by filling or emptying one of them.


  • Science, Technology, and Medicine

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