Science, medicine, and technology have shaped virtually every aspect of modern life. From how we see our place in the cosmos to how we battle illness, wage wars, and produce food, human life has been transformed as a result of investigating the physical world. But given that science seems to go from strength to strength it may not seem obvious that historians can do anything other than follow the tidy trails of reason which lead to current knowledge.
In fact, science is a rich, fascinating, and complicated topic for historical inquiry. For all the extraordinary accomplishments of science, it is neither as objective nor as straightforward as we are often led to believe. The route to new discoveries is seldom straight or narrow, scientific methods are far more complex than they may at first seem, and the history of science is replete with failed theories and misconceptions. Historians of science seek answers to fundamental questions about the nature of science, the credibility of its claims to truth, and the qualities which distinguish it from other ways of acquiring knowledge. Above all else, historians have revealed the social, cultural, political, and material circumstances which shape scientific inquiries, and they have explored the contexts in which the findings of science are interpreted, applied and sometimes abused.