The Historical Text Archive: Electronic History Resources, online since 1990 Bringing you digitized history, primary and secondary sources

Science Textbooks

Textbooks, and especially textbooks related to science, might once have been items which did not stir up controvery or passionate discussion. That is not the case today.

For one thing there is the fact that things such as evolution, which were once considered as “taken for granted” facts (while they are still considered such by most accepted scientists) are now felt by some to be unproven “theories.” Then, there are those who accept prevailing scientific theory but feel that many existing textbooks themselves contain misconceptions. The expansion of gas to fill any container, the lack of gravity in space, the number of elements contained in the earth itself, exactly what comprises fog and mist - these are all things which are disputed or accepted in certain elementary textbooks.

The answer for many is not to accept anything at face value but to take every so-called “fact” with a grain of salt. Science, after all, is a complicated subject and narrowing it down in a textbook, especially for youngsters, can be difficult to do without falling into the habit of using universally accepted, and unquestioned, statements.

So-called “Pure Science” simply means making observations about phenomena in a systematic way, including experimentation. The major categories of science are:
Exact, Descriptive and Natural. (We are not here including the social sciences such as economics and psychology.) Physics and chemistry are known as exact sciences because practioners rely on very careful and precise measurement. Fields such as biology and anthropology (the Descriptive Sciences) are so-called because, rather than measurement, they are commonly studied by organizing them into classifications. Astronomy, geology and physics are among those considered “natural sciences.” Of course there are many breakdowns of these broad categories as well as merging of them.

There are textbooks for the younger student who needs to learn basic scientific theory and method. Later, as people become more specialized in their study of science, there are textbooks for each of the many categories and combinations of scientific theory.