(Sample Material) UPSC IAS Mains GS Online Coaching : Paper 3 - "Science And Technology-developments"

Sample Material of Our IAS Mains GS Online Coaching Programme

Subject: General Studies (Paper 3 - Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)

Topic: Science And Technology-developments



It may not be an exaggeration to say that the Industrial Revolution in England gave a tremendous fillip to the growth of science and technology. The textile industry which needed large-scale bleaching and dyeing methods gave stimulus to practical chemistry and machine- technology. The transport of materials and finished products by sea necessitated navigational innovations, and it was not long before the sextant and chronometer were invented. So during the next few centuries, a chain of scientific discoveries and technological innovations continued to take place in the world. The people who marvelled at these things thought of establishing academies of science, and the industrialists who got immense benefits out of this felt the need for founding industrial research laboratories.


By ‘science,’ we mean a “cumulative body of systematised knowledge gained by observation, experimentation, and reasoning”. The word ‘technology’ is de fined as “the fundamental application of scientific knowledge to the practical arts, resulting in improved industrial and commercial products of greater value to the people”. These two things became hand-maids of modern civilization. They marched hand in hand and rendered great services to the growth of human civilization. Scientific discoveries and inventions changed the very approach to life. There was the scientific temper pervading or developing in the Western societies. We call this as the intellectual revolution. Every aspect of nature came to be thoroughly studied and formed a separate subject-matter. Let us examine the achievements of each subject of natural sciences.


The credit for laying the foundation for the subject of geology goes to Nicolaus Steno, a Dane, who found curious fossils of marine life on the mountains. Abraham Werner (1750-1817) was a German scientist who contributed much to the study of crystallography and different forms of rocks. Giovanni Arduino (1713-95), an Italian scholar, worked on the geological chronology and correctly estimated the successive ages of the earth’s crust. His work was followed by an Englishman, James Hutton, in 1795. Louis Agassiz contributed much to marine life and the glacial geology by publishing his works on fresh water Fishes, research relating to fossil fishes, and study relating to glaciers during the 1840s. William Nichol (1810-70), a professor in Edinburgh rendered valuable contribution to the development of petrography, the microscopic study of rocks and fossils. His research methods  later came to be applied by Henry Sorby for his study of crystals (1858). Charles Lyell (1797-1875) studied at Oxford and published his Principles of Geology. He was the first to “conceive the idea of classifying the tertiary formations of the Cenozoic Age into four divisions, Eocene, Oligocene, Micocence and Pliocene”. All these terms are in common use by the geologists. Thus, the development of Geo logy as a scientific subject for study extended its scope and widened the horizon of human knowledge of the earth we live in.


In the field of astronomy, Edmund Halley, an English astronomer, studied the comet which appeared in 1682 and discovered that the same comet had appeared in 1607, i.e., seventy-six years earlier. After studying its orbit he predicted that it would be seen again in the year 1758. Some of his achievements include the discovery of the “Periodicity” of comets and a method to measure the distance between the Sun and the Earth. Balthaskar Bekkar, a Netherlander, made a deep study on comets and published his findings in the Inquiry into the Meaning of Comets in 1683. A year earlier, Pierre Bayle had published his book Various Thoughts on Comets, in which he exploded the myth that the appearance of comets predict disasters. In 1796, Pierre Simon de Laplace published a book, System of Universe, wherein he declared that all the planets and stars had taken birth from the same source —a rotating nebula of incandescent gas. One of the most remarkable astronomers of the eighteenth century was William Her che l ( 1 738- 1822 ) . Besides producing telescopes and discovering the planet Uranus and the sixth satellite of Saturn, he drew up a picture of the shape of the galaxy. It resembled “the form of a double convex lens with the Sun near the middle”. Astronomy made some more progress with the findings of John Couch A dams, Urbain Le Verrier, Gustaf Kirchoff and Robert Bunsen. The last two contributed to astrophysics since they tried to determine the physical nature of stars. One of the greatest astronomers of the nineteenth century was Giovanni Schiaparelli (1835-1900) who said that comets stop shining and become meteors. He made special study of the three planets, Mars, Venus and Mercury. He observed “canals” and climate resembling that found on the earth on the planet Mars.


Physics studies different forms of energy and matter. It made rapid strides of progress due to the impetus provided by the Industrial Revolution in England. Some physicists were interested in understanding how the steam engine converted heat into motion. They applied the results of their researches while inventing the gasoline engine and the like. Other physicists studied metals and produced new metals like steel , etc. During the nineteenth century, James Clerk Maxwell and He inrich Hertz did research work in electromagnetic waves and energy. It may bere membered that Michael Faraday experimented with magnetism and later on invented the dynamo , which produced electricity. A little later, a group of physicists were interested in electricity and magnetism, and a major breakthrough took place when Heinrich Hertz established the existence of electromagnetic waves. The contributions of Hertz paved the way for the invention of the Wireless. It also led to substantial developments in the fields of electronics and telecommunications. Ernest Rutherford played a stellar role in the field of nuclear physics, and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in the year 1908.


Modem physics is of recent origin and it was nurtured by John Dalton and Max Planck. The latter came forward with a new theory on light as well as the quantum theory. He explained the properties of atom. With the advent of the twentieth century, the world witnessed the birth of Nuclear Physics. It began with Roentgen who discovered the X-rays and subsequently a French couple, Pierre and Marie Curie found out that radium also gives off radiation. It was not long before the scientists discovered marvellous things about the atom. Later, Albert Einstein predicted that by splitting the atom, tremendous energy can be released. His theory paved the way for the production of atom bomb, and the Americans dropped it on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with catastrophic results. The Age of the Atom bomb began since the middle of the twentieth century.

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